Wednesday, August 17, 2016

"It's Amazing All That You Can Do" Staff Teambuilding: MTBoSBlaugust Day 17

The last couple of years as part of our back-to-school days, we participated in something called "The Amazing Race."  Of course many, of you are probably familiar with this concept as it was based on the show by the same name.  Great show, by the way! 

I like to be competitive, but I'm not overly obsessed with it.  Our version involved a lot of running around the town, and as I've said, I do run, but I don't really consider myself a sprinter.  A lot of staff members had difficulty with that aspect; just like many staffs, we have different general fitness levels and conditions that make us more or less able to accomplish all the tasks.  Anyway, I was looking forward to maybe not doing the Amazing Race this year with some changes have had in our school staffing, but when I got my school letter, sure enough it was on there.

However, I was pleased to learn yesterday that the intent was to make it more accessible to all fitness levels.  How the competition worked was that we were split into small teams and each team needed at least one smart phone and a Twitter account. We were given a sheet of different challenges to be completed and then we needed to return by a particular time. It was pretty fun, and I am glad that we had a new challenge placed before us this year.  It was so successful that our scorekeepers couldn't keep up with all of the Tweets and lost count, so there was no official winner!  If you want to see some of my team's pictures (a few are missing due to technology issues ), go to #amazingpirates  #teamllama and I think you should be able to find us.

Does your staff do team building to start the year?  What kind of activities do you do?

Monday, August 15, 2016

"Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto" Learning with Technology Conference MTBoSBlaugust Day 15

**Update:  I had this post started back in December, but I never finished. Blaugust is a good time to do so!

It has been a while since I have written anything.  The school is in full motion and that has kept me very busy!  On Thursday and Friday of this week there was a conference called Learning with Technology.  I have been fortunate to win registration for this conference for the last two years, though the conference is only $10 so it is very manageable. Anyway, this is the first year that the conference was two days.  I was only able to attend Friday because we had conferences on Thursday.

In some respects this conference is similar to an EdCamp situation because it is acceptable to leave a session and go attend another one that better fits your needs.  They also had some "Unconference" sessions in which people suggest topics and can actual lead them.  So overall, this is a very laid back conference, but there is a lot of information that one can go away with.

I was able to attend five sessions, which I will tell you a little bit about.  I will also link to the page that has extra links for some of the sessions.  I don't know how long that page stays active for, so if you find something helpful, I would definitely take what you need and/or bookmark the link you want to save.

The first session I attended was a Makerspcace Panel.  I am aware of the general premise of makerspace, but I really didn't know what to expect when I sat in the session.  This probably wasn't the most informative session for me personally, but there were some ideas I can keep in my back pocket.  I am certain there are colleagues of mine that may have more a means to run with this information more so than I hope that I might be able to share information in that event.  There were a few different makerspaces represented.  There were two high schools, a PAC group, one through a library, and one was in an industrial setting.

The makerspaces had things like 3-D printing, cricut, knitting, MakiMaki, etc. as activities.  Schools are making use of spaces like computer labs, which become obsolete because of 1:1 programs.  All the programs said to make it work it needs a systems person and a creative person. One of the programs said they give the users a starting point and then lets the users become experts.  The programs involve a lot of prototypes and constraints of the problem.  There are resources on #makerspace and #makered that the programs recommended.  Regarding the 3-D printers, they really recommended  doing homework on the devices, especially the filament.  One space had a Spheros Challenge to help keep the attention of the users: "When presented with an easier way out, they will take it."  Add constraints to programming problems or other designs to keep the ideas flowing.

The last bit of advice I have about Makerspaces is that if you wait until everything is set, you will never get started.

Another session that I went to was called Google Snipits.  I really wish that I wrote about this when it was fresh in my mind because I really found this session interesting. The teacher that presented about this (actually, I think he was a principal)
said he really wasn't an expert in coding and really just takes advantage of the scripts in Google Docs and programs within Google.  He recommended really just playing around with things and seeing how it works.  He used and Scratch and wanted something else to do.

Most of my notes don't mean a whole lot because they were very technical and unfortunately, I had my iPad that day and this doesn't work on tablets at this point. Anyway, a couple things I found interesting were his Choose Your Adventure stories.  I included the link to is presentation, so I think you can find more information about how that worked there.  I wrote a note about using it for a getting to know you exercise, but I definitely don't think that will be something I get to this year.  There were some scripts that could write out messages for your students or your students could do so.  He mentioned something about writing projects that include code too. 

I attended a STEM panel for my next session, but I didn't really take any notes about it.  I am in a STEM program and think it is beneficial, but I think STEM is getting a bit overused of late.  It is definitely a buzzword right now.

Moving on:  I attended a session about Finch Migration of Robots and Coding.  I haven't had really any experience with robotics, so I thought this would be interesting.  The teacher who presented this was actually a former HS teacher of mine and he was able to show different connections that could be made to the technology standards and especially math.  These robots have left/right motors, sensors for light, temperature, and obstacles.  There are sounds and a pen to draw shapes and other things.  These robots are $90 and there is some sort of loaner program that schools can look into.  I believe he recommended this for the 3-8th grade level.

My last session was about assistive technology for readers and writers.  The presenter shared a lot, but a few stuck out to me.  I didn't really take notes on the apps because I was mostly familiar with them, but like all the other technology we get, we often forget about things and revisit them when we have a need for them.  Google Read and Write is one that I think a lot of students at my school take advantage of.  Because we have a lot of language learners, many of them are still working on reading and writing skills.  Having text read aloud often allows these students to be more independent as they work.  I made a note about Google Dictionary too.  I think that this helps students add different words that they commonly use into a dictionary.  Another one I noted was Kaizena, which is a verbal commenting tool.  I believe you can add into Google Docs and give students feedback verbally rather than written.  For concept maps, there are Lucid Chart and MindMup.  I have used those minimally, but I think they could be pretty useful for those tasks.

I have really gotten a lot out of this conference.  I hope that I can continue to go, AND that the cost stays as reasonable as it is.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

"But He's Still Striving And Driving And Making The Turns" The When You're Finished Board: MTBoSBlaugust Day 14

Earlier today I finished up a few posts that I had been working, so I was putting off this post for a bit.  Tonight, I got to thinking about my Extension/While You Were Finished Board. I implemented this last year to help with some of the idle time that students may have.  On a daily basis, I try to run my class from bell to bell-we only have 46 minutes.  However, especially because of how diverse our school is, students finish certain things at different paces. We have been a 1:1 school for several years now, and so the tendency for students when there is any sort of down time to play games, chat, watch YouTube videos, partake in social media, etc.  With moderation, I don't think most of these things are terrible for students, but I don't think that these particular activities generally serve a positive purpose during class time.

So, put up a bulletin board with pockets and had index cards with various activities in them.  I intended to also put a Symbaloo on my website with some of the internet-based activities, but I didn't quite get that worked out.  Unfortunately, my board is at school, and I don't have it up yet because of the unfinished state of my room, but I'm going to list/talk about some of the items.  As many of you are aware, coloring books have been all the rage in the last couple of years, so I purchased several and make copies and put them in file folders.  Free reading is an option that I have.  I am pleased that I have quite a few bookworms that take advantage of this option.  I also have pages that I have copied from various puzzle books.  These are mostly logic-type puzzles.  I have purchased several sets up task cards for different topics that I have available for students to choose from as well.

My classroom is able to participate in a pilot program called MySciLife and there are some options that are really great learning activities, but we can't necessarily get to all of them.  I also let students work on other homework as an option.  I have included Genius Hour as an option, but I haven't had many students seriously take that on this year.  I had wanted to have students to be able to use Foldit, which is a game about protein folding.  Basically, it allows many people to work on solutions for how the protein folds. This can help with drug research and learning more about how diseases work.  There is a related projected called Nanocrafter, which focuses on DNA. Anyway, I couldn't get the particulars worked out with Foldit, so I temporarily abandoned it.  I just recently emailed someone related to the game, so I hope they can help me get that worked out.  Nanocrafter was just starting, and I wanted more experience with that, but it looks like it is mostly up and going now.  These games are types of citizen science projects, and another site for citizen science I used was Zooinverse.  This has a lot of different project types that students could help with. Not all of them are strictly science projects but many of them are.  Another site I included is SpongeLab.  I haven't used this site a lot, but it does have some educational game and other types of extensions for students.

That's all I can remember off-hand.  I was part of another pilot program, YouthAstronet, in which students had access to remote telescopes that could take pictures of various space objects.  I ran a small group for students that taught them how to use the telescopes.  At the end of our group, they had time to do some projects.  I had a student create a moon journal and several students enjoyed making true color images of different space objects. I would like to use this tool more extensively with students this year, but also include it for that extension time.

What sorts of things do you have for students to work on during unstructured time?

Saturday, August 13, 2016

"My Heart is Filled, Rebuilt" Quotes for the Classroom: MTBoSBlaugust Day 13

My JH math colleague and the tech teacher had some changeable quotes on their doors this past school year.  They had them in a sheet protector.  I like the idea, so I went through my Pinterest boards for quotes and classroom hangings.  I wanted to make the font size large, so I through out some quotes that weren't going to fit on one page.  I'm not sure if I will put this on my door or maybe outside my classroom at this point.  I am thinking about maybe making a connection into the classroom through my extension board.  I am also thinking about purchasing a ready made set of quotes from TPT for science quotes.  Anyway, here are the quotes I selected.  I tried to be careful and do some homework about who said the quote, though I wasn't always successful. If you find an incorrect attribution, please let me know.  A lot focus on kindess, and I think Dr. Seuss is attributed the most in my set!

Friday, August 12, 2016

"Unlike Me, Unlike Me, Do You Think I'm Strange?" The ABC's of Me MTBoSBlaugust Day 12

Here are the ABC's of me in 2016 (and maybe a little from 2015)!

A:  I bring my lunch to school everyday, and for the most part, I pack a Granny Smith
      apple. I love the sour taste.
B:  I love to read books! Since I started teaching, the number that I read in a year generally
      has gone down, but in the last couple of years, I've made an effort to read something
      that I want to read. The two books that I am actively reading right now are
      Negotiating Science and Confessions of a Wall Street Shoeshine Boy.  The first is about
      the Science Writing Heuristic (SWH) and argumentation in science.  The second is just
      a fiction book that I book a few years ago and I want to read it and pass it along.    
C:  My husband and I both love cats!  I will admit that we have more than I think is the
      ideal number right now-5! But, I couldn't say no to the ones we have.  Elektra is one
      of my husband's cats that he had when we first met.  Ferguson is a kitten we found
      through an ad and she was really my sunshine during a tough year of school.  Benson
      is a three-legged cat that we found near our house; he is very sweet.  Crispin is a cat
      that was declawed and neutered and started coming around our house around the
      time that Elektra's sister (Shadowcat) was dying of an acute illness.  We are pretty sure
      someone dumped him.  Lastly, we have Simpson.  He is just over a one year old and he
      showed up to our house one evening. He is an interesting cat, and is a big fan of the
      Olympics right now!
D:  We went to Dubuque on Thursday with the hopes of seeing Blessid Union of Souls,
       Smashmouth, and Eve 6.  We did get to see a short set of Blessid Union of Souls, but
       because of lightening and then heavy rain, the rest of the concert was cancelled.  We
       found out that you could get your money back after returning home, so we ventured out
       yesterday to get our refund. While I didn't really want to go that far yesterday, it was
       a nice day and we had fun looking around at things.  I think we found a couple birthday
       or Christmas gifts, so that was a success.
E:  I added my Earth Science endorsement during this school year.  I now only have
      physics left.  I don't know if I will get to that this year with all the other coursework
      I will have.
F:  This is a random fun-fact from many, many years ago:  I used to collect the small
      french fry wrappers from McDonald's.  I would keep them in a drawer.  I don't
      know why.
G:  We have a nice-sized garden in our yard, but the early summer was kind of busy, so
       we didn't get our half of the garden planted.  My in-laws planted their half and
       they've had cucumbers and tomatoes so far.  The have onions, potatoes, and beans
       too.  I miss our crops.  I liked to plant spaghetti squash and have planted fennel,
       beans, and a few other things with pretty good success.
H:  My husband has been the JH play director for six years, HS speech director for two
      years, and the fine arts tech director for a year. Out of dedication to my husband and
      also want of my own, I generally help out with his endeavors.  I have been serving as
      tech director for the JH play the last two years.  Life gets to be quite busy, but that
      makes it fun too and keeps you on your toes.  We go through streaks where supper
      gets to be pretty late.
I:  The last cd I bought just came in the mail yesterday.  It is by I Monster, which is kind
      of a trip-hop group..  I heard a song on a show, Mr. Robot, (which I don't think was
      the same version) and I really liked it.  This led me to this cd.  I am going to try to get
      their other ones, but they are pretty scarce pricey.  I was able to get this one mostly
      through some reward points.
J:  June is sometimes a difficult month for me.  My father died in June and on some
      years, such as this one, the anniversary of his death falls on Father's Day.  I usually
      try to visit my mom or call her on that day.
K:  I like to cook, so the kitchen is a favorite spot of mine.  We try to have a few
      friend gatherings each year, and I like to come up with menu.  Someday, when
       we save up more money, we would love to get new cupboards and maybe move
       the island in a different direction to open up some more space.  Though, those
       kinds of plans make me think we'd need to wait on redoing the floors, which I
       really would like to get rid of that.  Hmmmmm......priorities.
L:  I have just started my STEM Master's through Loras College.  The program has 10
      courses and can lead to some STEM endorsements.  I could get a 5-8 STEM
      endorsement, and I think I could also get a K-12 STEM Specialist.  I don't know if
      these will impact my possibilities at my school, but I think it is good to have options.      
M:  This October, my husband and I will have been married for six years!  We are
       planning to throw my in-laws a surprise (shhhhhh!) 40th wedding anniversary
       party in October.
N:  The past two years I have served on the Negotiations Committee for my local union.
       I don't think I'm an expert in it yet, but it helps me keep current with contract language
       other important issues. 
O:  October is probably one of my favorite months.  I really like the fall weather, and
       especially around the area I live in, the changing of the leaves can be quite beautiful.
       My mom was married in October, as were my in-laws and my husband and I.  My
       grandma will be 94 and many times we had family gatherings for her birthday.
       I love the color orange, and Halloween is usually pretty fun too.
P:   My husband an I are pretty fortunate with where our house is in town.  We are in a
      sub-development on the outskirts of town.  Our house is surrounded by field on two
      sides and across the highway is more field. This year is corn.  We are on an end lot, so
      I think we have a bit more yard available to us than some of the other lots.  Last year,
      we purchased a lot across from us, in hopes of preventing of any houses being built
      directly across from us. Anyway, our property had some trees when we moved here,
      but we like to plant more each year.  We have planted lilac bushes, burning bushes,
      a crab-apple tree, and a Star Magnolia.  This summer, we planted a Weeping Willow
      in the backyard, a green dwarf apple tree in the new lot, and a Sweetbay Magnolia.
      We have quite a few things planted in flower beds and various pots too.
Q:  I and many others would describe me as an introvert.  I am generally very quiet, but
      in certain situations and with certain people, I am less so. However, I really love the
      quiet.  I like interaction, but I am perfectly content with chilling around home.
R:  I took up running late last summer.  I had it as a goal for awhile, not because I
      particularly love it, but I needed a change in my fitness routine and running is something
      I really hadn't done for a long time.  One of my best friends suggested signing up for a
      5k, so I had three or four weeks of training and ran it.  I was pretty pleased with my
      results.  My goals were to keep running and beat a certain time and I did both of  those.
      I ran fairly regularly through November and then winter made it difficult to do that.  I
      started back up March, but my schedule has been bit spotty.  I will get back into the
      swing of things pretty quick because it really helps with my health and fitness goals.
S:  This school year will mark the second year that I will serve in my local union as
      secretary. I wasn't 100% wanting to do this last year, but it hasn't been too bad.  I
      think it is important to be active in our organization, so it is a leadership role that
      better allows me to keep tabs of issues that affect us at our school.
T:   I love tulips!  My husband got the area behind the house ready for planting a year or
      so ago, but we keep forgetting to get them planted in the fall.  Maybe this little post
      will help me remember!
U:  In April, I lost my Uncle Ed. In many ways, he stepped into the father role in my life,
      as my dad died when I was two years old.  Uncle Ed went to the Daddy-Daughter
      breakfasts at school with me.  I think my aunt has a place mat I made for him
      somewhere still. He helped teach me how to drive, and he walked me down the aisle
      when I got married.  I miss him, but his quality of life was not good for quite some
      time, so I'm glad he is free from that now.
V:  I love to eat vegetarian options because I love fruits and vegetables, but I could
      never be a vegan.  There are too many things that I love that don't mesh with that
W:  I am really enjoying the weather we have been having since Friday.  It just seems so
       peaceful and kind of like fall.  It looks like this week won't be too warm, and I saw
       that next weekend is looking kind of cool, so the first week with students could
       possibly be pretty nice temperature-wise.
X:  I found some xylophone mallets that I hope I can use as part of a unit on sound. 
      This was the hardest letter for me!
Y:  I've seen Rachael Yamagata twice now.  The last time was in Minneapolis at the
      Triple Rock Social Club.  I really like her music, but she's not really in the mainstream
      music scene so most people I tell about her music or when someone is listening to  
      it don't know who she is.  She's actually playing at the same club in Minneapolis this
      fall, but I don't know if we'll go.  I'm trying to save my extra funds for grad school. 
Z:  I have been wanting to plan this trip for some time, but this past spring it finally
      worked out. We took our 7th graders to Iowa State University campus for a tour, a
      visit to the Biotechnology Outreach Center, and the Insect Zoo!  The kids gave a lot
      of positive feedback about the trip, so I think we will try to continue it.  Other than
      the travel costs, it was a pretty low cost trip, with the zoo being the only portion that
     had a fee.

This was definitely a challenge!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

"Do You Want Another Try, Rewrite Some Lines?" The Science Writing Heuristic Part 1: MTBoSBlaugust Day 11

I just finished a book called Questions, Claims, and Evidence (K-6) and I have started Negotiating Science (5-10), which is authored by two of the same authors for Questions, Claims, and Evidence.  There is definitely overlap and actually some of the passages are the same, which is fine by me.  These books are about the Science Writing Heuristic, or SWH.  It is basically a framework to guide student learning and it is a student-led process.   I used this framework for a couple of years when I taught HS, but since moving in JH, I have mostly abandoned it for many reasons.  I am looking to start bringing it back into the classroom this school year.  SWH has several components and here is a video clip I found from a school district in my state that gives a nice overview:  SWH Overview .

Prior to starting a unit, the teacher examines what the big idea is.  Big ideas are things like:  a force is a push or pull or the Earth is part of a larger system.  From there, students' conceptions of the big idea need to be elicited during the Beginning Ideas stage.  This can be done in several ways, using a discrepant event, watching a video clip, a pre-test or probe, a lab activity etc.  Another part of this process has students making their own concept maps, sometimes making a group map or working to make a class map.  These maps can be a great tracker of student growth, as students are often asked to complete another map at the completion of the unit.  Gathering this information is helpful for the teacher, but also gives the students a platform to start asking questions. In small teams, students can suggest these questions, which will get separated out in testable questions and researchable questions. Students can be given certain parameters which may limit some of the testable questions, but different groups can investigate questions of interest that will tie back into the big idea.
Integrating concept mapping is something that I have been wanting to do for some time, so I am excited to try this out at least with some of our units.

Stay tuned:  I plan to write more about this topic soon!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

"So Eat It, Just Eat It" What to Pack for School Lunch MTBoSBlaugust Day 10

I wrote about this last year, but eating is something that we have to keep doing, so I keep looking for different recipes that are easy for school.  I take my lunch for a few reasons:  saving money-$600 is what I would spend if I ate at school everyday, it's relatively quick-lunch is 25 minutes but we all know that gets whittled down pretty quickly, and lastly, there are only two of us in my household so I have a lot of leftovers to eat.

Here are some more of my favorites:

1.  Chickpea Salad-It has a can of chickepeas (I sometimes double the recipe), celery, dill, onion, lemon juice, and a little mayo.  I don't generally eat it as a sandwich filling, just a salad.

2.  Asian-Inspired Tuna Salad-I don't usually eat a lot of meat at lunch time, and I really try not to have items that need to be heated up because that just takes too much precious time.  This tuna salad has a can of tuna, green onions, carrots, a little mayo, and little sesame oil.  A year or so ago, I found that an area Co-Op sells spring roll wrappers.  I've always wanted to make my own spring rolls.  Anyway, the filling is to go into the spring rolls.  Unfortunately the the link I had for the exact recipe is defunct, but it's a pretty simple recipe.

3.  More tuna recipes-I've tried out several of the recipes on this link and have really liked them.  They are mostly simple recipes that have ingredients that you may already have in your pantry.

4.  Salt and Vinegar Potato Salad-This is a recent recipe I found.  I love vinegar so I was intrigued. The recipe says that if you want a more intense vinegar flavor to boil the potatoes in three cups of vinegar instead of two.  I haven't tried that out yet because I made it for my husband who is not as much of a vinegar fan as I am.  This recipe doesn't have an egg in it, but has radish as a different addition.

5. Tomato Salad-I haven't tried this one out yet, but I love tomatoes!

6.  Lentil &  Chickpea Salad-This is a recent recipe that I've tried out.  I haven't added nutritional yeast or black salt, nor can I find red lentils, but I've done the recipe mostly as it has been written.

7.  Smash Chickpea Sandwich-This is semi-similar to the previous recipe. I like this one pretty well too.

If you can't tell, I seem to have a great affinity for chickpeas!  What are your favorite lunch recipes?