Aug 28, 2014

Earthquake Engineering

Things were shaking in Amanda Haughes' 5th grade class at Forest Hill yesterday!  Amanda was very brave, letting me pilot the Earthquake Engineering challenge in her classroom.  We were originally going to just do a structural building challenge, but with the recent California Earthquake, we wanted to make it more relevant with a real-world problem.

We initially gave students a very vague challenge criteria, "You are going to work on building a structure.  You will be given 100 index cards, 1 clipboard, and 1 foot of masking tape."  We did this intentionally to encourage the students to ask questions about the project.  They all wrote at least one question on their graphic organizer and we answered them as a whole class.  This worked out really well, because instead of us explicitly telling them the "challenge rules", students felt ownership over there questions and discoveries.

Amanda even let me test out my new Campbell STEAM Challenge graphic organizer today!  It worked really well.  After asking and answering questions, students moved on to the imagine step and drew at least one quick sketch.  

Next, students met with their team to plan and create!  

One observation we made was that most of the groups of 4 students worked really well together, but with our groups of 5, someone always seemed to be not as involved.  So when making groups, 3 or 4 students seems to be ideal.  We were also talking about the fact that before group work, students would probably benefit from a mini-lesson on collaboration.  Amanda did an awesome job talking to her students about compromising and complimenting.  We also talked about the importance of everyone having a chance to share and everyone having a job.  

At the end, we tested the structures with the "Teacher Earthquake", also known as a shaking iPad cart!  We also tested for the height requirement of 1 foot.  Students were in charge of transporting their structures to the earthquake zone; the clipboards worked really well for this!

In the end, two out of the six structures met the height requirement and survived the teacher earthquake.  We then had students reflect on how they would improve on the next STEAM Challenge.  We encouraged them to think about not only how they might improve a structure, but how they might improve with collaboration and communication as well.  They all wrote at least 1 sentence about this on their graphic organizer.  Amanda then had them take the organizer home, to write a blog post on their experience for homework.  

In the end, the 5th graders said that they thought the challenge was challenging and a lot of fun.  I felt that it was a great learning experience for me as well!  Thank you Amanda and Room 28 for inviting me to embark on this educational earthquake challenge!

Aug 26, 2014

Google Forms and Displaying Data

Today I was able to spend the day in Lindsey Blass' 6th grade class at Campbell Middle School.  Yesterday, students used Google Forms to find out more their classmates.  Lindsey had sent out a link to the Google Form she had created.  Students responded with their birthday month and their height.

She then made copies of the survey results summary.  Students were very excited to use the Pie Chart and Percentage Tables that were class-created the day before.

The essential question for the day was "How can we display our data in a meaningful way?"  Using Cornell Notes, students later interpreted the data and displayed it on a dot plot.  Students were highly engaged with this real-world summary of data.

What a wonderful way to introduce Google Forms, Essential Questions, Dot Plots, Cornell Notes, and Interactive Journals.  Thank you, Lindsey and Room B9!

Aug 15, 2014

Starting at Starbucks

I always leave CUSD's iTeach inspired and excited for the new school year!  In our district, iTeach is a week-long summer PD focused on integrating technology to further Common Core and STEAM initiatives.

This year, we met at Starbucks for our initial meeting!  We were each given a secret mission to focus on while we were there.  My mission was, "How are people grouped?  Are they alone?"  Some other missions were "What is the environment like?  What is sound level?" "What are people ordering?  Are they ordering straight from the menu customizing their order?" 

So when we got back to our formal training room, drinks in hand, we were all ready to talk about our secret missions.  Some of our observations were that some people were standing in line alone, others were sitting at couches or tables with a partner or small group, there was background music playing, there were several conversations going on at the same time (but people could still engage with their group and were not distracted), people were customizing their order with different types of milk and sizes.  

We later tied these Starbucks' observations to how we want our classrooms to look.  We want to facilitate a welcoming, collaborative learning environment.  Students should have opportunities to engage in group work and there should be constant conversation. We also want to give students ownership in their own learning and allow them to have as much choice as possible.

Other highlights from iTeach were collaborating with other inspirational teachers, favorite T-shirt introductions, EdCamp, Project-Based Learning, STEAM, and culminating TED Talks.  I plan to write in more detail about some of these later.  It was the perfect way to kick-off an exciting school year!