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.

Sew What’s New?

albert einstein creativityThings are about to get really interesting around here!  See how we will be using our new Makerspace and integrating making into our reading!

What’s Your Point?

This post is dedicated to my wonderfully patient colleagues at CIS who may still be waiting for me to get to the point.

I often struggle with spoken communication. This is a difficult admission for an ELA teacher. I should be able to convey my ideas, my plan, my passion succinctly. But I can’t. Because once I get rolling, Ijustcantseemtostopmyself.

This is a problem. I am full of big ideas. I want the best for my students, and I want to team up with others who are likeminded. I want to share. I want to teach. I want to inspire. But sometimes I can’t get over the Big Picture long enough to convey the little details.  And sometimes I can’t move past the little details to convey the Big Picture.

But this is important: I really do know what I am talking about when it comes to certain topics. I’ve been teaching a long time!  I might get too excited. I might get too caught up in the presentation and moment to remember the bottom line.

But guess what? So do our students. Most of them, even those at the advanced level, are still experimenting. They are learning, trying, proving, creating, revising, and editing their learning. They are excited about new things. And it never stops. So please don’t judge me, or them, with a single outcome or evaluation. The words we’d like to convey may escape us.  We will explain it better next time.  We are a work in progress.

And I promise to try harder, to slow down, to check in more often to be sure you get what I am saying. Thank you for your understanding and patience. There is not a personality among us that I don’t truly enjoy. How lucky we are to work with each other!

I promise to get to the point… Maybe next year?

Makerspace-To-Go

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It’s no secret that I absolutely love Pinterest.  With over 9,000 pins on both my personal and  iPod Teacher boards, Pinterest has become a great resource for those of us looking for trending, exciting, and easy DIY projects!

It is also no secret that I love integrating technology into my classroom.  Modern students are intrigued by technology, and I think it is so important to show them how technology can improve their learning!

So, what do you get when you introduce the DIY community to technology?  Maker Education, of course!

I’m excited to announce that Cecil Intermediate School has entered the work of #makered with our new Makerspace-To-Go!  In our portable Sterilite container, you will find duct tape, craft sticks, modeling clay, a rubber band loom, and hot glue.  But you will also find a LittleBits circuit kit, an iPad for stop motion animation, and a Sphero robot.  We are allowing students to tinker, experiment, improvise, and create.  We are saying Yes to the Mess and letting the students use their hands to learn, think, and grow.

Here are some photographs from our recent after-school professional development.  My students loved being able to teach the teachers!

Augmented Reality

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Stop Motion Animation with Lego

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Duct Tape Wallets and Flower Toppers

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LittleBits Circuitsmakerpd1.9

LoopDeeDoo Bracelets

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Let’s not forget about the BOOKS!makerpd1.7

Want to know more?  Check out my Makerspace Board on the iPodTeacher’s Pinterest page

or read this article, “What’s the Maker Movement and Why Should I Care?”

Plot Development with Toontastic

How do you teach students to identify the parts of a plot when they have already been exposed to it a million times?  Time to turn those tables, boys and girls!  I decided to have the students CREATE plots.  Yes, they write stories in the other half of ELA, but some of the students get so wrapped up in the word portion of writing that they lose their focus.  What to do?

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I recently mentioned that one of my favorite iPad apps, Toontastic, is now offered for free.  It had been a little while since I had used it in the classroom, so I decided to revisit it again.  It requires very little, if any, writing, but the best cartoons require careful planning, voice narration, and animation.  The connection to the writing process is certainly clear!

We started with a paper planning sheet and a iPad for inspiration.   You can find a FREE student planning sheet from LaunchPad Toys here.

I let the students view the scenes and “toys”, including characters and special effects prior to making a final decision on the setting for the story.  The newest app upgrade includes over 50 different scenes, and I would advise students choose carefully.  “Pick and Stick” is one of my favorite phrases!

Toontastic-Setting

 This was a very revealing portion of the project.  Despite learning about plot for a several years, some students still saw plot as a series of events with relatively no connection.  Working through the planning with each pair really allowed me to correct misconceptions and mistakes.  I’m hoping this one step will remain memorable to them.

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After approving their plot, I gave them index cards.  They wrote down what they would like to SAY.  I wasn’t too picky about this portion as some of the students are much better at “winging it” than others.  I didn’t want to stifle creativity with too much structure.

Then, I let them go crazy!  Our final results were saved to the camera roll and uploaded to YouTube for the world to see.  Here are a few of my favorites!

Jungle Stress by Nate and Tony

Tokyo Smackdown by Kaylee and Dominique