Pookie Background

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Educational Applications in the Classroom

For this entire course we have spent a significant amount of time exploring and researching applications for mobile devices that can be used in the classroom in varying capacities. Our assignments for this week included selecting ten mobile learning applications for our students and the. Creating a lesson plan or presentation explaining how we would implement at least two applications in the classroom. After significant research I decided to create a lesson plan using the  application STEM Curiosity School and Google Drive. The idea is that I (the teacher) would supply the kids with the materials necessary for any of the seven lab assignments. The students would select which lab assignment they would like to complete in their small groups using the STEM Curiosity School application. As they work, they would all access a shared Jigsaw worksheet in Google Drive. In my classroom I like to give the students as much choice as possible so that they take   ownership of their learning. 

I have always been a supporter of an increase in the amount of technology integrated in the classroom. One way to increase technology use is to put the devices (mobile or otherwise) in the hands of students as often as possible. Through this class I have gained insight on different ways I can use my iPads on a more regular (and structured) basis with my students. I loved that the final project provided me with the opportunity to create a lesson plan that I can use in my classroom that will use my iPads in a more structured manner. If I were to tweak this course, it would be to add more assignments or discussions like the final project. While the application of the week discussion was valuable, it would be nice to know how everyone would use or could use some of the apps in the classroom. Same with the assignments of top applications. I would add a section for us to note how an application could be used in the classroom. All in all i found this to be a valuable course and I look forward to applying what I have learned in y classroom during the 2013-2014 school year. 

PS: This blog post was done on my phone from the BWI tarmac. My plane was SIGNIFICANTLY delayed and I figured what better use of my time and mobile device!  I apologize for any typos since they are hard to locate and correct. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Are There Educational Appls For My Learners?

This week in my graduate course we are exploring applications that can be used in the classroom with students.  At this time I have downloaded a number of applications to my student iPads for my students to use and explore, but I have yet to create any significant lessons or activities around any particular application.  My hope is that at the end of this assignment I will have a few ideas of how I can do just that and a list of ten easy to integrate and use STEM applications for iPads (and middle school students).  

During the 2012 - 2013 school year I used the iPads with my students as much as I could, which was still not as frequently as they should have been used.  First, I did not have an Apple ID or the ability to download applications until January (half way through the school year).  Second, I was limited on time when it came to exploring and previewing applications for the classroom (content and safety) and then cloning my iPads (we are talking at least 8 hours of work.)  So ultimately I found a few applications that I felt were appropriate for my classroom, cloned the iPads, and then created an opportunity for the students to explore and play.  During the second semester I created rotating STEM centers for my students to participate in when we were between units.  These centers (click here to read all about them in a previous post) allow the students the opportunity to explore ANYTHING related to STEM.  For the Game On! center the students can sign out an iPad and play/explore with any of the applications on the iPad.  Normally I like to have more structure to an activity, but by allowing the students the freedom on the iPads I was able to observe what they used the most and what they liked about the different applications.  This way I will be able to determine what I can turn into a lesson activity and what I may want to remove all together from my iPads.  

As for my thoughts on iPads in the classroom...
I recently took a class called iPads in Education and read a variety of interesting articles (they were not journals and were not based on research).  Many of these articles slammed the iPad as a classroom tool, labeling it as a distraction from learning.  One article in particular compared it to a hammer.  They said that the iPad is no more valuable than a hammer (a very expensive hammer).  To that I responded with my students' thoughts.  I asked my students (since we were learning about simple machines) if they would rather look at a picture of a hammer or be given one and sent out to fix some things in the courtyard and report back on what worked and didn't work with a hammer.  My 7th graders immediately wanted the hammers.  Now if I were just laying the hammers on the tables for the students to pick up and look at (a visual aid) or allowing them to hit stuff with no educational meaning, then they serve little purpose.  Just like an iPad is not serving a significant purpose in a classroom where it is used only to search the Internet.  However, when a teacher uses the iPad to ENGAGE learners with MEANINGFUL activities and CONTENT driven by the Common Core, the iPad becomes a very valuable tool.  While technology will continue to change and the needs of our students will adjust, in today's classroom there is definitely room for the iPad.  Anytime our students are actively engaged in important content and taking ownership of their learning, it is a very good day!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Productivity Applications

Happy Saturday morning!

This week in my mobile technology course we focused on productivity applications for mobile devices.  Since I have iPads and use iPads in my classroom, I stuck with applications for the iPad/iPhone.  I believe that iPads need to be equipped with productivity applications in order to be as valuable as possible for the classroom.  Games and interactive applications are great, but in education, sometimes you need presentation and word processing tools.  Our assignment this wee was to pull together our top 5 productivity applications.  I am not sure about the rest of you, but this changes on a regular basis for me depending on the needs of my classroom or updated applications.  I HATE to be repetitive, but I feel in order to properly address this week's topics I need to post my top 5 applications.  Below is the assignment I turned in followed by a little bit of additional reflection.  I have included a few examples of how I would or have used the applications selected in my classroom.

Stacie’s Top 5 Productivity Applications

Name of the App: Pages
Type of Productivity: Word Processing
Cost of App: $9.99 (student edition/school discount - $4.99)
Description of App: Pages is a word processing application made by Apple specifically for the Apple iPad.
Justification: I chose Pages as one of my top productivity applications because of ease of use on the iPad.  After experimenting with GoogleDrive (which has the potential to become VERY awesome) and CloudOn, I found Pages to be the easiest to use in terms of text manipulation and image upload.  Documents created in Pages can be emailed or saved to a WebDAV drive (file storage) which allows teachers to collect assignments.  There are many ways to convert .pages documents to .doc or I can collect and read student assignments on my iPad (so I am on the go.)  Overall, when I am typing an assignment or preparing anything in a word document, I do not want the majority of my time spent fighting with the formatting and selecting a font.  I have the same expectation for my students.  The Pages application fits the needs of my classroom and the assignments I assign my students.


Name of the App: Prezi
Type of Productivity: Presentation
Cost of App: FREE
Description of App: Prezi is a non-linear presentation tool that can be accessed and used from multiple mobile devices as well as the computer.  By creating a Prezi account all of your devices have access to all of your presentations.
Justification: While I was not blown away with the Prezi application for the iPad in terms of creating a presentation, I do adore this productivity application in the sense that I can access my presentations on any of my devices without any problems.  I have shown the same Prezi from my computer, iPhone, and iPad without any problems in the flow or formatting.  This is by far one of the most valuable features of the Prezi applications.  As I have mentioned before, downloading my Prezis to my phone has been a lifesaver when the Internet suddenly goes down in my class.  Since the iPad application allows you to create or edit presentations, if I find an error in a presentation while I am presenting or information needs to be updated, I can do it without interruption or stopping at home/school to update from a computer.  I demonstrated this mobile technology while presenting at a symposium in May – my Prezi was shared from my iPad.


Name of the App: Qrafter
Type of Productivity: QR Codes
Cost of App: FREE/$2.99
Description of App: Qrafter is a QR code reader that allows the user to save QR code images with text and notes.  It also scans the website associated with the QR code for problematic content.
Justification: Qrafter is a great application for organizing QR codes.  I have used other scanners in the past, but none have done such a thorough job of organizing the site content, user notes, and the QR code in one place.  This is an application that I would recommend in a 1:1 setting for students or for teacher use when there is only one iPad in the classroom.  In a 1:1 setting students can scan QR codes, organize the information, and then access it whenever they want.  This is great for study guides, helpful websites, and assignments shared in GoogleDocs.  On the teacher’s iPad, he/she can do the same (organize codes) but can pull them up at any time to display on the SMART Board for students to scan.  In my opinion, most QR codes look the same, so by having them organized with words and user notes, it makes accessing codes much easier!


Name of the Bookmark: dotepub
Type of Productivity: Converts any webpage to an e-book
Cost of Bookmark: FREE
Description of App: Dotepub is a website with code to save on your iPad that allows the user to turn any website into an e-book accessible through the iBooks application.
Justification: While this is not an application, it is a VERY handy productivity tool for the iPad.  By following the directions on the website and installing the bookmark, I can turn any webpage into an e-book that I can access through iBooks without Internet or 4G connection.  As an educator, I found this to be very valuable in the classroom.  I teach a number of intriguing adult topics like clean energy, sustainability, restaurant management, etc.  With adult topics come adult advertisements on websites.  By converting websites with ads to e-books, none of the ads or images were saved, just the content.  I have done this for a number of websites and created articles the students can read in the Reading Nook station or during activity rotations for a unit.  I have also used it for articles I find interesting and want to be able to read later when I won’t have access to the Internet. 


Name of the App: iMovie
Type of Productivity: Digital Movie Creation
Cost of App: $4.99
Description of App: iMovie allows users to create and edit movies or movie trailers and has templates that users can use for their films.
Justification: This is an application that I have recently begun finding value in as I spend more and more time playing with it.  I have just finished creating a Back to School night trailer introducing my class to the incoming students and parents.  I can also see students using the iPads to document (in pictures) their progress through an assignment or project and then creating a movie trailer as their culminating activity to share with the class what they were able to accomplish and learn.  I have not done anything with the full movie aspect of the application, just the movie trailer part and what I have done I LOVE!  It is also incredibly easy to use and does not require any of the movie editing skills Window MovieMaker does (which is easy to use, but can still be tough when you start to layer things.)  My students can pull photos from the photo stream stick them in the movie trailer template they have chosen and have a video by the end of my 47 minute class period.


I am a CRAZY multitasker and adore finding more and more ways to do at least two things at one time.  My husband considers this a flaw, especially when he wants to sit down and watch a movie with me and I HAVE to be doing something else (like cutting out lamination or planning our weekly menu) at the same time.  All of the applications above make my life easier and/or more mobile.  I love that I can convert all of my graduate reading articles and journals to e-books to read while I am waiting for the oil to be changed in my car or the at the doctor's office.  Pages has allowed me to complete assignments while in the car so that I can submit them as soon as I can connect to the Internet.  In the classroom, I am far more organized and can provide my students with the same flexibility.  This summer I am drafting a BYOD (bring your own device) plan for my classroom in hopes of allowing my students to bring in their mobile devices.  Through the use of productivity applications like the ones above, my students will be able to work on the go.  I have a number of students who end up "stuck" at the little league fields because of a siblings game for four or more hours in one night.  If the student has not taken their books along because they did not expect to be there all night, they can now do their work on the go and submit it as soon as they have service/Internet.  I can think of a number of parents that would appreciate this option as well.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mobile Presentations

When it comes to large scale projects and assignments, I tend to favor a computer.  I feel that a larger monitor set at eye level and a full keyboard with mouse is much easier to see/use when manipulating text in a document or pictures in a presentation.  This past week I was without my computer and my patience was truly tested...

This week's creation assignment was to create a mobile presentation with at least five images.  Seeing that I did not have my computer, I was left to create my presentation using my iPad.  At the start of the week I was very excited to do this since I had not done what I would consider a quality presentation on my iPad yet.  After reviewing the tools Dr. McCullough suggested, I chose Prezi.  Prezi (on the computer) is something that I am familiar with and my students like using.  Since I have an educational account I figured I would download the application for the iPad and give it a whirl.  I have presented Prezi's from my phone via my SMART Board (when the internet is down) but I have never created a presentation using the application.

First I took pictures using my iPad of Smith Mountain Lake (my family and I were on vacation).  I then used an application I downloaded called PicShop to edit my photos.  I believe the application was originally $4.99 but I was able to download it for free a month or so ago when AppsGoneFree (another free application) posted that it was free for a day.  While I have taken many pictures with my iPad, I have never used a photo editing application prior to this assignment on my iPad.  (I was a fan of Picnik when I completed my M.S. at Wilkes.)  In my presentation you can see how I adjust the color and frames around many of my pictures.   The kids use these types of tools when posting to Instagram and appreciate having these applications available.  I have BookCreator on all of my student iPads and plan on adding PicShop so that the kids can tweak their photos for their creations.

As for image hosting sites, a long time ago I created a Flickr account to upload photos.  However, I see little to no value in sharing my photos or storing my photos on an image hosting site (I prefer an external hard drive.)  I am very particular about my privacy and do not like the idea of my vacation photos being uploaded to a website.  Even with secure settings, accounts are "hacked" and photos "borrowed" or used in an inappropriate manner.  The only place I currently share some of my photos is Facebook (and I share very few photos outside of my dogs.)

Back to my presentation, I have had many experiences creating presentations on my iPad with Keynote, Educreations, ExplainEverything, ShowMe, iMove, Animoto, and HaikuDeck.  Since I had not created a Prezi on my iPad, I chose to try that application.  I was able to complete 95% of the presentation before becoming so frustrated I had to pull it up on the computer to finish the presentation.  I struggled with positioning and sizing the images and text so that it was appropriate for the presentation and editing the path.  As for presenting a Prezi on a mobile device, I can speak from experience when I say that it is a piece of cake!  I love that I can have access my Prezis on my computer, tablets, and phones.  As I mentioned before, the wireless internet is frequently down in my hallway.  By having the Prezi application on my phone I can use my 4G to present my Prezi to my students on the SMART board.  My kids get a kick out of it when I have to "ghetto rig" my SMART Board for the day's lesson with old speakers I plug into my phone and the long cable I use to connect my phone to the SMART Board. 

All in all, I highly recommend the integration of what I refer to as creation applications for students.  As a STEM teacher I strive to provide my students with opportunities to produce their own unique projects.  In order to do that they need a variety of tools available.  If I were to assign this creation assignment to my own students I would make a handful or presentation and photo editing applications available to them so that they could explore and find what works best for what they are trying to create.

To see my Prezi on Smith Mountain Lake, click HERE!  (I just couldn't stretch it to ten full slides...sorry to disappoint!)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

To Blog or Not to Blog

This blog post will differ greatly from my usual content since I will be using my blog for a very fascinating graduate course I am taking this summer on mobile technology. To start, I will note that I am writing this particular post on my iPhone in a vehicle with my husband as we are on the go. I am using the FREE Blogger application to check, manage, and post to my blogs. The Blogger application is incredibly easy to use and very simple. I don't know about you, but when it comes to my productivity applications I like them SIMPLE! (Below is a screen shot of the Blogger iPhone application after the user has logged in and selected the blog they would like to manage. It was incredibly easy putting this picture in this blog post as well!)

I have used (and still have) a blog through WordPress. While I found it to be a very nice blogging option, I always return to Blogger. I find Blogger VERY easy to use and I love that it is linked to my Google account. Anytime I can minimize passwords, accounts, and links I do. In addition, I am comfortable with the layout and options Blogger offers. It is easy for me to adjust my background and customize different parts of the blog. I even linked up Google Reader so that my favorite educational blogs appear on the right side of my blog. (Of course I will need to change this soon since Google Reader will be leaving soon...) 

This blog is traditionally used for me to post all of the interesting things I do and find for a middle school classroom. It started as Stacie's Acute Math Blog (I taught 6th grade math...do you get it?!?!)    When I was hired by the Greencastle-Antrim School District I became a 7th grade STEM teacher so I adjusted the name of my blog. I usually post the activities and units I have created for my classroom as well as links to fantastic STEM resources (that are usually FREE!).

So, this week's question is "who are you?"

Well, my name is Stacie and I am currently a 7th grade teacher in south-central Pennsylvania.  I have two Rottweilers that keep me very busy and a loving husband.  This summer I have been blessed with the opportunity to attend the Siemen's STEM Institute.  This is an opportunity awarded to only 50 educators across the nation (3 from Pennsylvania).  Prior to teaching I attended Shippensburg University and obtained a B.S. in Elementary Education with a minor in reading and a mathematics concentration.  At the end of my first year of teaching I began my M.S. in Instructional Media through Wilkes University which I completed in a little less of a year.  Currently I am wrapping up my Instructional Technology Specialist Certificate program at Clarion University.  

As for my experience with mobile devices, I would say that I am very experienced.  I have three iPads, multiple laptops, an iPhone, and another tablet device.  I use all of my devices without much frustration and for a variety of reasons.  This past May I took a course with a friend on iPads in the classroom which helped expand my knowledge base of creation applications.  In my classroom I have ten iPads to use with my students and an Apple TV attached to my SMART Board so that I can project (through AirPlay) my iPad or any student iPad.  One of the reasons I chose to take this particular course was to continue to expand my knowledge of how I can use my iPads in the classroom and get the most from the devices.  An iPad should not be put in front of students to entertain them, but to enhance instruction and motivate students to learn.  (The other reason I am taking this course is because it is the only one offered to fulfill my final ITSC course requirements.)  I am REALLY looking forward to this course as well as blogging about what I learn on my classroom blog!  I hope everyone has a FANTASTIC week!!!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Paper Science

While reading through the foldables my students submitted last week after the rotating STEM centers (aka Kindergarten Days), many requested a science experiment station.  This is something I have been trying to add, but have struggle to find quick and inexpensive experiments the students can complete in small groups or independently in 15 minutes or less.

Enter Paper Science!

I stumbled across this FANTASTIC resource this morning while searching for new activities for my STEM centers.  Steven Moje has written a 49 page book that is available in PDF form for FREE!  His book, 100 Science Experiments with Paper, is full of quick and easy (INEXPENSIVE) science experiments the kids can complete on their own.  I can not wait to print, bind, and debut this book with the kids the next time I complete my rotating centers!  The kids are going to be so excited!  I may also pair this book with a few paper airplane books and general lab sheets to help guide learning. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Siemens STEM Institute 2013

I guess it is safe to share that I have been selected to attend the Siemens STEM Institute this summer.  This is an all-expenses paid trip to Washington D.C. to learn from the best of the best!  You can check out the other fellows by visiting the Siemens STEM Institute 2013 Program Fellows page.  The week is full of fun trips, speakers, and activities that will build my content knowledge and resource library.  I am absolutely PUMPED to be going and cannot wait to bag my bags and get down there.  Everyday I look through the program materials I have been sent so far and try to contain my excitement.  I hope to be able to bring my experiences back to my classroom and become an even better STEM teacher for my students.  Since my class is all out the real-world and the real-world is constantly changing, I need to make sure that I am changing with it!  I will also be blogging about my activities (and hopefully tweeting) the entire week.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Donors Choose: Providing Students with Real-World Experiences in STEM!

It's about time I post a new project to Donors Choose.  I have settled into my new position and identified a few needs in terms of supplies and materials for my classroom.  Donors Choose is a fantastic website that I have blogged about before.  Teachers can create an account and then create a project asking donors to support their classroom.  This year I have decided to compile a list of STEM books to enhance my instruction, a few teacher resources for labs and activities that provide real-world experiences, and some lab materials that include solar panels.  My kids are absolutely ecstatic for this project since they picked most of the materials themselves.  Please take the time to look over my project and consider donating just a few dollars.  Until April 24th, donors can enter the code INSPIRE and Donors Choose will DOUBLE your donation.  Thanks for all you do!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kindergarten Days (continued)...

Last month I was able to conduct my rotating STEM centers in class over the course of two days.  I still need a new name for these "Kindergarten Days", but so far they are wildly popular with the kids!  The students can not wait to do them again next week.

Ultimately I decided to go with 6 stations with a max of 5 students at each station.  I did not make students rotate  the first time, but when I do the centers again I will not permit students to stay at the "Game On!" station for more than one rotation.  Over the course of two days I introduced the centers and then allowed the students to participate.  On the first day I walked through the centers, explained the directions, and showed them examples of the activities.  With the last twelve minutes of that class period the students did a "tasting" of the stations and were able to spend two minutes at each station looking through the materials and activities.  The second day the students were able to come to class, pick a station (based on grades this time) and begin working almost immediately for a total of 40 minutes with the centers.  My phone went off every 12 or so minutes for the kids who wanted to rotate.

I had to rearrange my desks to accommodate all of the computers (and cords), iPads, activities, and students.  This is the arrangement I settled on and it worked very well.  (I took this from my substitute binder - STEM Center Direction sheet.)  I was able to bring in two power strips and plug in all of the laptops without creating a safety hazard!

I tucked the Reading Nook back in a corner with carpet squares, extra chairs, and the dying plants (I do NOT have a green thumb).  The chalkboard was used as a parking lot for the students to write questions on as they read about STEM related topics.  (After the centers were completed and cleaned up, I left the chalkboard out and worked through the student's questions answering them or printing out additional resources.)

I am currently using all of the centers I noted in my first post.  In addition, I plan on providing more structure to my Game On! station.  The kids love to play the BridgeBuilder and TinkerBox apps I have on the iPads, but I would like to provide a bit more depth to their "play" time.  I am undecided how to go about doing this at this time.  Still thinking...

Not everyone has the privilege of participating in my centers.  The centers are a reward for students that have completed all of their work for my class.  Students that owe work sit at a table near my desk (tucked in a corner of my room) and work with me on make-up assignments.  Since the students really enjoy the centers, I have had fewer problems with work being turned in.  In order to assess the students on these days I have them carry a half sheet of paper folded into three sections.  Every time the alarm on my phone goes off a new question is posted on the board for them to think about and then answer in that time period.  This acts as their "Ticket Out The Door" on center days.  For the first trial run I accepted any response.  Next week when I do the centers again I will provide the students with examples of quality responses and grade the foldables based on quality.

Shoot me any questions/comments you have and watch my TPT store for a FREE STEM Centers pack in the near future!

Monday, February 25, 2013

~ Kindergarten Days ~

So, I need to come up with a better name for what I have created...feel free to send or post suggestions!

In lieu of catch-up (ketchup) days, I will now have kindergarten days.  At the end of each of my units I try to give students that were absent during a project, groups that have fallen behind, and students that do not complete work at home the opportunity to make-up the assignments in class.  In most cases this is close to half of my students.  On these catch-up days I work with students that have fallen behind and allow students that have turned in their assignments the opportunity to play computer games aligned with the unit we are wrapping up or the unit we will be starting.  While this has worked well for me, I don't like it anymore.  So, in place of catch-up days, I am creating kindergarten days. 

On these kindergarten days I will set my classroom up like an old kindergarten classroom.  I will have a reading nook, artists corner, research lab, K'NEX construction, gaming center, and writing workshop.  (I have additional ideas but they are still a work in progress...)  At these centers the students will be given a number of different choices of activities that I have connected to STEM.  Students that have completed their work will be permitted to participate while students that are behind will have to work quietly.  I am hoping that this will motivate students to complete their work on time.  Below are the centers that I feel are ready for implementation in the classroom for my first kindergarten day...

Reading Nook
Students at this center will be given a number of books and articles (on iPads) to read about topics we have studied in class, broader STEM-related issues, and STEM-related careers.  The books I mentioned in my previous post will be checked out of the Literacy Center's library and laid out for students that just want to read.  Articles will be selected and downloaded to the iPad and applications like Science360 and National Geographic, will also be utilized.

Artists' Corner
This was a difficult center for me to develop independently, so I turned to our AWESOME art teacher for ideas.  At this station I will provide students with the following activities:
  1. Junkyard Creations - the students will use a laminated drawing (done by the art teacher) of a junkyard or home full of broken bits and pieces to create their own original design.  Students will only be permitted to use items from the drawing in their creation of a robot, vehicle, or device.
  2. Blueprints - the students will have prompts asking them to redesign our classroom or school and create a blueprint drawn as close to scale as possible.  There will be no limitations on students, desk space, or accessories for the space.
  3. DaVinci - the students will view sketches of parts of DaVinci's inventions and build off of what he started with, identifying the purpose of his invention and name.  The students will be expected to continue the sketch series.
Research Lab
In the research lab, students will be given the opportunity and freedom to research extension topics related to previous and future units.  For example, a number of students were disappointed that I did not allow for time to research and discuss different currencies of different nations during our money management unit.  These students could spend their time researching currency and exchange rates in small groups (if multiple students are interested) or independently. My hope is to have safe websites linked up to my wikispace for students to explore so that students are not relying on Goggle to filter inappropriate material.

K'NEX Construction
Since I have four Engineering Design Marvels and four Bridge Building kits, and the students LOVE the K'NEX, I thought a K'NEX center was absolutely necessary.  For this center students may work together on one of the structures outlined in the instruction booklet or create their own.  If students chose to create their own structure they will need to spend part of their time brainstorming and planning their design.

Gaming Center
For this center students will be allowed to play any of the games I have linked to on my wikispace.  All of the games are aligned to the Pennsylvania State Standards and/or my curriculum.  A popular game last marking period was the Wallace and Gromit test lab.  Now students will be given the opportunity to play the game for more than the 20 minutes I provide in our regular class.  In addition to the computers I will also have iPads with appropriate games related to STEM topics for the students to play with.  This may have to become two separate stations. 

Writing Workshop
Students that select the writing center will be given the opportunity to complete a number of activities.  So far this center is still a work in progress, but the writing ideas I have so far...
  1. ABC's of STEM - I found this fantastic ABC book that students can make using vocabulary words from STEM.  Students can start their book and work on it throughout the marking period or each time we have our kindergarten days.
  2. Acrostic Poem - Students can use this time to create an acrostic poem using a vocabulary word/word wall word from one of our units.
  3. Journals - The Literacy Coach suggested making little journals and allowing the students simply the opportunity to reflect or journal on what we have done in STEM.  I would like to give this a bit more structure, so I may have an envelope full of suggested STEM prompts that students could write about.  (Maybe a paragraph explaining a real-world issue and then the opportunity to react to it?)
I would love to know what other centers I could incorporate into my kindergarten days.  I have some board games as well as folder centers geared towards the use of math in real-world situations that I may integrate into my rotations.  I was also tossing around the idea of a puzzle station where kids could do logic puzzles, tangrams, and sudoku puzzles.  As soon as I have everything created and finalized I will post materials and pictures!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What does a STEM Classroom Look Like? (cont.)

I posted back in November my ramblings on what a STEM classroom should look like.  Over the last two months I have thought about this a lot and I have begun making subtle changes in my classroom and in my plans.  On January 22nd I received a new group of students.  (I teach one group of 7th graders the first half of the year and the second group the second half of the year.)  So over break I reflected A LOT!  I revamped my Money Management unit and found new games and activities for the kids as well as restructured my general approach to lessons.

Learning Centers

I have always loved a centers-based approach to learning.  That is one of the primary things I miss about teaching elementary school.  There are TONS of resources for creating primary and elementary learning centers, but few on middle level and high school centers.  In the past I have always tried my best to integrate rotating centers in the classroom, but at times found it easier just to have all of my students working on the same game or activity.  This mind set was changed when I met with the literacy coach in my building for my wind energy unit.  She supported my passion for learning centers and offered a number of suggestions.  First, she suggested taking the packet of information I had planned to give to the kids and breaking it down into four centers.  Students would rotate through four centers in the course of two days.  Since my classroom layout lent itself for this, I gave it a whirl.  I took her suggestion for creating a puzzle at one station and reading to the students at another.  I then found a video very similar to the other article for the students to watch in place of reading.  For the last station the students looked at different forms of persuasive media and discussed what they saw in their groups.  This was what I did the first time around and I plan on making many changes the second time around.  Since this unit I have introduced the stamp.  As students complete centers and have them checked by me, they earn a stamp.  The kids love this and it makes grading the packets when they are collected much easier. 

As a whole the centers are FANTASTIC!  They take a lot of time to plan and set up for - making packets with questions that correspond to the games the students play, charts for documenting data or progress, reading comprehension keys for highlighting articles... - but in the end they are worth it.  I am promoting significantly more self-exploration in students and allowing them to figure things out for themselves.  The students all enjoy the centers, especially the fact that they are 20 minutes long.  If a student doesn't care for a particular activity, they know they will be rotating to a new one shortly.  (I usually try to have online games at two of the stations opposite each other so that each day each group has the opportunity to play a game.)


As I mentioned previously, I feel I need a STEM library.  Over the last two weeks a lot has developed on the STEM library front.  First, money was "found" in the library budget for science texts to be purchased.  Each grade was "assigned" $660 to use to buy book collections to be kept in the library and used by teachers in science class.  I am part of the 7th grade science team/department so while working on our list of book sets we wanted, I added a few STEM sets and then we hung around until all of the grades submitted their requests.  Our patience paid off, not all of the grades "spent" their money!  So, we absorbed their extra funds and my STEM book sets were purchased.  YIPPIE!  My plan is to have books for EVERY unit I teach so that I can incorporate them into my learning centers.  In addition, while meeting with the literacy coach in my building, she shared two texts that she had available for me to borrow and use in my classroom.  For each of the books (one on money and another on inventions/inventors) she would be able to gather multiple copies so I could use them at a center or as an entire class.  Next year I hope to continue to build my library with resources the kids can use.

Assessment Portfolios

For the second half of the year I have created assessment portfolios for each of my students.  MANY of my students are not sharing their rubrics with their parents and this is leading to a number of parent phone calls.  Parents are not understanding their child's grade because my feedback is not being shared with parents.  To solve this break down in communication, I created assessment portfolios to file all of the students' graded papers and rubrics.  From this point forth I will pass back papers and/or conference with student groups and then collect them and file them in the portfolios.  This way if a parent requests a meeting or calls in confused I have the rubric to refer to and can make copies to send home.  If this goes well, I think I may laminate a set of 250 manilla folders so that I can simply erase the students names when I am finished each semester and reuse the folders.


I want students to have the freedom to experiment and in order to do that I feel I need a variety of supplies available to students.  So, sitting out in the "student center" I have crayons, markers, colored pencils, and scissors.  I also have colored bins with colored paper and scraps of paper from other projects.  Tucked away I have recyclable materials for students to use, masking tape, rulers, string, and paint.  These supplies have come in handy with other projects, but shouldn't be left out because I teach 7th graders. :)  On each table group I have a colored basket with Post-it notes (for tweeting), highlighters, extra pencils and pens, glue sticks, and markers.  My goal in providing a variety of resources, even if they are just art supplies, is to promote creativity and self-exploration.  More recently I have begun creating resource folders for different units.  In these folders I include helpful or informative information for students to refer to if they are stuck or do not understand a topic of study.  For my Scratch unit, these folders had the "Getting Started" guide and the "User Guide" for Scratch.  Students constantly used this resource.  I made it available online as well, but the majority of students much preferred using the folder.  I will be creating resource folders for many of my other units as well.  (Just spit-balling...for my Restaurant Creation project I would include a guide to using Audacity and Paint as well as review information on scale.  Loving this!)

Back to work!  Have a fantastic week!!!

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Christmas and New Year's break did not go exactly as planned.  The way the holidays fell this year made the break feel like there were few non-holiday/weekend days to make appointments and get work done around the house.  My husband and I reconnected with some friends and our families over break as well.  Unfortunately we received heart breaking news on New Year's Day.  We were asked to come and say good bye to a very close friend that had recently suffered some complications from his cancer.  On January 6th he passed away quietly while surrounded by friends and family.  This has been a very difficult time for Eric and I.  We were delayed in our return to school and are just now readjusting to our school routine.

Now that I am starting to settle back into my school routine, I felt I needed to blog about my latest STEM project - SCRATCH!  My students have spent the last five days participating in mini-lessons that exposed them to how the different Scratch blocks work together to control a sprite.  I used many of the lessons and instructional videos found on Redware's Scratch website.  (There was one video missing and it was the video on importing sounds and graphics, but I found it on YouTube!)  We started with a brief vocabulary activity and then the video on creating sprites.  I gave the students five points for each day they completed the daily goal.  (Basically recreating the code from the instructional video.)  On the second day the students watched the video on turtle graphics and programmed their sprite to draw a shape or design.  Following turtle graphics the students completed importing sounds and graphics one day, sensing another, and then broadcasting last.  When I asked the students how helpful the mini-lessons were they told me very because it showed them what some of the blocks meant.  Most of my students met their goal just minutes after I told them to begin and then would spend the rest of the class period experimenting with the other blocks of code.  The kids are REALLY enjoying all of the freedom with this unit.

If you haven't checked Scratch out yet, you HAVE to download this free program developed by MIT to play with.  It would make a FANTASTIC middle school club.  More on Scratch to come!