Monday, September 18, 2017

Learning about Project Based Learning

For the past couple of years, I have been on a journey. Our school is transitioning to a project based learning model. I love these projects and how deep they go in building student understanding about a certain topic. This is one sure-fire way to get the students hooked on learning and excited about it. I am not kidding when I say that I have had students beg...yes you heard right, BEG to stay in from recess to do more work on their PBL (project based learning). I call that a HUGE win for every teacher. So I am sharing some of my favorite books that I have been reading on the topic. I encourage you to check them out as well. 

Setting the Standard for Project Based Learning
Hacking Project Based Learning
PBL in the Elementary Grades
Developing Natural Curiosity Through Project-Based Learning



Sunday, September 17, 2017

Celebrating International Dot Day

Friday was International Dot Day...and for those of you who have never heard of that and have no idea what all the hype is about, let me introduce you to the book that started it all...You can find it here.  It is a great book about growth mindset. It all begins when a little girl cannot think of anything to draw in art class because she doesn't think she is a great artist. Her teacher tells her to draw something, anything...so she draw a dot, a teeny, tiny one. Her teacher asks her to sign her name on the bottom of her paper, so she does. The next day, she walks into the art room and sees her dot framed in a beautiful golden frame. Suddenly, because someone valued her, she begins to see herself as an artist and begins to create more and more art....I'll leave the rest for you to read on your own. You can even find a reading of it here on youtube.


 We had a great conversation about the book and how it could apply to us. Then the rest of the day, we engaged in different activities that had something to do with dots. 



In science, we explored color and what colors black is made from. Students started by drawing a black dot with a Mr. Sketch marker on a coffee filter. They made a hypothesis about which colors they thought black is made from. They showed this on their recording sheet. Next, they folded the filter into a small triangle shape and dipped it in water for 10 seconds. Then we opened them up to take a look. The students were able to clearly see the colors that are in black. They were so excited! We recorded that on our science experiment sheet. I found this lab on Pinterest, but I cannot find the link. 


For P.E. we played a game called, King of the Boppers. I don't have any pictures of this, but basically I had two colors of pool noodles, half of my students were on the green team and the other half were on the blue team. I took each pool noodle and cut them into three equal pieces. Each student got one of the pieces. Then I took another noodle and sliced it into about one inch pieces that were in the shape of a donut (or dot).  Every student got one of the long pieces and one of the small pieces that represented the color of their team. The students started in a big field with the small donut-shaped piece in his/her open hand. They had to protect their dot and not let it drop while other students used their long piece, or bopper, to try to whack it out of the other student's hand. If the student dropped their dot, they were out of the game. The last team with players in the game wins! We had so much fun! 



During art time, we did this little project that I found on this website and if you scroll down, you can see the video I showed to my class that talked all about texture and how to do this project before we got started. After the video, students had a few minutes to gather some textured items from nature outside. Then inside the classroom, I passed out a few other items that they could use as well. They started by wrapping a piece of yarn around a cardboard circle. Next, they glued down their textured items. After that, they took a piece of tinfoil and placed it on top of their collage. They carefully rubbed their fingertip over the collage, revealing the objects underneath. Then they flipped their circle over and cut around the border of the circle, leaving about an inch of tinfoil. They tucked the foil all around the back of the circle, securing it in place. We will spray pain it later with black and then use some steel wool to burnish it. They are going to look amazing! Can't wait to see their dot shaped texture collages!



And of course, it wouldn't be a special day without snacks, so we decided on cheese dots (cheese balls) and donut dots (donut holes). 


We ended up running out of time for all the activities we had planned, since Fridays are always early dismissal days. But I also brought dot games and let them play when they were done with their art project. I had Dominoes, Tic Tac Toe (all the pieces were different colored dots), and Othello. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

The effects of Irma

Life is finally beginning to feel back to normal after Irma turned our week upside down. It was definitely a crazy, frightening time, but we are so blessed that it wasn't even worse. 

We knew that Irma was heading our way. We saw the destruction she was leaving as she pounded the Caribbean, Cuba, and the Florida Keys. We knew that gas was in high demand and saw the food and water vanishing from the grocery stores before our very eyes. The stores were rationing water, one case per adult...forget the kids. Our family kept calling to check on us, some urging us to evacuate. The lines on the interstate were long. It was taking abnormally long hours to leave the state, and with gas in short supply, we decided that evacuating far away was not optional. Instead, we would have to stock up as best we could and try to ride it out. 

The closer Irma came, the more we wondered if we were making the right decision, but we just did not envision ourselves riding it out on the side of the road without gas or shelter and with two little kids. A friend of our family said if we needed to evacuate, we could come to stay with them. Although they lived just ten minutes away, their house was out of the flood zone, while ours was in zone b. 

By Saturday morning, it was apparent that all of flood zone a was under mandatory evacuation. We are just over the border of zone a but into zone b. Our friends seemed to think that we should all meet up and evacuate to one of the shelters together. We got ourselves together, and had previously made a few sand/water bags and placed them around our door and the garage. We headed out to our friends' house with food and clothing for the next three days. When we got there, it became clear that we were not heading to another shelter, but would ride it out at their house, which was solid and made from bricks. 

We were glued to the news, watching as if our lives depended on it. We watched Irma wobble and turn ever so slightly away from us, then toward us for a direct hit. At what seemed like the last possible minute, Irma turned again meaning we would not take a direct hit after all. By this time, she was downgraded to a category 1. We breathed a sigh of relief. 

Around 8:45 Sunday night, the power went out. We turned the lanterns on and got the emergency radio up and running so we could stay informed. Later that night, we got a few hours of sleep. At some point around 5 AM Monday morning, I could hear the sound of the hurricane. It was terrifying. I tried to look out the window, but being in the country without any lights, I could hardly make anything out. I could definitely hear the moaning of the wind. I noticed that my husband wasn't in bed anymore, so I went to the living room where I found him, asleep on the floor listening to the radio. After that, I really didn't get much sleep. I listened to the radio and tried to get some more sleep. 

As soon as it was light, we went outside to look around. It was still a bit windy, but the hurricane force winds were gone. The house was fine. Some of the trees had broken limbs or branches, but none had done any damage to our house. We decided that we should try to get home. So we packed things up and headed out as soon as we could, with the promise that we would be back to help with yard clean up. 


The entire driveway and front yard of the place we stayed looked like this after Irma got through.
Trees were down in many places including one up the street that snapped on a power line and caused our hosts to lose power right before the storm.
This is the view we had coming back into our neighborhood. (The road out of our neighborhood.)
 One of the roads in the neighborhood. We decided to park and walk to our house because we weren't sure how deep the water was or if our road was flooded. 
 A tree and mailbox battling it out. This was the worst damage we saw to property in our neighborhood.
 Power lines were down near our house and some stoplights weren't working, but our house had never lost power!
 There were some fallen trees, but none I saw had damaged any houses in our area. This one fell on a power line and was in the road,  blocking part of our lane.

One cool thing I heard and saw on the news was how a lot of water had gone out of the bays and away from the shoreline, revealing the seabed. That happened ahead of the storm surge and actually ended up protecting us from flooding! The news man even likened it to Moses and the children of Israel crossing the Red Sea, calling it Biblical!

After everything was settled on Monday afternoon, extreme exhaustion and muscle soreness was setting in. I guess we were more stressed out about the whole Irma thing than even we had known! It was so nice to sleep, once again, in our comfy bed knowing that, for us, everything had worked out. 

We waited until Wednesday to try to get some food at the store. When we arrived, we were shocked at what we saw. The store had very little. The refrigerator cases were all completely empty. No eggs, milk, cheese, salad, meat, etc. 
 Empty freezer cases
 1/2 of the produce section was gone and had lots of empty cases.
 Empty freezers and bread section
All gone!!
 As we drove on the interstate we saw a gas tanker with police escort.
 Lots of power trucks
 More power trucks and we also saw a bunch of moving vans and RV's
 Generators and semis bringing in suplies
 Service trucks
We even saw 8 trucks carrying loads of power poles...and that was in just about 2 miles of driving! That road was like a parking lot with people heading back in from evacuating the state.

Things are slowly returning to normal again. The roads are not as filled, Storm shutters are coming down, sandbags are disappearing from around people's houses. The grocery stores are getting more and more food in stock, and today, I was even able to get a loaf of bread after more than a week of trying to accomplish that impossible task! Life is good.




Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Peek-a-Boo Writing with Tops and Bottoms


I am loving my new writing set and can't wait to use it in my classroom! There are endless possibilities! I think this would be fun for an option at a writing center. It would be perfect for having my students write about themselves like at the beginning of the year, or anytime. These are great for writing narratives and you can just add as many of the lined pages as you want to customize it for longer or shorter stories. Can you imagine the tall tales your students could write on them? Check these babies out over here.








Friday, August 25, 2017

Staying Positive

One of my most important goals this year is to connect with my families. I want to make them feel like I think their child is loved and is and special person. One way that I am planning to do this is by sending home positive notes on a regular basis. It is so easy to focus on the negative and many times that is all that parents hear about their child especially the difficult ones. I admit, it is going to be challenging some days, but I really want to send some love their way at least twice per month. I created some little notes that go along with my theme that will help me out on this. These llama notes are simple, fun, and cute. I can't wait to use them.




Here's how I am organizing it all. First, I purchased a small clipboard specifically for the purpose of holding positive notes. I will write names on the notes at the beginning of each month and then look for ways to send them home. Is Johnny, who isn't usually quiet, having a great day of quiet learning? Time to pull out one of those notes and add a few words and sign it. When Jackie stops to help someone and wasn't even asked, time for a note home. 




I think that by looking for positive, I will see more positive. I sent my first note home today. And that little boy, who has had to have a lot of negative notes sent home in previous years, was glowing!

Last week I sent a few of these out and got great responses from the parents who received them. I even had one parent thank me and also let me know that I could also send negative news. LOL. 

How will this affect the relationships with the students and parents? Well, that is yet to be seen, but I do know that people tend to try to live up to what you think of them. So I want each student to think they are my favorite student ever. I want them to live like they are. I want the parents to look forward to hearing communication from school instead of dreading it. Many times they already know the problems their student struggles with. Why not show them that someone sees their child as they really are, a treasure! Who knows, maybe this could move mountains in the classroom. I am willing to give it a try.

You can find these little notes here.




Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Superhero S.T.E.M. Project


My students had a great time with this superhero S.T.E.M. teambuilding project. Some even asked to do more. But we must move on. Check it out here.