Friday, February 24, 2017

Cardboard, Duct Tape and Creativity

Well Hello, it has been too long since the last time I blogged.  I have just had such mixed feelings about blogging and I just did not have any topics that spoke to me.  Then last month my fourth and fifth graders completed their January STEM challenge.  I do one STEM challenge every month in my fourth and fifth grade science classes. We were going to create a cardboard arcade inspired by Caine's Arcade.  Here is the Youtube video for Caine's Arcade.

What an amazing imagination this child has.  It reminded me of the hours of fun my sister and I would have when my parents would buy a household appliance and we were given the large cardboard box to play with.  There was no such thing as video games, cable or the internet when I grew up, we played outside and used our imaginations.  Yep I am that old!  LOL We spent hours imagining that box as a rocket, house and roller coaster.  We spent the first few days just coloring and decorating our box.  We had a blast with what are imaginations could create out of that cardboard box and stayed out of Mom and Dad's hair for hours.  I wanted to share that magic with my fourth and fifth graders.

I had heard of Caine's Arcade on a tour of STEM certified schools my school toured in Reynoldsburg, Ohio in preparation for my own school's STEM certification process.  So I went home Googled the above video and thought the kids would love this STEM challenge.

The first step I took was to show the kids the video and get them excited and boy did they get excited.  Then we filled out the challenge packet I purchased through TpT by TeachFreak.  Here is the link if you would like to purchase the same packet.  You can see part of the packet in the picture below.

 I first had them brainstorm and sketch out  their idea for an arcade game idea from front, back and both sides views.  Then all the supplies started to pour in.  I told them nothing could be store bought and they could not give out prizes.  Then they we partnered up and had to merge their two ideas and create a material list.

Then they started building using recycled cardboard boxes and other supplies they found around their homes.  Just a side note make sure families rinse out or don't send in any containers with food still in them.  We had a very stinky plastic milk jug and a can of beans.  Ewww gross.
Then the big day came for them to be able to play each other's games.  One partner manned the game while the other played, then they switched.  We even invited our principal and other school staff to come and play.  They did not want to stop.
This game was an Alien Hunter.  The player had to pull back the rubber band and shoot the paper balls into cups that were worth points for catching the alien in that cup.
This Fortune Telling machine was one of my favorites.  The player said a question and then an answer was pushed out the slot on the left.   Super cute and a big hit.
They were not always pretty but the collaboration, creativity and problem solving that went on in that classroom could not be replaced with a textbook.  The engagement I saw in every student made my heart swell with pride.  These were my kids and they are awesome!  Do you do STEM challenges at your school?  How often and which ones are your favorite?  I would love to hear.


Friday, November 25, 2016

Fourth Grade Reading Groups: Perspective and Point of View

Well friends it has been awhile since I blogged but I have something I would love to share before these last few days of November are gone.  I found this awesome Point of View activity on ELA Everyday In An Eighth Grade Classroom.  I was a little worried doing this activity with my fourth grade reading groups but they did awesome.

I have five reading groups that are reading realistic fiction:  Tales of Fourth Grade Nothing, Jake Drake Know It All, Skunk Scout, Bridge to Terabithia and Hatchet.  I assigned each group member a number either one or two that corresponded to a character in their book.  I then had them take an event from the chapter and draw the event from their character's perspective.  Wow the kids really did well.  In Hatchet , I had the kids either do Brian the main and pretty much only human character and his mom who is not in the story.  The kids who had Brian drew him trying to survive in the wilderness.  The kids that had Brian's mom had to infer and draw scenes.  The kids drew scenes from his mom finding out Brian did not make it to his father to Brian's mom hanging out of a plane looking for her son.  Really struck a code with me that even fourth graders can understand a parent's anguish and panic over losing a child.

I put the Point of View display out in time for conferences.  The parents did seem to enjoy looking at their children's character's point of view.  With this display they also were given a small peek into what we do in reading, which is different than the typical reading class at my school.  I juggle five different reading groups that each read a different novel in hopes to give students a choice in what they are reading.  My goal is to get them practicing all those wonderful reading skills the pre-k -- third grade teachers work so hard to teach them and to instill a love of reading.

I also do three whole class novels as well.  At the end of the year my fourth graders will have read 7 - 8 novels.  Our next novel is a whole group novel just in time for Christmas, The Worst Best Christmas Ever.  Looking forward to sharing those activities with you next month.  Do you do any seasonal novels with your class?  I would love to hear about them.

Hope your Thanksgiving was restful and you recharged those batteries to get you through the next few weeks leading up to Christmas.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Sharpening Fun

Well look what I got in the mail last week.... a new Classroom Friendly Supplies pencil sharpener.  Woot Woot!  (Don't mind my son's hairy leg I am not great at taking pictures...obviously! LOL)  Talk about excitement!  These pencil sharpeners are #awesomesauce!  I already have one in black but the yellow is sweet!
 I know you're thinking how can someone get excited about a pencil sharpener? Well being a teacher for 20 years I have gone through tons of pencil sharpeners, both electric and the standard on the wall school models.  These Classroom Friendly Supplies sharpeners just hold up better then any I have used before.  
Check out how our pencils now go from dull to super sharp with just a few spins in this quick and quiet yellow beauty.  
These sharpeners take the beating my kiddos give all the other sharpeners but Classroom Friendly Supplies sharpener just hold up better.
 Look at the point on that pencil...the kids love it as well as the teacher.  So go over to Classroom Friendly Supplies and pick up one for your classroom.  

Have a great Saturday!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Camp Make It, Makerspace & ThnkBox

Well I am back!!!  School is out but learning never stops for a teacher right?  At least not for me!  I have been hearing all this buzz about Makerspaces.  I went to an Edcamp in May (Another blog post coming soon) and went to a session on Makerspaces.  I have been reading about Makerspaces on Bloglovin, Instagram and Twitter.

So "Makersapce" is the new buzzword in education.  So when my teacher buddy approached me with this Camp Make It at Case Western Reserve University I just had to go.  It was a three day "camp" where we were able to collaborate, design and create anything we could imagine. We were first given links to check out and learn how to use the equipment that CWRU ThinkBox has.  I first looked at the equipment and started to freak out, OMG this was BIG equipment, like industrial equipment! I can't use that!!!   I was sounding like my students.  Ok I stepped back from my anxiety and told myself, I had to try, what did I have to lose right?  Ummm maybe a limb???  LOL 

So first we went to Thinkbox at CWRU which is a 7 floor Makerspace open to the public.  Very cool right?  

Day 1 - We broken into groups to make a group project.  I really struggled on this day.  I felt underprepared which I hate to feel.  I did not have an idea what I wanted to make let alone I was feeling so overwhelmed after looking at the BIG equipment we would be using to create our project. I was definitely feeling like a student..... a deer stuck in the headlights student.  So I just picked a piece of equipment that I was interested in, a 3D printer and hung with that group.  Ok I am still frustrated and terrified at this point.  The group decided to make a name tag that the student would earn badges or puzzle pieces that would attach to the name each time they completed a task.   Ok the next huge challenge was the software, Tinkercad (web based) and (downloaded a free trial) were two that we tried. Ugh talk about frustrated.  There definitely is a learning curve and I was at the bottom.  So a few people were faster learners and figured it out.

Here is an image of a 3D printer making a stand of some kind.  Very very cool!

Day 2 Ok We got it on the printer...but we had to make adjustments.  Trial and error but it was extremely cool to watch the machine work. Now I am looking around and all these people in the class are making really cool things and I am still at a lost of what to make, how to use the equipment or where to even start.

 I do consider myself to be a creative person and enjoy being "crafty." Look I made this for my son with his prom pictures.

This is our finished product.  It was made out of glow in the dark filament (ink).  We had to make some adjustments and thankfully I had a great group of problem solvers.  Me not so much I was disappointed I did not have a project to make.

This was one group's final adjustable desk that could go from sitting to standing.  I am in love with this project and want one, maybe five for my classroom.  This project also inspired me to bring my hubby to ThinkBox on our vacation that is coming up to make me an adjustable desk.  He is very comfortable with the BIG tools and I am a great at "helping."  I can't wait he will be blown away at all the free to use equipment. Actually my son would love this too and then when I brought my project home my older daughter said she would like to go.  Wow my kids are fearless compared to me!

Adjustable desk compacted.

The camp was 3 days and I finally was able to make something.  One of our very creative members was kind enough to share her template she made on the laser cutter.  I stole borrowed her template put my own wording on it.  It would be creepy to keep her wording right?  Gosh more software to learn quickly Adobe Illustrated I tried to download at home the night before grr it took all night then I could not get it to work.  Ughhhhh I knew I could use their computers that has Corel Draw on them so that is what I finally did after opening and downloading my teammate's file.

This is the template on ThinkBox's computer which the public can also use for free.

I am starting to feel some success it is on the laser cutter etching the wording first.

Now the laser is cutting out the tree design.

Viola "my" project.  Isn't cute?  After my project was done I did dabble with the Corel Draw software after seeing another group's plexiglass lap desk that they etched wording into.  I did not produce it since it was getting late but I honestly will go back and maybe make one or two with my hubby holding my hand.  LOL

My take away from "camp"...
1.  I definitely want a Makerspace in my classroom even if it is small. Maybe they can take apart an old computer or electric stapler, work with Legos (garage sales here I come) or I can create challenges they can complete at that table.

2.  They can use that area if they finish early or I can add it to my science stations.

3.  That a challenge can be extremely frustrating but when you succeed no matter how small it is such an amazing feeling and I want my students to feel that success too.

4. I constantly complain that kids in my classroom can't problem solve even the smallest issues and this will definitely help to learn that skill.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Rest, relax and Septic Tanks????

I love April and I love spring break.  Who couldn't love to rest, relax and recharge.

Seriously I did relax but I also seem to get so much more done including my second post in a week.  Woo Hoo!  I also love Farley's linky over at her awesome blog , Oh Boy...It's Farley.  Grab a cup of coffee and find a comfy spot to get lost in all these amazing blogs.

Here is my currently...

Listening - The news is on in the background but I can't hear it due to my crazy dogs barking at each other or the invisible whatever in the yard.

Loving - It is the last two days of break and who could not love that.

Thinking - Two words,...  lesson plans.  Yuck!

Wanting - I want the cleaning fairy again.  Even though I did get a lot of spring cleaning done over break it is never-ending ending with three kids, 2 dogs and 2 cats.

Needing - An appliance fairy.  We seriously are having problems with all our appliances, my oven died, the top basket of my dishwasher broke and my septic system is malfunctioning.  The last one is a scary problem. Ewwwwww! Fingers crossed it is just the float thingy and my hubby can fix it himself.  These all broke within in two weeks.

Whatever - I am actually excited that school starts on Monday.  I miss seeing my kids and sharing new things with them.  I have a lot of fun ideas planned (in my head) for the last nine weeks!  We start back with making marshmallow peep catapults and reading mythology.

So what are you up to?  Please leave a comment or two.  I enjoy finding new blogs...

Happy Saturday,


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Crickets, Smores and Campfires

Well Hello, thanks for stopping by.  I wanted to share my first ever classroom transformation thanks to Angie over at Lucky Little Learners for all the inspiration.  Every Friday, we have "Flashlight Friday" where the kids get the entire period to independently read while I conference with them.  The kids still love "Flashlight Friday" but I felt the kids were a bit bored and not focused. To be honest, a lot of "fake" reading was going on.  You know asking to go to the bathroom or wanting a drink a million times, changing books but not finishing any, using their flashlights for anything but read, and the constant noise of giggling and talking.   Grrrrrrr!  

Hype It Up

The first thing I did was give the class clues about the up coming, "Flashlight Friday."  Then I posted a picture of the tent sent up in my house on my classroom app, Yapp App.  This app is where I share all my classroom pictures with my families.  I have the free version but I am unsure of the current pricing.  The day before I put a sign outside my classroom telling the kids that "Flashlight Friday" was moved to "Camp Read A Lot."  

Day Of

The day of, I stood outside my classroom and welcomed each "camper" to "Camp Read A Lot." The kids were given their teams on the front board and which station they were to go to first and how to rotate. They rotated every 7 minutes to a new site.   I went over the number one rule, If I see "fake" reading they must go back to civilization (their desks) to finish reading.  Yes, I had a few kids who had to go back to civilization.

Picnic Station 

At this station the kids sat at our cafe to read while eating smores (Golden Graham cereal, chocolate chips and mini marshmallows).  Yum!

The Cave at Camp Read A Lot

I threw sheets over a table in my classroom and the kids read in the "cave.'

Sleeping Quarters

I brought in a real tent and blankets and they read in the tent.  I need to thank my hubby for dragging the tent in on a Sunday for one of my crazy ideas.  I love that guy!

Base Camp

Since we were starting a new book club, mysteries.  I needed the kids to look at the book choices and vote for their top three books they would like to read.  So I put together a Google Slide of the choices which I posted in our Google Classroom with another powerpoint on the subject of mystery genre.  

Lake Camp Read A Lot

On my Smartboard I found a video on Youtube that showed a moonlit lake with nighttime creature sounds.  The kids sat on yoga balls to help them feel like they were really on the lake reading. Look at the awesome miner light that one kid used to read.  Love it! 


At this station my oldest daughter made a campfire out of construction paper and I threw blankets on the floor and they read around the campfire.  

We had so much fun at "Camp Read A Lot."  It definitely spiced things up and the kids have been begging to go back to "Camp Read A Lot."  I told them we could only do camp reading once since I wanted it to be special.  I do have another transformation up my sleeve.....maybe Camp Read A Lot goes to the beach or amusement park.  Hmmmm I need my thinking cap.  Have you done any classroom transformations?  What have you done? I would love to hear about them.

I hope you are having a fabulous Wednesday!

Friday, February 5, 2016

SOLE - Letting go of the reins!

Happy Friday,
I just wanted to share a lesson I did with my 5th grade science students.  One of my teacher friends told me about the S.O.L.E. project that her school has started to use.  First S.O.L.E. stands for Self Organized Learning Environment.  To find out more about the project you can check out the website School in the Cloud or our local website is S.O.L.E. Cleveland.  Both of these websites have excellent videos, lesson plans, printable and examples of "Big Questions.  This is a wonderful video from the founder of School in the Cloud, Sugata Mitra.  It really made me think.

The S.O.L.E. project has students or the teacher create a "Big Question" that they will answer through research and then share with the class.  My fifth graders during our solar system unit asked the question, "Is there anything beyond space and if there is what do scientist think is beyond?"  Now I have to admit I absolutely love my fifth graders' amazing thinking brains.   I thought presto a perfect "Big Question."   The students form their own groups and each group is only allowed to have one computer.  The students can float between groups if the group they are in is not working for them.  The teacher does not solve or interfere with the conflict.  The responsibility is on the students to problem solve. The teachers is only there to remind them they can change groups if that group is not working for them.

The struggle is real.....
While researching their "Big Question"  they came up with other questions such as: "What is the Hubble Bubble?"  I walked around and many of my students wanted me to tell them what a Hubble Bubble was.  I supported them and said they may have other questions that pop up that they may need to answer first.

 Another issue that came up was that some of the groups were frustrated with only one computer.  Many groups wanted to stay in big groups with their friends and I let them.  They quickly realized that when I said the groups should be  no bigger then 4 people and can only used one computer it was a good rule.  The big groups started to struggle and I let them struggle. I asked them how can you solve that problem?  I did not tell them what to do. They then realized that if they broke up into smaller groups but shared information between their groups they could work more efficiently.   I love seeing the light bulb go on.

Present Info & Reflection....
 The last 10 minutes of class the groups then presented their findings and asked questions. I did print off a printable located here for the groups to write down their information and then evaluate how their group did and how they did with the task after they presented.  It was really eye opening to see their reflections.  As well as truly amazing to see the students find answers to their questions, work as a group and enjoy completing a task all on their own.  They totally were able to take ownership and reflect on how they could do it better next time.  This definitely will be another technique I will be adding to my teacher tools.

Have you every used S.O.L.E. in your classroom or would you ever let go of the reins and let the students direct their own learning?  I would love to hear your thoughts.