Thursday, December 22, 2016

Mystery Box Challenge

Everyone loves a good challenge, especially the day before Christmas break! Here is the overview of Mystery Box Challenge: Holiday Edition:


  • 8 groups 
  • 4 different Mystery Boxes
  • Each group was competing against one other group.
  • The challenge had to be completed using a minimum of 4 supplies from the Mystery Box.


Each Mystery Box contained random supplies such as spoons, cups, plastic wrap, bottle lids, yarn, etc. Really, I just took the contents of my junk drawer and any leftover project supplies and threw them into random buckets. No two Mystery Boxes were the same.

Students had 15 minutes to complete the challenge and take a group selfie with their creation.  Then they came up to test it out.  Most had no idea they were applying science principals to their creation but it was fun to listen to them discuss if weight made things faster, if the surface area was smooth or rough, and how sound could be echoed through a cup.  



Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Global Goals Project

Want your kids to solve world problems and collaborate with other students across the globe?  This project might be for you...

Starting the first week of school, we will devote every Friday to working on solving a global issue as identified by the United Nations.  Students will start by researching the 17 Goals to Transform Our World.   Once they choose one area of interest, they will work through the iTunes U course, Global Problem Solvers or GPS. (click this link on your iPad or iPhone to subscribe to the free course)

The final product for part one is a short documentary that discusses which problem they selected, their research and their plan to solve the problem.  Students will try to convince the audience how their plan can be implemented in the spring semester of 2017.


Students will attend a screening of the documentaries and vote for which projects should move forward to the implementation phase.  Once projects are chosen for implementation, students will form action teams and begin their plan to create a positive change.


This course is designed for secondary level students, grades 6-12 and is interdisciplinary.  So far students in Maine, Texas, and Illinois have committed to completing the course. Once students select topics, they will be partnered up with collaborating schools for brainstorming, peer review, and feedback.


Here is our general outline:

Goal
  1. Introduce the 17 sustainable goals
  2. Write YOUR purpose

Research
  1. Create a graphic organizer
  2. Develop an infographic of statistics

Ideation
  1. Develop a Slogan
  2. Share idea and gather feedback - 6 word story video
  3. Develop a Plan of Action
  4. Interview an expert, explore community connection
  5. Collaborate with Global Partners
  6. Write or create a product that explains connection to content
Document
1. Develop a documentary (1-2 mins)
  1. Showcase purpose, research, why important, action
  2. Share globally, garner feedback

Action
Reflection

If you want to join us, have your students subscribe to the course. We will continue to build the course over the year and look for opportunities for our kids to work together. We would love thoughts, feedback, or ideas you might have to improve this project! :)

 This project was created by @jdeinhammer@miaLmorrison, and @smyles2100 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

16-17 School Year Challenge

Even after almost 20 years in the classroom, I still LOVE back to school.  I love all the excitement and positive energy seen in both the students and teachers. This year I encourage you to mix it up and try something new as you start your new year. Maybe you are already doing these things. If you are what other ways can you challenge yourself to step it up and try something different? Change is good!

7 Ideas to Mix Up Your School Year

1. Ask your kids what they want to learn. "What questions have your always wondered about?" "What would the syllabus look like if you could design it?" Let students generate the guiding questions for your class. Use their guiding questions to drive the learning in your room. Keep their questions posted in the room to allow for more questions to be added throughout the year. Give them the state objectives and let them make connections to their interest and then try to tie those interests into your routine. 

2. Don't give them a list of class rules. Instead of going over all the things that they can't do this year in your room, develop a list of class goals and post those instead.  "We will make a positive impact on our community." "We will encourage each other to take risks and not be afraid of being wrong." See what they come up with when you ask what CAN we do?

3. Be present. Get to know your kids and who they are.  Try to attend events like a volleyball game or art show. My own kids get so excited when their teachers show up at their little league games. It truly makes their day when you are present. Simply make an effort to recognize that your kids are more than just students in your classroom. 

4. Try Genius Hour. Last year we did a genius hour type project for our final exam and kids presented their ideas to our community. This year I plan to do this for the full year. Students will choose a topic they are interested in during the first month of school and we will devote every Friday to working on it. Students will be required to connect our objectives to their topic as we move through the year. They will have a folder in their digital portfolio to keep up with their work and creations. At the end of the first semester they will create a documentary explaining why their topic is important and we will do an Oscar type screening of the documentaries to decide which projects we can implement the following semester. 

5. Don't give your kids homework. I know a lot of people would have a hard time with this, but think it through. When you get home from work, the last thing you want to do is more work. Our kids need a break just like we do. They need to play outside, they need to hang out with their families or just chill out. Instead of homework, can you give your kids a warm up problem or question each day to determine where they are? Can you incorporate 10 minutes of "practice time" in class each day so you are there to help if they don't understand? Can you better utilize or rearrange your class time to avoid outside of class work?

6. Connect and borrow from your PLN.  We learn best when we share and connect with other teachers.  Use your PLN to help you improve or change up a lesson or idea.  For example, this past year I was able to present with the great Katie Morrow. She mentioned that she had her students run a class blog. She had a blogger of the day that wrote about what was going on in class that day. I am going to try to replicate that in my classroom this year.  Katie sharing this stratagy allows me to implement her idea in my own room, giving my kids a chance to share their voice and practice their writing skills for an authentic audience.  Share your ideas and borrow from others. Don't monetize your work, sharing is caring! We make each other better. 

7. Let your kids create something for an authentic audience.  Have students write a book, create a tutorial or teach someone else.  Connect with a local elementary school and have your kids teach them about something in your content area. Nothing is better than watching your kids become the teacher.  We had a kindergarten class teach high school seniors how to use a Makey-Makey one year. The littles were so proud to know something that the bigger kids were so impressed with. You could also have your kids create helpful information for next years class, for example an "in 60 seconds" of a topic that you could use to introduce something next year.

Try something new this year and let me know how it goes. I would also love to hear about other challenges that you take to improve your classroom. 


Monday, May 9, 2016

Through Their Eyes

This year we partnered with the Dallas Zoo to learn about endangered animals and the conservations effort the Zoo has in place to protect them.

First, we visited the zoo and captured images and videos and talked to the zookeepers to learn more.  Students were divided into teams based on which animal they were researching and then we came back to class and shared what we had learned.

As we started writing the book, students had the choice of how and what they wanted to contribute to the book.  Each student decided if they wanted to illustrate, create, or write and submitted original work to our class editors.  The student editors filtered through the work submitted and selected the items that were publishable to add to the book.

After the majority of the work was added, we contacted several organizations to see if they could proofread and give us feedback on our work.  We heard back from Dian Fossey Gorilla Foundation, The Cheetah Conservation Fund, VulPro, SANCCOB and even the World Wildlife Fund.  SANCCOB took the time to FaceTime with us and introduced us to a South African penguin named Princess.

After we edited and corrected our mistakes, we sent the book to Ben and Marti and the Dallas Zoo who did a double check of grammar and facts and then gave us the go-ahead to publish.

The book was published to iTunes and now my 7th graders are published authors! This interdisciplinary project connected science, art, language arts, and math as different teachers jumped in to help us create this multi-touch book. We will be showcasing our work at Wildlife Weekend at at the Dallas Zoo on May 21-22.

Our final product?  Through Their Eyes  
Download it now and see what some amazing 7th graders are capable of when you set the bar high. 
We created a video response board so if you download their book and want to give them feedback, click on our FlipGrid and let them know what you think!







Friday, January 22, 2016

Skype with South Africa

This week, we Skyped with Tamlyn and Princess the penguin all the way in Cape Town, South Africa.  Tamlyn is a penguin rehabilitation expert who works to help injured birds and raise awareness about pollution.  She is the education manager for SANCCOB, the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds.  One of the chapters of our zoo book is on the African penguin so it was great to get first hand information from an expert that works with them. 


Friday, January 8, 2016

Amazing Animal Adventure

Goal:  For students to learn about endangered animals, conservation, and ecology in an engaging and entertaining way.

Overview: Students take a virtual journey around the world, game style, visiting 5 locations, which they have to identify based on clues.  Once identified, they are given roadblocks to test their knowledge of the area, animals, plants, biomes, etc. They also will receive detours, which will allow them to create something to teach others based on what they have learned.

I have attempted to get students from the locations we are "visiting" to provide clues about their location.  We are using FlipGrid as a place to leave video messages for each other, since the time difference is too difficult for asynchronous communication.  I am really excited for my kids to see the first of video messages left for us.

Game Play: Students are on teams for this journey.  Several opportunities are provided at each stop for teams to gain points.  I created a leaderboard to track points during the adventure to help keep students motivated and competitive.

Product Created: Groups will create a digital travel journal, using Book Creator, of their adventures to share with a local elementary school.  We will take our iPads to the kindergarten - 2nd grade classrooms and have the 7th graders share their journey with the littles, teaching them about biomes, ecology, and endangered animals.

Our big picture goal is to have our kids study endangered animals around the world for a project we are doing for the Dallas Zoo.  We are writing a multi-touch book on eight endangered animals to share their story.  We hope to raise awareness regarding these endangered and threatened species and showcase the conservation efforts that the Dallas Zoo has in place.  Many of the detours we are doing along the way provide an opportunity for students to create visuals for the book.



If you want to join the journey, you can follow along in our iTunes U course, Life Science.

The section titled Ecology will be built over the next few weeks, adding as we go through our journey.  I am happy to share any of the files directly so email me if you want more information, or if you want to connect with our classes.





Friday, December 18, 2015

Yetiman


The day before holiday break....40 minute classes....everyone sugared up.  I needed something fun that did not involved watching a movie....

Please meet YETI-MAN.

Student Challenge: Please don't let Yeti-Man die.  He and his tribe are being relocated to an island in the tropics.  He needs a device that keeps him from actually touching the water.  You must use a minimum of 3 supplies to attach to Yeti-Man and he must be able to float without the saltwater touching him.  He must be able to breathe and we need to be able to see his face.

1. Name your Yeti-Man.
2. Build him a life saving device to help him travel through the water to his new home.
3. Take a group selfie with him and share with #savetheyetiman






Thursday, December 17, 2015

Visual Thinking

I have been trying to come up with different ways to practice the large amount of vocabulary associated with middle school science.  I actually like the vocabulary, but so many of these words are new to kids, I think they need lots of practice and repetitiveness to understand and connect these terms.

Here are a few of the things that have been successful in my class -- I am looking for other ideas that are fun to help kids increase their science vocabulary.

1. Sketchnotes
I started teaching my 7th graders how to Sketchnote this week.  They are crazy artistic and I love combining art and science. I think this helps them see how a series of words are connected and fit together.  Once we start applying these words to real world problems, it helps them to have a good understanding of the concepts.

Created by Nausheen

Created by Pravallika



















2. Heads Up
We played a few games of Heads-Up with the create your own cards version.  This was quite hilarious.  I hear the app Charades is the same, but haven't tried it yet.  The best part about this one was it really helped me to identify some big misconceptions kids had about some of the words.


3. Infopics
We went outside and took pictures of things that represented some of our vocabulary and then created an infopic. I have collected these in a Schoology media album for students to refer back to this year.  The top two pictures were taken with our Pro-Scope iPad microscope attachment that our class received from a Donor's Choose Grant this year.  This one was just fun because we got to go outside and who doesn't love an iPad microscope??

Created by Juliana, Pravallika, Renee, and Anuj


I would love to hear other ways teachers have incorporated fun ways to remember terminology that can be easily embedded into any subject area.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

iPad Summit Boston

After an amazing 2 days at the iPad Summit in Boston, I am still trying to process all I learned.  It was so fun to see other ADE's and conference friends and ALL the sessions were so good.  Here is a quick overview of who I saw and my big take aways.  Overall I was reminded of the power of collaborating with like minded educators.




Love the idea of design thinking and loved the practical examples of how to make that happen.  Sabba shared Global Goals which I think I will start my year with next year.  It would be so cool to start the year with the 17 global goals and have the students select one to focus our content around next year.  We could let them design the year based on that big picture goal of impacting society.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Middle School Life

I get the same question a lot these days...."Are you surviving at the middle school?" or  "Do you regret your decision yet?"

So here it is...my official reflection of the first few months as a middle school teacher ...

What do I love about teaching middle school?
Students have an undeniable excitement to learn.  They aren't "too cool for school" and still really have fun while learning.  I love how much progress I have seen in them in such a short period of time.  From writing to behaviors to higher level thinking, I am so impressed with how quickly they learn. 

They are super compliant and still respect and like their teachers. Kids don't come to class complaining about other teachers or classes. They live in the moment and do not seem to dwell on things beyond their control. 

They do not judge. I have yet to feel judged by anyone in the entire building. They are incredibly accepting and so very sweet. I can't tell you the number of notes, emails, and treats kids have given me just to say thanks for teaching them. 

This doesn't mean all of these things were missing in my previous classroom with older kids, it's just different. 

What do I miss?
Mostly, I miss the respect and trust the parents had in my ability to provide the best possible opportunities for their kids. It is hard to adjust to being questioned daily by parents who don't know me and will accuse or point fingers when truly my goal is to help their child be more successful and independent. I can't speak from their point of view though. Maybe when my own kids are in middle school, I will feel the same way when I see them becoming more independent and not making the choices I would like them to make.  Either way, I miss the trust. 

I wanted a challenge and needed change. I got both. I love the challenge of creating lessons to appeal to a younger crowd. I love having a team to work with, who push me to try things outside of my norm.  I love the environment of my campus, one of equality and acceptance for all and everyone putting kids first. 

So, yes I am surviving and no, I absolutely do not regret my decision to mix life up a little. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Mystery Skype

In honor of Global Collaboration Day, we decided to do a science themed Mystery Skype, thanks to the amazing idea from DianaLyn Perkins.  So each period of the day, students came in and Skyped with another classroom.  The goal was to try and identify the other schools location before the other school identified us.  
Questions could only have yes or no answers and they needed to be science themed.

We talked to Colorado, Massachusetts, Canada, California, and Virginia - 4 different time zones - all in one day.  

Students had different jobs during the cell -- Thanks to Mrs. Alaniz for these ideas!

Google Masters
Team Geography
Social Media
Photography
Crowd Control and Security
Bloggers
Interviewers

We ran a Todays Meet to send questions to the interviewers so the room stayed quiet (sort of).  Here is an example from one class.

The bloggers had to write a blog post about what was going on.  Here are a few examples excerpts from them.  Keep in mind they are 7th graders and this was their first time on a Mystery Skype.

"Today we are doing a Skype call with another class somewhere in the Americas! We are trying to guess where they live. Everyone has a job to do so that it goes smoothly. We are starting soon! I'm so excited! We are skyping with them right now! About to ask questions! They don't live in the U. S. They live near Toronto. This is so cool! I can't wait to figure out where they live! We are getting pretty close. They thought that we lived in Colorado! We found out that they lived in Ontario! Yes we won!"
Sydney P4

"Everyone is really excited to meet a mystery class! You can feel the anticipation in the room! We are starting to quiet down because the other class is going to call soon. The four  interviewers are receiving the call. The other class is still organizing itself, the teacher told us, so we will wait 5 or so minutes before she starts the Skype adventure. We can see four different students and we wait silently for them to talk. They also appear to be in a science lab. They tell us their names and we decide to ask them a question first.  We figure out that they live in the northern hemisphere,They don't live near a body of water, and have had a natural disaster in the last 5 years.Earthquakes and tornadoes are rare there for them. The Google team is plugging away. They live in the U.S, and have very harsh winters too. But alas, the girls guess that yes, we are from Texas! We have been found!"
Jordan P2

So proud of my East Broncos for today!! It was fun to see the excitement around and everyone laughing and having fun.



Tuesday, August 25, 2015

1st 5 Days Middle School Version!

The first 5 days are most important, which is why I am starting off letting them design our class and have input on what is going on in the room.

Day 1 - Round Robin Input!
Students will rotate through 8 stations -- about 4-5 minutes per station.

Station 1: What do you want to learn in 7th grade science?
At this station, students will find 3-4 pieces of butcher paper with our course themes on it.  They can write what questions they have or identity topics they are interested in.  I am going to take their ideas and tie them into our year plans.

Station 2: What songs do you want to add to our class music playlist?
Students add songs to our Apple Music playlist. The only requirements are that they cannot be inappropriate or have the "E" next to them in the store.  I play music in the background all day, almost everyday.

Station 3: How would you improve the world?
This station is another piece of butcher paper where students write down what they would do to improve the world.  They can identify what bugs them or what they see as the biggest issues in society.  We will try to address some of these throughout the year and offer solutions or suggestions on how to improve society.


Station 4: What makes you happy?
I do this station because talking about what makes you happy makes you feel good -- and everyone should feel good, especially on the first day of school!  At this station, students wrote on the table with neon markers.


Station 5: School would be so much better if only...
This station is a writing prompt that students complete.  I was curious to find out what about school makes them anxious or stressed.  If we can find ways to avoid that, it would make school better for all!

These answers were hilarious.  From an indoor pool to free pizza vending machines, kids really know what they need to be happy.   Many students wrote "no homework", which I COMPLETELY agree with!  A couple wrote "no mean teachers", which again, I totally agree with!


Station 6: What do you love about your school?
Since I am new here, I wondered why they love this place so much. Groups submitted to a Padlet all the things they love about CMSE.



Station 7: My favorite teacher ever was...because...
This one is my favorite. Every kid has a favorite teacher, but most teachers have no idea.  At this station students write a quick note to their favorite teacher saying WHY they liked them so much.  Now I get to see what kids think about awesome teachers and I will put all these notes in the teachers boxes on the first or second day of school as a surprise!  #win-win

Station 8:  Meet the teacher: ME!
No one wants to stand in front of the class and talk about themselves in a room full of strangers, but I need to meet each student. I want to speak to everyone of them on the first day. This station allows students to meet me with only 2-3 other students around and allows me to put a face to a name.

Here is the link to the Google Doc with the station information documents that are at each table if you are interested in the specific details!

Day 2 - Angry Bird Challenge
Team building time!  Design a new angry bird tower that can support the weight of a tiny angry bird.  Students had about 10 minutes to complete this challenge and the only supplies available were 20 notecards and 10 pieces of tape.  Loved the creativity, energy, and competitiveness!




Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Change is Good

I have always been a fan of change.  I don't have a teacher desk or a filing cabinet. Over the last 18 years I have taught biology, environmental science, microbiology, pathophysiology, nutrition, and anatomy and physiology at CHS.

But I haven't taught the same year twice.  Each year I completely start over.  New kids = new ideas.

This year is different. This year I am really starting over.  As I pack up my classroom, I am not sad or hesitant.  I know I have made the right decision to try something new.  New things are exciting and anticipation is fun.  I love not really knowing what to expect when school starts back up in August.  I am looking forward to being pushed and challenged in a new way.

I am excited to work on a team, decorate a new classroom, be on a smaller campus, and work with someone I truly admire for always putting students first.   I can't wait to see how seventh graders think and what they are interested in learning about.  With that said, I am also slightly terrified of being the "new kid" and messing up.

So for everyone that continues to question my decision...I am moving because I enjoy change. It took me three years to develop enough nerve to follow through with this decision, but now I have no regrets.  I am choosing to challenge myself in a new environment so I continue to learn and improve my teaching.

Some of my favorite things from CHS that have been here as long as I have.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Health: Inside Out

As I look at this book my class created, I still can't believe how awesome it turned out.

When my students suggested that we create a textbook for our iTunes U course, I was somewhat skeptical.  I wondered how high school students could create an entire textbook in just 3 months, how I could be sure they were writing their own material and creating their own images, and how I would ever organize it all.

THEN they said they wanted their textbook to look like Life on Earth from E. O. Wilson.  At this point, I was even more scared....but once again, my students proved that they are capable of way more than is typically expected of them.

Here is a basic outline of how we made this happen:
1 - Create an outline that matches the content from our course Health Without Borders in iTunes U.
2 - Organize classes into chapters, 1st period was the digestive system, 3rd period was the heart, etc.
3 - Organize each chapter into sections and decide what content to include.
4 - Let students sign up for jobs based on their strengths - writer, illustrator, videographer, etc.
5 - Pick 2 editors per class period to assemble the book on our class iMac.

That makes it sound so simple...but it was a LOT of work.  The first round of information coming in was ALL over the place.  Students were submitting documents, links, videos, pictures...it was a mess.  We couldn't find what we needed and when we did, we didn't know who had created it.

Fast forward to round two...I had all students submit work to a form that organized everything by chapter.  This worked really well and helped us find what we were looking for by searching in one place.

We looked at the rough draft and spent a day or two (or twelve) editing.  Once they saw what our book actually looked like and how amazingly talented their peers were, the bar was significantly raised.  Students were working together, asking each other how to use apps, how to create things, discussing the content, and asking how they could connect their content to another chapter or topic in the book. To make it even more awesome, teachers from other locations offered to help!  From Kentucky to Minnesota, to New Zealand, our students collaborated and worked together.  Thanks to Trish, Amanda, and Geoff and their classes for the feedback and advice on the book.

While the book is free in the iTunes store for anyone to download and use, we started this project with a goal in mind.  We are giving our work to a school in South Africa that was awarded an iPad and projector from Kaya and the Oceans Project.  The school has limited access to educational resources, so as a class, we decided to share what we know with them.  We are hopeful to get feedback from them before the end of the school year and hear what they think about it.

So here it is:
Health: Inside Out
Written, produced, and illustrated by Coppell High School Anatomy and Physiology students!


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Genius Hour

I first heard about Genius Hour a few years ago at a conference in Boston and thought it sounded so interesting. I loved the idea of asking students what they were interested in and what they wanted to learn about.

My first thought was why only one hour a week? Why not all day everyday? Not practical you say? Probably not, but still, it sounds way better than rotating classes every 52 minutes and sitting and listening to teachers talk about individual subjects that seem unrelated and unapplicable to the real world. 

I decided to apply the the idea of genius hour with design thinking and challenge based learning. That's a lot of educational buzz words there, but it actually worked better than I expected. 

1. The first week of school, I ask my kids what they want to learn and do in my class.

2. I organize their requests into connected themes.

3. I ask them how we can improve society and what world problems exist today that they would like to propose and work towards a solution for.

4. I build my syllabus based on their ideas and figure out a way to tie my objectives into their ideas. 

Sounds simple right?
Yes and no...

Yes because they want to learn a lot of really interesting things, some of which I had to really learn along with them.  They have really interesting questions and ideas when there are no restraints. 

And no, because they of course didn't want to learn about some of the topics the state of Texas says they need to know....like how their kidneys work.  Not one single student asked me to provide a lesson experience involving kidney filtration. Shocking, right? Not one person wants to know how they make urine?!

This is when it got fun...frustrating and challenging, but also fun.  How can I stick with my plan of letting them guide the learning and study what interests them, yet cover all the objectives as required by my state? Oh and find a way for them to give back to society?

For me, the answer is to think differently and creatively about lesson design and to ask lots of questions from my Twitter PLN.  I am in year two of implementing this in my classroom and this year looks totally different than last year, which I love. 

For the kidney example....no one wanted to know about kidney function, but many wanted to learn about babies and pregnancy.  So we developed a case study where the students posed as new parents and learned the reproductive systems, fetal development, pregnancy diet and nutrition, etc.  Once their baby was "born" , they found out it had a kidney disorder that they had to figure out as if they were new parents in that situation. Finally, their culminating project to show me what they learned, they created a book (as a class) on a topic of their choice. Groups focused on how to have a healthy pregnancy, how to survive the first year as a new parent, and misconceptions regarding pregnancy. Each class selected a topic and each student decided what they could contribute based on what they were interested in or good at. 

This year several asked about a news story in our area regarding a student who overdosed on water at a college party.  Thanks to ideas shared by Tricia Shelton and Amanda Meyer, we are going to study water intoxication to learn about the kidneys.  I am looking forward to trying their lesson idea!

Too big of an idea for you to tackle the entire year? Maybe try just one unit asking them what they want to know about it.  We just started talking about vaccines and I asked a follow up "What do you really want to know?"  Students posted ideas to this Padlet wall and we are discussing some of their specific questions as we go through the unit.

























Next year I plan to start the year the same way...what do you want to learn and do in my class this year ?  I am looking forward to working with a team next year and possibly creating cross curricular lessons and experiences as well.