February 29, 2016

LEAP Day: Integrated STEM Lesson

I know, I know.
Leap Day is today.
Kind of late for me to be sharing this.
But you have to understand...
My very BEST ideas come to me about 20 minutes before class starts. 
Literally.

So what happened was...
All the lower grades were planning fun Leap Day activities. 
I was jealous.
But I teach fifth grade STEM - a tested subject in a tested grade.
So I had to stick to my standards.

BUT...
Leap Day only comes around ONCE every FOUR YEARS!
If I didn't do something today, I would have to wait another four years.
Well, that wasn't gonna happen.

Today's Learning Target: I can collect data from an investigation involving the transformation of elastic potential energy to kinetic energy.
(Sounds pretty official, right?!?)
Leap Day only comes around once every four years. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have students investigate forces, motion, and distance by making their own origami leaping frogs. It ended up being an amazing and engaging integrated STEM lesson for my fifth grade students!
On to the activity.
The hardest part?
Folding the oragami frogs.

I really wanted the frogs to jump far. It's just so much more impressive to have leaping frogs on Leap Day. So I tried several sets of directions before settling on these. I admit, they are a bit complicated. There are simpler directions for a less detailed frog, but when have I EVER taken the simple route?
Leap Day only comes around once every four years. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have students investigate forces, motion, and distance by making their own origami leaping frogs. It ended up being an amazing and engaging integrated STEM lesson for my fifth grade students!
Anyway...
I guided students through the instructions of folding the paper frogs. It seemed to work well for me to demonstrate on the document camera and have them copy my folds. Each table group ended up with an "expert" who was able to help others. 

Once we got them all folded, we discussed the variables and how to create a fair test. We decided that each person would "leap" their own frog, but everyone would help determine the distance. We also decided that each group would set up their test on top of the table so that the surface was the same (just in case that mattered).
Leap Day only comes around once every four years. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have students investigate forces, motion, and distance by making their own origami leaping frogs. It ended up being an amazing and engaging integrated STEM lesson for my fifth grade students!
I had students fill out a simple data table (which I made super quickly in Microsoft Word right before class) so they could have a way to organize their data. I also knew that valuable class time would be spent folding frogs, so I hoped that creating a data table ahead of time kind of made up for that. I added a few questions at the bottom of the page related to what we have been studying about gravitational forces too! 
Leap Day only comes around once every four years. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have students investigate forces, motion, and distance by making their own origami leaping frogs. It ended up being an amazing and engaging integrated STEM lesson for my fifth grade students!

Each student had three chances to get their frog to leap the longest distance. We discussed how each person had made their folds slightly differently and not all of the frogs were carefully made. This affected how much potential energy was stored in each frog when we pressed on their backs. Not surprisingly, some frogs were more successful than others.
Leap Day only comes around once every four years. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have students investigate forces, motion, and distance by making their own origami leaping frogs. It ended up being an amazing and engaging integrated STEM lesson for my fifth grade students!
Students measured the distances to the nearest half-inch. Normally I have them measure in metric units, but the math standard requires them to convert between standard units of measure. After collecting and recording their data, each student had to calculate the averages for each frog's leap distance.
Leap Day only comes around once every four years. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have students investigate forces, motion, and distance by making their own origami leaping frogs. It ended up being an amazing and engaging integrated STEM lesson for my fifth grade students!
It amazed me how engaged each student was in doing the addition and division required for this step! It's all about motivation, I guess, since they wanted to find out who had the best leaping frog overall.

What ended up as a last minute switch in plans ended up being such a great integrated math and science lesson. And despite the fact that I used it on Leap Day, it could really be done at any time (minus the cheesy "leap" puns).

And the best part?
It fit in with my science standards today. 

What activities did YOU do in your classroom for Leap Day this year? I'm always on the hunt for new ideas. Share in the comments below!

February 27, 2016

#IG2016GOALS - February

Since I blogged about accomplishing each of my January #ig2016goals HERE, I was really hoping to report that I was JUST as successful at reaching my goals in February. Um, not so much. But not a COMPLETE failure!
If you're like me, you struggle to meet your goals. Do you feel like you bite off more than you can chew? I do! Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail.
So for February I had big plans.
And then we got hit with extremely cold weather and a lot (for Tennessee) of snow. 
Snow days and the winter blues made my first goal tricky.
If you're like me, you struggle to meet your goals. Do you feel like you bite off more than you can chew? I do! Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail.
So my family goal centers around my sweet fur-ball of a puppy, Waldo. He's seriously a doll. BUT, he's ginormous. Well, not crazy huge, but bigger than we were expecting a "mini" goldendoodle to be.

When we first brought him home, it was August. And school had just started. Yeah, WHAT was I thinking?!? Probably drunk on puppy love. I mean, who could possibly resist this adorable face?!? Certainly not me!
If you're like me, you struggle to meet your goals. Do you feel like you bite off more than you can chew? I do! Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail.
Anyhow, my amazing husband took on training Waldo to potty outside. YAY! And when I was overtired and stressed and trying to write plans and grade papers, he offered to take Waldo on long walks to tire him out. Double YAY! 

Unfortunately, my hubby is not overlay concerned if Waldo pulls like a crazy, out of control psycho-dog on the end of his leash. My hubby is a big, strong man. He can control Waldo. When he wants to. Me, on the other hand? I'm short and a whole lot weaker. Plus, I simply don't have the patience to be yanked here, there, and everywhere by a puppy that gets excited by kids, other dogs, cars, leaves, bugs, trash - you get the idea.

So I realized that I was going to have to be the one to train Waldo to walk politely and heel. And I really am trying. I've taken him on walks (when the weather would cooperate) and even bought different harnesses and leashes that are supposed to help. But I haven't been able to walk him consistently due to the snow and ice earlier this month. Then even with the weather warming up, it's been raining. Blah.
If you're like me, you struggle to meet your goals. Do you feel like you bite off more than you can chew? I do! Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail.
But I love this nutball. So I'm not giving up.
I just didn't get it this month.
I can't even contain my excitement over the fact that I got this event planned and organized this month. I really felt like nothing was ever going to work out. 
But it has. 

I struggled when planning this event because getting everyone to commit to the date and time that had been put on the schedule was like pulling teeth. And (to be fair) I probably over-planned for the night. 
Not a surprise. Isn't that what we all do as teachers?

I finally nailed down all the activities and presentations. I even got the volunteers, supplies, and times planned out. I created some cute signs to hang outside of each participating classroom. I'm feeling pretty good right now. Check back with me on March 7. Hahaha!
If you're like me, you struggle to meet your goals. Do you feel like you bite off more than you can chew? I do! Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail.
The plan is to have families visit grade level classrooms where they will complete age-appropriate challenges together. I have also planned to have 5-6 "outside of the box" thinking puzzles in our auxiliary gym (run by my after school STEM Club students). The icing on the cake is the special community involvement that I JUST got arranged. Students from the APSU Physics and Astronomy department are coming to do some super exciting demonstrations in the gym. One of them involves a blow torch - just sayin'.

Honestly, my fifth grade team and my school STEM committee were a great help. I was able to delegate tasks to and solicit ideas from them. Another MUST I found when planning this event was Pinterest. Yeah, I know. I've turned into a Pin-aholic. But with so many amazing ideas out there, I was able to access them and save them all in one place. Interested? Need some inspiration? Take a look at some of the things I pinned to my Family STE{A}M Night board here:



If you didn't already know, along with teaching and creating resources, and raising my own kids, and blogging, I also do a lot of clay work. I actually applied and was accepted to be a vendor at a craft fair in Nashville, Tennessee in May. 
If you're like me, you struggle to meet your goals. Do you feel like you bite off more than you can chew? I do! Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail.
I am thrilled to be able to participate, but I now have the challenge of having enough new products to display for sale at the fair. My overall goal is to have 100+ items ready to go by the end of April.

My line of clay products is called "CokerMonsters" because each of the pieces that I make is hand sculpted to look like a monster! It all started over a year ago when I was trying to learn to make mugs on the wheel. My form was pretty awful, so I added monster-like faces to them so no one would notice the lumps and bumps that were my mistakes as I was learning. 
If you're like me, you struggle to meet your goals. Do you feel like you bite off more than you can chew? I do! Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail.
That guy up there is my very first attempt at a mug. He's so ugly he's cute! While my throwing ability has definitely improved, I have found that my silly-faced monsters are unique and pretty popular. Thus my line of CokerMonsters was born.
If you're like me, you struggle to meet your goals. Do you feel like you bite off more than you can chew? I do! Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail.
This month I had the goal of creating 25+ new monster mugs for the craft fair. I am happy to report that I was successful! Not only did I get 28 new mugs thrown, hand-built and fired, but I also painted and glazed 15 of the ones I already had created. They really are too cute!


  If you live anywhere near Nashville you should really consider coming to the craft fair. Stop by and say hello to me and my monsters. And check out some of the other amazing vendors that will be there.

February 24, 2016

How to make a silhouette in 5 easy steps

I can remember having my silhouette made when I was a kid. You know, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth? (as my son would say) My teacher would turn the lights out and shine a bright light at the wall. We would have to stand really still while she traced our shadow onto construction paper with a piece of chalk. After she cut out each profile, we got to glue our head to a piece of colored paper. I think I gave mine to my mom. She probably still has it.

Not a bad strategy, really. Except for one thing...
What on EARTH were the rest of the students doing while she was busily tracing each student's head?
How to make a silhouette in 5 easy steps: Elementary teachers need to learn this DIY hack for creating simple, meaningful keepsakes for mothers, fathers, grandparents, and more. Includes extra ideas for teacher gifts, student activities, and holiday projects.
Maybe it's just me, but I need a faster way.
So, I've up with a more "techy-type" DIY hack.
And it's super simple!
I think it honestly took me all of 10 minutes to make one - beginning to end - seriously.
How to make a silhouette in 5 easy steps: Elementary teachers need to learn this DIY hack for creating simple, meaningful keepsakes for mothers, fathers, grandparents, and more. Includes extra ideas for teacher gifts, student activities, and holiday projects.
Step #1: Take some quick pictures
Use your phone, iPad, or other digital camera to snap a profile picture of each student on your class. The quality of the image isn't too important. I like to take the pictures in front of one of the cabinet doors in my classroom. It just makes life simpler later to have an uncluttered background.
How to make a silhouette in 5 easy steps: Elementary teachers need to learn this DIY hack for creating simple, meaningful keepsakes for mothers, fathers, grandparents, and more. Includes extra ideas for teacher gifts, student activities, and holiday projects.
Step #2: Adjusting the size
Insert the photos into a blank document and resize them for your specific needs. You can see in the picture that this would work even if you want to let students pose in silly ways instead of just the classic profile shot.
How to make a silhouette in 5 easy steps: Elementary teachers need to learn this DIY hack for creating simple, meaningful keepsakes for mothers, fathers, grandparents, and more. Includes extra ideas for teacher gifts, student activities, and holiday projects.
Step #3: Printing the images
Use a cheap-o black and white printer to print out each picture. Again, the quality doesn't matter too much here.
How to make a silhouette in 5 easy steps: Elementary teachers need to learn this DIY hack for creating simple, meaningful keepsakes for mothers, fathers, grandparents, and more. Includes extra ideas for teacher gifts, student activities, and holiday projects.
Step #4: Cutting the silhouette
Lay the printed picture on top of black construction paper and cut through both layers of paper. I actually used a piece of bulletin board paper instead - it's just what I had laying around the room.
How to make a silhouette in 5 easy steps: Elementary teachers need to learn this DIY hack for creating simple, meaningful keepsakes for mothers, fathers, grandparents, and more. Includes extra ideas for teacher gifts, student activities, and holiday projects.
One of the best parts of this is that you can kind of "adjust" the student's profile while you are cutting. For example, in this picture, her bangs covered her cute button nose so I cut along the line of her nose instead of her hair.
How to make a silhouette in 5 easy steps: Elementary teachers need to learn this DIY hack for creating simple, meaningful keepsakes for mothers, fathers, grandparents, and more. Includes extra ideas for teacher gifts, student activities, and holiday projects.
Step #5: The finishing touches
When you've cut the profile picture from black paper, you can simply mount it to a piece of colored paper using liquid glue (just like my teacher had us do all those years ago).
How to make a silhouette in 5 easy steps: Elementary teachers need to learn this DIY hack for creating simple, meaningful keepsakes for mothers, fathers, grandparents, and more. Includes extra ideas for teacher gifts, student activities, and holiday projects.

Most recently I created this bulletin board for the entryway of our school to celebrate Read Across America Week.
How to make a silhouette in 5 easy steps: Elementary teachers need to learn this DIY hack for creating simple, meaningful keepsakes for mothers, fathers, grandparents, and more. Includes extra ideas for teacher gifts, student activities, and holiday projects.
I found images online of different Dr. Seuss characters and made silhouettes of each of them. When it was finished, I had a great interactive board. I'm planning to have students try to guess which book each character belongs to.

And I added a fun twist.
Check out number 12...
How to make a silhouette in 5 easy steps: Elementary teachers need to learn this DIY hack for creating simple, meaningful keepsakes for mothers, fathers, grandparents, and more. Includes extra ideas for teacher gifts, student activities, and holiday projects.
If you're struggling to figure out which book these four are from, don't worry. They aren't Dr. Seuss characters at all. I took a group picture of my fifth grade team and added clip art hats to make us appear "Seuss-like". Nope, I didn't have to scour the stores in town for matching hats. Just a quick Google search. 

I've done lots of other projects with silhouettes. (I just love the idea of giving these as keepsakes for parents or grandparents.) I recently pinned a whole bunch of ideas to my Great Gifting Ideas board on Pinterest. Check them out. Seriously, the ideas are endless!


February 21, 2016

Sunday Scoop {02.21.16}


It's been a bit, but I'm linking up with Teaching Trio for Sunday Scoop tonight.
Yeah, it might be an effort to avoid lesson planning, but who's worried about that, right?!?
Sometimes I feel like I can never get caught up. Here’s my to-do list along with a recipe for the only potato salad I am willing to eat! Update: I’ve added a link to a great beginning of the year activity for elementary, middle or high school students that integrates technology.
So, let's review...

3 THINGS I HAVE TO DO
*** I have to do the laundry. My son has informed me that he is out of socks. And my youngest wore a hoodie with no shirt underneath today. So, I guess I've gotta get it done. Does anyone else hate doing laundry?
*** My goal in January was to get my lesson plans done ahead of time. Yeah. That was January. Now it's the end of February and I'm running behind again. I'm gonna blame it on the snow days and the change in Tennessee's standardized testing schedule.
*** My to-do list has had "clean my office" written on the top of it for weeks. I'm really, really, really (maybe not, actually) gonna get it cleaned tonight. Does anyone have any great ideas for how to tackle all those piles of papers that seem to be too important to throw away?

2 THINGS I HOPE TO DO
** I've been working on a new product for about two weeks. Actually two products. One is a freebie! The other one is actually meant to be used at the beginning of the year as a get-to-know-you activity. But since I've been busy with, I don't know, LIFE I haven't gotten it finished. My hope is to get it posted tonight. I'll add the link when I do. (Maybe that will force me to get a move on.)
Sometimes I feel like I can never get caught up. Here’s my to-do list along with a recipe for the only potato salad I am willing to eat! Update: I’ve added a link to a great beginning of the year activity for elementary, middle or high school students that integrates technology.
Ta-da! Here it is! Click on the picture to check it out! 

** I'm also suffering from Netflix withdrawal. So much to do and so little time. SO I really hope I can get a moment to catch up on my shows.

1 THING I AM HAPPY TO DO
* Eat. I mean, who isn't glad to eat? In fact, my amazing husband made some of his delicious BBQ pork ribs for dinner. The weather was warm (although rainy) so he grilled up a big pile. I made potato salad to go with it. That's right! I MADE SOMETHING (and it didn't burn).

Here's a kinda, sorta recipe for the ONLY type of potato salad that I'm willing to eat!
Sometimes I feel like I can never get caught up. Here’s my to-do list along with a recipe for the only potato salad I am willing to eat! Update: I’ve added a link to a great beginning of the year activity for elementary, middle or high school students that integrates technology.
Ingredients:
3 pounds red potatoes (diced and boiled)
5 hard-boiled eggs (I only use the whites)
Red onion (1/2 of a large one diced)
Green onion (1 bunch, chopped)
Hellman's mayonnaise (about 1.5 cups - or enough to make it mushy and delicious)
Sweet relish (about 1/2 a jar - but my hubby always insists on adding more)
Gulden's brown mustard (about 3 Tablespoons full)
Oregano (just shake a bunch in)

Just mix all this stuff up and taste test it. 
Keep it refrigerated, although it tastes pretty darn god even when it's still warm.
My cooking isn't really an exact science...

I'd share the recipe for the rib marinade and homemade BBQ sauce, but there is none. Ha!

February 15, 2016

Songs in the STEM Class {Layers of the Earth Rap}

Welcome!
I'm super excited to start sharing one of my absolute FAVORITE teaching strategies with you: using songs (specifically cheesy YouTube music videos) to teach and reinforce concepts in science.
If you aren’t using music in the classroom yet, you should be! Songs are a great strategy for teaching science concepts and vocabulary. A catchy tune will help those concepts stick.

Think back to the last unit you taught. Let me guess...
You learned the content so you could teach it effectively. You spent a lot of time planning engaging activities for your students. You made copies, arranged demonstrations, set up inquiry investigations, invited guest speakers, and basically taught your little heart out.

Then you gave your students the test...
And they BOMBED it!
Or maybe they just missed the simplest of questions. 
You were left frustrated and wondering: WHAT HAPPENED?!?
You've had this happen before, right?
Well, I'm here to tell you that you are NOT alone!
If you aren’t using music in the classroom yet, you should be! Songs are a great strategy for teaching science concepts and vocabulary. A catchy tune will help those concepts stick.
Students often struggle (especially in science) to memorize and recall the multitude of vocabulary terms and complicated concepts. It is our job as teachers to find ways to help them learn, memorize, understand (and later be able to recall) this information.

{No pressure, right?!?}
If you aren’t using music in the classroom yet, you should be! Songs are a great strategy for teaching science concepts and vocabulary. A catchy tune will help those concepts stick.
During my most recent unit, I was teaching students about the layers of the earth. Check out this post where I shared some of the different activities I used in class

I love reviewing concepts in science by watching (and singing along to) music videos on YouTube. Students love the change of pace. I usually demand encourage them to sing along (at least to the chorus). Here's the song I used when teaching layers of the earth.
It's got a catchy tune, and the chorus is super easy for students to remember. In fact, after showing it to each of my classes, it was officially STUCK in my head for two days. I couldn't stop singing it. I even DREAMED about the song. That's dedication there, right?!?

If you aren’t using music in the classroom yet, you should be! Songs are a great strategy for teaching science concepts and vocabulary. A catchy tune will help those concepts stick. To be fair, I don't create these videos. But there are some pretty talented people out there and I LOVE capitalizing on their creativity. And as long as I play the music really loud, I'm willing to sing along. 

Don't have access to YouTube at school? Try this trick:
Use the website SaveFrom to download a video from YouTube and save it to your personal files. This will allow you to access the video even if you're not connected to the internet.

On another note, when I made asked my husband to listen to the song while we were making dinner the other night, he rolled his eyes and told me that my science class is where music goes to die! He just doesn't understand how AWESOME these songs are and how much they help my students!
If you aren’t using music in the classroom yet, you should be! Songs are a great strategy for teaching science concepts and vocabulary. A catchy tune will help those concepts stick.
I think one of my kiddos took this comment to heart when she illustrated her test paper though. {sad face}

February 12, 2016

Journey to the Center of the Earth {teaching strategies}

My most recent unit involved teaching about the different layers of the earth. Students are required to know that the earth consists of these layers: a rocky outer crust, the mantle in which hot materials move, an outer core made of liquid metals, and a dense, metallic core. 
Teaching about the layers of the earth doesn’t have to be boring. Here are three great teaching strategies for use in the STEM class. Using YouTube video clips, interactive notebook activities, and visual vocabulary posters will help students with this earth science topic.
When I taught this unit, I began by showing students this YouTube video clip. For some reason the idea of Earth being like a layered cake appealed to me. {yummy analogy}
Students cracked up each time the "astronaut" got covered in dirt, goo, or rocks. To be honest, I'm considering making a cake next year and doing this as more of a demonstration. Maybe let the students devour the earth when I am done? But in a pinch, this video worked great.

We also compared the earth to an apple. I cut an apple in half, and we wrote analogies for each part of the apple and layer of the earth. 
1. peel : apple :: crust : earth
2. core : apple :: core : earth
3. fruit : apple :: mantle : earth
Teaching about the layers of the earth doesn’t have to be boring. Here are three great teaching strategies for use in the STEM class. Using YouTube video clips, interactive notebook activities, and visual vocabulary posters will help students with this earth science topic.
Students watched this BrainPop video {excellent resource if you or your school has an account} about Earth's structure.  We reviewed what each layer of the earth is composed of and created a folded paper diagram of the earth. Some students chose to add more color to their earth, but the most important part was the notes about each layer that they recorded on the flaps inside.
Teaching about the layers of the earth doesn’t have to be boring. Here are three great teaching strategies for use in the STEM class. Using YouTube video clips, interactive notebook activities, and visual vocabulary posters will help students with this earth science topic.
One strategy I often use when teaching vocabulary is to connect each word to a definition and a picture. Sometimes students draw their own diagrams, sometimes they use an interactive notebook template, and sometimes they create their own visual vocabulary posters with a partner. Here's an example of a student-created poster about the mantle of the earth.
Teaching about the layers of the earth doesn’t have to be boring. Here are three great teaching strategies for use in the STEM class. Using YouTube video clips, interactive notebook activities, and visual vocabulary posters will help students with this earth science topic.
I like to display visuals for the vocabulary we are learning about in the classroom. I have a science content word wall where I hang these visual vocabulary posters. I use the posters as I am introducing each term, and students reference them throughout the unit. I believe it really helps them to have an image to associate with each vocabulary word even if there isn't enough time to let them create their own.
Teaching about the layers of the earth doesn’t have to be boring. Here are three great teaching strategies for use in the STEM class. Using YouTube video clips, interactive notebook activities, and visual vocabulary posters will help students with this earth science topic.
Click HERE to download a copy of these ready-to-print vocabulary posters.

Are you on Pinterest?
What am I saying?!? Of course you are! Well, I've got a whole board dedicated to teaching students about the earth's geologic features. Check it out below!