A Tour of the Body Systems

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Now that it has been several weeks after the end of the school year and two weeks of writing curriculum and a trip to Mexico, I am ready to reflect on an end of the year review that I did with my learners.

A colleague came to me before our final weeks of school and asked if I’d like to try using Spheros in my classroom. I am ALWAYS game to introduce new technology in my classroom and grow myself, so I jumped on the idea. After discussing a few logistics, I suggested reviewing the body systems for their final exam. I would have three days, which made us all a little nervous…that is not a lot of time to “play” with the devices, plan the tour of the body system chosen, code the Sphero and then present to classmates for review. But, I was confident in my learners. We are a blended classroom and I had been throwing resources, Apps and digital challenges at them all year. They did not let me down (and impressed everyone.)

Steps in Planning:

  1. My colleague, Monica Champagne, sent me this Google doc to get the ball rolling. I made a few simple tweaks to the terminology and posted it to my LMS for my learners to copy and collaborate in groups.
  2. A week prior, I had learners download the Lightning App and view a couple of tutorial videos on how to use the app.
  3. One day before I had the Spheros available for students to “play” with in class once they had finished the day’s assignment. I also had the outline of the body you see in the photos printed (we have an awesome printer in our library!) and ready.  Thank you to Trisha Goins, my DLC, for trouble-shooting the size of this outline!!
  4. Next, was our planning day in the classroom. Groups were larger than I like, but we only have 8 Spheros and with our connectivity, they don’t all always work at the same time. Eight would have been ideal, but we used 5 so we always had a back up. With the groups being large, I wanted to make sure all students were busy. So, I added PlayDough in the mix for learners to create their body system. So, body systems had to be created, the Google Doc had to be completed, the Sphero had to be coded and the hopes of a practice run-through all in one day! Students will always rise to high expectations and appreciate that you believe in them!!!
  5. Tour Day. I did have to give them about 20-30 minutes to organize and finalize their code, etc. This didn’t go as smoothly as wanted with some devices not connecting, groups accidentally connecting to another group’s Sphero, the code just not working. However, the students loved the challenge and the problem-solving; which is really what it is all about!!!
  6. Added half day (because it was just so awesome!) so learners didn’t feel defeated and could have a chance to show off their tour of the system.

I would like to add that I had never used Spheros myself or in the classroom before this time. Take risks, educators!! In addition, one of my learners found the fix that helped every group in class in their solution to making the Sphero “speak.” For all the groups in the beginning, the Sphero would complete the first movements and speak, but then stop even though code followed. After problem solving over and over, she found out that after the Sphero spoke you needed to have a timed pause that lasted the same amount of time that the Sphero spoke. I was in awe. She had never coded before and confessed to not watching the tutorial videos!! Her group learned together and then showcased their tour to the class. Then, each of those members went to other groups and helped them with their code. OUTSTANDING!!!

This whole process was amazing. And, it wasn’t amazing due to it’s no flaws success. It was amazing to see thinking, collaboration, problem solving, taking on a new challenge, etc. This is how learning should be. I call it “getting your hands dirty.” We learn by experience, and this is one of the best experiences of the year. And, we did some really cool stuff!!

Thank you to Monica Champagne, Victoria Tong and Trisha Goins for your ideas, support and trouble-shooting! Thank you to Bruce Hermans, Emily Froese and Laura Francis for coming and spending time with us as we coded!!

#BreakoutEDU Science

Recently, I and my Digital Learning Coach (DLC), Trisha Goins @heartinlife, discussed #BreakoutEdu. We both were interested, but hadn’t found much in our research. She then texted me and asked if I had time for a breakout activity in my class. I am always game for innovation, and that is how our journey began!

We met several times to design our breakout session for a genetics activity for seventh grade science. We started a little lost as we still couldn’t find a tangible example of a breakout lesson that wasn’t expensive nor broke down the lesson in steps to show the design. We went to Youtube and watched some videos and got some ideas. And, our design started to develop in our planning.

I love the Dollar Tree, a teacher’s best friend. I found two small tool boxes, key locks and combination locks. This does beat the hundred dollar kit you can find online.

The Case of the Missing Chromosome became the breakout activity with four challenges, 1  per group, duplicated for eight groups. Each group of four where challenged to “breakout” their missing chromosome from a normal male karyotype. I set aside two class periods of fifty-two minutes each for completion as I did not know how long it would take the groups. You can see in the photo below, I have a missing chromosome at 6 and 21, one for each of the two large groups. I made these with pipe cleaners.

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I designed four challenges, one for each small group of the two larger teams. My challenges were: DNA Model Challenge, Natural Selection Challenge, and a Punnett Square Challenge.  I used Learn.Genetics for the digital resources. I love, love this site. You should check it out. (My all time favorite is Lick Your Rat Pups! Seriously.) My fourth challenge was a puzzle with the clue below.

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This puzzle was a challenge to me! I wanted to cry at times when I made it. Really, I did. I persevered and did like my product. Well, at least one of them. I’ll share that news in a minutes. So, I don’t know why it was so hard to keep blocks straight, facing the same direction, not flip them, etc. BUT, IT WAS?!! Oh my goodness! I questioned my intelligence and if I should really be teaching young people. Again, I persevered. My husband’s comment after two episodes of Big Little Lies and Shield, “You’ve worked on that for a really long time.” Yep. Be quiet now. Cry a little on the inside.

It took me several hours, but I do like the product. The idea is, that they should know from class, that a flower reproduces sexually. They should put the puzzle of a picture of a flower together and then find the code to the combination lock when they flip it over. The other pictures are of a hydra and a bacterium; which would give them the wrong code. Mrs. Goins used Google Drawings to create the photos that I Mod Podged on the block. I purchased the 1X1 blocks from Amazon. In hindsight, I would not use so much white on the blocks. Three sides all have white corners and  even though I did it to be challenging, that lead to some confusion.

However, I mentioned I share some other news? Well, one puzzle wasn’t so successful. My students put the flower together and flipped it over to find a bit of a mess. Mrs. Goins, my DLC partner in crime, tried to help. Then I looked. Hmmm. I gave them the code; which you could kind of see in the mess on the back. Here is their reflection video App Smashing Pic Collage and ChatterPix. (Don’t you love their honesty?!) We were stumped. Mrs. Goins stayed in class trying to make the puzzle work. Our brains were tired. I tried the next day as well and still got my learners’ results. I swear every time I finished a side I flipped it to check the code! Cry a little on the inside. Resist the urge to throw the puzzle across my office.

That was really the only hiccup in our #BreakoutEdu challenge other than my students finished it in about twenty-five minutes! They were intently focused. So, in the future, I will add challenges or make them harder. This was also my learners’ requests. Check out their feedback on this Padlet. They loved the pressure of the challenge, the competitiveness and that it reviewed what they already new, but also challenged in some new ways.

Finally, I wanted learners to summarize their process and reflect on this breakout session for their learning and for my learning. Here is the the reflection assignment to close the breakout activity. On the first day, I had them end with capturing their process and taking the  photos listed in the reflection and any others they wanted. On the second day, we completed the Pic Collage and ChatterPix App Smashing sharing them on our discussion board in our LMS (Learning Management System), Schoology. I liked using ChatterPix suggested by Mrs. Goins. It had been a while since I used it and it worked well for this activity.

Hopefully, this helps any of you that may be wondering what is the #BreakoutEDU thing! Let me know if you have questions or comments! Try it! Your kids will love it!

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Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Many years ago I watched this movie I’d call a “c” movie. The “c” comes from growing up being forced to watch these bad movies because we had one TV and my Dad chose the movie! Remember those old Kung Fu movies where they just grunted a lot and made Kung Fu movements? Yeah, those. So, I started a rated system of letter grading for them. He’d just laugh. But, it was the summer in the middle of the night and I watched it. I can’t remember if the name of the movie was Lather, Rinse Repeat or it was just the moment at the end of the movie that pulled all of it together. (A Google search did not help  me.)

The storyline was a group of grown friends stay at the home of a friend’s whose parents are selling the house in which she grew up in and the whole group had memories there. So, they stay one more night and party like they used to or tried. The culminating point of the story is that they haven’t past the best parts of their life as they thought, they just need to lather, rinse and repeat. Have you ever tried it? Followed the directions on the back of the shampoo bottle? Well, if you have, you’ve experience a much richer lather and fuller experience.

For some reason, this movie kept popping into my head at the most random moments; in my classroom, in our PLC time, researching, etc. It kept coming up. What came to me is the connection within the classroom. When educating our students all of whom have very diverse background experiences, we must lather, rinse and repeat often. We must let them experience our content in multiple ways so they can grasp the meaning and connect to their prior learning; and hopefully, close the performance gap increasing their success.

 

Horses & Goats & Prayers, Oh my!

I have been thinking a lot about my teacher beginnings and the funny and not-so-funny happenings; which have become my stories over the years. My next few blog posts will be a series of “learning moments.” I want to start with a now, funny story of Horses and Goats and Prayers!

So, my first year of teaching I wasn’t really supposed to actually be teaching. I was hired as an athletic trainer, non-teaching position. As experienced teachers know, assignments can change in a moments notice before school starts. So, I was now teaching a section of PE and Speech! What?! I did have a background in PE as my major was Exercise and Sport Studies with a minor in Biology.  Speech was an interesting assignment. Hmmm. You may have guess that I wasn’t certified to teach Speech by now while you read. Well, I wasn’t and the principal got his hand slapped for that move….but, I digress.

My Speech class turned out to be one of my all-time favorite experiences. New teacher, no curriculum, no certification-hands down one of the best experiences of my teaching. I think fondly of that class.

It was about my fourth week of school and we had read our favorite children’s book to warm up to talking in front of the class. We had completed our obligatory All About Me speech and were working on our How To speech.

The day had come for speeches. My first district was a rural one and we had completed a How To Change An Alternator, How To Bake A Cake, etc. I called on my next speaker and she said, “Okay, we have to go outside. I’m doing How to Tie a Goat.”

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Me: “You brought a goat to school?” Not quite sure how I managed to ask this question as my jaw must have dropped to the floor.

Student: “Yeah, my Mom has my goat outside.”

Me: “Your Mom has your goat outside right now?” utterly in shock.

Student: “Yes.”

Me: “Okay, {pause} let’s go outside.” as I FREAK OUT IN MY HEAD!!!!

Here is the conversation in my head as we walked outside: “Oh my gosh, can we go outside?, Is this okay? They brought an animal to school!, Oh my gosh, I’m going to get fired, I guess it was nice while it lasted…”

We get outside and Mom pops the hatch back of the SUV and my young lady proceeded to show us How to Tie a Goat. Now, I grew up in the country and raised many animals including goats. So, it wasn’t that I was new to animals, rural areas or even goat ropin’.

The whole time she’s giving her speech my internal dialog consisted of: “Oh God, please don’t let the principal come out here. I don’t see anyone about, please don’t let anyone see this. Pay attention to her speech, Sunny, your grading this! Please don’t let the principal to come our here. Hurry up!” Make it back to the classroom. Whew, it was a close one. No one is the wiser.

Day Two

Speeches continue. I call on a young man that is not too keene on school, nor does he talk much. The strong silent type. He has his speech! HE HAS HIS SPEECH! SUCCESS! YES!

Student: “I’m going to do How To Saddle a Horse.”

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Me: “You brought your horse to school?” thinking,  that’s a LOT bigger than a goat. I don’t think your Mom brought it to school in the back of a SUV. Crap. Why didn’t I ask if anyone else was planning on bringing an animal to school. *Me now: “Rookie mistake!” 🙂
Student: “Yes, I brought by trailer and truck. It’s okay I’m in Ag.”

Me: “Okay, let’s go outside.” as I cringe and say another prayer.

We arrive at the trailer. The student already has his horse ready and tied to the back of his trailer with the tack ready for his speech. He gives a fantastic speech! I am so proud. Guess what same dialog in my head. I think I’m going to get fired and sure hope that a principal does not walk by – why would they? We are in the remote back of the school, right? Nope. Just about the time the young man is finishing his speech not only the head principal, but the associate principal BOTH walk up!

I’m petrified and braced for the worst.

Principal: “You think outside of the box Strait (my maiden name).” as he keeps his stride moving on.

What?! I wasn’t dead. I not only wasn’t fired, but got a compliment!? Note to self: Ask if any other students are bringing a freakin’ animal to school!

My most favorite story to tell other teachers, but especially new teachers. It’s great lesson in flexibility, taking risks and trusting your students.

Do any of you have some great stories to share? Please share in the comments! I would love to read them!

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