Sunday, February 22, 2015

Refocus with Koo Koo Kangaroo Quiet Signals!

This post was originally published last week on the GoNoodle Inspire Blog. Click {here} to see it there.

Do you find it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get your class’s attention and maintain it? At this point in the year, amid snow days and full moons, refocusing a talkative collaborative class can be a challenge.

Enter Koo Koo Kangaroo.

If your class is anything like mine, they are obsessed with Koo Koo Kangaroo songs, especially the new ones.  So much so that they usually continue singing after our brain break is over. One day, after one table of girls kept singing “Get, get yo’ body, body m-m-movin,” well into math, I had an idea.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right??

I decided to try to use some of the Koo Koo Kangaroo songs as quiet signals, and the results have been awesome!

Since “Get Yo’ Body Movin’” was my inspiration, we started there.

Teacher: “Get, get yo’ body, body {whisper} qu-qu-quiet.”

Students repeat, and voila! You will have all eyes on you, and you’ll see a room full of smiles.

What could be better than that?!

And who doesn’t love “Pop See Ko?”

Teacher: “Your hands are high. Your feet are low. {whisper while holding up a zero} And this is how you show zero.”
Students: “Our hands are high. Our feet are low. {whisper while holding up their zero} And this is how we show zero.”

If you want to extend that one, you can have them continue in the “Pop See Ko” fashion by whispering, “ze-e ro-o, ze-e-e-ro-o.” Either way, the results are a focused, quiet, smiling class.

These are the two that I have come up with for my own class, but the possibilities are endless. You could “Stomp it. Stomp it” back to your desks after being on the carpet. Or complete your “Ninja Training” and “chop” over to your meeting area. The more creative you are, the more engaged your kids will be!

Happy GoNoodling! 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Building Engineers Part One: Future Structural Engineers

In this blogging series, I will be highlighting some of the ways I have been able to incorporate engineering activities into my classroom. For several years, engineering was the part of the STEM acronym that I struggled with the most. This year I have been brave enough to experiment, and the results have been phenomenal! 

I happened upon this pin at some point this year and made a mental note that I wanted to do something similar. Measurement appears this quarter on my district's curriculum map, but we are knee-deep in addition and subtraction to 20 at this point. So I have had to get creative to squeeze in those measurement standards, too. I thought this structural engineering project (during our Science time) would be the perfect way to do that. 

I started by asking parents to send in some materials for us to borrow. One mom of four boys came in the next day with an entire wagon full of exactly what I needed! We ended up with Legos (™), Duplos (™), Mega Blocks (™), Lincoln Logs (™), Tinker Toys (™), Magformers (™), and K'Nex (™). If you're keeping count, that was enough for seven groups! I have 25 students this year, so I was very happy to be able to keep the groups small. 

On the first day, I just let my little stars play with the materials to familiarize themselves with them. They tried to build the tallest structures they could, and they quickly learned that this was more challenging with some of the materials than the others. I also learned that many of my kids had no experience with some of the toys. 

Tallest structures using Legos (™) and Tinker Toys (™)

I also introduced the concept of nonstandard measurement by having them try to measure their structures using whatever they wanted - their hands, feet, pencils, books, etc. - and they quickly saw that one group's "4 hands tall" was different from another group's. We ended that day with a discussion about their challenges and the need for a more standardized unit of measure. 

The next few afternoons, I showed them photographs of famous structures on the Promethean board and asked them to try to recreate them using their materials. We tried an Egyptian pyramid, the Taj Mahal, and the Parthenon, but the structures that were the most successful for them with all of the different materials were the Eiffel Tower and the Tower Bridge in London. 

Eiffel Tower using Legos (™)

Eiffel Tower using Lincoln Logs (™)

Eiffel Tower using Mega Blocks (™)

Each time, they measured their structures using a non-standard unit and a standard unit (inches on a tape measure) and recorded the results. 

Tower Bridge using K'Nex (™)

Tower Bridge using Tinker Toys (™) and dry erase markers as non-standard unit of measure

Tower Bridge using Magformers (™) and inches as a standard unit

For a free download of the recording sheet we used, click {here}.

Throughout the week, my kids photographed some of their structures with iPads (we have a cart of 30 in my school) and then blogged about the experience on their KidBlogs. I was thrilled to see posts like, "This was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be," and "We had to work together as a team." This also allowed the other kids to see each other's structures that they may not have seen during the actual building phase. 

The level of engagement during this time each day was intense. My kids asked all day long when they would get to "build," and I was just as anxious. 

Leaders emerged, discussions ensued, and learning solidified. 

Mission accomplished. 

Projects like this, especially those related to STEM, are so important to include as often as possible because kids don't always have these experiences outside of the classroom. If we are going to encourage kids to pursue careers in the engineering field, we need to give them opportunities to experiment with these kinds of hands-on activities. I had to step outside of my comfort zone, but the results were worth the risk. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

New Blog Design and February Currently!

Notice anything different? 

If you were my husband, your answer would probably be no. But since you're not, I hope you LOVE my new blog design by the FABULOUS Megan from A Bird In Hand Designs and I Teach. What's Your Superpower? I feel like a brand new person!

I am seriously in love and could not be happier with how it turned out. 

When I started this blog a few years ago (but then waited a year to actually publish a post), I purchased a pre-made design and didn't realize that a pretty big TPT'er and blogger had the exact same one. I felt like a major copycat but didn't want to spend a fortune on a new design. 

Enter Megan. 

Now I have something that I absolutely love and am so very proud of. Everything, from my new fabulous signature to the tiny star next to my web address, is perfect. 

If you're new to blogging or just need an update, check out her site RIGHTNOW!

You won't regret it! 

And I love that my first post on my new blog is February Currently with Farley at Oh Boy 4th Grade! January was ROUGH. February isn't starting out so hot either since I still don't have a voice, but I have high hopes. 
I also turn {gulp} 30 this month, so it has to be good. Right??

Listening: Since my babies are napping right now, all I can hear is the ticking of the clock on the wall and the hum of the fridge in the kitchen. Ahhhhhhh….

Loving: My new blog design, of course!! 

Thinking: I could really use another day off, so I wish I had snow outside my window like so many others do. All we have here is rain. :(

Wanting: I lost my voice yesterday. A squeak or a weird, deep barky sound is about all that will come out. I really really really hope I wake up tomorrow to find that my normal voice has found it's way back, or tomorrow will not be fun. I should probably brush up on my sign language tonight.

Needing: I have yet to begin my plans for the week. I should probably get started on that…

Pageant Title: I don't think I even need to explain this one after the "Needing" part. I drive my husband absolutely insane with my procrastination. Things like, "Can we run in Target on the way, so I can pick up a gift for this party we're on our way to right now?" make him want to jump from a moving vehicle. But you know what? It all gets done. Just makes things a little stressful sometimes. 
I'll work on it. 

Tomorrow. :) 

I hope you all have a fabulous day! Enjoy the commercials game! My store is 20% off today, too!