Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Adding STEAM

STEAM in ELA.jpgOctober is here and I can't believe I am still standing. This year has presented itself quite a challenge. This year our English department no longer has block scheduling. We went to having three classes for eighty-eight minutes to five classes for only fifty minutes. This gave the other departments longed for extra time, but this took away over 200 minutes from ELA, with the same standards to cover, now in a shorter amount of time.

Add to that, new curriculum. Curriculum that has been riddled with issues, promises that have yet to be fulfilled, and not quite the fun and interesting material that was shown. A curriculum that has seemed to move me, specifically, from a student centered classroom back to teacher centered. AND I have to follow the curriculum to a T-so to speak. Can not add additional projects, supplemental material, and ONLY two novels-when we usually do three or four.

Needless to say....

My students are wonderful and fun to teach. But I feel like I am missing. New curriculum can be difficult. Especially when you teach in such a way to have students dive into the material and not so much teacher directed. It's almost like I have taken steps backward.

So what to do?

I continue to add STEAM and activities to boost the new curriculum. I still use the tools in my teacher tool box to engage, encourage, and stimulate students to tackle their learning. I refuse to give certain things up-especially when it benefits students.

Reflecting on my first quarter, I wish I would have done more, but I did manage to squeeze in some fun in the form of STEAM. The DuckPond was reading a short story called "The Rogue Wave". It was fine. I did this story as a flipped lesson by recording myself reading the story in parts. I put each in Edpuzzle and students listened, followed along, and answered comprehension questions so that in class the next day, we could discuss and make real world applications. 

One thing I noticed is that students didn't "get" just how big this rogue wave in our story was. Sure, they understood the struggle the characters had in their attempts to survive. But understanding the shear size of the wave was tough. Sure, I could have shown a video or pictures of rogue waves, but even then...

One night, I woke up thinking SPHEROS!! Yep, Spheros were the answer to my rogue wave issue.

I gave students an extra credit opportunity to do some math for ELA. My sneaky way to prep students for the two days of robotics. I had students look at the size of the rogue wave and the schooner, then scale them to the size of the Sphero. The next day in class, students worked in groups to scale the wave to Sphero (if they did extra credit, they ZOOMED through this part) then they got to "test drive" the Spheros and then finally try to capsize the Sphero on the scaled version of the wave.

This. Worked. 

After students came in from driving the Spheros and saw the size of the wave to the robot....they got just how MONSTEROUS the wave in our story was. Students then could write (back to English here!) how the Spheros connected to the story and how they would feel if they were one of the characters in the story. 

Writing about how they would feel as a character without truly grasping the size of the wave would have been worthless without adding some STEAM. Was it outside the box? Yes. Did it connect students to the reading? Yes. Was it fun, err, I mean engaging. MOST definitely. PLUS, students practiced some math, some coding, as well as English.

Image result for win

I think this simply shows, that even when we are incorporating new curriculum, ideas, etc. we can still use those tools that help students take the material further. We can still be engaging, student centered, and meet the needs of our students and district.

And special thanks to CUE SteamPunk, I would not have thought of robotics in my ELA class without being able to experiment with robots through their program. CHECK THEM OUT!

Attempting to capsize the S

Sphero driving school

Friday, September 30, 2016

Year Sixteen and Better than Ever!

It’s the start of the school year and there are a lot of familiar faces – and unfamiliar faces in your classroom. So how do you get to know your students?

For me, instead of the traditional "Hi! I am Mrs. Menge. This year as a classroom community, we will..." I like to have students begin to feel safe in class, as well as learn about me, their peers, and the fun we will have throughout the year.

From the amazing mind of Jon Corippo, I have adapted Smart Start. Smart Start states that "By creating an optimal experience for kids in the first few days of school, we can enhance academics. For students to be engaged, creative and passionate learners, they need a place of learning that is: welcoming, open and consistent." All educators want their students to feel safe and cared for! So why not incorporate experiences that build community while learning skills they will need in my class all year.

So the first seven school days were all fun. Fun in learning. 

In fact, I barely introduced myself! I had Weird Al Yankovic's "Word Crimes" playing as students walked and I said "Hello". Then once the bell rang, I said, "Hello! Welcome to the Duckpond! I am Mrs. Menge and I now challenge you!" Thus they began the Marshmallow Challenge.

Day Two was all about learning about our environment-the school's that is! Again, I briefly said hello and had them discuss what QR codes and scavenger hunts have in common. Then off they went! I LOVE the scavenger hunt as it shows and teaches students where basic areas are: the bathrooms, the nurse, office, library, etc. But also introduces them to our class website, classroom information, and more. Simple, fun, #eduawesome!

SMART Amp Class Workspace
The first full week of school consisted of using technology tools that students will be using all year. But instead of giving them a traditional assignment, I wanted to set up our classroom as a community and have students meet each other. At our site, this is the first year students from all the elementary schools come together and thus more new faces. So of course I want students to learn about other students (and my TAs and my) favorite shoes, songs, and super hero! Monday and Tuesday was learning Animoto (this turned out to be a GREAT thing to use for Back-to-School NIght). Wednesday was watching the Duck Pond's "How to Videos" made by the current 8th graders....because who else better to learn from than the students you want to be next year?! Thursday was SMART amp and learning about our likes, dislikes, researching (a little), and more. Friday was doing my first BreakOUT Edu. Students did "The Case of the Mondays". It was tough for my student to think outside the box, but because we had worked together for almost a week, they worked so well together! Not one of my groups broke out, but they LOVED the challenge and asked to do it again. 

Once again, I started the year focused on STUDENTS and creating a caring environment all the while learning tools needed for the year. I wish I could spend more time doing SMART Start, as I didn't get to do my "Google Yourself Challenge", the Teach Like a Pirate "Island Activity", and some WeVideowevideo.com. Maybe I will take TWO weeks next year. 


By cultivating those connections and a safe environment, students will not be afraid to fail, make mistakes, and thus learn even more. Students will give you all they can and succeed because YOU believe they can. It's those little things that make a HUGE difference.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Student Stories = Student Success!

Like many educators, I am gearing up for the new year. I have new curriculum, new schedule, and new ideas to try out.

One of those is Student Stories from ClassDojo. I am super big on students sharing their work with their peers and with the world. When students are excited about learning and see that what they are doing and learning isn't just for me (the teacher), learning becomes even more powerful and meaningful. Student Stories is a way for students to have ownership of my classroom and their learning this year.

Student Stories (released TODAY!) is an easy and seamless way for students to share photos and videos of what they are learning and doing. Parents will be able to follow right along with their child's learning. 

How does it work? 

"A quick scan of a classroom QR code, students use a shared classroom iPad (Chromebooks and Androids coming soon!) to take photos or videos of their work and add a reflection or comment. A simple tagging feature allows any student to add the work to their digital portfolio – along with others in the classroom for those projects done in groups. Nothing is saved or sent home without teacher approval, after which the images are instantly shared with parents wherever they are."

I hope to use Student Stories as a way to keep parents involved and in the know of the Duck Pond. I want students to create a weekly update on what they are learning, doing, excited about, even struggling on. This way, students, parents, and teachers are actively involved in the learning process.

I can't wait to put Student Stories into action! More ownership, more involvement = more success!

Check it out TODAY!.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Making the World Smaller with SMART amp

Teaching is my passion. I love it! I love changing things up, trying new techniques out, seeing my students faces light up when they ENJOY learning or get a new concept. I love teaching!

So lost with out my students!
As of this moment, I am off on family leave and missing my students terribly! So when I can (and I do often!) I check in with my students through technology. 

One of my favorite ways is with SMART amp. SMART amp is SMART Technologies internet based, interactive program for people to work and learn together. Think of it as a BIG room where we can play. SMART gives so many tools within amp that students (children or adults) don't have to leave the space. It's all within the space, including a chat feature, YouTube, links, assessment, graphics, and so much more.

But I think the best part is the collaboration amp automatically lends itself to. Within amp you have to collaborate. There is no way around it. Students must work together to complete their task. Plus, with the sharing feature, amp spaces are even easier to share between students in your class and beyond.   

With SMART amp I am able to check in and chat with students from home, as are my students, which they do and LOVE! Plus, the first time I check in with my students, it freaks them out! Even though I tell them I can see everything, they forget I can and am a part of their amp team and can collaborate with them. Which also reminds them to stay on task. Double win!

Anne Frank and Diversity SMART amp space
In addition to "checking in" with my students, the use of SMART amp makes the world smaller and more accessible. Students in small town Oakdale are not always able to travel to far off lands. Sure, we have the internet and Google to check things out. But those cannot replace conversations and interactions with the people who live in those far off places. This year teaching eighth grade, I was finally able to teach Anne Frank. I have always loved WWII history, and Anne Frank is no exception. And through the magic that is the SMART Exemplary Educator Program and the SEE Summit, I just happened to have a friend who lives in the Netherlands, Boris Berlijn! With his and his students help, our students were able to collaborate through SMART amp and learn about each other's culture, the diversity within each culture, and how diversity in 1943 affects life now. 

Boris's Culture SMART amp space
And now, my students are helping Boris's students with culture in Oakdale and the US! Truly, learning at its finest when collaboration happens! Even better when worlds collide and we feel connected. Learning at its most powerful!

In the end, being connected to other people truly brings us together. Brings us closer to each other, and to our learning. My students learned so much more because there are tools out there to bridge the gap and connect people. We are better together and SMART amp has done just that. Brought us together to be better learners, more understanding, more compassionate, and excited about connecting.

Friday, May 13, 2016

#CUESteamPunk! Robotics in the ELA Classroom

With anything in life, time can seem to slip by and before we know it, it is the end of the school year and time for reflection.

This year has been one of a kind for me...Our family has grown, took some time for myself and family, but still continued to grow as an educator. This year, I threw out my "traditional" plans and organized by what my students needed and wanted. 

We began the year with learning the tech needed to be successful throughout the year. We did this through discovery, team building, and developing a class culture of trust. Units were planned, but individual lessons were typically planned the day or night before. I brought in new tech and tools, both traditional and digital and one of the most exciting was the opportunity to learn, explore, and create with the help from CUE

I signed up for the opportunity to use the CUE Steampunk labs with my English language arts (ELA) students. I wanted to explore how STEM and STEAM should and need to be applied and integrated into ELA. Currently, I have added other aspects of STEM into class, but hadn't the opportunity for robotics....yet.

Then December 14th....Spheros from CUE entered my classroom. My students thought it was dangerous material as it came in its yellow hard case...which of course caught their interest even more! I had them before they even knew what we were going to do! That afternoon, with some high school's help, we mapped out the Sphero Driving Course for the next day.

We were equipped with five Spheros and five iPads, which equaled TONS of FUN! Students were broken into groups to master eight driving courses to earn their license. Their license was needed to continue the rest of the week's Sphero challenges to show that students A. Could handle Sphero driving basics, B. Do some coding, C. Be responsible with the Spheros.
After their driving lessons and test, students then blogged about their driving experiences.

I should mention that the Spheros came the week before our school was having finals and heading to winter break. So what shall we do?! Spheros for finals! I searched the Sphero SPRK Lightening Lab for something "cool" and yet ELA infused for finals. I found the Sphero Assistive Device lesson

Instead of a traditional ELA final, students of the Duckpond imagined that their best friend was in an accident and could no longer rely on their hearing. It was their job to research challenges of deaf and hard-of-hearing, program the Sphero to alert their friend in three types of emergencies, design a plan, test it, blueprint the Sphero's path, and reflect on the process. 

It was AWESOME. The final was so great that students asked for more. Jaiden, a student in my first period said, "That was the most challenging, but fun final ever!" You can't beat that response! So I went to our Parent Teacher Club (PTC) to ask for a class set of Spheros. Armed with the video below, student work, connections to standards, and my principal's support....the PTC couldn't and didn't turn me down! A class set is now in the Duckpond's tool box! Lesson designs have begun for next year!

As if working with Spheros wasn't #EduAWESOME enough, CUE sent me Dash and Dot to play with! I have had to opportunity to play with Dash and Dot with our OJUSD Tech Committee, and I was already sold on Spheros. However, after truly spending some quality time with Dash and Dot, now I want to add these guys to our class repertoire! 

These little guys can be programed to do different things, "talk", dance, and more! I know these guys are suggested for elementary students, but so much can be learned with them and then move up with Spheros. Students can have Dash "map out" the travels of Juan de Pareja of Buck from our novels, tell stories with movement, and I am sure tons that my students can and would come up with. 

Robotics and other tech tools don't have to be isolated into a computer or programing class. Students need exposure and access in any and all classes. These tools not only spark interest in new subject matters for students, but also engages and inspires them for more. Many of my students after "playing" with the robots have begun looking into getting their own robot for home use or coding games online. A small group of students even expanded their Genius Hour project to attempting to build their own version of a Sphero.

STEM and STEAM can and should be integrated throughout curriculum and grade levels. I can't wait to expand my lessons and students yearning for knowledge with robotics. I have even had a student volunteers to run a Sphero coding club! 

Learning at its best is when it is viewed or felt like play and student directed. Thank you CUE Steam Punk for showing me and my students just this. 

Can't wait to learn and share more!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Growth Mindset + Class Dojo!

Class Dojo has done it again!

Class Dojo has partnered with Stanford University’s Project for
Education Research That Scales (PERTS) to bring growth mindset to the classroom! As many educators know, growth mindset is the notion that intelligence and abilities can be developed over time. When students have a growth mindset, they see challenges as learning opportunities and not barriers. 

Class Dojo knows this too! Thus, they created the “Big Ideas: Growth Mindset” series follows Mojo, ClassDojo’s much-loved monster mascot, as he and his friend Katie explore the importance of a growth mindset and how to develop one. Each video is paired with lessons to help our students reinforce their own growth mindset. 

Class Dojo couldn't have made it any easier! Check out their page on Growth Mindset and subscribe to their videos, download lessons, find related resources, and more! You can even check out the first five videos with lessons are here!

Working at my site, we have been working on growth mindset for a couple of years with our students and instilling that challenges are good and for learning can be tough. Class Dojo gives educators a simple, but powerful way to help our students grasp their current "fixed" mindset and move toward a more fluid one. 

The best part......IT'S ALL FREE!

Thanks Class Dojo!