Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Great Unexpected that Truly Matters

I happened to take my students to the computer lab today to test a website for an issue we have been having. I had students log into Google classroom and click the link I had sent to them. All students found themselves on a webpage about states of matter, which happens to be our next science topic.

I randomly asked how many states of matter there were. Students gave me answers that ranged from 3 to 7. I suggested they read the article to figure out how many states of matter existed. Many were shocked to find out there was more than solids, liquids, and gases. Students were engrossed in conversations with peers, asking questions about plasma and Bose-Einstein condensates. I mentioned our science book discussed three states of matter and does not have the most current information in it. Students asked more questions, their curiosities filling the media center.  

Then an idea hit me like a ton of bricks. I explained that our next science unit is states of matter, and they are going to drive the learning. They were tasked with sending me an email that listed questions, activities, or ideas they had about states of matter. I wanted to know what they wanted to learn and how they wanted to learn it. Students excitedly began typing away, but many were unsure of what goes into sending an email. We had a quick talk about including a subject, a greeting, and a closing.

As messages began to flood my inbox, I quickly saw the ingenuity and dynamic thinking these 5th graders had. We are all excited to learn and discover states of matter as a classroom community. One of my students commented that we went to the lab to test a website and learned more about states of matter than they ever imagined and how to send an email.

If anyone wants to know what we will be covering read on. Here are the ideas of some 5th graders who understand the power of growth, self directed learning, and making discoveries. We will be using all of their ideas to cover our states of matter unit. This will truly be an empowering science study, and I am okay with having no idea where it will take us!

Mia: Could a solid turn into a gas, and then a liquid?

Olivia: I would really like to know what would happen if you combined some states of matter.

Angela: We should see what happens when plasma and solids do when they go together. What does it make?

Ben: Hello quick question Can we make up our own element and describe its proprieties, what it does, etc for a project.  Please.  Thank you 

Zach:  I think we should try to find gas and plasma together. It would be fun to see what it would become.

Vivian: I am wondering can you touch Bose Eisenstein matter? or is it gas?

Owen: I think we should see what happens if we put gas and plasma liquid together.

Hayden: I'm wondering how scientists find and discover the new kinds of matter.

Samantha: I've barley even heard of plasma before and I am wondering how it works. It says if you add energy to gases it turns to plasma. Is there another way to get plasma? If you add energy to plasma, what will happen? I am very interested in this new matter I just found out about!

Addy: I am wondering why all the states of matter turn into each other? I am also wondering if we can do a breakout edu based on the states of matter.

Grace: I was thinking that we could do a states of matter scavenger hunt. Like finding 3 things that are solid, 3 things that are liquid, etc.

Mallory: I think there is over a million states of matter because i looked on wiki and i saw all different things and I was like OHH MA GAAHH. There are 5 main states of matter but there is so much more to discover!

Addison:   I think we should talk about Fermionic Condensate. I wonder why lots of people don't know about it. How is it related to Bose-Einstein Condensate? Can we try and make something that is Fermionic?

Alex: What happens when you put liquid nitrogen in a vacuum chamber?

Taylor: As you know today we talked about matter in the computer lab. I am wondering how many states of matter there really are. I am also not sure what Bose Einstein Condense is exactly. I am so anxious to learn all about our upcoming science lab lessons. An activity that we could do would be to fill a paper bag with air so we can see that there is a type of gas inside.

Lachlan: Can we learn about the state of matter: Gross–Pitaevskii?

Akshaya: Are there more than five states of matter?

Annie: is there a 6th state of matter? I was also wonder if Bose Einstien  condensate  is everywhere and  we just can’t see it? Can you make anything out of plasma? Where would you find plasma and Bose Einstein condensate? What does plasma or Bose Einstein condensate feel like? Can we play that game like the game with when you roll the die and depending on what you roll, you go to a different place but with matter?

Ewan: Can we make ooblec and put it in ice water?

Yei: I think there are 5 states of matter because I looked it up in Google. I would like to know more about this.

Preston: There are 5 known matter - Solid, Liquid, Gasses, Plasma, and Condensates!

Jake:  How do scientist know what is states of matter?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Giving Students A Voice

I hopped on the #flipgridfever train last year, seeing such value for various learners when using it as a tool to enhance instruction. This year I have gone on a Flipgrid Odyssey, trying new ways of doing things. Students left notes for parents on a Flipgrid for curriculum night, and their parents were asked to give a message to their child. Our math specialist happened to come into the room as parents were filming themselves and shortly left, commenting how actively engaged the parents were in the process.

Students have discussed theme of stories, held a book talk for the Global Read Aloud with a fifth grade class in Michigan, and discussed teams and challenges of baseball players after reading Satchel Paige. I can easily tell who understands concepts and who needs more support based on listening to a student’s Flipgrid.

Bright Sunshine - This also provides a voice for all students  when some might feel like  THEY DO NOT HAVE ONE.

Creating authentic learning experiences for students where they can break down the walls of the classroom is something I strive to do. The other day on Twitter I was sharing student thinking about our most recent read aloud book, The Insignificant Life of a Cactus and the movie we saw on a field trip. If you have loved Wonder, Fish in a Tree or those cult classic movies The Goonies or Heavyweights then this book will sweep you into a world where life lessons rule the roost.

Students are brought into a story of someone who is different from them, teaching compassion and empathy for others. We see the protagonist build her confidence and develop friendships when many might have written her off. There is mystery, excitement, and humor written throughout the pages. The author of the book, Dusti Bowling, liked many of the student tweets. She then asked if we would be interested in a Skype class visit, and of course I jumped at the chance to organize this for our students.

I asked students to create a Flipgrid in preparation for our talk with Dusti Bowling. Students were asked to talk about life lessons they learned through the pages of the book. Watching the short clips tonight made me realize the power of connecting with others. Students talked directly to the author, and they were proud to share their thinking. They had a purpose, sharing their thinking with the writer. 

Two years ago I could not image this to be possible. I am glad I discovered Flipgrid as a way for students to collaborate and communicate globally. I hope our students realize the possibilities they have growing up in the generation they are in. Imagine if we could have used a Flipgrid when we were in elementary school. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

It is OK to get advice with how to solve life's problems

It has been brought to my attention that students are still feeling the burn, roasting classmates. Many times this is done in jest, but other times feelings are hurt. When discussing this with students the ones who are being roasted mentioned to me that they feel like telling an adult is “ratting someone out."

I asked them if they can solve all their problems without help. Most said no. I shared that even as an adult I still seek the help of others when I cannot figure out things on my own. It is important to use your network of people around you to grow. 

I explained to students that they were not ratting someone out, rather asking for advice. If they are worried about tattling, they can always seek advice from others without using names.

In our classroom I hope to build a community where students see adults and classmates in here as people who can help them solve problems. We have the bothering box and use of email to make this happen too.

Communicating openly, speaking from the heart, and seeking advice from others are life skills. I encourage you to talk to your student about this, and I hope I cleared up any confusion for students who were worried about seeking advice about how to deal with a situation they are in. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Do You Feel the Burn?

Do you feel the burn? I asked students this question and to then draw me their best fire image. We then sat down for a class meeting with our fire images and discussed what it means to burn. Students talked about fire and friction.  We tested out what friction was and felt the heat of our hands on our faces.

Then we transitioned the conversation to when we burn other classmates with our words. Often times I hear students say, “I burned you.” Or “That was such a good burn.” It reminded me of when my friends would say something followed by just kidding or I got you good! I asked students to think about when we say the word burn in this manner or use words like just kidding are we actually being kind.

Going further we talked about why someone might laugh when they get “burned” by a peer with words. Students used vocabulary like sad, disappointed, angry, and nervous. Others told me they might not care or think the burn is really good. One student even told me confidence is the key to solving this problem. I asked if someone burns you is that person really a good friend? This gave them something to think about.

We decided we were going to put out the fire in here. We blew on our images and ripped them up, tossing them in the recycle bin. I then asked students how they could be part of the solution.  Several said they could ignore it, so I asked if this reaction helps the feelings go away. Others talked about talking to an adult or using the bothering box.

One student wrote, “Just walk away, but first call them out and tell them what is it like to be burned.” YES! Let the other person know what it feels like! Be Bold! Be Strong!  Another student shared, “I can tell the person that it was not funny and it can really get to someone. Some are more sensitive than others.” This is what having empathy is all about.

I did have some students tell me they could get a fire extinguisher.  I do hope the burning with words in this classroom is extinguished.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Discovering Responsible Use of Technology- Make those Mistakes!

During social studies students are working on creating a timeline of an ancient culture (Mayan, Inca, or Aztec) in Google Draw. Working with 7-8 students can present a challenge, especially when they are all on the same document! I have watched these groups evolve over the course of a few social studies classes and wanted to share some of my observations of our successes and what we need to work on.

  • Many students knew what a timeline was and got to work creating it.
  • Students used the comment feature to communicate with one another when they felt they were not being heard.
  • Students grabbed images to support their words on the timeline.

Need to Work On
  • Using the comment boxes for educational purposes only. Saying, “Hey WHAZZZZZ UP!” is not an appropriate use of the comment box.
  • Talking to classmates BEFORE deleting work individuals do not agree with. Students need to learn to politely discuss things when they disagree rather just simply erase it.
  • Planning the work before jumping into Google Draw. This will help with time management.

Towards the end of today I heard a group breaking up into committees. Sharing the word and distributing it equally among group members is a wonderful solution to collaborative work. Once I announced this to the class I heard another group deciding who would do what. We talked as a class about how this one learning experience is teaching us all so much about being an individual member and contributing to a group.

They are also learning what our Responsible Use Policy truly means. I invite them to make these mistakes so we can discuss them. It are these moments students are discovering how to be a responsible user of technology.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

We Need to Keep on Reading

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of attending an event with Jack Gantos, Jeff Kinney, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Jon Sciesczka, and the Library of Congress National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene LuenYang. These talented authors spent some time talking to a group of educators and parents about how to get boys reading and keep reading. They shared that adults should be role models for this, reading with and in front of children.

Hearing how each author wrote or drew as a young child was empowering. I learned that without Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing there would be no Greg Heffley in the Wimpy Kid books. Jarrett shared a memory of having Jack come into his school to speak, and the audience felt the bromance moment as these two authors connected as a mentor and mentee. Jon told us stories of growing up, which had some influence in his writing.

I left the event feeling encouraged! Students need to read, and they can read any material. I wish I had teachers who let me choose the books I wanted to read or allowed me to read cartoons and graphic novels in elementary school. Therefore I have changed our reading homework to say READ instead of read for 20 minutes. Who am I to tell students when to read and how long to read for? This should be their choice. I hope students develop a love of reading, and choose to read a variety of books in our classroom library.

Books are food for the soul. I will never forget this evening, as I was able to laugh, live, and learn with these gentlemen. I hope boys and girls pick up books with both female and male protagonists. There is no such thing as girl or boy books. In my mind, there are just books- adventures to be shared with our young readers. Others might choose to read poetry, non-fiction, newspapers, online articles, etc. The printed word helps us grow! The message from my special evening was powerful- that we need to keep reading!

Jon, Gene, Jarrett, Jack, and Jeff are like the new Beatles for authors. 

Two literary heroes (Jarrett and Jack)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

How Far Would You Walk for Water?

Two big questions drove our kick off for the Global Read Aloud literature circle work: Can a children’s book change the world? and How far would you walk for water? We spent some time hearing from Linda Sue Park, author of A Long Walk to Water. Her words captured a story of bravery, compassion, and strife beyond what many of our students hopefully will ever have to face.

Students learned about life in Sudan, being plagued by Civil Wars. Using Google Earth and Google Street View we paid a visit to Sudan. Students captured the differences in our location and Sudan using vivid words. Being able to bring the world to our classroom makes stories come alive to students.

We know there are two protagonists, Salva and Nya, whose stories are told decades apart yet connect somehow. Students discovered both characters had a long walk to get water, and once they found their drinking oasis it was not clean. They learned about why people in Sudan were fighting and had empathy for those living there.

Students were engaged from the minute we started reading. I firmly believe you hook readers with the presentation of a book. It is in the voice used for characters, background knowledge discussed, and connections made. After finishing one chapter no one wanted to stop. The groaning sound students make when told to put books away was music to my ears.

We learned it is the readers who change the world not the story. The words can inspire us to act. Students also discussed how they did not want to walk far for water. They are lucky they can walk to the fountain in our classroom or a sink in their home or get a bottle of water from a store or fill a glass from their refrigerator. How long would you be willing to walk for water?

Watch this UNICEF video to decide the answer to that question! 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Imagine You Are the Only One in the World To Do Something: Our Maiden Blogging Voyage

Students started learning about their blogging voyage during our writing block. They helped me craft the blog post below, editing and revising the writing. They discovered they could choose a topic of interest and write! Several learned about how to use word count to keep their blog succinct and insert hyperlinks into their blogs to enhance their piece. I modeled how to create a blog post based off some of our class discussions about my cousin Eric.

Imagine you are the only one in the world to do something. My cousin, Eric Freedman, knows what this feels like. He is a rare gem. He won the coveted Shipley Award, given to one gemologist in the world each year, in 1992. His work, including being past President of the American Gem Society which when founded were the elite members of Gemological Institute of AmericaThis led him on an exciting journey.

            Eric was a jeweler in New York that was lucky enough to be the one person in the world to appraise the hope diamond. The diamond weighs 45.52 carats and is currently housed in the Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. Though he will never tell his secrets of how much the diamond was worth, he was the man who put a price tag on the most famous diamond in the world.

            Eric was also known to go with Diane Sawyer of Primetime Live, doing segments about gems. They worked together, sometimes in disguise, to figure out if jewelers were selling synthetic gems versus genuine gems. They used a microscope and a special solution. View another video here! What you might find will shock you! Sometimes the gem’s color would disappear right before their eyes!

            Cousin Eric also worked with pearls. I learned from the video you could put the pearl in your mouth. Then you rub it against your tooth! You want to see if it feels gritty. If it is gritty this is good! Some of you might be running to your jewelry box now to check the quality of your gems. He also evaluated the entire worldwide inventory of Tiffany and appraised the 128.54 ct. Tiffany diamond. 

            I am proud of my cousin and his work. I have learned a lot about gemology from him. I do often wonder if he realizes the scope of being the only person in the world to do something. He even set a world’s record for the distance traveled in a water filled cave (no air pockets), diving 15,680 feet in 11 hours underwater with friend of his. He is a shining example of what happens when you follow your passions.

Hope Diamondf.jpg

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Building My Own Math Mindset

This year I decided to go on an odyssey in math and so far the journey has been rewarding. Going from whole class lessons and students working in partners to a guided math model has been much smoother than expected. Students start the math lesson reviewing the concept from the day before and then either does a number talk, notice and wonder, or my favorite no (a tip I picked up when trying to make students’ thinking visible) all together. This introduces the concept before we break into three groups.

Students have been working on building their mind mindset, creating math memes and discussing what it means to grow as a math thinker. At the next station students play a math game (either online or face to face) or solve a word problem. Sometimes they work with whiteboard practicing problems, creating their own problem, or delve into the world of mathematicians. With me we are diving into the common core standards, practicing math concepts in a small group setting.

 I have been truly enjoying these math conversations I am having with students. I am able to better get to know individuals as math thinkers. I can see where their strengths and struggles lay and build on individual skills to guide them towards mastery. Breaking down lessons into two days to really deepen understanding has proven to be beneficial too. Student confidence is starting to increase. They are more likely to share their thoughts, take a risk, make mistakes, and talk math with seven students versus 22. 

One thing noticeably missing are those speed drills and homework with a whole lot of practice problems. I felt it more important to have students process through their math, reflect on their math thinking, build strategies that work for them, and see math for all its beauty. After all, math is everywhere we look!