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Friday, August 29, 2014

Marshmallow Challenge 2014-2015

Today was the the day: Marshmallow Challenge Day!  (If you don't know what the Marshmallow Challenge is you can check out my previous post or go straight to the horse's mouth.)  It was really fun for the students and me.  There were several successful structures and several structures buckled under the weight of the marshmallow.  The students worked well together and no group gave up before time ran out, and got no input from me.

One senior group and one freshman group produced free standing structures that were 25 inches tall.  Two senior groups produced 24 inch structures, but one was not free standing.   I have included examples that were free standing at the end of the 18 minutes as well as one that definitely drooped and one that snapped.

When they were done we watched two videos.  I know, "Videos ... she must be a slacker teacher."  Maybe I am sometimes, but not today.  First, we watched the video on the Marshmallow Challenge website.  It is a TED talk that explains the purpose, typical results and what you can learn from the challenge.

Then we watched part of another video.  One of my frustrations as a teacher is when students say "I'm not good at ..." when they have this mindset they shut themselves off to new possibilities.  I especially see this in AP Biology.  These students are used to excelling, and most of them think they know how to study.  And they are often receiving lower test grades than they ever have before, and most just quit instead of rising to the challenge.

So after watching this video, I challenge my students.  I told them, I would put up a poster soon of things you say to yourself if you have a fixed mindset and things your say to yourself if you have a growth mindset.  And I challenged them to change their brain.  I challenged them to train themselves to have a growth mindset.  I challegend them to not let failure stop them from trying to succeed whether it was with their grades, athletics, arts, or any other area where they felt they were not going to succeed.  Hopefully, at the end of the year I am going to remember to ask my students to write me a letter about if they tried this and if they felt that it made a difference for them.  iif you want to learn more about mindsets, click here.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Marshmallow Challenge

I just happened upon the Marshmallow Challenge this afternoon while procrastinating online.  The Marshmallow Challenge is a design challenge to build the tallest free-standing structure possible out of spaghetti, tape, string and one marshmallow that has to be on top.  I think this is going to play into experimental design and group work.

I am definitely adding this to my fist week of school. Below is a TED video that explains what you can learn from the Marshmallow Challenge.  

Friday, August 22, 2014

A New Twist on Prezi: First Day Presentation

When I found Prezi I was so impressed. I have spent most of the day on prezi after not using it for quite a while. I am loving it! It took me a little while to remember/figure out/ask Chonte' (our school's versions of google) how to get the results I wanted, but I am so happy with the way things turned out.

 Why did I start up again? Did you know you can import your own image as a background? I didn't, but once I found out I was on board ... then I stayed up entirely too late drawing my background ... I know ... nerd!

If you want to check out my first day for forensics click here.  (Warning: it is not perfect ... yet.)

I took a picture of the drawing at 1:30am (poor lighting) and next time I will probably scan the drawing in to give me a flat square surface. After showing this to a co-worker and she told me now I can claim to be "working" while I doodle during meetings.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fingerprint Activity

I found this activity online somewhere.  I think it was actually an activity for an English class, but I figured it tied into Forensics nicely.  After the first round of fingerprinting, the students tried to recreate the basic pattern of their fingerprint, but instead of ridges they used words.  They could write about anything they wanted and many personalized their fingerprints.

  This took considerably longer than I had figured.  I figured a half a period to one day and I think it took two to three days for most of them to finish, and the rest had to finish at home (I normally don't give homework in Forensics).

What do you think?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Safety Posters

I have my students make safety posters from our safety discussions. Here are a few from this past year.


 I grade these based on the idea and effort.  I then let my  teacher's aide choose the ones they like best and the teacher's aide puts them up in the lab for the year.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Classroom Posters

I have lots of posters in my room.  I think Biology is very visual, but maybe I am just very visual.   Plus I figure if a student stares at something long enough maybe it will stick.  I rarely find any posters to buy that seem to show what my kids need, so I make my own.  We reference these posters a lot.  If  I ask questions and they don't know the answers we start looking around the room, or if they have a question and the answer is on the wall, I just start looking around.  Because of this I try to make all writing large enough to see from across the room.


Most of the time I create these on the computer or small sheet of paper then project that to trace it onto the poster board (for proper spacing).  Sometimes I use the computer  (like the hypothesis, theory and law posters).

Some of my poster are what started my idea of Summary Sheets (fitting all of the most important information on one piece of paper).

 What posters do you have?  What should your kids know that they always seem to forget? What posters do you wish you could make, but don't have the time?  What else would stop you from making your own poster?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Unpacking and Packing

Do you have to pack up your room at the end of every year?  We do.  We have tile floor and our amazing staff waxes the floors every summer.  But to do this they have to move everything out of our rooms.  I am lucky and can stack books and shelving on the lab tables, other teachers pack their stuff up in plastic tubs so it can be moved easily, some teachers don't have stuff.  Do you have stuff?  I have stuff.

Fortunately we all have closets in our rooms.  So we can pack those to the brim, and mine still has the original lock on it so it is secure.  (This is also where I put cell phones when I have to take them up if I can't take it to the office right away so the angels don't attempt to snag them from my desk).

So this is what my packed closet looked like on Monday. Some of this stays in the closet (most of the clear containers live here, as well as the random shoe boxes), but everything else has to move to it's new home.

Well, I guess instead of blogging about it I should head up to school and see what progress I can make today.

Do you have time the week of inservice to work in your room?  We have one workday (and usually a to do list from the office), but I have recently learned that some schools the teachers have most of the week in their room.  Crazy!

I hope you are ready for school to start, I will be if I get off my couch ...

Monday, August 11, 2014

3 Week Calendar

This pictures is from the end of the year last year.  If you try really hard you can see it says Finals.  I put up a calendar in my room where the students and I can see three weeks at a time (from beginning of grading period to progress reports, then progress reports to report card).  

I have tried to display my calendar in several ways.  Initially I actually bough frames from IKEA and gift wrap then white butcher paper over the gift wrap to make it easier to read.  Unfortunately, it took really strong magnets to hold these up, and they did not always erase well. They also only show one week at a time for each class.

I think I used a poster board next showing the entire six weeks.  I wrote on it with a sharpie then used rubbing alcohol to remove/erase the sharpie at the end of the six weeks.  It also didn't always erase well, and I think it lasted about two six weeks before I moved on.

Then  I used painter's tape and would usually have to redo the tape about halfway through the year.  Then the amazing Chonte' suggested electrical tape, and probably let me use her electrical tape. It lasted all year and is still up and going.  Chonte' only shows one week at a time and each row represents one prep.

I printed the days on the week at the top using a super cool font.  And I even made dates and stuck them up on the board with sticky tack most of the year.  Towards the end of the year I ran out of card stock in the colors I wanted and just gave up and wrote the dates in.  In each square I list my three preps and just a quick agenda of what we are doing so the students and I can quickly see what we are doing and what we have done.  This helps me a lot when kids want to know what we did while they were gone ... it's on the board behind me. (I do have a new makeup work idea to try this year which should help with this, but I think the calendar is still needed.)  

Leave us comments.  We want to learn from you.  How do you display what you are learning?  How do you keep up with make up work?

Getting ready for school to start

It is one week before I head back to professional development, so I am headed to school tomorrow. There is a lot to do in my room before I sit in meetings preparing for the new year.  I love seeing elementary teachers creative bulletin boards, curtains and doors.  I will be updating my syllabi, safety rules and contracts, all-about-me handout, reinforcing my cube organization with zip ties to (hopefully) stand up to freshmen and seniors.

At the end of each year I pack up my room of everything that would be in the way of my floors being refinished and of everything that someone might see as communal supplies that I purchased on my own ...  I need to unpack my closet, put books back into bookshelves, sketch out my new rules poster, put up remind 101 codes, update my website with my new remind 101 phone number (which I got an email about the other day),  send another email about changing my website links on the school website, and take the school supplies I bought (so far) up to the school so my husband doesn't realize how much I bought :).

I have spent the summer working out a preliminary calendar for the entire year for all 3 of my preps, organizing and spacing essays and lab reports so that I can actually grade them before grades are due.  I have read blogs, pinned pins, made quotes, made a to do list to try to keep me on track when I get back in my room.  I wish it were really as simple as the card below shows ...

But I will keep going and pushing myself and my students.  And hopefully I will accomplish my to do list this week so I can spend that one workday doing all the things I have forgotten ...

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Quote/Motivation Wall

After seeing a post like this one (with no real link): 

I decided this could be a great solution for all those quotes I want to use, but don't have room for, or just get busy and forget to change out.  So I have been relaxing on my summer break writing quotes on post-its.  I am keeping them in a binder so I can (hopefully) train my teacher's aide (if I am lucky enough to get one) to put them up each week or so.  I am also going to invite my students to make their own.  

Some quotes are too long or too significant to be limited to a post-it, but I am hoping it look eclectic.  I would also like to take a picture of each of them and possibly project them in PowerPoint that loops during passing periods.  The looping "Daily Show" is one of those great ideas that unfortunately takes more time to make than it is worth at this point (especially because three preps would triple the work for that project as well).

Do you change out quotes in your room?

Friday, August 8, 2014

First days: Rules

I spend my first days establishing a few procedures and rules for my classroom.  For the first time in 10 years I am toying with changing my classroom rules.  The rules I have been using are all encompassing.

  • Keep hands, feet, objects, and comments to yourself. 
  • Follow all directions the first time they are given.
  • Help to maintain a safe environment.
  • Follow all guidelines in student handbook.
  • Do your best.

I developed these in my Alternative Certification classes and spend the first days explaining what all these include.  For example, do your best includes not only completing all work to the best of your ability, but also not cheating and turning in someone else’s work. 

But after too many hours on pinterest I have two sets of rules I am currently trying to decide between.  Set #1 is simple:

1.       Work hard
2.       Be nice.

The other set is adapted from another pin and blogger.  Click here to see the original rules, and there is a free download so you can do a printable version.  I like to make my own posters ... I have issues.  It had one rule translated to a hashtag – Perfect!  So, I decided to translate them all.  My husband told me I went hashtag crazy ... 

What are your rules?  What is your first day like?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Scientist Superheros

Have you seen Scary Mary?

After a half day in-service with the Amazing Fran, I discovered the fun of iMovie trailers.  I had played with iMovie previously, but not with the iMovie trailers.  There are several ready-to-go templates, all you have to do is drop in pictures and video and change the text for your project.

My forensics kids used iMovie to take their research on forensic scientists and present that information to their peers.  As always some projects were sub-par, but some were amazing!  I have included a couple of videos to show the different themes.  This was an experiment, we learned a lot by making these.

Francis Camps Video

 Francis Henry Galton Video

Joseph Bell video

I really like that it is only about one minute per video, which make presentation day go fairly quickly (especially if you are using Reflector ... do you know reflector? ... that may be another post).

To help the kiddos there is a great blog post that has iMovie Storyboard Templates as pdfs - thanks Ben!

Again.  I am here to add to the tech toolbox my kids can use in my class and others.  What kinds of projects do you think your students would want to use iMovie trailers to present?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wanted Posters

This is a project I do with my Forensics kids at the beginning of the school year (before Meet the Teacher).  They love it, administrators love it and parents love it.

We use made up crimes that are school related, and they are supposed to be funny.  I have had students who were wanted for excessive texting, stealing milk, and running over people in the hallway.  The students are encouraged to work together to get pictures of themselves taken, they do that with the iPad.

This is also usually the first iPad project of the year.  The students use Keynote to construct their wanted posters and their school email to turn their project in to me.  This allows them to add Keynote and school gmail to their Technology Toolbox.

I still haven't had kiddos print directly from the iPad yet. Last time that thought occurred in my head there were still a few bugs in the system (it was a while back).  So I have them email me their Keynote as a PowerPoint and I copy and paste them all into one document and change to page size to 8 X 11 and fix the font problems that changing the size caused ... I think I will have them print it themselves this year ...

This might be a cute activity for historical or literary figures as well. I have my kiddos make Superhero Scientist iMovie trailers for our history of scientists.  Stay tuned for a post about that project coming up soon!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Happy Birthday Chonte'!

Happy Birthday to my partner in crime, my twin,    
the one I end up in the principal's office with,  

 and my fellow nerd! 

And happy half-birthday to myself!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Pens & Posters

I love school supplies in general, but I have a few favorites.  I guard my Sharpie markers (partially because I imagine students sniffing them and drawing inappropriate pictures on everything).  I have a large collection, but never enough.  They are my go to tools for making posters.

Then I discovered Sharpie pens ... did I say pens? Yes!  ... did I mean fine tip Sharpie markers? No!  They are pens.  They don't bleed through paper.  They are nice and fine and write so well.  


Recently I discovered Zentangle.  Have you heard of it?  It's been around, I just discovered it this past school year.  When I started I was only using Sharpie pens.

I have since discovered Staedtler Marker Pens.  They are very fine and are triangular in cross section (so they don't roll).  They come in a super cool  easel storage case and in more muted colors than Sharpie pens.

After completing a lot of Xentangle designs, I decided I wanted a set of pens of different thicknesses.  Tonight I bit the bullet and bought a set from ek tools I found at Target.  And I can't wait to get started.  For a quick comparison, I wrote the thicknesses and brands of marker pens on the pink post it below.  It may not seem like much difference to you but when it comes to summary sheets and some of the more detailed zentangles, I think these pens are going to make a world or difference.

 Do you have pens, pencils or markers that you prefer?  You can catch a glimpse of my PaperMate Clear Point Mechanical Pencil in the top picture here.  If you think this is silly, head out to the closest store with school supplies, buy everything I have mentioned and send the supplies to me!!

Do you Zentangle? 


Sunday, August 3, 2014