Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Seed Bead Loom Bracelets

When I was a little kid....maybe 7 or 8 I had a small bead loom that was given to me for Christmas one year. I used it quite a bit but never got really fast at it or completed many projects. A few weeks ago I decided to give it another try and have had much more success.

My first attempt is the black and gold narrow one on the left of the picture. The weaving was a bit loose and a few ends of threads show. The way that I finished the ends are really rough. I left all of my extra warp threads on one end of the work so one side did not have much thread to work with to add any sort of clasp.

My second piece is the wide turtle piece. The weaving came out really good, its tighter and I surprised myself by being able to follow the more complicated pattern. I centered the work so I had warp threads on both ends to use to attach my clasp. Actually attaching the clasp was still a challenge, I didn't have any jump rings or crimp beads and trying to tie it all off just became messy.

So off to youtube I went and found a tutorial on how to end the weaving and attach a clasp without having it look cruddy. The problem being the directions were specifically for work with 8 warp threads so it limited my designs. I made two bracelets using this method and it worked well. One is a rainbow chevron pattern and the other sort a geometric design....I just forgot to take pictures of them.

Now I am onto my next piece. I really wanted to try out this ladybug pattern. I modified it from a peyote stitch pattern that I found and figured out how to work it on the loom. I have 12 warp threads and have come up with a plan to use the crimp beads and modify the plan from the 8 warp threads to end this one. I am going to do groups of 3 warp threads, cross two of those sets and crimp them together. Then the outer two sets of three will be ended just like on the 8 thread design I have been practicing. I'll come back and add some more pics and updates when I get more done.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Dealing with "that" student

We all have at least one! That student who can get under your skin and irritate you like there is no tomorrow.

This semester I lucked out and got three of them in the same class. Back in January I got my new class list, looked at it, looked up at our guidance counselor who does the scheduling and asked her if I had done something to tick her off and this was her way of punishing me. Since then I have endured weeks of 90 minute classes that feel like they take all afternoon. I have scoured the internet, tried everything in my bag of tricks, talked to colleagues, and put out pleas for advice in online forums. Some tips have worked wonderfully and some not so much.

We have just about 3.5 weeks of school left and I think I am going to survive. So looking back on these long weeks I want to share some of my tips, some advice I received from others and some tips from other bloggers.

My top 5 list for dealing with challenging behavior in the classroom.
  1. Have a plan and be consistent. My set consequences are: warning, phone call home, study hall with me, detention, office referral. I wish I could say that I was perfect and always stuck to this but I can think of many instances where I have broken this. I know looking back that it has made things more difficult for me. So this piece of advice is as much for myself as for anyone else.
  2. Don't yell or argue with an upset student. You are only adding fuel to the fire and in my opinion this encourages students to be argumentative with you. Back in the winter I had two students get into a physical altercation in the hallway just outside my door. One student marched himself right down the hall, the other I got to come in my room so as to keep them separated while I alerted the office of the situation. The individual in the room really wanted to argue with me when I said I needed to report the incident. I tried to keep my voice as calm as possible when I told them that I wasn't going to discuss it with them any further until the principal got there. By the time she got there he had calmed a bit actually managed to explain what happened in a fairly calm and respectful manner.
  3. Speak to students privately about their behavior. Calling them out and making a big scene in front of the rest of the class will only embarrass them and often encourage them to act up more to get the attention from peers. That's not to say that you should ignore behaviors either...but if it warrants more than just a quick subtle reminder I try to have the conversation away from other students either in the hall or briefly after class.
  4. Move on. Hand out the consequence for the behavior and move on with the lesson or activity. It seems some kids just look for any attention they can get, even if it is negative. Don't let one student become the focus of all of your attention. It is not fair to the other kids and only serves to encourage them to continue seeking attention through bad behavior.
  5. Don't be afraid to laugh, smile, or share a joke. Teachers are human too and students need the chance to see that. We aren't there to be their friends but I don't think the saying of "never smile until Christmas" really helps to build relationships at all. You can't get anywhere if all of your students dislike you. Just this week a student was tossing his pencil up and down and catching it. I spoke to him requesting him to stop. A few minutes later he started in again, before I could get anything out of my mouth the pencil soared over his head and behind him, he swung is arm back to catch it and smacked his hand off the file cabinet with a loud thunk. Everyone laughed, myself included. Someone pointed out that if he had listened to me he wouldn't have hurt his hand. Another student looked at me still giggling and says "you must really hate this class". I shook my head, "nah...but you have given me a few grey hairs." To which someone threw in the comment that I could name most of them after him. The whole thing took about 1 minuet of class time away. Was it an interruption, absolutely. Would yelling at the kid to listen to me or getting mad at everyone who laughed have done me any good, I don't think so. At my prompting everyone settled back down and my pencil tossing student kept a tight grip on it for the rest of class.
I asked some fellow bloggers for their input on the best classroom management for difficult students. The following was submitted by "Common Core English with Ease"

Every student (and human for that matter) wants a safe environment to feel seen and understood. Difficult students will test boundaries to see if they can provoke you to frustration, anger or even apathy. It is your job to show them that you will continue to believe in them, and enforce consistent high expectations, regardless of their disrespectful or disruptive behavior. The only way to do this is to be consistent and caring.
How? First, make positive phone calls home and write positive, heart-felt notes to students (or parents). Do this as soon as possible (in the first few days of school)! Most disruptive students also show leadership skills so give them classroom “jobs” and report positive news back home. If a difficult student has one good day, call home immediately! Many disruptive students simply want attention so don’t ignore them when they are “good.”

Second, survey the class for the following: Birthday; favorite snack or birthday treat; favorite academic activity from previous year; Non fiction topic, event or person I am interested in learning more about; favorite hobbies or weekend activities; favorite sports teams; desired profession; year-long goal; life-long goal; One thing I wish my teacher knew about me…; If we go on a field trip, I wish we could go to…; if I was a teacher, I would handle misbehavior by…; If I was a teacher I would make time for…; etc. Then, follow up! Use the student’s Non-Fiction topics as the content for assignments, projects or even 5-minute bell ringers. Celebrate children’s birthdays, and incorporate any of their responses into casual discussions or classroom traditions!

Finally, if these proactive methods do not work, handle disruptions with emotional constancy. How? Do no react immediately to difficult behavior: Pause; tap the students desk during instruction; make (non-aggressive) eye contact with the student; Give a whole-class (anonymous) positive reminder of expectations; Say you are waiting for 1- students to follow directions or pay attention; Then privately whisper to student to change behavior or their will be a consequence for repeatedly disrupting the lesson. Then, and only then give a consequence. If a loud outburst does not allow you to follow this continuum, simply pause and say, “That was not appropriate, we will discuss your consequence after class.” Then have a calm 1:1 conversation discussing your concerns, expectations and goals. A weekly conversation to track goals and progress is a great way to manage that chronically difficult student. Find my “Collaborate Problem Solving” approach and behavior trackers to start effective conferencing today!

Be sure to also check out her Classroom Management and Behavior Solution Bundle. You get a behavior tracker, posters with expectations and consequences, and a protocol to follow to help change behaviors!

Have a great tip or resource on classroom management. Feel free to post in the comments and share with everyone else.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

"Block" Scheduling: the good, the bad, and the ugly

My school works on a 90 minute block scheduling system. I see my classes every day for 90 minutes for half of the school year. In January we switch classes and begin again. Through a few different schools I have worked on a 45 and 60 minute period schedule as well and can honestly say that I do prefer blocks. That's not to say its a perfect system and there certainly are challenges.

Another school in our district is in the process of switching from 45 minute all year classes to the same 90 minute 1/2 year block system we are on. This has brought up a lot of conversation with staff from the other school and really got me to thinking about why we use this system.

  • Being a science teacher I love having the extended time with students on lab days. We have plenty of time to go over the task, do the task, and clean up.
  • I love project based learning and assessments. The 90 minutes allows individuals or groups large chunks of time to work on projects in class.
  • Writing papers is a time consuming process, having 90 minutes in the computer lab to work on a lab report, essay, or other writing task is awesome. Slower writers have time to think through the process and make some progress and the faster writers have time to do editing and proofreading.
  • If you have that one class or one student who you just can't wait to be done with ... you only have them for half the year.
  • When developing new lessons or curriculum you have two chances in the same year to work on perfecting a lesson.
  • I have time to go over homework, do a lesson, do an activity about that lesson, and have students start their homework in case they have any questions.

  • A block of 90 minutes is a really long time for a student to be on the same task. Planning for this length of time requires planning in multiple different activities to break up the time and keep students focused.
  • Only having students for half the year can mean making some compromises on what topics you cover - you can only squeeze so much into their minds at once.
  • That class that is getting under your skin...yep you are with them for 90 minutes...aka the longest 1.5 hours of your day.

So what does a typical class look like for me on this 90 minute block??

5 minutes - students enter, get out their homework, complete a bellringer question, I do attendance and answer questions.
10 minutes - go over homework or questions that we left hanging from the last class
20 minutes - direct instruction...goes over a lab procedure, lecturing on a powerpoint, going over notes students need to take.
30-45 minutes - activity/game/reading/lab something student based where they are working and I move around the room to answer questions or guide the process.
10-15 minutes - wrap up and debrief from the activity
10-15 minutes - assign homework and have students start / exit ticket

This obviously isn't set in stone. Lab days can be almost the whole 90 minutes in the lab. Some days if we have a lot of content to go through we spend longer on direct instruction. If that is the case I do try to split it up into two 15-20 chunks of time with something in between to give them a break from listening to me.

My biggest piece of advice is to always plan to do multiple activities in one class period. If you think you are going to spend 90 minutes lecturing from a powerpoint and keep 16 and 17 year old kids focused then you have magical powers that I don't possess.

I'm curious what others think on the block vs. period scheduling debate. Feel free to comment and throw in your two cents!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Helicopters and Seed dispersion


During one of my first STEM workshop series classes we made these really simple, fun paper helicopters. We approached the task from an engineering perspective and were challenge to make them "better" in some way. I lost the original version of the template I had from class so I went looking online and found one that I could print from here.

Not the best picture but a completed helicopter is there on the table, it is the piece with the paperclip on the bottom.

Then a few weeks ago I was working on planning out a lesson that I could using during my elementary STEM special. Since it is spring I wanted to start doing some lessons that related to nature and would lead into us getting outside soon. It was still chilly and rainy so I needed a lesson for inside and went scrounging through my closet looking for ideas.

Last spring a small collection of rocks, fossils, and other items collected from nature was donated to my classroom by a local man. In the containers I also found a collection of seed pods and nuts that had been collected from around the country. I decided to do a lesson a plant adaptations for seed dispersal. I found some ideas online and printed some pictures of other types of seeds to go along with the samples that I had.

My dilemma was that I wanted more of a hands on activity - I had the sorting activity but I wanted something that they would make or build or model. Then BINGO...a light went off as I was looking at the seeds that fell out of a pinecone. Helicopters. The seeds were helicopters and spun the same way that the paper helicopters from my STEM workshop did. We could make those and use them as a model.

My seed helicopter inspiration.

The kids loved it! After we made and played with the helicopters we talked about a model. I asked them to tell me what parts of our model were like a seed helicopter. The paperclip was like the seed at the bottom and the paper wings were similar to the wings on the seed helicopter. I asked them why it was useful to make a model and got the answer that it was bigger so it was easier to see how it moved. The kids left with homework to take their helicopters and trying making changes to see how it affected their movement. They had ideas such as adding more weight or changing the shape of the wings to be more rounded like what we saw on the seeds.

This week we are starting the Egg Drop Challenge - I was excited to see one team sketching out wings for their design based on how the seed model helicopters traveled. More on that project to come after we finish it.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Setting up crafting page

Ignore this post .... I am trying to set up a page for crafting projects and need a post to link the label from ... I think .... I am not 100% sure what I am doing yet. Hopefully this will work!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

May Currently

Since I wasn't blogging much I haven't participated in the monthly "Currently" link-up that I used to love doing. Yesterday was my birthday so I was out with my sister and friends for the evening. Tonight I decided it was time to jump back on the Currently bandwagon and see what everyone had going on in May.

I have been on a fitness and healthy living path for a while now. Since the weather is finally improving my goal is to get out and run at least three times each week. The last two weeks that didn't happen because the weather was so cruddy. Hopefully todays sun is a sign that this coming week will be better. I did 3.4 miles tonight in just under an hour .... ok so by run I meant jog....or walk.

I've always been crafty but had gotten into a funk and wasn't doing much. At my husbands urging I have taken on a new project to keep my busy and being creative. I bought a small bead loom and some supplies. The first bracelet was pretty rough but now that I have worked out the kinks the second one should be better.

My thinking, wanting, and needing are all pretty self explanatory....

Oh summer - only 6 more weeks of school until you are officially here. I love working in my garden I have tomatoes and peppers started inside to go out in a few weeks. Hubby and I are trying to plan a decent vacation for this year. It's still up in the air but I am really liking the idea of driving down to Virginia. And I have so many friends who now live far away I wish I had the time and money to visit them this summer.

Ok, that's it for me. Head over to Oh' Boy 4th Grade to check out other "Currently" posts for the month or to join in and add your own.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Weekly Sneak Peak and Secondary Sunday Linky


I'm a planner, when I fail to plan nothing gets done, I get discouraged, and things start to fall apart. Lists are my best friend during the school year, if I don't write it down it might as well not exist.

This past week was school vacation so getting back into the swing of things is always a challenge, especially the closer we get to summer.

MONDAY: I need to hit the ground running  with both of my high school classes. Physical science is making a smooth (hopefully) transition from focusing on velocity and acceleration to forces and more complex systems of motion. My forensic science class has moved rapidly and we are well into our biological evidence topics. This week we are going to be reviewing and wrapping up blood spatter patterns then moving on to DNA.

TUESDAY: We have bus evacuation drills in the morning, which is always so much fun! Hopefully all of the back from vacation kinks get worked out on Monday and Tuesday can be a fairly normal day. Afterschool I need to start working on my chemical inventory - one of the many joys of being the lab manager by default. It is a time consuming process but my storage area needs a clean-up so I will do that at the same time.

WEDNESDAY: In addition to everything else I am a Key Club advisor. This afternoon is our regular meeting and we have a lot to get done. The new Key Club year starts in April and my goal for this year is to be more proactive as an advisor and do better communicating with the officers of the club to make sure they are following through.

THURSDAY: I plan Thursdays to be grade-palooza. I try to grade things throughout the week and get them back to students as quick as possible. On Thursday I try to get caught up on anything that isn't done yet and get grades updated in our online gradebook. I slacked a little in the updating online last semester so I am going to try to do better for the last 7 weeks of school.

FRIDAY: Happy Birthday to me! My only day this week without something during study hall so I hope to get some cleaning and organizing done at the end of the day. It amazes me each week how much clutter I can accumulate in a week! I also try to make sure my plans for the next week are done before I leave school on Friday...this doesn't always happen but it makes the weekend easier when it does.

OK and now for the Linky part....I love Linkies and I haven't done one is ages. If you are looking for some great secondary TpT products or blogs to check out head over to Links and Lattes at the Language Arts Classroom.

Links and Lattes.

I decided to share a product from a favorite new series I have created "Say What?". I love using these short print and go writing prompts with my students. They are great for the start of class, to fill in time when students are done early, to have them do when I have a sum....basically anytime I need something meaningful to fill in 5 or 10 minutes. Plus with common core I am trying to do way more writing in my classroom and this helps me towards that goal. Head over to the linky to see this and tons of resources from other teacher authors/bloggers! Have a wonderful week everyone.

Say What? - Thinking and Writing Using Quotes, Nature of Science

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Elementary Students have "stuff" ...

Yep, "stuff" and they insist on touching me! Last week I watched as the most adorable kindergartener stuck two fingers into her mouth then reached out and grabbed hold on a matchbox car we were using for an activity on motion. I cringed and made a mental note to take the Lysol wipes to the cars before I put them away. In that moment I understood why the elementary teachers were laughing hysterically with a workshop presenter about the "stuff" elementary teachers dealt with.

As a high school teacher I don't often have to deal with this sort of "stuff". But for the last 9 weeks or so I have been traveling down to the elementary wing to teach a STEM special in our K-6 classroom. I have a newfound appreciation for elementary teachers and what they deal with every day. Before I get into details on some of my favorite lessons let's run through some of the unexpected lessons I have learned myself.

  1. Elementary students have "stuff" and they are going to share it. Pack the Lysol wipes and the paper towels and be prepared. They sneeze and drip and cough, I don't see how so much fluid could come out of a human that is so tiny. No amount of "wash your hands please" or "cover your mouth" is going to keep you safe from it all.
  2. If you aren't an elementary teacher but spend any time in their classrooms you are going to become an instant celebrity. I get waved at from the opposite end of the halls, high fives as I pass by, they grab my hand to try to hold it, and more than a few try to get their arms wrapped around me to give me a hug on the way by. I feel like I need a red carpet every time I walk down their hallway now (and some Lysol wipes to deal with #1.
  3. Time management skills mean nothing when it comes to planning for little ones. What I think will take 15 minutes ends up taking 45, and if I think it will take me the whole period to complete they are done in 10. I have learned a whole new meaning to flexibility and thinking on my feet!
  4. Elementary teachers could probably very easily transition into being zookeepers. Like the ones that work with the crazy little monkeys! Teaching one 45 minute class to 12 1st graders takes more energy out of me then the rest of my morning does with 9th and 10th graders.
  5. Teaching elementary is way more rewarding and fun then I could have ever imagined. They light up with each new activity and are so genuinely interested in what we are doing that it amazes me. I don't know that I could ever be cut out to be in an elementary class full time but my short snippets of time each week are pretty awesome....despite all the "stuff".

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Let's Give This Another Go

I've taken another long hiatus from blogging. I've been focusing on my classroom and my family and have set aside some others things for a while. One of my goals for 2015 was to blog at least twice per week so that is going to be my goal starting this week. Plus I have so much to share about the STEM class I have been taking and the elementary STEM special I have been teaching. I also want to branch out and start blogging about other issues related to teaching, gardening, science in general, or whatever strikes my fancy. So, here is the last few months in a nutshell and a sneak peek at some of the post ideas that I am planning.

  • STEM Class: I have been participating in a once a month STEM class hosted by a local education organization. There are around 40 teacher total who are completing the series of classes. The last one is coming up in May and I am going to be sad to be done. We have built helicopters, learned how to run 3-D printers, make stop motion animation movies and much more! A few of these ideas I have already tried out in my classroom and will follow with longer posts about them soon.

  • Elementary STEM "special": By a freak scheduling arrangement I ended up with my first block free this semester. I filled it with a once per week class with grades K-6. With K-3 I have focused on activities that we could complete in one class and were fun while focusing on a science skill or topic. With 4-6 I have done a few projects that spanned a couple of weeks and focused more on engineering design. These have included straw rockets and recycled racers. Based on these I have begun to add elementary products to my TpT store.
Paper helicopters - this was an engineering design project with my 9th graders and then I modified it to make models of plant seed movement (some seeds are "helicopters" and travel in the wind).
Density column activity with 2nd and 3rd grade.

  • UbD lessons: I did a ton of work on my physical science Understanding by Design lessons over the summer and have been teaching from them this year. This has meant a lot of editing and rearranging things as I have figured out what worked and what didn't.
  • Aquaculture: This has been a big research project as I am hoping to one day convert the old family farm into either a hydroponics or aquaponics facility. I have experience raising trout and salmon in my classroom which led me to thinking along those lines. There is so much information online so I am in the process of shuffling through resources and trying to determine what would work best for our area. In the meantime I am making due with my minigreen house set up in the living room. I have microgreens ready to be eaten, about a million tomato plants started, and the pepper plants just went in today. They are a bit late but I am hoping they will catch up.

  • Health: Back in October I started busting my behind with a Beachbody program and coach. It has been an up and down road but I am eating a lot better and being much more active. I've lost around 20 pounds and am planning to do a couple of 5K's in May. I am also looking into doing a charity 10K walk in July.
I'm glad to be back to my blog and excited to make some changes for the better. Stay tuned!