Tuesday, June 7, 2016

It's summer! You know what that means...

It is summer, so it must be time for reflection, professional development, new curriculum and planning!  It sounds so boring when you list it like that, but this is one of my favorite times of the year.  I get to create a whole new classroom adventure!

So what will I be up to?  First, a renewed effort to actually post to this blog. Do you know how many blogs posts are completely written in my head but haven't made it here yet?! Other than that, we have a new reading curriculum, I'll be working on reading and math centers, and I am diving into project based learning.  Summer reading includes "The Leader in Me." I will also be working on a classroom redesign to incorporate flexible seating.  I'm looking forward to some great professional development with the Oklahoma Science Museum and our very first Mid-Del #EdCamp! Lots going on!

Today I will be presenting one of my biggest projects to a room full of people.  Wish me luck because my idea is amazing!  Here's hoping I will be able to give you all the details soon.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Take-Aways from EdCamp Tulsa

I love EdCamps!  I attended my first one last summer at EdCamp Kansas, and I have been to two more since - EdCamp OKC and EdCamp Tulsa.  It is so much fun getting together with other educators who love to learn and want to do so on our own terms.  Amazing things can happen!

This last weekend, I was in Tulsa for EdCamp Tulsa, and as usual I came away with lots of new ideas and a renewed energy. I thought I'd share my three top take-aways.

First, a set of apps made by PlayFacto.  There are several, but these are my favorites:

This one is for younger kids working to make tens.  They place the tiles in the squares so that they make 10 along the lines marked.  The player who makes the most sets wins.

In this one, the kids practice their spatial awareness with building blocks.  They have to build the picture on the card within the time limit.

I enjoy both of these, but I will say that you would want to practice before setting your kids loose on them. They can be a bit confusing until you figure out the way the app works.

Secondly, a practice routine.  For kids who are having trouble grasping a concept, have them do the same practice problems until they can get them 100% correct.  Then give them a very similar worksheet and allow them to use the first one as a guide.  Let them become comfortable with being correct.
Third, and the one I immediately shared with my co-workers and put into practice in my classroom - "My Favorite No."

The video is about 6 minutes, but it's worth it.  I've only done it twice (it is only Tuesday after all!), and the engagement is amazing.  The kids love finding what is correct in the problems and are surprised at how few things are actually wrong with an incorrect answer.  I'm looking forward to seeing how it improves their math skills and am working to figure out a way to incorporate it in reading and writing.

Finally, a bonus take-away.  :)  I want a planetarium at my school!  Jenks Public Schools does so many amazing things with theirs!  Look at this:

Can you imagine being able to study the Sistine Chapel in detail, pulling out individual pieces of art to enlarge and discuss?  (Thanks Dan Krutka for the picture.) What about showing maps that actually curve like the earth does?  Or having students write, perform and publish their own planetarium shows?  These are all things done at Jenks.  I am so jealous!

I learned so much more, but these are the things I am working on implementing right now.  What are some things you are doing?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A New Challenge

Tomorrow we are back in school after Spring Break.  We're on the downhill run through testing and the end of the year, but that's not what we'll be talking about tomorrow.  Sometime over the break (I believe it was Thursday), I clearly lost my mind.  Really.  Let me give you some background.

You know I've been involved with Classroom Champions since August.  Well, this month's focus is Taking Care of Yourself.  We've been talking fitness, nutrition, and education.  Previous topics included Goal Setting and Steps to Success.  My kids have done a terrific job setting goals for themselves and working on their steps to reach them.  I, however, have not done such a good job modeling this month.  The reason for this is mainly because I am horribly out of shape, and it's not an easy task to think about what it's going to take to get into any kind of reasonable shape.

March 8, 2014
Here is my starting place.  I'm not going to post numbers or measurements, just pictures.  But that's enough.  You can see there is some work to do.

So, where does the craziness come in?  Somehow or another, the filter that says "this is not going to work!" turned itself off when my sister said "Hey, we're going to do the 5K Dirty Girl Mud Run in Dallas on October 4th.  You in?" I say the filter turned off because what came out of my mouth was not "Are you nuts?" but "Of course!  I've always wanted to do this!"

In case you haven't heard of this particular run, it's a 5K obstacle course done in the mud.  Yes, that's right.  Not only a 5K, but an obstacle course.  See... Lost. My.  Mind.  Just sayin'.  Just so you can see what it's like, here is the link.  Check it out.  

Now, I'm not setting myself up for failure.  I promise.  It is designed for people of all athletic abilities, so there are detours for each obstacle if you need them.  It's not timed, and I'm running/walking with a team who has promised to stay together no matter what.  But still.

So, what does this have to do with my classroom, you ask?  My kiddos are going to help me.  They are going to help me figure out what steps I need to take, they are going to help me plan how to meet them, and they are going to be my accountability partners.  We are going to talk training for the distance, training for the obstacles and the nutrition needed to reach this goal.

I'm not going to make it easy on myself to back out.  I've already registered.  Now I'm posting this blog to the Twitterverse and FB.  It's not a secret.  No matter what happens, I'm doing this.  What happens when I do....well, we'll see!  You'll be along for the ride.

BTW, Classroom Champions applications are open now!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Communities and Environments

With all of the things we have to teach, and all of the new mandates about how much time we have to spend teaching reading, it is becoming increasingly difficult to study Science.  I try to incorporate Science into my Reading lessons as often as I can - partly because the kids like the Science book more than they like the Reading stories, and partly because it is a way to get some Science content in there. 

One of the skills I'm working on with my kiddos is how to support their answers with evidence from the text they are reading, whether that be a fiction book or a non-fiction book or article.  I'd been to the Feed the Children Teacher Store, and I'd picked up a bunch of that foam paper stuff.  You know, those colorful, squishy papers you see at the craft store that you wonder exactly why anyone would buy.  I'm still not sure if I'd buy it, but it seemed like a good idea to pick it up when it was free!

Anyway, I gave each group of students a wide variety of colors of these things and the instructions to use it to create an environment.  The only limitation was that they had to support anything they put into their environment with evidence that it belonged there from their Science textbook.

I figured the evidence part was pretty easy.  Look in the Table of Contents, find the chapter on environments, read the first paragraph and use the sentence that says environments are all of the living and non-living things that surround us.  There you go....free reign to put anything you can think of in your environment.  Needless to say, it did NOT turn out to be that simple.  The kids searched and searched and searched.  But what they came up with was pretty cool!

Of course, there were also some clues that the evidence part still needed some work.

It's a little hard to read, but they were explaining why they created Mt. St. Helens.  Then at the end, they explain that they added the house because houses are where you find evidence.  *sigh*  These kids watch too many crime shows!

All in all, a successful lesson.  There was only one other minor issue, and I have to say, it is a cultural one - and one that I thought we were beyond.  When I handed out all of the colors, I had forgotten to hand out two of them - peach and pink.  I discovered this about 15 minutes into their work and quickly handed them out.  The response was telling.  "Thanks!  Now we can put people in our environments!"  I was a bit shocked.  I said, "You could have put people in before.  You have three colors of brown in front of you!"  "You mean we can make people brown?!"  "Why not?  Aren't you brown?"  "Well, yes, but..."  "We have a whole class full of brown people, why wouldn't that be okay?"  All I got was a shrug as they continued to work.  I find this extremely sad.  We have much work to do.

In a seemingly unconnected, and yet will be connected, event, we have been working on our Classroom Champions lessons.  This month was Community.  We watched our video from Emily Cook, and now we are discussing communities.  We have had a couple of opportunities to expand our own community recently.  First of all, we had a wonderful Mystery Hangout with Jennifer Regruth's class in Indiana.  We learned two things.  One - we need to study more geography.  Two - our Principal can be pretty fun!  Here she is dancing to our Flocabulary song while we wait to start our Hangout.

Then, we had the totally cool and supremely amazing opportunity to do a Google Hangout with Emily Cook.  The kids were so excited!  (Okay, so I was just as excited.  How many chances to you get to talk to Olympic athletes afterall?!)  They love this hangout thing, and they think Emily is the coolest person ever.  Well, except for football players, but we live in Oklahoma.  That is to be expected.  :D  Thanks, Miss Cook, for spending your time with us!

That brings me to that Science connection.  I believe our next task will be to create something...not sure what yet...but something that connects the environment and our study of communities.  We have also been studying the early people of Oklahoma in Social Studies.  I think we can tie this in as well.  Perhaps a group of students assigned to build environments for different types of communities.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Goal Setting, Bubble Art and More Pumpkins

As a participant in the Classroom Champions program, one of the things we did at the beginning of the year was give our kids a survey about how much they set goals, how hard they work for them, etc.  Most of them had a hard time knowing what a goal is.  So, we've been talking about it.  This morning as I was greeting my kids at the door, one of my little girls stopped as she went in the door and said, "Miss P., you know what?  I have a goal!"  Then she went on in.

I had to continue greeting everyone else, and then (shame on me :( ) I lost track of the thought to follow up until after school was out and it was too late.  I am just so excited to see the beginning of what Classroom Champions is doing for us!

Today we watched the second video from Emily Cook.  She talked to the kiddos about how to reach goals and gave them a graphic organizer to work through. Check out the video here.  The kids' assignment tonight is to come up with the goal that goes at the top of their pyramid.  If any one of them comes up with something about pumpkins, I may not be responsible for my actions!

On another note, I finally got to see the display of the Bubble Art we did when we did our bubble experiment.  It turned out great!  Have a look:

We made these by mixing tempera paint with bubble solution and blowing bubbles onto the paper.  I'd give you the ratios, but there really wasn't one.  I'd just mix in enough paint to make it leave a mark when the bubble popped.  The danger is that it can mess with the bubble making ability of the bubble solution.  The blue didn't work so well.  What you see is mostly drips as they tried to blow the bubbles.  

When it works correctly, you can see the rings from the bubbles.  This shot shows more of that than most.

 Fair warning - it's messy!  Make sure you are working on something that can be cleaned easily with soap and water.

Finally, I've solved the mystery of the pumpkin!  Well, sort of.  At least I figured out where they got the idea.  I still have no clue why they thought it was the answer to everything.  :D

I also came home to a surprise in the mail.  Look what my sister-in-love gave me! I opened up the envelope and couldn't figure out why on earth she had sent me a pumpkin lawn bag.  Maybe a hint that I need to rake my leaves?  Then I put it together.  (I'm only a little slow  :D )  I laughed and laughed.  She also sent two wonderful cards with it.  It's so nice to have someone who a) gets you and b) encourages you - even in craziness!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

First World of Adventure journey of the year!

And we're off!  The first of my World of Adventure animals is off to a new adventure!  Jed is has been delivered to Ms. Jeannine and is headed for a sailing trip.  He is very excited.

Lady Washington

This is the Lady Washington, where Jed and Ms. Jeannine will be spending some time.  Doesn't it look great?!  They will be sailing for two weeks along this route.

It's going to be beautiful, and I'm not worried about his safety at all.  This ship has experience with pirates, as it has been in all of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  I know if there are any problems, they are prepared.

Jed and Ms. Jeannine will be participating in some educational tours while they are on board, and they will be dressing in appropriate garb.  I was unaware of this until I gave him to Ms. Jeannine, so I am grateful that she purchased appropriate clothing for him.  I can't wait to see him.  I hear she found him a pirate outfit!  We'll be following along on his trip at jeannineissailing.wordpress.com.  They report for duty on September 29th.

I did forget to let Ms. Jeannine know that Jed gets a little confused sometimes. I hope he manages the sailing ropes a bit better than the clothes line.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Day in the Classroom

My goal this year is to blog about what it is really like in my classroom. I created this blog to focus on my work as a teacher without getting tangled up in the politics of education.  Mostly.  I have another blog for that. Hopefully this one will give some people inspiration to try something new and others the knowledge that they aren't alone in the crazy world we teach in!

Teaching my way is messy.  I believe that most things worth learning require some digging and moving and rearranging.  They require failure and change and trying again.  I try to give my students that chance as much as possible.
This is what my classroom looks like when we get started.  I love my tables!  They are old cafeteria tables, so when I need open space I just fold them up and roll them away.
This is one of those tables after we were done:
This was our first experiment of the year and it was all about bubbles.  How can you learn about bubbles without making a mess?!  As we go on, I'll teach them how to keep their work neat, but for now?  It'll dry.  They cleaned up their own mess afterwards, and they learned what they needed to.  They also had a blast doing it!

I'm so glad we have days like that, because they balance out days like today.   
This is what my classroom has been like today. All day. 

Find the page in your science textbook that has an illustration of a plant cell.
*observe students flipping through pages one by one*
Me: No, please don't flip through the pages one by one until you find it. Use the tools we've talked about to find the right page.

*observe students flipping through pages one by one*

Please don't flip through the pages one by one until you find it. Use the tools we've talked about to find the right page. Yes, that's right. The index is a great tool to use. (Repeat for about 30 minutes)

*all are now on the right page and we have discussed the difference between plant cells and animal cells*

Who can tell me what the purpose of the chloroplasts is?

Student: (Note, I use student to mean any of the many who answered, not just one) They are in the plant cell.

Yes. What is their purpose.

a pumpkin

A pumpkin? Think about the question and the response together. "What is the purpose of a chloroplast? A pumpkin." Does that make sense?


Okay, good. So, what is the purpose of the chloroplasts?


*Repeat above conversation re: pumpkins for animals, skin, pumpkin again and other assorted nouns.*

They have chlorophyll.

*Mentally singing the Hallelujah chorus because at least we are on the right track* Yes! So what is the chlorophyll for?

*You aren't going to believe it. Just wait. Really* A pumpkin.

*music dies a quick death in my head, repeat earlier conversation multiple times*

It makes food for the plants.

*music starts a bit softly this time* Great! And because plants have this chlorophyll, they are what color?

*You know what's coming, don't you? You don't believe it, but you do.* A pumpkin.

*Repeat previous discussion re: pumpkin, animal, purple, leaves, and trees*

Yes! Most plants are green! Green, I say. Green!

Fortunately for me (or for my students, I'm not sure which), pumpkins did not come up for the rest of the day. However, all conversations went a similar route. Tomorrow is another day! My kiddos are terrific, and they are smart. We are going to have frustrating days like this, but they are so willing to try unfamiliar things.  That is going to make all the difference.  The jump from 2nd to 3rd grade is so hard!  We will all make it through the week, and by golly we will learn something! Even if it is only that "a pumpkin" is not a good shot in the dark answer.