Team Building with STEM Challenges

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I absolutely love the blog “Growing a STEM Classroom” by Smart Chick!  She is the STEM coordinator for her K-5 building, and with 20+ years of teaching, she knows her stuff!  Our school purchased her STEM challenge packs from Teachers Pay Teachers last year, and a number of teachers have enjoyed the easy implementation.

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There is one particular challenge that I think works especially well with Back to School Team-Building goals.  It is the “Cup Pyramid:  Engineering Challenge”.

Here is the description from TpT.

TEAM cup challenge

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I used this with my sixth grade students at the end of the year during one of our Olweus classroom meeting times.  The students were beginning to get restless and short-tempered with each other, and I thought they could use an activity that would require them to work as a team.  I was right.   They absolutely loved it, and they learned to value all members of a team, regardless of academic skills or social stature.

Check out Tyler and “The Ladies”.  They had the process down pat!

You can find the directions for the challenge here, and visit the Growing a STEM Classroom blog here.

You will love her advice on how to integrate STEM, STEAM, and Maker projects into your classrooms and homes!

 

ELA Raps 2016

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Have you heard of Flocabulary?  It is a terrific teaching resource!  Flocabulary features “hip-hop videos to teach standards-based skills and content.”  Raps cover ELA, Math, Science, Social Studies, Current Events and more! There are loads of activities and assessments that are built right in, and they even have lessons on how your students can write and perform their own educational raps.

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Challenge Accepted.  [It didn’t hurt that my teaching partner and I are products of the late 90s and early 2000s and have a soft spot for hip-hop from this era.]

We began by analyzing a few of Flocabulary’s raps/lyrics.  We looked at rhythm and rhyme, and highlighted content.  We circled hooks and talked about repetition.  Sounds a lot like a poetry lesson, doesn’t it?

We introduced students to a short list of original Flocabulary beats.  There were just too many to choose from!  Student groups were assigned topics such as the different reading genres and types of writing.  They drafted lyrics and practiced by placing them to the beat of their choice.

Then came the tricky part:  recording the raps.  Once they performed for a teacher, we allowed them to move into a “recording studio” or empty classroom equipped with a tri-fold presentation board.  They downloaded their beat from Flocabulary into their Google Drive, uploaded it to SoundCloud, and started their recording.  Note:  SoundCloud does not allow for editing.  Some of the groups became frustrated when they made mistakes while recording.  However, we decided that this was an important lesson in perseverance.  They had already invested so much time and energy that not one student wanted to give up!

The most ambitious groups reached a new height when they were able to move their recorded raps to the iPads and use the Video Star app to film in an original video.  View some of our top performances below.  What an amazing experience!

Click here to view a free sample of Flocabulary’s product. Learn about the “Rock Stars: Igneous, Sedimentary and Metamorphic.” We’ve enjoyed using Flocabulary and just know you will too!

Poem in Your Pocket Day 2016

There is just something about pocket-sized anything that is so appealing!

I’ll be honest, I had never heard of of Poem in Your Pocket Day until I read this post by Shannon Miller.  Here is a description of Poem in Your Pocket Day from the Academy of American Poets:

Every April, on Poem in Your Pocket Day, people celebrate by selecting a poem, carrying it with them, and sharing it with others throughout the day at schools, bookstores, libraries, parks, workplaces, and on Twitter using the hashtag #pocketpoem. 

Poem in Your Pocket Day was originally initiated in 2002 by the Office of the Mayor, in partnership with the New York City Departments of Cultural Affairs and Education, as part of the city’s National Poetry Month celebration. In 2008, the Academy of American Poets took the initiative to all fifty United States, encouraging individuals around the country to join in and channel their inner bard. In 2016, the League of Canadian Poets extended Poem in Your Pocket Day to Canada.

Poem in Your Pocket Day 2016 was held on April 21

I just knew my classes had to participate!

I started with awesome poetry from the Poetry 180 program.  Poetry 180 is designed to bring a different poem to high school students each day of the school year.  I sampled a few of the poems before sharing it with my sixth graders and found them to be appropriate.  [Note, I would use caution with younger students.  You may want to hand-select poems from the site to provide age-appropriate reading material for the younger grades.]

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I let the children analyze two poems using the Poetry Peace Map Method by Lauren Candler.  You can preview this method of exploring poetry with this link.  They selected their favorite, and edited this Canva from Shannon Miller with their poems.  We printed three copies on standard paper.  We placed one copy in our pockets, put another copy in a basket, and a third copy was hung outside our classrooms to celebrate and share!  I also adjusted the document, selected four of my favorites, and printed four to a page.  I placed them outside of my classroom for students and teachers place in their pockets.  The more, the merrier!

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The students were surprised to find that they actually liked some of the poems.  In fact, I have even caught some of them reading from Poetry 180 during Free Reading time!  I would highly encourage you to participate for Poem in Your Pocket Day next year.

Poem in Your Pocket 2016

 

 

Fear Project Reflection Video

So, what did the kids really think about the Fear Project?  I decided to ask them.  First, they created reflection posts on Kidblog.  You can view some of them here:

Mrs. Lavallee’s Homeroom Kidblog Posts

I selected some of my favorites to feature in this Animoto video.

I am so proud of the sincerity, honesty, and thoughtfulness displayed in this student reflection video.  Sixth graders have so much potential.  I am lucky to work with them!

The Fear Project

This has been an amazing year for me as a professional.  I hope my students have learned that any effort, no matter how small they believe it may be, is enough to impact a community.

Children Helping Children Overcome Fears at Cecil Intermediate School’s Maker Space Whether you are the chief of…

Posted by Canon-McMillan School District on Friday, April 8, 2016

How Do You Have the Time?

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People often ask me, “I love what you are doing, but how do you have the time to fit it in?”

My short answer is this:  Providing these experiences is a high priority of mine, so I make the time.

My long answer is this:

Learning is fun.

A friend wants to give back to the community, so she spends her free time packing Blessings in a Backpack.  This is her first experience spearheading such a large initiative, so she has had to learn.  She makes the time.

A coworker is renovating a home for her parents and is learning something new everyday.  She is no renovation expert, but she is learning.  She makes the time.

My maker team buddy loves makeup and hair tutorials and thinks she might be able to share a few helpful tips on a website.  She doesn’t know how, but she is learning.  She makes the time.

We make the time to pursue our interests and learn new things every day.  Are we inspiring our students to do the same?

These children are more than a score. My son is more than a score. I want him to have a place where he is encouraged to pursue his passions. I want our students to know that they have skills, right now, that can make a difference in this world. I want them to understand that all efforts, no matter how small they may seem, are important. I want them to understand that connections and communicating with the public are just as important, if not more important, than communicating with me. The Internet has made it possible for them to learn things that we never even dreamed of learning. I want to guide them to these resources and encourage them to learn on their own.  They are not too young to impact the world around them with new skills.

In addition, my value as a teacher is greater than a set of scores. I have too much to offer as a educator, as a person, to let a test dictate how I teach or how my students learn.

I believe the same about my coworkers.  I work with an amazing group of people with the best of intentions and amazing skill sets.

When you wonder how I have the time to deviate from the curriculum, I leave you with two questions:

Would you want to be a student in your own classroom? 

Are you making the time to provide meaningful, relevant, and inspiring learning opportunities for your students?

If the answer is no to either of these questions, you might want to rethink how you are doing things.

Make the time.