Sunday, August 2, 2020

Wear a Cardigan Day-November 13

Have you ever heard of Wear a Cardigan Day? It is a tribute to the late Mr. Rogers from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood to celebrate World Kindness Day. When I was a child I watched television and I remember Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. He taught us about careers, sang songs, and was a kind man. He is famous for "There is not person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are." He died in 2003 but is remembered fo the way he talked to children about feelings and life events. Teachers through school wore their cardigans on November 13th. #worldkindnessday

Best People

Over my 26 years I have met hundreds of people, little friends, parents, teachers, and staff.  Sometimes we take a moment to say thank you to people we meet along the journey but far too often they leave and we missed the chance to say their presence is missed. They move on to the next chapter and we find the replacement  person is nice enough but just not them. I have met some pretty incredible people in my 26 years...

Debbie is in the black shirt and she was our registrar extraordinaire before her retirement. She was always willing to put in extra work to make sure the job got done and on time.  There were times we had to make sure grades were posted correctly when others made mistakes. She was resourceful and if she didn't know something she would research or call someone to learn.
 Our special area team with Debbie on her last day.
 Her last day at school with some of the fifth graders she had been photographing all year for their end of year slide show.
 Debbie's mom and dad at school on her last day of school-Happy retirement!! Her dad used to be our tax guy way back when. Small world! Enjoy every minute of it!

 Amanda Serrano is a gem. I met her years ago when her mom was my assistant while I taught Vacation Bible School at South Daytona Baptist Church. That year her granddaughter was entering first grade and I was blessed to have this family cross my doorway. Amanda is a go getter. She is a worker. She wants to be the best in everything she does. She is about the kids always. They work hard but she has researched methods to have her students perform and if they have trouble she makes sure to enlist help. The coolest thing? She is bilingual and for our Spanish speaking children she teaches in both english and spanish?!? I am in amazement of her often.  She has a treasure chest where the students can make a deal with rewards earned throughout the week and year.
 My sweet friend has been saving tickets and wanted to spend them on me :( yes ugly cry it is! I am the proud owner of sunglasses and Play Dough thanks to Mason. Thank you Mason and Mrs. Serrano for making me feel like I am important.
 This is my principal, Mr. Bronson. I happened to be in the office one day when these 2nd graders were there to share their positive referrals from their teacher. Do you notice Mr. Bronson's pink shirt? Well I did and it means the world to me.  When I was diagnosed last year it there was worry on my part of how I would get through the treatments in front of the students. I honestly didn't know how I was going to make it and not effect the students.  Mr. Bronson did not hesitate with making sure I was taken care of from the start. Schedules and appointments were shifted to minimize disruption and there isn't a day that goes by that I am not thankful for the support of my administration.
Speaking of support and love-these are my cafeteria ladies or should I say-our cafeteria ladies!  Always a smile, nice word, and just a feel of support when you see them whether you are at school or out and around Port Orange. Love them and they make the BEST Thanksgiving dinner around!
 This is my special area team. We celebrate birthdays and meet weekly to talk over strategy and kids.  Even during our time with distance learning last year we still met on Zoom each week.  It was a highlight because these people lift you up. We laugh and joke but when it gets time to work we are all in for one another. My team helped pick up the slack when I needed them for appointments or just not feeling well. There were notes and flowers and just a place where I knew they had my back. Just some of the most important, best people around!
Years ago we started Parents Night Out, modeled after Port Orange Elementary.  One Friday a month parents would entrust us with their children from 5:30-8:30pm while they had a might out. It was a fundraiser and teachers volunteered to manage stations and supervision during centers, dinner and a movie.  Our local movie theater provided popcorn as our preferred business partner. Funds were used for technology, teachers to attend conferences, and other needed materials for school-wide-use. When I got sick last year these people here did not want me to work Parents Night Out.  They wanted me to be at home with my own children and husband to rest after working all week. They made sure the families that trusted us had teachers volunteer on those Friday nights. They made sure the show must still go on and I am forever grateful for them all!
These people are the BEST!! These are my marigolds. You have to find your people, your tribe, your ride or die. These ladies have made me a better person because of their friendship. After diagnosis there wasn't a week that went by without a note, flowers, inspiration, or laugh. If I could be half the person they were to me... They will never know how very much each and every one of them means to me.  Thank you for everything. I can never repay you. Love you all...

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

LEGOS for Education-Simple Machines

Each year FUTURES Foundation allows teachers to apply for mini-grants to support programs in the classroom. Simple machines is a unit within our science curriculum.  After some research Lego Education produces kits with step by step directions creating a variety of builds using collaboration, problem-solving and teamwork. Partners again were programmers and builders and switched half way through the steps. This allowed students opportunity to learn the pieces, where they were located, and where to put them when finished.  It is important to have procedures in place when working with Legos. 
Things I learned to have procedures for: 
  • How to store the Legos
  • where to store the Legos and the building manuals
  • taking off the lid-without the pieces flying everywhere
  • building in the lid to contain the pieces
  • only taking the top tray out when retrieving a piece from the bottom 
  • programmer uses the book and gets the pieces for the builder
  • builder can ask for help at any time and work together
  • switch roles halfway through the building steps
Our 45 minute class sessions went by so quickly and they students begged for more time.  We started with vocabulary clock-wise, counter clock-wise, rods, 2x3, flats, cranks, etc. I would leave them with a question to find out during the build. They needed to talk to one another to have an answer and demonstrate the concept of the build. Once they called me over they could add to the build and even experiment by trading gear sizes or extending pieces. There were so many "Aha!" moments I got to see from the most amazing students. I am so grateful we have organizations like FUTURES Foundation that provide the means of having these experiences for our students. Sofia Walker co-wrote the grant with me and all of 3rd grade benefited from the materials and lessons. She is the BEST!!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Are you better at follow directions or giving directions?

Along the same lines of using tangrams I tried an unplugged activity with our 2nd through 5th grades. While visiting the LEGO store at Disney Springs I was able to buy a container of  selected LEGOS. I bought pieces in sets of 15 so I could make at least 15 bags and maybe even a few in case they were lost. I would put the same pieces in each bag and have 1 master model.  Partners were then asked if they were better builders or programmers? See programming is a set of directions or steps to follow.  After rock, paper, scissors one partner got to pick builder or programmer.

I held the master copy and the programmer was allowed to look and touch the master model as many times as they needed while they told the builder what and how to build, BUT could not touch any of the pieces. Probably the toughest part for the students. The builders were to follow the programmer's directions and when they thought it was done they could check it against the master.

 With the second grades I used fewer pieces which made for a less complicated master model.
Here are some 5th grader programmers and builders.
Everyone was engaged and when we were done we took them apart and I had a different model while they switched roles. We had a breakout session at the end of pros and cons.  It was interesting listening to them give their perspective. Oh and for the 2nd one they had to give directions without using color words. Yes it was a bit tougher. Great learning experience to see how detailed directions needed to be and patience for the builder. It was interesting to see which programmers needed more time with the master model. Some didn't tough it at all where other students literally had to walk over step by step to give building instructions.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Thank you Mystery Science...

A friend years back bragged about Mystery Science website. I checked it out and if you have heard the voice-"Hi, it's Doug." You know we are in for an adventure. Since I work with all students kindergarten to fifth grade I get a bit excited when it comes to hands on and standards related. EVERY single unit I have used has been informative and fun for the students.

Traditionally our 4th graders struggle with rocks, weathering and erosion. Mystery Science has a unit entitled the Birth of Rocks for 4th grade.  It starts with the question Could a volcano pop up in your backyard? Doug weaves a story to provide photos and an interactive activity of plotting volcanos in regions around the world. As the maps come together...well you will need to do it to find out.
We go on to discover various volcanos and their differences.
Who says science isn't fun?

These students are interacting with one another and having a blast learning about thin vs. thick lava.
The next lesson had us all shaking...

If you haven't tried Mystery Science you need to. I subscribe each year and it is well worth the $. I will write more on some of the other lessons that ended up being our favorites over the years. They are constantly adding and improving so sign up today.

Tangrams in STEM?

I used tangrams in the classroom along side Grandfather Tang's Story. I loved watching the students make the animal shapes. I told them the legend of tangrams and how on the way to meet the Emperor the tile fell and broke into 7 pieces. 

I did all that for years and then I learned about the importance of spacial awareness while attending Thinking Math training.  Our trainer gave us the pieces and asked can you take 2 smaller triangles and make a larger triangle? Can you take 2 triangles and make a square? Can you take 2 triangles to make a rhombus? The 2 large triangles make half of a square. Use the other 5 pieces to make a perfect square. 

The value of all this? Using shapes in this manner at early grades contributes to the development of perseverance, perception and visualization. picturing things in space helps handwriting and distinguishing between letters such as "b" and "d." Upper grades may use the square to have students help figure out what fractional part of the square each tangram piece is.

CCE students are in the video making shapes using tangrams. It is not easy for all students but to see them try to reason and manipulate them is telling. It was really eye opening to see the 4-5th graders make the square. One interesting thing I saw was a student place the pieces on top of the 2 large triangles that made half the square. The student moved them around until they fit on top and then flipped them over to make the other half of the square. 

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Text Speak?

When I heard the phrase Text Speak, I wondered if it was really a thing?  I have two teenagers and they are constantly texting rather than talking on the phone for hours like I did when I was growing up.  All that texting do they use correct grammar and spelling? We have heard of shortcuts and acronyms the kids are using but is there a time to use text speak appropriately?  4th grade was the lucky grade level to use this lesson.  They were all to ready to talk about their texting habits and routines.  There are benefits to using text speak according to the students. It is shorter, friends understand what they mean, and quicker than a phone call.  We broke into groups to discuss when grammar and text speak are appropriate.

As you can see school was the main reason to use grammar while social media  used text speak.
They talk to one another on video games like Fortnite, Minecraft and Roblox with shortened messages as to not interfere with their playing time.
Glad to see letters, business conversations, homework, emails made the grammar list.  There were a few giggles when we talked about shortening words like OMG and they knew not to use those in writing at school. Our next lesson was to see how well did they really know text speak?  I made a Kahoot and it was surprising to hear their thoughts when we were done.  Everyone knew BFF but very few knew what RSVP stood for but knew they had seen that somewhere before.  Most students used their phones-yes phones in the 4th grade to text one another. Others used iPads and computers to talk to one another during games.  The most interesting thing we found was the highest scoring students on the Kahoot did not have a phone to text friends. When asked why they thought they did so well, one said he reads the text conversations when his friends "talk" but doesn't really text back in the conversation. Interesting because it made me think about all the time I spent reading tweets before I actually made my first tweet onTwitter.  I was nervous and was almost learning a new language.  I was quite surprised how much social media these 4th graders were exposed to and interact with on a regular basis.  There are articles stating text speak is harming our student's writing skills with incorrect spellings, poor grammar, and incomplete thoughts. I think it is an important lesson to have with our 4th and 5th grades as productive digital citizens as there are valid reasons to use either. How do you feel about text speak and does it have a place in our classroom instruction?