Saturday, April 22, 2017

"The Marble Run Challenge!"- STEMazing!

Sometimes you get tired of the "new" thing in education.
Well, I was tired of  hearing, reading, and/or discussing "STEM"or "STEAM", whichever you prefer.
I really didn't understand what the big deal was until we participated in Jen Wagner's "Marble Run Challenge."

Now don't get me wrong, my kids code, we integrate tech, etc, but I had never done a STEM project.

The concept was simple. The kids had to design a structure for a marble to run through. We started out with time limits, but realized, due to our limited time, we would just concentrate on seeing how long it took the marble to make it through the structure.

Notice the use of the word "we". This was a project that was guided by the students.

I wish I could teach like this all year. Talk about engagement! Every day, and I literally mean every day, they  BEGGED to work on their structures.

They worked on it during Quiet Time, so essentially it wasn't Quiet Time anymore, but who cares? They worked on it during... whenever I could sneak some time in.


You know what? More learning went on in those moments...
The conversations.
The research.
The dedication.
The team names. Hilarious!:)
The collaboration.
Designing.
Troubleshooting.
Getting their own supplies(I was supposed to get the supplies, but they got tired of waiting for me.)
Calling, texting, using Google chat to talk to each other at home.
Resolving problems among themselves.(And calling out the slackers.)
Parents sending in supplies for their kids.
The willingness to try over and over and over.

We had a competition at the end, what they had all worked so hard for. Parents were invited. Some of the marbles went all the way through, some didn't. But that was okay. They talked about the whys of their design. Ran the marble through their structure.(Or not). They had 3 chances and they could make adjustments. Loved hearing the conversations as they discussed what they could do differently to make it work.


video
Team Valor won! We all won. An amazing project that made a STEM believer out of me!



Monday, March 13, 2017

Student Voice = Student Passion: TED Talks Part 2

I could have assigned the Natural Disaster Research report
It would have been soooo much easier.
It's already written. We've used it before.
It has a rubric, complete with strict guidelines on what must be included in order to get the best grade.

But I couldn't do it.



After getting my feet wet with TED talks last year, I couldn't do it.
Last year, I allowed my more "capable" students to create a TED talk presentation.
This year, I included all of them. Out of 28 students, only one did not complete it.
One. (Yeah, he completed his over the weekend!)
And they had a ball!

Not only did they complete their presentations, but they also got a chance to present to their peers, the principal, our reading coach, and their parents.

Here were my guidelines:
Choose a topic you are passionate about or interested in.
Write a speech, not a research report.
2  minutes or more.
Research must be included to support what you are sharing.
Create a slideshow that correlates with your speech. It may include video and/or images.(No random images or video) OR a title page.
Write the speech and post script on Telemprompter. (Teleprompter Pro is better because it has unlimited scripts)
Cite the sources.
Practice your speech out loud. They videotaped themselves with our Swivl when they practiced.

Although the students chose their topic, there was a teacher component. You have to break them out of the research report mode. The "just the facts" mode. Or the "What do you want me to say?" mode. One on one conferences are a must or this is not going to work.

They were amazing! They were awesome!
As I sat, and listened to their presentations, I was in awe.
An example of awesomeness; the adults learned about an app that would freeze their child's phone screen during the "Too Much Screen Time" presentation. Immediately the adults in the room began writing down the name of the app!  Needless to say, her peers weren't too happy with her.:)
They did this.
They worked and worked, and the product was stupendous.

Things I would do differently:
28 presentations in one day is too much. I ended up dividing the days.
Make sure all the scripts are on the same Ipad.
Practice public speaking all year.(One of my students was so nervous, he kept one hand on his head throughout his entire presentation. I don't think he was even aware of it!:))
Use the stage. More authentic feel.

I didn't grade them.I felt that placing a grade on this would diminish  their work. However, what they learned during this project, can now be applied to the Performance Task they have to complete, which will be graded.

Looking forward to the passions a new year brings!







Saturday, February 18, 2017

Betsy Devos, Secretary of Education - Let Her In!

The other day I smiled as I watched the video where Betsy Devos, our new Secretary of Education, was blocked from entering a school in D.C.
"What a way to humble her!", I thought.
"Now, she will understand that everyone cannot be bought, there are still free thinkers, my thoughts rambled on.
Then I read a statement from the AFT Union President Randi Weingarten, where she stated that Devos should be let into public schools.

Yes. let her in.
Let her in so she could see what public schools are about.
Let her in to see in many of the public schools of children of color and rural schools:
the lack of supplies and resources
cramped rooms
large class sizes
no Recess
digital inequity
inexperienced educators
stressed and depressed educators
"whole child" ignored
children suffering from trauma and/or poverty
excessive testing
high turnover in teachers

Yes, let her in.
She can also view:
teachers working miracles with what they have
educators with empathy and compassion
students learning who deal with things adults couldn't
educators going above and beyond to do for "their" kids
a sense of community
out of pocket purchases for the students
happy parents
teachers meeting the needs of the "whole child"
children succeeding
children learning how to code, build robots,collaborating globally

Let her see the reality of public schools, the positive and/or the negative.
I don't expect miracles, she is a billionaire who has a charter school agenda. But maybe if she visits public schools, she will come to understand why we love them, and work hard in them.

Update: Well, they #letherin and this is what happened...

Saturday, February 11, 2017

"Thank You Mrs.M" - Why Small Group Instruction Works!





I was frustrated.

I knew I was frustrated, and they knew I was frustrated.

Decimals. Place value.
I gave a formative on Quizizz, and I was not pleased with the results.
I looked at the data, and gathered a small group to the kidney table.

We did an activity with decimals, and then reviewed the same questions that were on Quizizz. Most of them did well, in the back, with me.


Here's the thing. Because I was dealing with about 5 kids, I took the time to ask them why they did well at the kidney table and not on Quizizz.


"Because it's timed, Mrs.M. The time was too fast and we were competing!" 


"Duh." Makes sense.  Lesson learned, in small group.


Sometimes a student needs your full attention. And if it's not your full attention, at least not having to split your attention with 27 other students. Small group instruction has become a mainstay in my classroom. It's not always easy when working with 28 5th graders smack in the middle of puberty. But it can be done.



  • Use data to guide your group. I use what I call " Engaging data". Plickers, Quizizz, Kahoot, Edpuzzle, there are so many to choose from. But they all help me achieve the same goal, immediate feedback that helps me form groups.

  • Use ability to form groups not names or the letters of the alphabet. I don't care if they are Group A, someone in that group may not understand.

  • Create your groups. Manage the size. 10 kids in a group is not small group instruction.

  • Change the way you deliver instruction in the small group. What did Einstein say, "Doing the same thing over and over..." Same content, different delivery. Don't just go over the same questions they worked on.

  • Don't hold the students hostage. If they get it, let them go. Give them a chance to work independently, they can always come back if they need help.

  • And the most important piece, manage your classroom. If you spend more time correcting behavior than focusing on your group, small group instruction will not work.


He was the last one left. Everyone else had demonstrated understanding, and left to work independently.. We/he solved a few problems. He got it!

After his high five, he stated sincerely, "Thank you Mrs.M.", and walked back to his seat.


Yeah, small group.  It works!


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Ability Does NOT = Zip Code!

I have worked in schools that have been defined by a number of labels. High poverty, large percentage of free and reduced lunch, low income, those types of labels.
When those labels are used, although they shouldn't, they tend to define a school, their students, and the parents.
Generalizations are made.
Well, you know, because the school is  high poverty, the free and reduced lunch percentage is high, and there are many low income families.
Those generalizations lead to beliefs.
Beliefs that lead to an excessive amount of reading and math instruction.
More intervention.
More worksheets.
More computers, just so we make sure these kids don't miss out on all the adaptive programs that are available to them.
But many of them do miss out.

They miss out on STEAM programs, global collaboration, plays,  passion projects, student ownership, being allowed to think!

This year, thanks to a friend of mine and her connections, (Shout out to Michelle!),I was able to obtain a grant for a LEGO Robotics kit. With the Robotics kit came the responsibility of getting a group of  kids ready to compete in a FIRST LEGO League Robotics competition. I never doubted they could do it.

These kids.

I looked at the LEGO kit when it arrived, and wanted to cry.

They looked at the LEGO kit and began to build.

They built Mission models, a robot, and programmed it.(Shout out to Home Depot for building and donating their practice table)
They studied their Core Values and completed their Animal Allies research project. (Shout out to Jillian from +Sharks4Kids!).
Our, the other coach and I, faith never wavered. We believed in them.
These kids from this "high poverty, large percentage of free and reduced lunch, low income" school went to the competition and did their thing.
They went, worked as a team, behaved respectfully, and showed what they are capable of.
They got points on the board for getting their robot to complete 3 missions! (Shout out to to Mr.Bill from Caravel Academy!)
They won the award for the Research category. YES!
I'm  still grinning.:)

Let's give our kids, no matter where they attend school, a chance to be exposed. A chance to experience all that life has to offer. Give them a chance to shine!

Zip code. Does not.  = ability.