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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Building a Community of Learners

   Welcome back to another fresh and exciting school year. Maybe I'm crazy, but there's just something about an unopened pack of Ticonderoga pencils, fresh glue sticks, and a new pack of Flair pens. (Yes, I was the kid that asked for a laminator for my tenth birthday as well...)
    As we begin a new school year, it is important to not only think about the math and reading lessons we have to teach, but to remember that in order to achieve a high level of learning, our students need to feel that they are welcomed, valued, and part of something bigger. It is with this in mind that I bring you some of my favorite back to school activities that help build the community that we will base our learning off of for the entire year.

   Interactive Tickets Out The Door
     My favorite addition to my classroom this year is my interactive Twitter "Ticket Out the Door" door. The kids each have their own twitter bubble with their name on it that they use to post their ticket out the door answers on with a sticky note. The kids love this because they know their work is going to be on display for all to see, and it's way more fun for them to post on the door than turn it into the basket. This is also super easy for me to quickly see who has actually turned in the response or not. Taking data on these at a quick glance is also super easy as well. You can get the template for this board in my TPT store here

                                                     TPT Interactive Twitter Board

                                              Getting to Know The Teacher
    I have always viewed the first few weeks of school as vital in setting the tone for the year. You've probably heard many teachers refer to their students as their "kids," and this is exactly how I feel about mine. We do in fact spend the majority of our day together, so in the end we end up being more of a family than a class. If we are a family, we first need to get to know each other like a family. With this in mind, I always try to base my "get to know you" activities on concepts and tools that we will use throughout the year. The first thing I do is use the idea of a "K-W-L" chart to introduce this learning strategy to the students, but also to have them learn more about me as well.
    Since I teach 6th grade in an elementary school, many of the students know me from seeing me in the hall or their siblings having me as a teacher. It's always fun to see what they come up with in terms of things they already know about me. I have them first complete the "Know" and "Want to Know" columns on their own K-W-L chart, and then we share out as a class. The fun part comes when they get to learn more about me. To do this I write fun facts on slips of paper such as- "Mrs. Dessert loves the Ducks" and "Mrs. Dessert is a basketball coach." Then we play a version of Pictionary, where one student will choose a slip and draw a picture that shows the fun fact, while the rest of the class guesses. It's great to see some of the more shy students volunteer first to come up and draw for everyone.

At the end of the week I give an extra credit quiz of about ten questions to see who was paying the best attention all week. The kids absolutely love it!

Team Building Activities 
    Much of what we do in our class is based around team work. Gone are the days of quiet seat work, and here are the days of active collaboration, questioning, and explaining your thinking. In order to get kids to start talking and used to working together, I found some great activities that allow students to work on these skills at a level that all students will feel successful. My two favorites of the week are the "Tower Challenge" and "Save Fred." 
    The set up for the Tower Challenge is six plastic cups, a piece of string for each student, and two rubber bands. The only directions are that students may not touch the cups with their hands, but they need to stack the cups in a 3-2-1 formation. These kind of open ended directions allow for the students to get creative and problem solve together. It was inspiring to see all the different ways that students came up with to solve this problem. For those early finishers, their groups had to re-stack the cups into a single stack with the same directions as before. 


      I found the idea for the Save Fred challenge on Instagram after it had been used in a few other fabulous teachers' classrooms. The set up for this challenge requires a gummy worm, gummy life saver, plastic cup and a paperclip for each student. The cup should be put upside down with the gummy worm on top and the lifesaver underneath. 
    The background story is that Fred was riding in his boat, when it capsized and he ended up on top. His only chance of survival is to get his life jacket on, which is underneath the boat. Students are told they may not use their hands to touch the boat, life jacket, or worm, but can use the paperclip to help them. They also may not stab the worm or life jacket because, well jeez... that would just be cruel and the life jacket would be obsolete. This was great fun to watch and the kids really took an interest in making sure Fred was safe. Cheers were heard around the room as each Fred was saved! 

Time Capsules
    Although the year is just beginning, it's not too early to start thinking about the end. No, not summer, but instead that last week when the kids are checked out and ready to go. For this my solution is a time capsule! Even though it's just a year, so much changes and the kids always find it fun to look back and see how they have changed in the year. 
    My time capsule template allows students to answer fun questions about their life, goal setting questions, and also work on their letter writing skills. I have created a template of time capsules for grades K-6 that is available in my TPT store by clicking the link below. Even if you're already a few weeks into the year, it's not too late to try this one out! At the end of the year the students fill out the form again and then I give them their original. The laughs and smiles are priceless. After reading their time capsule they write themselves one final letter which I keep and will send back to them when they graduate high school. (But I don't tell them that... shhh) Grab these templates now while they are on sale for just $1! 


                                                    Goal Setting Self-Portraits
    Finally, a project that has been a class favorite for the last few years. Art Projects for Kids has some wonderful ideas to incorporate art into your classroom. This project walks students through the process of drawing their faces, while leaving out the hard parts such a nose and a mouth. Students then write 3-4 goals for the school year and add that to a piece of notebook paper and glue it on. The final project is absolutely adorable and great to have up at Back to School night or conferences. Follow the link below for the step by step directions.

    Hopefully these activities will give you some ideas to help build a classroom community and start the year off on the right foot. As always, my goal is help lighten the load for all of us, so if you have other great ideas that you use, please leave a comment and share them! I'd love to continue to build our classroom community with your great ideas! 


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Traveling With Ramona Recommends

    I am so excited today to be linking up with the wonderful Ramona Recommends as she helps inspire teachers to make voracious readers in their classrooms. In order to do this, I have chosen a few books from my hometown of Portland, Oregon to share with you all. 

   The books are titled Portland ABC- A Larry Gets Lost Book and Larry Gets Lost in Portland both by John Skewes. 


   I found these books while visiting OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry). If you ever visit Portland be sure to stop by and check out all the cool science exhibits and tour the out of commission Navy submarine they have docked in the Willamette River. 

 These two books both showcase all that Portland has to offer and much more. I have lived in Portland my whole life and never really thought that it was that "cool," however in the last few years things have really changed and Portland is now a hip and funky place to live and come visit. Not only is it home to the famous Voodoo Doughnuts and Portland Hipsters, but we are only about an hour away from the beach and an hour away from some great skiing at Mt. Hood. 


  In these two books Larry, a dog, and his human companion, Pete, get lost as they travel all around Portland, while introducing the reader to all the wonderful sites and sounds that make Portland unique. 

  First of all, we have our beloved Portland Trailblazers (finally turning things around this year thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard), and also the newest addition to our sports family the Portland Timbers, our MLS team.   


  Here are a few fun pics from our engagement session at Providence Park, where the Timbers play. We met playing soccer so this was a must for two Portland natives. 

  We also have the famous "Portland Oregon" sign that is a landmark as you are traveling around. The deer's nose even turns red during Christmas time. :)           


  Plus, who could forget all the beautiful bridges that carry us from the west to east side over the Willamette River in this land of ports. My favorite has to be the Freemont Bridge. I love the summer time because I get to drive over it every day on my way to nannying on the East Side. 



  And who could forget our food carts!! We have designated spots where bunches of food carts are located all throughout the town making their own food cart lands. I am not the most adventurous when it comes to eating food out of a cart in a parking lot, but the ones I have tried are deeeelicious!! It's a must try if you're coming for the true Portland experience.

   For those of you not looking for a children's book, there is of course Portlandia- A Guide for Visitors. To be honest the show is pretty spot on when it comes to depicting this town we live in. If you haven't had a chance to watch Portlandia, try to catch an episode if you have a spare 30 minutes this summer..then come to visit to see how well it matches!

  Hopefully this inspires a quick lesson about Portland (I'd love to try to be pen pals with a few classes around the U.S. this next year) or maybe a trip out to the beautiful West coast with a stop in Portland. I'm always up for collaborating and meeting with wonderful teachers, so if you're in the area let me know and we can meet up for coffee (also a staple here in Oregon). 

                                              Photos Courtesy of Instagram @Portland

  Happy Reading!! 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Breaking Down The Language Barrier in Math

  This week I have the privilege of being able to present to the staff of my district about language in math, and the technology I have been using in my classroom. I am passionate about both of these topics and can't wait to share what I have been doing, but better yet learn what others are doing already as well.
    I have provided a link to both my presentation and the resource search I will be using as well. (Of course I had to incorporate QR codes and technology somehow!) Feel free to check out my presentation and leave any feedback or ideas you use as well.

                                 Breaking Down the Language Barrier in Math Presentation



                                                            Resource Search

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Virtual Field Trip

    At this point in the year it can often be hard to keep students' attention- especially with 6th graders who are ready to move to middle school… so it was time to come up with something that they had never done before that could get the buy-in I was looking for. Enter iPads, Chromebooks, Google Earth, and a good novel!
   This past week we have packed our imaginary suitcases and have taken off on the longest field trip ever! A virtual field trip! (Talk about saving money on buses and admission!) We have just begun reading the story Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan, and are totally immersing ourselves in the story by following the path which the main character, Esperanza, takes on her journey from Mexico to California.

     In order to do this we are utilizing a GREAT resource, Google Lit Trips.  This resource has tons of pre-made virtual field trips that allow students to actually explore the setting of the story and put themselves in the character's shoes. Along with utilizing Google Earth to do this, the authors of the Lit Trips have embedded mini-lessons, questions, and discussion points along the way. My students have loved this experience so far, and their connection to the story has them wanting to read further in the book every free moment they have.


       In conjunction with the Lit Trip, our school was also lucky enough to purchase a class set of Chromebooks. Since most teachers aren't using these yet, my class has jumped right in and taken full advantage. In our district, each student is given a Google Drive, so we quickly became acquainted with yet another new form of technology, and are using these to answer comprehension questions and collaborate with our classmates. I am simply making a Google Doc with the comprehension questions from the Lit Trip that I deem are most useful to our study, and then sharing it with my students. They each make a copy of my document and work from there to complete their work. Before they can share it back with me, they need to share it with another classmate, read their answers, and leave thoughtful and constructive comments that further the discussion on their document. Following that, they then share it with me, and on Fridays we have a larger class discussion. Since we all have those students who don't like to talk out loud (or those that talk too much) this format gives everyone an equal playing field to have their answers heard and participate in the discussion whether they feel comfortable doing it orally or not.

    So far I have been impressed with the Lit Trips and I am excited that they are a free resource. The only downfall is that in order to get to the download, you need to answer a survey each time. My recommendation would be to bookmark the final download page immediately so that you have easy access and aren't filling out the surveys every time someone accidentally closes out of the page. Even if you don't have access with the iPads for each student, I found projecting it from a teacher computer can be just as valuable, so don't let that stop you! The best part is they have books K- Higher Ed!
     This project doesn't take long to set up, so if you're feeling that Spring Fever setting in… hopefully you can take your class on a virtual field trip to hook them back in! Good luck and as always, if you have any other ideas that you have used or that you think would improve this project let me know. I'm all about sharing ideas and lightening the load!

     This past week we also did one of my favorite interactive, grab their attention, and learn at the same time lessons… edible cells!! Check out my blog post from last year where I explain all the steps to implementing this lesson yourself. It was a huge hit once again!

                                                                Edible Cells Blog Post


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Spring Break Update

    Ahhh, breathe, relax, rejuvenate... grade papers and plan for next week! I think it's true what they say, teachers look forward to Spring Break more than the students. However, I think it's for different reasons. I can't even begin to describe the piles of papers that need grading, the books that need to be read and have reading units created, and then there should be some relaxation in there, right?!

    But with Spring Break comes a fresh start and fresh ideas as well. Here are some of the things my class has been working on that I'm excited to share with the blog world!
                                          Novel Study: Number the Stars
    The first is our recent novel study on the book Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. My students have been working for a few weeks now to read, comprehend, discuss, and pick apart the story of two best friends who are torn apart by World War II.
   We had the special opportunity last year to have Holocaust survivor Alter Wiener visit our school and give his first hand account of his experiences in the work and concentration camps, as well as being liberated and having to adjust to life outside of the camps. My students were deeply moved by his speech and many have gone on to read his autobiography, From a Name to a Number.

      Building off this background we dove into the book and the kids just devoured it and couldn't help but read ahead of our class discussions. If you are looking for some ideas to implement this lesson about world history and acceptance in your classroom, look no further, here are some ideas!

   I have created an extensive comprehension packet to accompany the reading of the book which includes factual, inferential, opinion, character development, plot, and central idea questions, as well as vocabulary, writing prompts, social studies links, a final test, and ideas for final projects. We just finished our study using this packet, and the discussions we were able to get into through these questions were extremely deep and took my students' understanding to another level. Be sure to check out the preview of this product here: Number the Stars Preview Packet . If you like it, be sure to purchase the whole product, and please leave me some feedback on how it worked with your students. :)

Number the Stars Comprehension Packet

  I always try to incorporate technology into my lessons, so for this unit we used the free iPad app Tellagami (which I have mentioned in my post Technology is the Future). We got both 6th grade classes together and had pairs summarize either the beginning, middle, or end of a chapter using the app. Every group was tasked with presenting their chapter from a different point of view. The point of view of Annemarie, Ellen, Kirsti, Mrs. Johansen, and Uncle Henrik were all represented. To demonstrate their understanding they had to also design the character, from their hair color to their expression, based on what they have read in the story thus far. They then each needed to choose a background based on the setting of their chapter, and then they had to type their own summary, citing evidence from the text. Looking at their work in this format truly allowed me to gauge their level of understanding because there were so many components involved. The kids did extremely well with this, and at the end of the lesson we played them all in sequential order to make a "mini movie" of the book. The following video is our summary of chapters 1-8. 

March Madness
   As we headed into Spring Break the kids were a little restless, but the solution to that problem was a little March Madness fun. We did everything from find winning percentages and ratios, to mapping skills, college research, and vocabulary. Plus, what fun would it be without filling out our own brackets? (I can't believe how many kids picked Dayton and have way better brackets than I do!) 


    The kids had a great time learning about "basketball", but it was really a great math review and highly engaging as well. How could I be a coach and not include basketball somehow?! 
     When we get back I plan on showing this great PBS video and incorporating a little basketball science before the championship game. 

Basketball Science

                                                        New Facebook Page
     Last but not least, I have launched my new Facebook page: Coach and Teach 24/7. Please head over and like my page to keep up on my most recent blog posts, daily teaching tips, ideas, and a place to collaborate with other teachers. Remember, my goal is to "lighten the load"- we all know we could use that! 

    When I reach 100 likes I will have a giveaway- you just need to be a follower to be entered! :) Spread the word to other teachers as well by sharing this page. 

Spring Break Fun
Well it was Spring Break, so I'll leave you with a picture from our Spring Break.  

  Instagram: Coachandteach247

Please leave a comment about what you did during Spring Break and what units you are currently teaching this Spring! I love new ideas! :) 

                               Mrs. Dessert 




Friday, February 28, 2014

Technology Is The Future!

   These past few days I have had the opportunity to attend the integratedPDX conference put on by the OETC. My district provided us with this awesome opportunity to collaborate with other teachers from around the country and state to better implement technology into our classroom in the most effective ways possible.

  My goal through this post is to pass on five of the best ideas from this conference that I hope you will enjoy and try to implement into your classroom.


Tellagami: This app allows students to create an avatar and then narrate along with a scene. I could think of a hundred things students could use this for. A few ideas are giving a summary of a book, explaining a math problem, a ticket out the door about what they have learned, a writing prompt to inspire other students... ahh the possibilities are endless. 


The best part, this app is FREE! App Store: Tellagami


   Have you ever had the experience of trying to get all 30 plus kids on the right website with a difficult web address such as this:        
Makes you want to rip your hair our right?! Well I have a solution - a cute and easy app called Chrip


    With this app you can quickly add a picture, note, or website to your Chirp. You then "chirp" our your message to the other devices in the room. When the app is open on all the devices, you chirp your sound bite and a link will appear on their device that will lead them right where they need to go. No questions asked! Bam! Save yourself at least 5-10 minutes of instructional time, which is what it's all about. 

**Note of Warning: Students can chirp their own messages, pictures, links etc. to each other/any other device in the classroom. Some major classroom management will be important with the use of this app. Think passing notes on steroids.** 


    Do you wish you had more time in the day to help the kids who don't always get the lesson the first, second, even third time they hear it? Have you ever thought of flipping your classroom? I'm talking about teaching the lesson via video where kids watch the lesson at home, then you review in class, and apply what they learned in class.

    Although this idea seems a little backwards, and you may feel as if you aren't need anymore, that is actually the opposite of what is happening. Think about the difference you can make when you are honing in on the student needs in your classroom and making better use of your time. For this idea you can use the FREE app  EduCreations



   (A super fast example I made- this is actually a video though that walks students through the process.) 

   By using Educreations you can create your own video and record your voice in order to teach the lesson through a video. You can pause your recording whenever you want in order to add more detail to your picture or text. 

    I was a little hesitant at first thinking about having students learn from home, because many of my students don't have access to technology or internet at home, but there are ways to work around it. (You don't have to solely teach this way) Having them watch the video at school during breakfast, lunch, etc. Plus having these videso allows those students who didn't understand the first time to take a device (iPod, iPad, laptop) and listen to the presentations as many times as they need, without requring you to explain it over and over, freeing you to help with other issues as well.  


     Edmodo!! My new favorite technology friend. Edmodo is an online learning communty where students have the opportunity to interact with their classmastes and the teacher through virtual classroom platform. They can join classes that a teacher creates, turn in assignments, take quizzes, and even communicate with their classmates. We have only scratched the surface so far (I personally enjoy the gradebook that is web-based so I know it won't disappear off my U drive again) but we are excited to explore further and even become penpals with a class in Eastern Oregon. 


     This is a screenshot of the teacher's main page showing my groups and professional learning communities that I can communicate with for new ideas and help throughout the day. 

    Here are two different examples of how students participated in an online discussion about one of our Junior Great Books stories. Different levels, but all were interacting together, and using their language and comprehension skills to reach higher levels of understanding.



    Did I mention Edmodo is free?! Check out www.edmodo.com for more information and to sign up for your free subscription. If your class is interested in become penpals I would love to hear from you! Leave me a comment or find me on Edmodo. :) 

    Finally, for some app stacking! The first app is called ThingLink. This app gives you the opportunity to use a picture and make it interactive. You can add links to the picture where you can attach text, videos, pictures, or links to other websites. I made an example of a picture I'm going to use for my after school Newspaper club. 


    Each of the dots represents something that you can click on that will give you further information. But this is just a picture, if you want to experience all that ThingLink can do, use could use a QR Code reader such as I-nigma to scan the code. Scanning this code will quickly take you to the interactive site where you can try it out for yourself! 


     You can also make these QR codes with an online QR code maker, then have them ready for kids to lead them to all sorts of fun links, activities you've created, videos, etc. So that's some app stacking- ThingLink, which you get to with a QR code, that was made with a QR code maker, and then scanned with a QR reader such as I-ngma. 

   So there you go, some tech highlights from the conference. I challenge you to try one new thing and let me know it goes in your class! I would love to hear your ideas, or please share if you have anything else that is amazing and working for you!
         Good luck!