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!

Animal Snoops with Chatterpix Kids

chatterpixkidsChatterpix Kids by Duck Duck Moose

Price:  FREE

Age Scale: 4+

Device: iPhone, iPod, and iPad

Quick Line: Give Your Photos a Voice

What Educators Need to Know:

Our reading series is challenging.  The lexile levels are much higher than in previous grade levels, the topics are mature, and the writings are often lengthy.

But the truth is, this text is REAL.  These are real stories by real authors published in real magazines, books, and on websites. This, along with interesting themes, seems to be enough to keep my busy sixth graders enduring and persisting when material gets tough.

Take, for example, our recent informational piece entitled, “Animal Snoops”.  In a series of engaging and entertaining anecdotes, students learn about animals who eavesdrop on each other to find food, to connect with a mate, and avoid being prey.  It wasn’t easy, but they GOT IT.  Only fair of me to reward their hard work with a little fun, right?

Each student took the perspective of one of the snooping animals in the piece.  They wrote a first-person paragraph explaining why and how the animal spies and used the Chatterpix Kids app to animate their ideas.  The result?  Funny little stories that demonstrate understanding anecdotes and how animals spy on one another.

Take a look:

Sperm Whale by Libby C.:

Bottlenose Dolphin by Madeliene P.:

 Photuris firefly by Brooke P.:

Crayola DJ App

Screen-Shot-2015-05-27-at-6.25.49-PMCrayola DJ App

Age Scale:  6+

Device:  iPhone, iPod, and iPad (available on Google Play also!)

Quick Line: Look Out Calvin Harris!

What Educators Need to Know:

Our school will soon enter the Maker Movement with the addition and development of a true makerspace in our building.  Exciting!  But not every student will have access to this creative location every day.  What to do?  Combine our Makerspace To Go with some terrific apps on our iPads!

Crayola DJ is a great app to get students started in the creation process.  It is especially appealing to those interested in music.  And while the target age range is 6-10, I would argue that even older students would enjoy mixing tracks. While the options are minimal, it is very easy to create professional-sounding mixes.

Here’s how it works:  

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First, add a drum track. There are only a few to choose from, but I think this was a good plan.  Too many options for such an important foundation could get confusing.  Second, add looping a sound effect from one of five genres. Repeat this process on the second turntable.  Slide the balance to make one turntable sound louder than the other.  Change the tempo to create some variety.  Add special effects to make your beat unique.  Then produce your song and battle it out on the “stage” by scratching and adding a light show.  Save the song and share it with family and friends!

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You certainly don’t have to keep my basic guide handy when you use this app.  A nice tutorial will lead you through the steps easily and help you produce something slick.

You might be thinking, “But what would I use this for?”  We have done some terrific projects in the past by having students create original songs and/or jingles to advertise fictitious products in Health classes or points of interest in Social Studies.  How awesome would it be for students to create original beats to use alongside these?  The truth is, the students have these ideas in their heads.  Why not allow them to produce something of professional quality!

Price:  $4.99

I received a free copy of this app from Legacy Games, but my review and opinions are my own.

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?”