Monday, December 14, 2015

Let There Be Light!!

I love being a science teacher!  There are two topics that I love to talk to my students about-Electricity, Conductors, and Insulators and Animals!  Animals is a subject that is taught closer to the end of the year, but we are studying electricity right now.  Last week, I decided to speak very little, and I placed bags of circuit pieces on every table group.  I then challenged them to build a circuit!  One of my favorite parts of this activity was hearing the students talk through the process with each other!  They were so proud when their light(s) came on!  This is what it is all about! 

The very next day, they were asked to build the circuit again.  On this day, they were tasked to test out various objects to determine whether or not they were conductors or insulators.  I used a FREE product from TpT for this activity.  Click the image below to be taken to this download!

Another activity that I really wanted the students to experience in relation to this topic was a cyberhunt (webquest).  I created a cyberhunt titled "Let's Get Plugged In".  For each question or questions, there are QR codes that relate to them.  I also added those direct links to our class website for access as well. The students loved it!  Cyberhunts/webquests are always a hit with my kids! Click the image below to be taken to my TpT store!


We just started working on parallel and series circuits!  I will keep you posted...or should I say "plugged in"! :)

Monday, December 7, 2015

Mystery Skype Monday!

After being away from my kids for 4 days last week due to a 3-day PBL training and a trip to Dallas to support my sister for being named Tapherd's Middle School PE Coach of the Year, I was so happy to be reunited with them today!  I had something special planned for them today-our first Mystery Skype of the Year!  To get prepared for this experience, I did some research.  I found a very helpful blog to help get us started!  This blog is titled, "What's Going On In Mr. Solarz' Class".  I strongly suggest that you check it out if you are new to Mystery Skype!  It was so helpful!  The classroom that we were visiting with was located near Tampa, Florida, and her students were referencing individual maps after their questions were asked.  What a great idea!!  It was such a fun experience, and we can't to do it again!!


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Keep the Mayflower Afloat!

On the last day before Thanksgiving Break, I wanted to do something with the kids that was exciting and brain stimulating!  I did a search on TpT, and came across some really cool Thanksgiving investigations!  One of these investigations stood out, and I knew that my kids would love it!  This investigation was called "An Engineering Challenge: Boat Builders".  The goal of this challenge was for the students to build a boat that could carry the Pilgrims, their livestock and their cargo without sinking.  The supplies that they were able to use were one tub of water (the Atlantic Ocean), one stick of modeling clay (The Mayflower), ten mini marshmallows (the Pilgrims), five Tootsie Roll candies (livestock), and ten pennies (cargo).  The students were tasked to build a boat, place it in the water, and then load it.  Many of the students questioned why they couldn't load it outside of the water and then place it in the water.  We had a great conversation about how boats are loaded in the real world!  This was such a fun and exciting activity.  We decided to video the investigation and share our results on Twitter.  The kids were super excited about making connections throughout the day!!!  Twitter has done so much for my kids.  Check out some of our videos below!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

DIY Energy Robots Green Screen Commercials!

The DIY Energy Robots' Project is complete!  The students worked so hard, and are very excited about sharing their final product locally and globally!  They spent a few days conducting research on the different forms of energy.  They were then tasked to create a robot that uses at least 3 of those forms of energy.  As an extension they also had to develop a commercial to promote their product.  For the commercials, the students and I used Do Ink.  Do Ink is a green screen app that is super kid (and teacher) friendly!!  The results were awesome, and I could not be more proud of my friends!!  This project ran a bit longer than I anticipated.  Time management is something that I know I need to work on when it comes to PBL.  It gets easier each year!!  We hope that you enjoy our commercials.  Anyone interested in a robot??

Monday, November 9, 2015

The DIY Energy Robot Project (PBL) Continues!

The students have completed their research, and they are close to having a final design of their robot.  Their ideas are out of this world, and I can't wait to see what kind of commercial that they come up with! Stay tuned for that!

Isn't this just the coolest!?

In other news, my staff is now working on our second Technology Take-Down of the Year!  During the first nine weeks, they were challenged to use Twitter in their classrooms as well as the Remind app.  I am using Thinglink to present the challenges to the staff, and for them to reference during each grading period.  The winners of the first nine week's challenge won Google Cardboard!  For this grading period, the teachers have been challenged to use GoNoodle with their students.  GoNoodle helps teachers and parents get moving by using interactive and engaging videos, otherwise known as "Break Breaks"!  Once a classroom graduates a "champ", they receive a certificate.  This will count as one entry into the challenge drawing.  Perry Wyoma of GoNoodle sent me some great swag to use for this challenge!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

PBL Day 1-DIY Energy Robot

How can you create a robot that uses at least 3 forms of energy?  That is the question that is driving this project!  This is the first project of the year, and the kids are ready to get started!  I found this activity on Teachers Pay Teachers, and I am adapting it for my kids (Click the image below to be taken to this FREE product).  In the end, the students will be expected to create a commercial to get the viewers to purchase their robot!  We are planning on using DoInk (green screen app) for this!

We will spend the first 2 days researching the five different forms of energy.  Today, the students were placed in their groups, and they worked together on a group Padlet.  Padlet is a virtual wall that allows students to digitally collaborate.  They are able to add text, photos, and links!  

I created the Padlets for each group, and then added it to our class website so the students could access it easily.  I also added some quick links for the students to use (if they chose too) during their research.  Their goal today was to find information and images on all five forms of energy.  They will continue their research tomorrow.  One of the things that I said today was that "You are in charge of your own learning.  How cool is that!"  I can't wait to see how far they go!!  Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

It is Time for Students to Take Charge of their Learning!

This past week, my kids worked with a couple of technology tools to foster the idea that it is time for our students to take more ownership in their learning!  I was motivated by Kayla Delzer to begin this movement in my classroom.  She truly is an visionary when it comes to education and student driven learning!  We worked with a couple of apps this week that aided in giving my students more control in their learning.  We began our week with a mini-lesson on the app, Explain Everything.  Explain Everything is an interactive whiteboard that allows students and educators to animate their thinking.  My goal with this is started as a simple idea.  My plan was to teach the students about a skill, and then give them the tools to dive deeper into that knowledge through the use of an interactive whiteboard and QR codes.  At the end of the lesson, they were challenged to create a how-to video about the skill that day, distributive property of multiplication, that could potentially be posted on YouTube for other students to use.  Their excitement was palpable, and one of my students said, "This is the best idea ever!".  I could not agree more!  I created a video using the ShowMe app, and then created a QR code with a link to that video. I then glued the QR code to one desk within the table groups, and titled it a "Help Desk".  My plan is to create "Help Desks" throughout the year for students to access when they require reteaching.

The students then created their own interactive videos within the app, Explain Everything.  I loved how this app, very effortlessly, lent itself to collaboration and creation.  The videos were great, and the students grasped the concept of distributive property without me ever having to pass out a piece of paper!  Imagine that!  Up next is Aurasma and TinyTap!! More to come soon once my students explore these awesome tools!

One of my students, Denton, wanted to share Explain Everything with my partner teacher to see if she could start using it in her class.  He took it upon himself to show her the app, and he even brainstormed ideas with her about how she could use.  And do you know what happened?  She loved everything about their conversations, and used it the very next day!  Below is a picture of Denton talking to Mrs. Serrill about his ideas.  We posted this image on Twitter, and Explain Everything retweeted it!  I wish I could have bottled his reaction to this when I told him.  He was so proud!  That is what it is all about!!

I Love to Train Passionate Teachers!

This has been a busy couple of weeks!  Two weeks ago, myself and my good friend, Jamie Spikerman, attended and presented at TCCA in Aldine ISD.  This was one of the best technology conferences that I have attended, and it was completely FREE! If you live in or near Aldine ISD, I highly recommend attending next year! It began with a wonderful keynote, Jennie Magiera.  She spoke on "when is the right time to take changes in education".  It was a powerful keynote, and it stressed the concept of "choosing to be bothered".  Our session was titled "Totally Awesome Technology Tools".  We used Symbaloo to house our awesome tools.  We spoke on tools that enhance and elevate the learning that is taking place in classrooms each and every day!  Google Cardboard was a huge hit, and I can't wait to see how it changes the learning environment of my classroom and others.  Check out the Symbaloo below that we used during this training.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Stinky Feet Review

Tomorrow is our next District Unit Assessment, and to prepare for that, we played the "Stinky Feet Review" game!!  This assessment will cover addition and subtraction of whole numbers and decimals.  I strive to create review games for students that engage them throughout!  This game does this and so much more!  Not only did we practice these skills, we also worked with integers, a skill that is not introduced until 5th or 6th grade here in Texas!  I found this activity on Pinterest, and I then created it in a SMART Board file.  

The students worked on various word problems as teams, and if they answered the question correctly, they got to press "select" on the Stinky Feet Review Game.  Once you click select, the system randomly chooses a number.  Each table has a scorekeeper that keeps track of the score.  We began by helping the students with understanding integers, but by the end they were pros!  The team with highest score at the end were the overall winners!  You call also say that the largest (or would you call it the smallest) negative number wins, too! Want the file? Click here!

Friday, October 9, 2015

You Scream, I Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream!!

Today was a half day for students and staff, and we decided to begin our unit about Changes in Matter with a fun and yummy science experiment...homemade ice cream!  We (my team) found a file with these instructions, and I wish I could credit someone with it!  Please let me know if you are responsible for this fun experiment.  I recreated the file using PrintShop, and added detailed instructions for the lab groups to follow.  You can grab it for FREE in my TpT store! My student teacher, who is fabulous, took charge with this lesson, and she did great!  I had a moment where I must have looked like I was panicking, because my room was a mess!  Don't let that stop you, though!  The kids loved it, and totally approved!  I would suggest taking it outside, and I would also suggest using tubs for the students to shake it in.  Ms. Cooley and I quickly located a variety of tubs in my room for the students to use.  The second go around went a bit more smoothly!  Check out the images and video below.  As Kayla Delzer says, if it's good for the students it is good for me!  It was most definitely good for my kids!!  I know that I promised in a recent post to talk about post is coming soon!   #happyclassrooms 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

"Baby on the Roof"!!

Before I get to "Baby on the Roof", I have to talk about Google Cardboard!  Over the summer, I attended a technology conference in Texas and was introduced to Google Cardboard.  Have you heard of this awesome VR (virtual reality) tool?  It has the capabilities to take your students all over the world while simply standing in your classroom.  When I first introduced this to my staff, I found it very difficult to explain with words.  You truly have to experience it!  What I did find was a video that showcased student responses to these view masters.  Here is an example of virtual reality Google cardboard that I found on Amazon:

This is the video that started it all for me!  It has also led me to Google Expeditions!  I signed up my school to pilot it, and I am hoping that it happens! Check it out!  It is worth your time!

Now, let's talk about "Baby on the Roof"! My students are currently learning about addition and subtractiom of whole numbers and decimals.  Within in this unit, is a topic about subtracting across zeroes.  This is a skill that requires lots of practice!  A fellow fourth grade teacher and friend first introduced this strategy to me a few years ago, and the students love it!  She has this elaborate story that opens up the lesson about a babysitter who finds herself in a situation when she loses the baby that she is responsible for...the baby is on the roof!  She has to go ask all of her neighbors if they have a ladder that she can borrow to help get the baby off of the room.  Of course, you can adapt the story for your own classroom.  My student teacher changed it up a bit yesterday, and said that the teenager was busy checking out the newest Vines when she lost the baby on the roof!  I stress to my students that this is another strategy that they can place in their "toolbox".  Do they have to use it?  Of course not!  I encourage them to choose a strategy that they are successful with...never box your students in!  I created a video of this strategy using the ShowMe app/website, and I added it to our class website so parents and students could reference it during this unit.  Here it is:

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Kahoot and Classifying Matter

Yesterday, my kids worked so hard on our district unit assessment.  The students were tested on place value and decimals, and I am so proud of them!  Before I even passed out the assessment, I told them that they were going to do great!  At the beginning of this school year, my principal, Mrs. Smith, shared with us a quote.  It stated, "My teacher thought I was smarter than I was, so I was."  Our students must know, without a doubt, that we are in their corner.  

Part of our balanced math program in my district is Kim Sutton's 10-Block Program.  This program reinforces great practices in fact fluency.  It is a wonderful program, and I have seen, first-hand, the positive effects that is has had on my kids.  Today, the students ended our 10-Block on 5's by taking a quiz on those facts (multiplication and division). Before beginning the quiz, we reviewed those skills with Kahoot!  My students love this gaming tool!  It is fun and full of high energy! An alternative to this is Plickers.  Come back tomorrow to learn more about that!

The fun continued when we went to our science lab to complete two experiments related to classifying matter.  The students observed various materials and classified them based on mass, volume, buoyancy and whether or not the material was magnetic.  I think that their favorite part was the "splash zone" when they were determining the volume! It definitely was my favorite!
Lab groups hard at work!
Table 1 working on the volume of various materials including cotton and salt water!
The "Splash Zone"! The students are testing out the volume of cotton using water displacement!

Friday, September 11, 2015

New Year...New Blog!

I am so excited about blogging again this year.  Last year, I decided to start a blog titled "Surfing into PBL" using a blogging platform called Weebly.  This blog highlighted my first year as a PBL (Project-Based Learning) teacher.  It was a wonderful experience being able to reflect on those projects, as well as to share them with my parents and the community.  This year, I decided that I wanted to blog about all of the wonderful things that are happening in my classroom.  I reached out to Kayla Delzer, and she put in me in touch with Christi!  I am so in love with my blog design.  If you are looking for someone to create a wonderful blog design, check out her website.  You will not be disappointed!  Why "Converse in the Classroom"?  I am a teacher who loves her converse sneakers! If I could wear them every day, I would!!  My goal for this blog is to inspire and motivate my fellow lead learners by sharing my kids and my classroom.