Thursday, August 4, 2016

#MTBosBlaugust 2016 and the Return of the Blog

Well, it's been a minute since I've posted. Like, two years worth of minutes.

But there's nothing like starting new before a new school year begins! Let's see if I can keep this up.

I've decided to participate in the #MTBoSBlaugust (Math Teacher Blog-o-Sphere) event started by +Shelli Temple on her blog Teaching Statistics.  This is not my normal PLN on twitter - but Shelli's planner caught my eye one day and she generously shared it with me, which got me reading her blog! I'm not a math teacher - but hey -when you need accountability, you'll jump in anywhere! So, if any of you math teachers participating in #MTBosBlaugust are reading this - I hope you can find something useful here!

So, what do I hope to get out of Blaugust this year? My goal is to post at least a couple of times a week in August. I'm not going crazy and attempting to post every day (I've already busted that goal..since today is the 4th), but realistically I think I can write a couple of times a week. My first few posts will be reflections on the last few years. I started this blog before beginning the Fab Explor-A-Lab at our school - and I had great plans! The last few years have been quite a journey figuring out what exactly this class would be about, how it would work, and whether or not I would enjoy it. And I do enjoy it, because it's been a learning experience for me.

There you go! My first official #MTBoSBlaugust post - and my first official post of the year!

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Global Cardboard Challenge...yes, please!

I have been co-moderating the #ITLchat (Invent to Learn book study chat) on Monday nights on twitter these last few weeks of summer, and it has been awesome! This book has challenged me in so many ways to change the way I think about learning - and in turn, the way I teach.
Learning is CONSTRUCTED...not consumed. 

"Too often, kids are hooked on teachers and teachers have a faith-based relationship with the textbook."
- Sylvia Martinez, Gary Stager; Invent to Learn

This quote hits too close to home for most schools and teachers. Students have relied on teachers giving them information for so long (even as young as elementary), that they no longer know how to construct knowledge for themselves! School is ruled by the attitude of 'give me what I need for the test, so I can forget it.' Many teachers no longer require their students to THINK. Just regurgitate. What kind of citizen does that create? What kind of co-workers do you end up with at work when we've all been forced to learn this way? Frankly, it's people that I do not want to spend my days with. I want to work with people who are creative, independent problem solvers, who are passionate about who they are and what they do. 

So, how do we help kids become creative, independent problem solvers? 

This quote from the book says it all for me - 

"When we allow children to experiment, take risks, and play with their own ideas, we give them permission to trust themselves. They begin to see themselves as learners who have good ideas and can transform their ideas into reality."  - Invent to Learn 

That is why I am excited about the possibilities this class offers my students, and one reason we are going to participate in The Global Cardboard Challenge. The challenge was inspired by a nine year old boy named Caine. Caine's story is pretty amazing - and inspiring. In fact, there is a short film all about Caine and his cardboard arcade adventure you can see here

But what I love is what happened after this short film came out. Watch and see how this little kid inspired thousands!

So, my school family and I will participate in the awesome Global Cardboard Challenge in October! We will create, experiment, take risks, and play with our own ideas so that we can see how our good ideas can be made a reality - and we will begin with a cardboard creation! 

Start saving your cardboard, NOW! 

Mrs. S

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Finally Finished!

The room is finally finished! I finished it about 2 hours before open house...ahhh...but I got it done! This post is going to be filled with pictures - so enjoy the tour! 

This is the view from the front door of the room! I love it. I'll have a whole separate post to explain the story behind the wall quote, but the vinyl lettering turned out amazing! I got the lettering from this website called Words Anywhere. Fully customized vinyl lettering at nearly any size. 

Going to the right you can see the window into the "office" area as well as the CLEAN lab table tops! When I showed this pic to my husband, he said, "Wow! Where'd you get the rug?" was there the whole time. It's just the first time it's been visible!! 

This is inside the "office" area. (I hate calling it that because I plan for the kids to work in there too, but I don't know what else to call it.) I love my bar height table and stools! Kids can either sit or stand comfortably while they work. Great for those kids who never sit still! 
Since this picture - I put in a second double door storage cabinet. I needed the space for expansion and storage! 

I am excited about this! I did not have a place to store and charge my 10 laptops and I was having the hardest time figuring out what I wanted to do about it. I finally found some plastic drawers at Target that would hold two computers - but ended up taking out the drawers and just using the skeleton of the whole unit instead! Easy to access and plug in! I plan to use the bottom drawer to house my Sphero robots when I am able to purchase them! 

I love my chalkboard labels! I figured I'd at least start the year out looking organized, maybe I can stay that way through the year. We'll see...


Finally, my favorite! My friend's talented daughter painted this chalkboard sign for my door way and 

Well, there it is! All finished and ready for kids on Tuesday! 

Here we go! 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Idea Wall

Well, I spent all day yesterday creating our Idea Wall.

I really wanted to purchase IdeaPaint but it was a little pricey for my budget, so I went for a more cost effective option! I started reading reviews of dry erase paint and found a lot of mixed reviews. Since I am an Amazon-aholic, I of course checked out Amazon first. I read about Rust-Oleum's dry erase paint and saw many horrible reviews and many good reviews. However, I love helpful reviews so I read those. Most of which stated that the problem with the paint was that it was expired - and that it had been shelved that way in the stores! The key is looking for the date - which is not on the box! There are numbers over the bar code that will help you with the date. Also, almost every review said to use the Original Expo markers - NOT the low odor. Every singe review about using low odor said they stained the wall.

Here is the review that explains what to look for.   It was the most helpful one for me.

I ended up purchasing the paint in town at Home Depot instead of online so I could look at the bar code numbers and make sure the paint wasn't out of date.

Here's what to look for:

Now, I decided to be an over achiever and paint magnetic primer underneath, which makes it much more difficult to paint white paint. (The primer is black.) But it works! (ish...I put on 3 coats and it could have used 4, but my arms hurt and I was ready to be done.) Use the really super strong magnets and it works like a charm.

The area I taped out is about 5' x 9' 

Here's an example of the white-over-black problem. Just make sure you need an arm workout and go town with as many coats as you need! (Let's just say I need to workout more...I am SORE today.) 

This is where I stopped.  I used 3 complete kits of dry erase paint for all of this and I'm hoping this is enough coats, but I have one more kit to use if I need it. 

I used some of my extra paint to cover the doors and one side of my metal cabinet. I want lots of places for us to write ideas! 

So there's my newest project! You have to let the paint set for at least 3 days before writing on it, so I will update next week on how well it actually works. 


Here is a picture of the finished wall! 

The dry erase surface works extremely well! The surface is a little bumpy, but that is because it is painted directly on the wall - which is bumpy too. :) I'm very pleased with how it turned out! If you want to try this in your space - go for it! Just make sure you follow all the directions and that you wait at least 3 days before writing on your wall! 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My Plan? Yes, my plan.

I think I have a plan.

I've been reading a million different things and I have a million different ideas in my head for what I want to do with this class - so many things that I just couldn't get my ADHD brain to focus on anything long enough for a plan.

However, I think I have a skeleton-ish plan. It's made me feel SO much better about starting the year, although I'm sure I will stress out more as the week progresses. (Teachers report back August 7th! Too soon!)

So here's my plan...(obviously it may change 400 times between now and school, and even in between that as I see where the kids want to go.)

PreK/K & 1st/2nd: 
I saw a great article about an Early Childhood school in Auburn, AL that uses PBL (project based learning) in all of their classes. It was inspiring!

Here's the article. 

I love that the students in this school decide what they want to explore and investigate! The teachers guide them and facilitate the projects, but they are completely led by the students. Once the topic is chosen, the teachers then frame their unit around it - incorporating all subjects into what the students want to investigate. This is the epitome of student-led learning and I love it. I want to do this with the PreK/K and 1st/2nd grade classes. (For those that don't know our school - our Montessori school combines these grades into one classroom. That's why I label them that way.)

I'm not exactly sure how to do this. I know what standards I want to cover, so I think I'm going to give them some parameters, like a few countries to choose from, or have them brainstorm things they are interested in and go from there. It's going to take a lot of work on the back end, but I'm used to that. I want this class to be a place where they are excited to go and learn - and can't wait to come back!


I'm considering using the PBL Recipe cards from Life Practice PBL. I've been reading through some of them and they look like something that could be easily adaptable, yet a great help in starting PBL if you've never done it before. I heard about these recipe cards from Ginger Lewman  on the EduAllStars podcast a few weeks ago. They might be a great way to transition into PBL - or at least some great starting ideas for projects and driving questions.

I also want to begin investigations into coding and robotics with 3rd and 4th grade, so I think I'm going to start in 3rd with my Sphero robot. Using a few Spheros would allow the three 3rd grade classes a chance to code and program the Sphero robots without having to save creations from one class to the next, like we will have to do with the Lego Wedo robotics kits. The Sphero education site has a lot of great SPRK lessons that would help both me and my students learn coding. (Because let's be honest, I'm totally learning here too.)

PBL recipe cards here again, along with the Lego Wedo Robotics kits. There are only two classes of 4th graders, so I think sharing the kits with them, and flip-flopping when I use them with each class will allow me to use the 24 kits with the students. Also, hate to admit a little bias here, but these 4th graders were my 3rd graders last year - and they were the ones who inspired me to look into robotics and go to Space Camp so I want them to be the ones I share this with first! :)

Two words. Genius Hour.

I want my 5th and 6th graders to experience genius hour. From the beginning. I want to run genius hour on a 6-9 week cycle and close each cycle with each student sharing their projects. Our fabulous gifted/computer lab teacher is in on this with me as well, so they will have at least two opportunities to work on their projects per week.

I ADORE the Genius Hour concept. Adore it. I love Angela Maiers quote, "You are a genius, and the world needs your contribution." It's going on my wall. All kids need to believe and know this.

Toward the end of the year, I will probably introduce all students to Genius hour, but I want to start with the 5th/6th graders first.

Finally, I would like everyone to participate in the Global Cardboard Challenge. I'm not sure how this is going to play out yet, but I know I can probably get the teachers on board. I want the kids to choose an organization to raise money for and then create and play with cardboard. I also think our PTO and principal would be on board with this too. Haven't brought it up yet...but if nothing else I will do the challenge with at least one grade level.

There's my plan! Written out for me to hold myself accountable! (Ha! If you know know this is a necessity.)

Now to get the room cleaned....

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Robotics Confessions

Look what came in this week! Our Lego Wedo Robotics kits came in - along with our laptops! 

I'm not exactly sure which grades will be using the robotics this year. It's all completely new for me AND for them, so I don't want to jump into using them will all grades just yet. Plus, we only have enough for a class of 24 right now. I've brought two kits home to experiment with and I'm letting my 6 and 8 year old play with them. I think that will give me a better idea of which grades I might be able to start with. 

Confession time...

Confession #1: I know nothing about robotics. Nothing. Never in my life did I ever think I would do/teach anything like this. It's a little...intimidating. Just being real. 

Confession #2: I get really excited about learning something new. I'm learning that I like a challenge - especially when it's something I've never done before. (Like writing a blog?!)

Confession #3: I'm pretty sure I'm going to have fun this year. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Fab Explor-A-Lab begins...

This is my journey.

After teaching 3rd grade for the last 3 years, my principal came to me and asked me to teach a "science oriented discovery research type class." Her words.

Wow. She basically gave me total freedom to create a class from scratch. Overwhelming, but extremely exciting! I will have all grades Pk-6th, once a week for 45 minutes. Now the problem...what to do? I have so many ideas, yet I don't know where to start. I mean, it could be anything! Seriously. I'm on brain overload.

Genius hour?
Science Lab?
Learning Menus?

The possibilities are endless.

So, I'm just going to start documenting my journey here. I'm not sure what this will look like - and I will probably end up writing about a whole bunch of failures! But, I'm always telling my students that they can't succeed if they haven't failed first, so I guess it's time to live that out.

Here are some pictures of my room as it is right now. I'm moving 11 years of teaching into this tiny room and having to purge SO much. I'm a bit of a hoarder. I think all teachers are to some extent. It's a problem. But I also have to move the entirety of the science lab into my room, so there's that. It's a crazy massive mess that I need to sort out.

Want the tour? 

I have two rooms with a door and window separating each room. The smaller room will be my "office" type space, but I want it to be available for students to work in as well. 

I love this wall. I want to paint it with whiteboard paint so it can be an idea wall as well as my projector wall. Anyone have a good deal on Idea Paint? :) 

We moved the two lab cabinets in from the science lab so there are lots of cabinets and work space. (And I love the exposed brick!) 

Here's another look at the window/door separation into the second room. 

This is in the second room right now. I love my bar height table and stools - and the kids do too! They love to sit and work, but they love that they can stand if they want too. (I have to get the table cleaned first in order for ANYONE to work here though!) 

And one last look from the front door. What a mess! 

I love the room and all it's learning possibilities. I can't wait to see what I end up with!