Monday, June 29, 2015

The Brown Bag Art Challenge - STEAM project

Engineering, math, teamwork, problem-solving, art, and PHENOMENAL FUN!  Each student received a SECRET challenge hidden in a paper bag, such as building the strongest bridge, tallest tower, longest line, or building a house with windows and doors that can open.  They could only use construction paper, markers, a ruler, scissors, and tape.  ALSO, there was a 45 minute time limit. As groups finished, each student completed a reflection sheet about the project.

My 5th grade students loved this end of the year project! 

This was a teaching idea I got from Angela Watson of - this teacher ROCKS!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Who or what inspired you this year?

Blogging and putting on a Back 2 School Boot Camp this summer was inspired in large part by a fabulous long-time teacher and friend, Jennifer Richmond.

These ideas had been percolating for quite some time.  Have you found this to be true in your life?

Another person who has inspired me for quite some time is Rick Morris.  I've heard him speak, have his books, used many of his ideas, and frequented his website, and yet find that I sometimes need to hear or let an idea sit on the back burner before I try it out. This coming year, I'm planning on using ideas from his chapter "The Top Ten Things I said" from his book Eight Great Ideas, especially the phrase "thanks" when collecting multiple responses.

Other times, I'll see an idea on Facebook, Pinterest, or blog and try it out the very next day.  Runde's Room at, Angela Watson of, and Mrs. Wilson of are just a few teachers who regularly inspire me.

Comment below about who inspires you.

At the Corner of Inspiration and Collaboration

My goal is to inspire students to want to know more. Students who come up with questions that I don't always have the answer for and then together we take a journey to discover the answers. This journey will probably beget more questions and so the spark of curiosity is lit and the student takes charge of their own education.  To me, this is the point of education.

This is my goal as a teacher but not always my reality, yet.

This year has been one of inspiration for me.  I have embarked on an educational quest of my own.  I desire to know more and feel that teachers are the best resource for inspiration, collaboration, and best practices because they are in the trenches every day actually implementing the zillion of education reforms that come our way. Yes, there was a bit of hyperbole in that last sentence which my students would have totally pointed out after our invigorating read of My Side of the Mountain which is chock full of figurative language.

This quest has taken me to workshops, other classrooms, campuses, Starbucks and Coffee Bean, long phone chats, mini-chats in hallways, emails, books, blogs, and websites, and I'm still hungry for more.

Basically, I've been collecting a PLN, Personal Learning Network.  For those who don't know what that is (I didn't until 6 months ago), it a network of people who inspire you, grow you, allows for collaboration, and the sharing of ideas.  PLNs are all about the teacher-learner directing her education which I know is the most valuable and influential method of learning.

This collaboration has inspired me to think more deeply, reflect more often, and helped me to develop new ways in which students interact with the curriculum.  

One of the biggest takeaways in this year's instruction has been more meaningful dialogue in the classroom in which students discussed texts beyond answering questions on a worksheet, actually discussing what interested them, what they still didn't understand.  More about this later - this was definitely a game-changer in how I will approach reading and writing in the future.