Saturday, August 20, 2016

Straw Building Maker Activity #1

Straw Building in a 1st/2nd grade class

Straw Building Maker Activity #1 - CLICK HERE

30 straws for every 2 students
Masking tape

Goal: Students will make the tallest, freestanding structure using only 30 straws and tape.

Grade Levels: I did this activity with 1st - 5th grades.  I would love to see what a kindergarten class does with this!

The plan is simple, give the students the supplies, and tell them the rules:  I challenge you to build:

  1. Tallest structure
  2. Freestanding (we discuss what freestanding means, I ask the students what they think it means and let them tell me: no taping to desks, walls, or the floor.  We need to be able to pick it up and move it and have it stand after doing that.)
  3. Then I ask the students if there are any questions or clarifications they need
Side note: (in the 1st/2nd grade class they also Counted the straws and figured out if they had an even or odd amount of straws, a question the students were curious about.)

The great thing about doing this activity at the beginning of the year is that you get a great glimpse of your students.  You will see the ones who struggle working with others, those who are used to getting an answer easily and struggle with the unknown, those who fail and quit, those who fail and persevere, those who love building and creating, those who embrace openness, those who struggle with openness, etc…  I look at this as a pre-assessment or baseline data as you begin your journey integrating maker activities into your classroom.  If you record some information about the kiddos as you do this, it will be great data to compare to the end of the year!

Do this activity with an open mind and do not interfere.  Hand the students tape when they need it and reply “I don’t know” when they ask you something.  DO NOT tell them what to do or how to do it!

Here are some photos:
More 1st/2nd Grade Straw Towers
2nd/3rd Grade Straw Towers

Saturday, July 2, 2016

What Is Your Summer PD?

CLICK HERE to Open the Interactive Slide

Here is an image of my summer Professional Development Slides I will be creating during the summer as I troll my social media sources.  I will pick 5 articles, blog posts, etc... to share with whomever wants to check them out.  I only have two slides so far, but once you click on the link, the slide show will live in your Google Drive account.  As I add slides you will be able to check them out.  Enjoy, Share, Repeat.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Homework in a Standards Based Learning Environment

Yesterday I was sucked into a discussion about homework on Twitter.  My colleague John Walkup likes to challenge my thinking on things which I appreciate because it makes me reflect on my practice.  In doing so, I found that I could no longer participate on twitter because I needed more characters.  So here is a brief explanation of how homework went in my middle school math classroom:
  • When the students entered my classroom, there was an activity for them to complete.  (If the students are engaged, I can touch base with all of them).
  • The "warm up" is based on THE ONE problem they had for homework the night before and is strategically chosen for it's learning value for all students.
  • I ENCOURAGED the students to copy, cheat, and steal ideas from their group members as they communicate and collaborate and get their minds on math.
  • As they worked, I "checked homework" by going to each group and checking in with EACH student. 
  • If a student did not have their work, their book, their notebook or other materials, I made eye contact and ask them why (with empathy).  I had a coding system so I could keep track of each student's work patterns and level of understanding and look for work behavior patterns.  
  • I also made sure that I smiled genuinely at each student and acknowledged their successes or understood their anxiety, frustrations, and/or confusions.
  • This formative check I did with EACH student in EACH class EVERYDAY also enabled me to make sure the students knew I was there to challenge and support their learning in a respectful collaborative environment.
  • I allowed for 5-10 minutes at the beginning of class to accomplish this task and build relationships.  It was the most valuable time of the day for establishing a foundation for trust and risk taking in a middle school math class.
I found that formatively assessing my students, providing a safe environment to make mistakes, learning from failure and building relationships were the driving forces behind all that happened in OUR math classes.  

Oh and by the way, when students were able to let go of their math anxiety by "copying" or "cheating" or "stealing" from a classmate a few things resulted:
  • their math anxiety decreased
  • their confidence increased
  • they took risks and began trying difficult problems on their own
  • they asked more questions and sought help and support 
  • they increased their scores on unit assessments (which they could NOT "copy" or "cheat" or "steal" on.
Meaningful learning for all is my goal.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Sphero Art with a Chromebook

Our Paint Covered Spheros
For our final STEAM Parent Day in Chelsea's class we finally created a Sphero Art Mural:

Here are the instructions to save frustration when using Chromebooks with Spheros:

STEP 1: Enable the Bluetooth and connect it to a specific Sphero and have your students remember which color code they are connected to. (We had 6 spheros connected to 6 Chromebooks in the small space yous see in the videos with no problems or conflicts).

STEP 2: Add the Sphero Blockly Chrome App to your Chromebooks (I am our GAFE Admin so I added it to all of our student and teacher accounts).

STEP 3: Have the kiddos open the app and make sure they have their Sphero chosen:

STEP 4: Have the students practice using the Sphero Blockly App to code their Sphero (if they are not familiar with block coding you made need to do this with them a few times before you let them paint)

STEP 5: Find or build a box that will contain the Spheros and the paint and remind the students that they may need to put constraints on their programs.

Coding Spheros with Chromebooks is not the same as using the Tickle App on an iPad, however, it works nicely and the students get a great experience.  Oh and the paint washes right off!

Our next challenge will be Sphero Golf with the Chromebooks!