Open House in the Makerspace

Wednesday was a big day.

It was a big day for our students.  It was a big day for our classroom communities.

It was a big day for our Makerspace.

You see, besides a small group that attended our Family Maker Night in May, not many outside of our district staff had seen our Makerspace.

Until Wednesday.  Wednesday was our Cecil Intermediate School Open House.  Our amazing teachers encouraged the parents to trek to the basement to see our newly renovated space.  And they came in droves.  It was so exciting!

There were four stations set up.

Take Home Ball Puzzles

Puzzle Balls

Magformers

Magformers

Collaborative Zentangle Coloring and Home Challenge Information

Zentangle and Challenge

Volunteer Sign Ups via Google Forms

Volunteers

You can see more special photographs in my video below.  I love the lyrics that accompany this Animoto song.

Keep Being Different.  Keep Having Fun.

Storybird: Visual Storytelling for Everyone

My friend recently mentioned that her son is having a hard time generating ideas for journal writing.  It is taking him much longer than it needs to, and the result is a frustrated mom and child.  I explained that I view writing skills as I do muscles sets in the human body.  You have to use those muscles in order to strengthen them.  The same is true for writing skills.  We often overlook writing in the summer months, opting to keep our children reading or practicing math facts.  So, in the spirit of Back to School, I’d like to introduce one of my favorite digital resources to help students become more creative writers.

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As the scrolling image states on the landing page, Storybird is a place to

Write books you’ll always remember.  Read books you’ll always remember.  Discover books you’ll always remember. Share books you’ll always remember.

In a nutshell, users of all ages are inspired by beautiful art collections to write their own stories and books.  Collections range from silly to serious, but all are high quality.  Check out “Another Day, Another Doller” by my former student, Andrew:

From a teacher’s perspective, it could not be easier to get started.  If your school has Google accounts, even better.  Here are the basics:

  1. Go to Storybird.com.  Click Sign Up for Free (right corner).  Click Educator/Student.  Then click Google Sign In.
  2. Once there, Click Studio, Classes tab, and Add a Class.   Give it a name.
  3. Now, under Studio and Classes, you should see Review, Students, and other tabs.  Click Students, and Add or Invite students.  Click My Students Will Create Their Own Accounts.  See that class code?  Write it down.
  4. The students will complete the same steps as you did in Step One.  Only this time, they will enter the class code.

One of the things I love most about Storybird are its challenges.  I received an email regarding the September challenge:

For this month’s challenge, we’re going to take that famous writing advice, “Write what you know,” and put it to work. Think back to a time when you tried something new for the first time. How did it make you feel? Use your experience, and your memories of those emotions, to help you create your characters and tell your story.

Love it!  Note:  “You must have a Regular account for your story to appear in the public library and to be featured on our blog and to earn the badge. Stories published from Student accounts are only visible to members of your class.”  Doesn’t matter to me!  I am just looking for creative ideas to keep my kiddos writing!

Parents, you can sign up for free basic accounts.  Don’t be discouraged by all of the extras, like printable hardcover books, that Storybird has to offer.  The basic program is more than enough to produce beautiful stories and build writing confidence.

Storybird has so much more to offer in terms of reading and sharing stories.  Check back, and I will highlight some of its other awesome features, including its companion poetry writing app for iOs, Lark.

 

Team Building with STEM Challenges

smart chick
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.

tylersgroup

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

Flocabulary_Logo_post_2013

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!