Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Let the Mystery Begin!

One thing I never had the chance to blog on yet, but I wanted to take the time to do was our first class Mystery Hangout session!

I had attempted completing a hangout with another grade at our school to connect with a previous faculty member of ours, but it became too chaotic with so many bodies in one room.

I received an email from another teacher in Nebraska, based on a group that I was signed up for with mystery sessions. I figured it would be a perfect time to connect, since my students would need something new to try and have fun during the week of state testing. They may think of this as a brain break, but it actually does require them to work and critically think. :)

I reviewed my notes from my previous attempt and began consulting one of our district iCoaches for another brain to discuss ideas with. We narrowed my classroom into 7 specific jobs.
1. Back Channel leaders - managers of our discussions on Today's Meet
2. Google Mappers -eliminating locations based on questions
3. Social Media - Taking pictures and video to post to instagram and twitter. I also had a student complete a guest blog review on our classroom blog.
4. Researchers - helping to research and narrow down facts on the mystery location
5. Greeters - Welcomed and asked/answered questions
6. Recorders - Took notes on the answers that were given to us for our yes/no questions
7. Runners - managing the tables to guide and relay information to other teams.

The students had fun and they are ready to give it a try again. They definitely learned how to be more prepared for our next session scheduled.

Things I recommend doing:
1. Make sure EVERYONE has a job, everyone did in my class, but I still had some that needed more
2. Eliminate groups that you see not working and change job titles (Example: Back Channel will now be local researchers for just state facts.)
3. Practice in advance, role play with the students so they begin to understand the format.
4. Remember, this is when students take the lead. Be their coach and have fun!

On a side note, one of the more exciting parts is that another teacher found our classroom blog somewhere in cyberspace. They contacted me on Twitter and we now have our 2nd session setup for when we return from spring break!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Literacy Leveler App Review

Every Tuesday, our district iCoaches send us helpful links that we can incorporate into our teaching as their "Tech Tuesday" email series.

Well, this week there happened to be an app listed that caught my eye. I'm very much a frequent follower to Apps Gone Free, but this one happened to not be listed on there, however, it was still discounted as FREE from the normal price of $4.99 in the App Store.

So, what is the app that I am leading up to? It is called, Literacy Leveler. Literacy Leveler is available for both the iPad and iPhone. If your school uses a reading leveling F&P system or by Lexile Number chart, this will be an app you won't want to miss!

The app is so simple to use. Once opened, you can scan a book's barcode and up will pop the lexile number and level. As with any library, not all books are listed in there. But, my students and I have found that it is pretty successful, you can also use the option to try and search by title. I can't begin to tell you how much time this has saved when my students search for books independently at their level.

I highly recommend keeping an eye out for it!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Restaurant Design

Practicing area, perimeter and map skills can get quite tiresome with the traditional drill and practice on paper. One thing that I have challenged myself to do more in math this year is to really focus on applying math to real world situations. When doing so, I believe it makes the experience in my classroom much more valuable.

The original idea for this project came from a project that I saw posted by "Room 205" on Proteacher.net. There were bits and pieces of the original project that I used, but I did modify it to fit the needs of my students.

Students were presented with a hook, to get them excited about the project. I probably could have just stated they were going to design a restaurant and they would have been just as happy.

Directions were given to students and then to make the experience more valuable, we dug through the internet for vacant buildings in our local city. We selected a building with dimensions that we agreed upon and away the students went with the first phase of their project. I say "phase" because rather than making this one large project due on a certain date, it is much easier for my students to chunk the project and turn in for mini deadlines. This way they just have to piece it together in the final.

Here is a breakdown of the individual phases:
Phase 1 - survey the community and collect data on restaurant theme ideas, graph and analyze
Phase 2 - measure out a floor plan based on the dimensions, work with the art teacher to design a digital logo to go with the name of your restaurant
Phase 3 -  Make your floor plan digital and add in dimensions of various rooms
Phase 4 - Adding in table and furniture measurements
Phase 5 - Use Room Planner "Free" on the iPad to build the restaurant into a 3D model. Students can decorate the inside.
Phase 6 - students complete final presentations and design a menu that fits their theme

Each phase lasted approximately 1 week, as it was also built into the other activities that were taking place with our weekly iTunes U math rotations.

Overall, the students had a great time with this project and immediately asked if we could do another one identical to it. I love seeing my students excited to learn! Next year, I would love to move the level up this project up by connecting with professionals in the area to seek advice in designing or possibly even visit a vacant site.