Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Bitmoji Virtual Google Classroom Header

Bitmoji anything and I am all in! I have used bitmojis for all the things in my classroom over the years - lesson slides, interactive notebook pages, stickers and basically anywhere I can add them for fun! So when I saw them being added to "virtual google classrooms" and how super fun these classrooms looked, I had to join in!

During this pandemic, I know you have spent countless hours creating digital lessons or even LEARNING how to use technology! Spending all day on Zoom calls, answering student questions and making sure they have everything they need. I know this is not the same as having them in your classrooms and that's why I made this tutorial. You can recreate a little piece of your classroom for your Google Classroom headers and slides. You could even save it as an image and use for your Zoom background. And it could be a fun little escape to play!

In the photo above, that is actually a YouTube video on the "board" that is clickable and links to the video I want to show. The posters are screenshots of the actual posters I have hanging in my room. These little touches would make it seem like your classroom for your students. You could create a virtual classroom for your headers or you could create different scenes in slides for your digital assignments. I'm thinking digital room transformation!

I created a video tutorial that walks you through creating your own and I hope it is helpful! You could also do this in PowerPoint and then screenshot and add as a background on Google slides and use as image for header in Classroom. 

I hope this brings you a little joy and is a fun break from all you are doing for your students during this crazy ending to our school year. 

Feel free to use my examples to get your started:


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Space Farming with Tomatosphere Space Seeds

I am so excited to share about this amazing organization and the exciting opportunity they provide for students! First the Seed Foundation's program, Tomatosphere, brings the excitement to your classroom with packets of tomato seeds. The program sends you two packets of seeds. One packet contains space-faring seeds that went to the International Space Station and the other packet was Earth-bound, the "control seeds." Through the Tomatosphere program, students experiment and learn about conducting a scientific experiment by looking at the germination rates of the two groups of seeds. 

After you read all about the Tomatosphere program, sign up! They will send the seeds to you with suggestions about how to plant them. You choose Fall or Spring. Some things I would consider are the holiday breaks, weather in you area and what you will do with them once they germinate. The packets come with approximately 30 seeds in each so I knew how many to plan for. I purchased these Jiffy Tomato Starter Greenhouses from Home Depot. Each kit came with 36 peat pellets so it was perfect. 

I began the lesson with this presentation. It is a huge file because of the video clips! I included clean clips from the movie The Martian so students could get the space farming concept. The discussion centered on how we will get 2 to 3 years' worth of food to Mars and why it is more practical to grow their own there. We wondered how outer space would affect the seeds and plants.

Tomatosphere relies on a "blind test" so I explained that we would not know which of the two packets are "space seeds" and which are the Earth-bound seeds until after we submit our data. Our wondering then continued and we recorded some initial predictions on this data sheet in our interactive notebooks like which packets were the "space seeds." These questions came from the website that had a lot of activities and ideas. I condensed them to work for us. Finally, we talked about what germination is, what it looks like and what qualifies it for the Tomatosphere program. I gave them a call to action to make a contribution to assisting space exploration by taking this investigation of the germination rate and growth of the plant seriously with their data.  

Now the fun part! Follow the directions for the peat pellets to get them soaked in water and ready to plant the seeds. Each student was able to plant 1 seed from each packet. There is a video on the website (included in the presentation) that shows how to plant them. You have to really push the seeds down into the peat pellet to be sure it is covered with dirt. 

Wait! The Tomatosphere Program suggests planting on a Wednesday or Thursday so they have the weekend to hopefully germinate, making the wait less torture for students the teacher! 

Once you have germination, start counting! The Tomatosphere program wants to know how many germinated and how many did not. Their requirement for germination is two leaves. You can find all kinds of resources here that will help you. Some of the things they don't suggest I couldn't help like fluorescent light and growing in the window sill. Ours still grew!

Once the germination is over, you submit your data on a quick form found on the website and through a link they send you. We had this poster up in the classroom to keep up with our numbers. Students checked the seeds daily and entered their data and observations in their notebooks. They were excited to find out which ones were the "space seeds!" We had a lot of students choose "M" because Mars and that wound up being the ones that went! 

I love being a curriculum coach and I especially love how my teachers open their classrooms up to me and are always up for anything crazy I want to try! Thank you to my 7th grade science teacher, Ms. Asbill! Follow her "teachergram" over on Instagram @science_is_my_jam. She has so many great ideas you will want to steal!

Here are all the files linked in the post!


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Pythagorean Theorem Spiral of Theodorus

Pythagorean theorem is maybe my all time favorite thing for students to learn! It is also close to my heart from growing up on a construction site with my daddy. Pythagorean theorem was the thing that made me want to teach math and want to teach it in real ways. This is because my daddy would argue all day about how he did NOT use this fancy formula to calculate the pitch of the roof on the house he was building. Even though he would measure and use Pythagorean triples, he would never concede! I also love Pythagorean theorem because of the scandalous stories there are about Pythagoras! I love celebrity gossip and Pythagoras provides us with that. 

I like this math art because it helps students visualize a segment length with the square root of two. This is one of the first times students use irrational numbers so I want them to see the amazement in them. I have students use notecards that I have pre-cut to a one inch square for a template. I have them measure the bottom and side to be sure it is one inch. Then I have them measure the diagonal and get as close as they can to an estimate. Then we work it using the Pythagorean theorem to show how precise we can get. 

Students then use the notecard template to draw only half of the square, two adjacent sides of the square, creating a right angle in the lower left side of their big paper. Next, they create a triangle from the half and label all the sides with their lengths. 

Now the fun begins! Add a new right-angled, one-inch leg to the base of the hypotenuse of the first right triangle then add the new hypotenuse and label. Calculate the length of the new hypotenuse using the Pythagorean theorem then measure and change to decimal form. Is it close?!

Continue to add on one inch legs at right angles {this is super important} to your last hypotenuse and label all the new triangle's sides using the Pythagorean theorem. This is where the template square comes in handy!

Once you have the wheel, students can decide what it will become! Have them rotate it and think big about what it reminds them of. As you can see, some students put a LOT of detail into their design and others transformed their wheel into other shapes. 

Create a huge display of their wheels because they will be so super proud of their art! Get creative and peak their curiosity about Theodorus!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Power of Student Conferences

I am a huge fan of student ownership of their learning. When I changed to Standards Based Grading a few years ago, it transformed how I view student learning. From ownership and accountability to confidence and motivation, students were transformed as well. I wanted to build on this and hear what students had to say about their learning in order to guide them in self-reflection, help provide needed feedback, and check on their mastery of standards. That is when student conferences started!

I get to know students on a deeper level which gives me leverage for high interest instruction.

Students feel known on a deeper level which increases the trust they have in me. This trust leads to a higher level of student self-efficacy. Before conferencing, I was accidentally ignoring some of the quiet kids who were doing just fine. Conferences help guarantee I meet with every student.  

Students are empowered to ask questions about their work and to reflect on the product and the process. My students know how they are doing and what they need to work on because of the conferences.

ONE-ON-ONE  These are great at the end of a unit. This conference gives me a chance to learn so much about my students and give them my attention. We seem to stay at high speeds and this is a great time to slow down and listen. I get to hear them share their goals, their favorite things about math, their best work, and areas they want to get better in. 

Students judge their own mastery in these conferences using the tracking sheets from standards based grading. They prepare for the conference using a Pre-Conference sheet that is in their interactive notebook. Completing the pre-conference sheet gives them the opportunity to reflect on their own and think about what they want to talk about with me. 

The pre-conference above is a great example of the deeper conversation we are able to have. This student wrote honestly and then erased it and said he was good and understood. The erased words are "When we do it together I understand but when I do it by myself I always get" and then it stops. Without these conferences his learning would have stopped there too. 

REFLECTION  My goal with this type of conferences is to draw out their reflections with leading questions. These are short check-ins used after benchmark testing or big projects. As students get used to the questions, they can reflect more on their own without them. 

To keep track of these short conferences, I use a sticker and notecard system. I keep the stickers on my clipboard and write notes on what we talk about. The sticker is then placed on that student's notecard. When my stickers are gone, I know I have met with every student and I print another sheet! The notecards are a great resource to remember all the things we talk about throughout the school year. 

WEEKLY CONFERENCES  This type of conference was me realizing that there were quiet students sitting in my classroom that I was missing opportunities with because they were doing fine. I would go a couple of days and realize I had not had a conversation with these students and knew I had to do better. I created a weekly calendar and put 4-5 names for each day in each class. It seemed manageable to focus on those students. I  look at my calendar before each class and have their names in my head so I can be intentional with my time. This is just 2-3 minutes with each student on the calendar for that day but it guarantees that I meet with each student. 

Here are some logistical and practical things I have figured out along the way. This generally allows me to meet with each student individually once every two weeks. 

Find times where kids can be talking to each other while working independently. This creates a work flow that is a low buzz that allows me to conference with kids. I find that projects and rich math tasks and problems seem to work great for this. 

Find the right location in your classroom. I have flexible seating so I usually just find an empty seat beside the student and talk. If it is end of the unit conferences, students know I like the booth the best and they let me take over it for a couple of days! This spot allows me to see the whole class while I conference. 

Kids thrive when you give them ownership and they really shine when given the opportunity to talk one-on-one about their learning! That is the power of student conferencing! 


Sunday, January 5, 2020

Hello 2020!

Hello, 2020! Not only do we get a new year, we get a new decade! That calls for real pants, alarm clocks, and answering no to Netflix's question, "Are you still watching?" at 2:00am! I want to share some ideas for the first day back from winter break. I have found over the years, it is better to ease the kids back in to the swing of things with new year activities. It has been great for me too! You could use this time to do community building, refresh procedures, and set goals for the new year. 

My favorite activity to kick off the new year is having students create VISION BOARDS for their new year. I keep it simple with a page in their interactive notebooks. Having it in their notebooks allows them to see it often, basically flipping past it every day. 

Visualization is one of the most powerful mind exercises you can do. For my students, we focus on how they want to feel, not just things they want and goals. Material stuff is fine but the more the board focuses on how you want to feel, the more it will come to life. For example, I have OPI nail polish on mine, not because I want to own every color of every collection, but because painting my nails is my self-care and makes me feel good!   

Students always ask what they should put on their vision board. I answer with anything that inspires and motivates you! The goal of our vision boards is to bring everything on it to life. I encourage them to consider goals in school and outside of school. 

I put on the music and bring out all the old magazines, scissors, and glue and they pour over them finding just the right piece for their vision board collage. They take snippets of letters, words, and photographs from the magazines and glue them in. It is relaxing, we are able to reconnect after winter break, and ease our way back in, while setting goals and talking about our vision! Some have more flair than others!

Vision Boards could also be done digitally using Google Draw or Adobe Spark. Either way, they are a great way to welcome the New Year! Happy 2020!

Vision Board Instructable
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