Monday, May 25, 2015

Table Cards for Cooperative Learning Activites

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to attend the #ASCD15 conference where I was introduced to Kagan Structures.  Upon returning home, I attended a full day training on cooperative learning and since that time, I have planned an upcoming training of 2 days of professional development with Kagan.  After attending two different trainings, it's official...I am hooked!  I absolutely love the interactivity and engagement the structures provide and the organized method of grouping students. I tried some of the ideas at our recent 6th grade day and the structures helped keep everyone focused and on task.  Plus, the kids really seemed to enjoy them. (Bonus!!!)  Part of the organization with Kagan Structures occurs as students sit in groups of 4's.  To help facilitate activities and discussions, it is helpful to have table cards.  I made a set in our school colors.  Download the red and blue version or choose the editable file to customize your own:)
pdf or editable Publisher file

Saturday, May 23, 2015

8 Questions for the Educator Who Wants to Improve

Do you know someone who is so dynamic, so charismatic, so much of a visionary that whatever that person says gets you excited?  I consider myself fortunate to be able to answer, "Yes!"  There is something about the chancellor of the private school where I work that draws people in, sets a positive tone, and compels me to be my best self.  Each year, our staff begins with a corporate meeting in which the vision for the school is re-cast and we are issued a challenge of sorts.  Well, maybe challenge is too strong...but I would definitely call it a direction or focus word for the year.  This year's word from the chancellor is development.  It has stuck with me since I heard it.  And while I like to think that I am always focused on developing throughout the year, I know that during the summer break, I am much more intentional about growing both personally, as well as, professionally.
So, I thought I would launch a summertime weekend reflection series focused on just that...developing. This natural break in the school year is a great time to reassess what I am doing and why, to figure out what is working and what needs to change to better meet the needs of the families I serve, and to learn (there is always something else that I can learn).  In this focused growth period, details are important, because the details will strengthen future success.  I believe that most educators want to return to work after the summer break better than when they left. But where does one start?
To help figure out which details to focus on and potential areas of growth, there are 8 questions to ask yourself:
1.  Would you classify what you "do" as your job or your calling?
2.  How do you personally measure success?
3. How much do you know about each of your students?
4.  Do you believe fair means treating every student the same?
5.  How many years have you been doing things in exactly the same manner?
6.  Who are your mentors?
7.  What actually distinguishes you from people who do what you do?
8.  Do you have a burning desire to develop strategic thinking concerning the school in which you work...even if it means complete change?
Thoughtfully answering these questions, helps provide a direction for potential areas of intentional growth.  I honestly believe that if you do not like your world, you should change it, but to do so, you must be willing to throw out the old wine skins to embrace the new!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Pinteresting Finds for the Makerspace and Assessing

Summer is here!!! Today is the last official day for teachers and though I will still report to work for another 30 days, I am already thinking about next year.  Some of the ideas I have found on Pinterest lately could be used for a bit of summer fun or for our new Makerspace:)

First up...slime!  I have never tried slime, but I found these two great variations...
via BuggyandBuddy
both recipes called for liquid starch, liquid glue, and a few embellishments.  The biggest differences? In the ocean slime, white glue was mixed with starch, food coloring and glitter.
via icanteachmychild
For the Star-Spangled Slime, clear glue was used as the base.  I can imagine changing up the colors for different times of the year...orange for October...green for December.  I am at least game to try. My house has been filled with all kinds of "experiments" these past few months as I have tried out many ideas for the Makerspace.  I'll let you know how it goes!
via sunny skyz
How fun is this?  We are getting a new building this summer and I am really not sure how better to make a huge impact on the walls than creating a giant mural from post-it notes.  I love these pixelated murals and think that they would fun to try.  I love that they are not permanent so, they can easily be change to keep the space fresh.
via Kelsey Smith
Finally, an idea for assessment.  In this particular example, students are to stack the cups according to size of the items listed on each cup.  This same idea could be use to demonstrate the order of operations, the order of planets, or any other sequencing activity like ordering trig functions (sin pi/6, cos pi/4, etc).  I am sure if I made it a race, the kids would love it even more.  What about you?  What are you pinning or saving as you look forward to next year?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bound for #DENSI2015

Words cannot begin to express how excited I am to have been selected for #DENSI2015 with Discovery Education. Not once, but twice!!!! About a month ago, I applied for the DEN Summer Institute with this very ordinary video.
After seeing all of the very creative videos submitted by educators around the country and some as far away as India, I was not sure that I would get accepted. I think I checked the #DENSI2015 detail page at least a dozen times in the past week to make sure that the list of attendees had not been released earlier than expected.  Nope! Nada! Nothing until today...May 15, just as promised.  This morning I woke up and ran to check my email... no news.
Checked again promptly upon arriving at work....again, after my morning meeting...and of course, before and after lunch.  Still nothing until 1:08PM!!!! I got this:
Awesome!!! Last week I had received an email asking if I submitted my application with the intention of attending the Principal Summit, the Summer Institute or both.  Ummm...first choice...both!?!  But the Summer Institute alone would be fabulous too... so, no worries.  I quickly filled out my intent to attend feeling super excited.
I tell my co-workers, call my hubby, and of course, send out a tweet or two only to be surprised again by Discovery Education just 3 hours later when I find this in my inbox:
So, what does this mean???
Summer fun and amazing PD!  Thank you Discovery Education!!!!  I can't wait to see you in Washington, DC!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

It's 6th Grade Day!!!

The 6th grade students came to visit today and I am thrilled to say that it went wonderfully!  I shared my plans for the day this past weekend and added a ready made interest inventory and photo props from the Party Blog.  The Kagan structures (my first time to try these) were awesome.  I highly recommend Kagan P.  If you can't get to training this summer, at least checkout their Cooperative Learning book.  There are tons of ready to roll ideas to make teaching and learning engaging!  The time with our perspective students flew by.  We did not get to all of the activities planned nor did we get to see all of the places students listed on their personalized Campus Tour sheets (which leaves me with ready made ideas for New Student Orientation...yay!)
We took pictures of all of the fun and shared them with parents as a slide show made with Kioza.  It was my first time to use the free, online tool, but it was quick and easy to maneuver.  I was able to add text, edit transitions, and add music to my project.  There were plenty of templates to help get me started and I think the end product turned out great.  I'll post more about this tool later, but until then...enjoy the slide show:)
 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Planning for 6th Grade Day

I am getting to plan for 6th Grade Day visitation this week!  I am so excited (but also a little nervous...there are so many details!!!!).  It is our opportunity to meet and greet potential students, so, of course, I want it to go off without a hitch.  I have worked on the agenda, emailed the parents of the students who are visiting, prepped our student leaders, and let the cafeteria manager know that we will have extra kiddos on campus for lunch.
Now, I am working on the details: filling in what we will do during small group time, making name tags, and props for the photo booth.

I am planning my small group details based upon ideas gleaned from a Kagan Cooperative Learning Workshop I attended last week.  The workshop was phenomenal and I found myself making notes of ideas to use throughout the day.  For an ice breaker, I am using Think-Write-RoundRobin based loosely on a personality test in The Creative Brain by Ned Herrmann.  In this low stress activity, students will think about a shape with which they identify and write down a brief explanation of why they picked the figure.  They will share their written answers with the other 4 members in the group. (When we played at the workshop, everyone in my group (except for me) was a triangle!)
There are no wrong answers and each shape is associated with positive attributes.  So, what does each one say about a person's personality?
To help energize the group and get people laughing, we are using Kagan's "Everyone's It!" game from the book Silly Sports & Goofy Games.  Over the last month, I bought 3 no props - fun games type books to get ideas for this visit.  Kagan's book was by far the best!
To play: 1. Players spread out in a defined playing field.  2. The leader calls, "Everyone's It!"  If the participant is tagged, they must freeze in whatever position they are in until the leader yells, "Everyone's It!" again.  We played it in the workshop, using our "turtle feet" to move around the room.  Even in slow-mo, we were laughing so hard that we were crying.
After hearing about all the school has to offer, the visiting 6th grade students will have the chance to plan their own Campus Tour using an All-Write-RoundRobin.  Students will taking turns identifying places on campus that they would like to see.  As each student shares their response, all members of the team write each location on their own paper.  After time is called students are selected at random to share a location that their team listed.  Other teams add the response (if they don't already have it) to their Campus Tour Sheet. I hope that this creates a more interesting tour for each student my appealing to personal interests.  If they want to see the art room or the field house, I want them to see it - after all, 6th Grade Day is all about our visitors!  What am I missing?  I know that I still need to find or make props for the photo booth, but is there anything else?  Please share links and ideas!

Monday, April 6, 2015

ACT Prep: Basic Algebra Skills

For the past 7 years, when I haven't been working my day job, I have been tutoring for the math portion of the ACT.  I absolutely love helping students and celebrating with them as they reach their goals for college and scholarships.  For me, tutoring is one of those things that I think that I would keep doing even if I won the lottery today.  I find it that much fun...seriously! :)
As I have tutored, I have noticed that students tend to miss the same problems repeatedly.  I can tutor 10 students in a week and 7 of them might miss the same problem on the practice test.  We work on the problem type during the session and again at the end of our appointment, but I also like to begin the next session with a similar problem.  It is helpful to have frequently missed problems ready to go either for a tutoring or a traditional math class.  So, today's #Made4Math is just that...a quick 2 question quiz "ready to go" to practice frequently missed Basic Algebra skills. Enjoy!