Right now I am reading…

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The Teach Like a Pirate series books for educators are amazing!  I recently bought Play Like a Pirate at a conference, and was hooked!  The books are so captivating, full of high energy and give the reader so many practical ideas that can be used in the classroom.  Lately, this series has been an amazing read during the end of the school year.  The book is pretty short, and would make an awesome book study or book club read.

The Uglies is a book that has been crammed in my classroom bookshelf for quite sometime.  I remember teaching high school, and having a student tell me about reading it.  However, it was not until I watched a recent video a part of a 7th grade English teacher’s blog that I knew I needed to read the book.  When her students of both genders would say that it was the best book that they had ever read, I decided it was time to give it a go.  I am excited!

Two books at once?  I find that I am most grounded when I am reading a fiction and nonfiction book at the same time. When I say the “same time”, I don’t mean that I read both of them every day.  I might get lost in my fiction for several days, and not have time to read the other book.  But, overall I love the spontaneity and flexibility of being able to go back and forth when I am looking to challenge myself with something new.

Once again I am part of a group book challenge.  I have to read 60 books in various categories.  While it is a lot of work, I love the way the challenge is designed to stretch me as a reader.  I am required to see out different genres, and get out of my comfort zone.  I also found out last year, as I was part of this challenge, that there will be books that do not fall into any of the categories.  I love when it is determined that a book is a must read, and therefore it does not matter if it “counts” or not.  As of right now, I have read 19 books this year.  I am not sure that all of the different books in the, “Pirate education series will fit”.  However, they are so good, and the authors are so captivating and willing to interact online, that these are “must reads” while my energy and focus are there.

Check out my ELA Instagram account.  You can see more of the book that are being recommended.  #scmsela7

My kids were encouraged to play sports.

Why sports?

From soccer to baseball, basketball, tennis, running and dance;  my kids have played it all.  My kids absolutely love being on a team or participating with a group of people in an athletic competition.  My husband and I are both athletic, and played several sports when we were younger.  We both continue to train as distance runners.  In addition to their own sports, my kids have grown up watching races of all distances.  They have helped  to congratulate me at more marathon finish lines than they can count on their hands.  So, the other day I started thinking about my kids, and why I have encouraged their participation in sports.

Active participation on athletic teams, has taught me some of my greatest lessons.  I have learned how to work with teammates toward a common goal.  I have had to be patient and sit on the bench, even when I so desperately wanted to get into a game.  I have struck out, or missed a free throw when it mattered.  Many of the words that coaches used to stay still come out of my mouth today.l  There is no substitute for the tremendous feeling of winning a close game! Lessons about good sportsmanship also matter.  There are many times when another player has not been respectful during a game.  However, kids quickly learn that it always important to take the high road.  When my kids are part of a team, they represent something big!  Therefore, there behavior, attitude, appreance and overall respect for others is always on display.  They soon resize what it is like to be a role model .

In addition to all the lessons abut character, student athletes  are active, and inderstand why eating healthy and sleeping well are necessary. They also understand how amazing it can feel to run around for an hour.

While there are so many positives, being a student athlete can be tough.  There are days when it exhausting, and practice does not sound like fun.  Completing homework in the late hours after a busy night at the baseball field can be daunting .  But, is there a better way to prepare for real life?  Lessons about time management and priorities are best learned when kids are younger.

My ONE Word.

At the end of 2015, I saw a post the immediately grabbed my attention. It was about the “one word” resolution for the year.  A few people I respect had tried it, so I thought why not!

My one word

The idea was not to focus on a bunch of different resolutions, but to simplify change that you want to make by turning attention to one word that could encompass everything.

I thought about my word for a long time.  The next day, I decided the word should be mindfulness.  It sounded like something that I “should” be doing more of. It also sounded like a rather intense word, so I thought I would check out a few library books on the word and learn about it if this was going to be my word.

The next day, I began thumbing  through my books on mindfulness.  There was a lot to learn.  The problem was that I was not excited about my word.  No matter what I tried to do, it did not have any energy.  Ultimately, I needed to keep looking for a new word.

That was when it hit me in the middle of a shopping mall.  We were waiting for dinner on our anniversary, and a woman came walking through with a Christmas Shopping bag that said, “Believe”.  Right away, I knew it was my word.  I was excited, felt the energy in the word, and could not wait to start thinking about how I would use this word every day!

I would encourage myself to believe in others, believe in the process of things, believe in myself and ultimately strengthen belief in God and my faith.  It was the perfect word.  Believe reminds me of magic, and a magical word that sparkles is exactly what I was looking for.

 

 

 

Solving the Battle of Chores and Allowance

I never thought it would happen!  My kids are excited to do chores!  And, the best part is that we are not paying them for everything that they do!  We have eliminated tears, procrastination, arguments and a messy house!  It feels like a dream come true!

When I stop to think about why this plan is successful, there are a few key things that stand out.  This time I decided to think like a teacher, “What is my objective?  What I am I really trying to teach my kids here?  What do I want the end result to look like?

  1. I want my kids to realize that they should not be paid for everything that they do.
  2. If something needs to be done, step up and help out.  
  3. A system must be simple and easy for everyone to understand and then follow.
  4. Systems work well when they are objective, visible and predictable.  
  5. If you are willing to work, you can make money.  
  6. It is important to take responsibility for the work you need to do.

I am a mom of a 4, 7 and 8 year old kids.  I will say, that this plan might be tough for kids that are too young. As an educator, I am aware that each child is very unique.  Children grasp things at different points.  Therefore, if I were to answer the question, what is the perfect age to start this chore system, I am not sure that I can give an exact age.  What I do know is that it really depends on the individual child, and that I have hit a sweet spot with my kids ranging in age from four to eight years old.

The chore plan that I have been using this summer is actually a hybrid of a few different things that I saw on line, as well as my own experiences, and a culmination of a few last minute thoughts from my husband.

So here is the plan.  At the start of each week (Monday), the kids get a new punch card with 15 numbers on it.  I use a single hole punch to punch one of the numbers when someone does a job.  IMG_1126The neat thing about this system is that the kids get to select different jobs all the time.  I wanted to find a way to have autonomy over the jobs they do.  I also needed to have something flexible that could be done even on vacation.  The child must tell my husband or I what they have completed, and we get to be the judge to decide if it is satisfactory according to our standards.  It is first come first serve on the job.  It is possible for the same job to be done twice in one day if the area gets messy twice.  However, you may not clean something that does not need to be done.  A child can do as many jobs as he or she would like to do in one day.  This is where they get to be accountable, and take responsibility for completing their chores within the allotted amount of time.  In this way, we are also learning about time management.

Everything from setting the table to cleaning a bedroom are fair game.  I even offer punches for helping me pack lunches for a day at the beach, creating a list for grocery shopping, and clipping coupons.  I love the absence of argument about which jobs someone will do.  It is possible that we will be so busy on a certain day, that hardly any jobs will get done.  That’s okay.  As long as each child gets ten punches by Sunday evening, he or she has completed the quest for the week.

A minimum of 10 punches in one week sheds light on the next topic to highlight.  At the start of the summer I had actually stopped paying for chores that were done.  I did not want to continue paying kids for every little job that they did.   However, I noticed that nobody was really doing anything and I was nagging a lot!  One of the core values that I wanted to instil, was that when there is a need you step up; and sometimes you do something just to help out.  Sometimes you don’t get paid.  It is important to feel a sense of community, and help out the family.  Originally my plan was for the kids to get ten hole punches each, and that would make their chores complete.  No money was to be attached.  Then, my husband had a brilliant idea!

What if the first ten hole punches were done just to help out; responsibilities because you live here and this is your way of  giving back.  And then, what if anything after the minimum of ten jobs each extra job was worth 25 cents?  This worked great!  My hardworking middle son Luke, has truly figured out one of my core values that if you are willing to work hard, there is a way that you can make money.

After two weeks, the system is working better than I could have imagined. I keep the punch cards along with the hole puncher in the kitchen by the electronics. I also have brought it in my purse on vacation and been able to keep the system going.  As long as there’s follow through on my part I can see this working for a long time.  So far the kids have made anything from zero extra dollars to $1.25.  I love rewarding people who have taken initiative and are working hard.  IMG_1127

Lastly, the system works well because it is objective, predictable and visible.  It is easy for me to keep track of the punches, so it is always updated.  I dont have a problem saying to someone, “You have only 3 punches, I need something done from you.”  Everyone is on the same plan, which creates a sense of community as well.  The more success I have with it, the more I think about doing an adapted plan in my classroom. I am not sure what it will look like, but I like the basic components of this plan.  The neat thing is that everyone is on board and really does like the structure of it.  My kids are taking responsibility for completing their chores!  It is wonderful.  

Putting the Magic in Education with Collaboration

Teaching is a tough profession. Today, in a world overflowing with technology and opportunities to be a connected educator, we make the choice to be isolated.  Collaboration allows for teachers to bring back the magic and energy in teaching!

This year I have learned what it really means to be a connected educator.  Working with teachers around the world has allowed me to see a whole new side of connecting.

My favorite teacher to collaborate with this year has been 4th grade teacher, Rachel Card.  I had an opportunity to talk to Rachel at my first Ed Camp.  In November of 2014, we both attended the Blue Water Ed Camp, and found huge success in the format.  Collaboration and brainstorming was immediately in the works.

Fast-forward two months.  Rachel and I were both involved in the #Miched chat one Wednesday evening.  Somehow something another teacher said got us both on the track of thinking about Genius hour.  When Rachel mentioned that her 4th graders would be participating in Genius hour this spring, I wondered what it would be like for our students to have the opportunity to collaborate while doing the project.  I remember the idea of having “penpals” popped into my head.  She had a few fantastic ideas about how we could structure it using Kid Blog, and truly had a vision of what this could look like.  The new found energy that I had was unbelievable.  I could not believe how excited I was to plan a research unit!

Over the next few months, we delivered a spectacular Genius Hour Project to our students.  We took turns creating between 3 and 5 key questions for students to focus on while they would spend time researching over the course of the week.  We used Kid Blog to keep this organized.  It was neat to be able to comment on the other classes’ blog entries.  My students enjoyed giving helpful advice, and serving in more of a mentoring role.

Although, it was not long before the students were aware of how sharp the 4th graders in Mrs. Card’s class are.  These students demonstrated passion, depth in their thinking, technology skills and were very prompt in completing their assignments.  My students learned several things from their blogs as well as finished product.  It was so neat for the students to realize that Genius knows no age.  Students of any level can be innovative in their thinking.  We can each learn something new from another student.

The finished products between both classes were amazing!  Many students created websites and blogs.  A few students chose to do a Prezi or other electronic medium.  Overall, students were able to demonstrate their thinking digitally.

After Genius hour was complete, we decided to continue collaborating.  Our next objective was to find a way to do the Makerspace within the confines of several classrooms.  We started the box challenges in my class.   Once we found a way to be successful within the parameters of both of our classrooms we sent the box challenge through inner office mail.  Students were collaborating and creating things!  It was amazing!  Again, my students got an opportunity to serve in a leadership role with fourth graders.  Seeing students  pour over their textbook trying to find the perfect objective and supporting questions was downright amazing!

After the box challenges, we moved into a large Earth Day assignment.  A full description of what we did is mentioned on the entry Earth Day Makerspace.   The collaboration was extremely helpful.  Rachel pointed out the perfect TED talk to build the perfect frame around our lesson.  Again, amazing results.

After showing a few miscellaneous videos that my students had created to show dept of thinking and voice, we decided to take an article that would allow students to take a stance and respond with evidence.  Both classes read the article, then, one would start by selecting between 3-5 students to identify their position and support it with evidence from the article.  Once a class received the video, they would then use a similar number of students to do a rebuttal based on the claims that were made from the other class.  This activity will continue throughout the remainder of the year and has truly helped my students to develop skills that require close listening and reading.  Aside from working on basic public speaking skills and digital citizenship, students are receiving real world experiences talking about bigger issues that matter. They are using their voice, and realizing what they have to say does matter. They are realizing the proper way to discuss a controversial issue.  Students have been working hard to create objective responses that in no way target the individual making the claim that they disagree with.

You tube, imovie and Twitter allowed us to connect and constantly share what we were working on back and forth.  To top off the experience and be able to collaborate with even more teachers, we  submitted a proposal to speak about our projects at the 21st Century Conference in the fall, and were accepted. It is neat to think about the journey we have taken to get to this point.  Collaboration has removed the walls in our classrooms.  We are serving a much bigger purpose.  Our students get to see the positive impact we can all make working together.

MakerSpace Earth Day 2015

This year for Earth Day, I decided to go big, and do something environmentally focused in every class.  By using Edmodo, imovie, Google Drive, You Tube, and several other technology resources my class enjoyed an amazing opportunity.   In my ELA class, I was able to send my students multiple resources to get them started, and then display for our Genius Hour pen pals what we had created, and see some of the things they had created.  What a successful experience!

Big Question:  What could you make to help achieve an ideal world?

The following Common Core State Standards were applied. The common core truly allows for flexibility, collaboration and for teachers to have the most creative lessons.  It is amazing how many standards can be met in one single project.  The ELA CCSS helped me to realize just how creative my students are!

RL.7.2, R.7.1, W.7.3, W.7.4, W.7.7, 

SL.7.1, SL.7.5, L.7.1, L.7.6

Journalism class:  We interviewed a tree.  Personification, perspective writing, and truly stepping in to an object to think at a deep level generated all sorts of conversation and ideas about what we could do in the future.  It was a blast.

Computers classes:  We watched the Ted Talk that fourth grade Teacher, Rachel Card recommended.  Then students digitally created (paint, smart notebook, Sketch up, Google Draw)  something to answer the following big question.

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Students created everything from robotic trashcans to cars that would make use of pollution to grow plants.  One student engineered a car to actually collect trash like a magnet as it drove.

7th Grade ELA:  We started out with the TED talk, then moved into answering the big question about what students could create to help our global community achieve the ideal world.  4th grade teacher Mrs. Card and I had planned ahead of time, that we would be doing a similar Makerspace activity today and then sharing finished products.  Our students have been working together all semester on Genius hour projects, so they already had a relationship established.  I was most excited to have an audience to create for, and then for my see what her class had created.  Upon completion of the Makerspace, we decided to step inside the Earth. and write about what worries her, makes her happy, frustrates her, what she wonders about and so forth.  It was a fun way to make our thinking visible; just like the Makerspace project.

Here is where we started:

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IMG_6992Riley, Eliza and Emma created an air cleanser that takes in all the bad pollutants and contains organic materials like grass, fruits, etc.  inside to then send out purified air.  It can be purchased in a small or large size.  

Austin created a portable trashcan.  It has four different sections based on sizes needed. You can see three different views of it.   

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This is a mini trashcan created by Allison and Lauren. One side is for recycling and the other is for trash.  IMG_7016

Mark IMG_6985and Evan created the Sailboat Picker-uper.  It goes into the sea picking up trash.  The trash is collected at the shore and then the process begins over again.

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Maddie, Lauren and Lainy created a fashion line of clothing and accessories out of bags that people have already used. It is a limited line of clothing because once the bags are gone from the stores, an idea for a new line will be created using other materials that we should stop consuming.

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Matt created a cereal box that would be reusable.  You would keep the same box, but bring it to the store to fill it up during each shopping visit.

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IMG_7005Billy put together a water table reader.  It is made out of cardboard, tape and plastic.  It reads the levels of water when it rains.

IMG_6997 (1)Emily created a robot that picks up containers and packaging that works similar to a magnet  or Velcro.

IMG_7006Janine Created a scarf holder from cardboard and plastic.

IMG_7007Stephanie decided to use materials to make decorations that might hold pencils, bags, paper and all sorts of other things.

IMG_6996Anthony and Joey used recycling materials to create art.  This is a shark.  The decided to make animals out of the exact objects that are killing them.  It could be a very strong metaphor for what we are doing to our animals.  This could be displayed in a gallery or on line.

IMG_7014Sierra, Makayla created a robot that picks up trash.

Chase created structures that people can create for camping.  These multi-level structures can help with fires, or other tasks that need to be done.

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