Thursday, December 17, 2015

Snowflake Matter Activity (and Video)

Click on THIS LINK to view the student video




Yesterday I worked with two groups of third graders at the end of their matter unit. The teacher and I are working together to try and incorporate a tech project at the end of each of her science units. 

I would like to claim this snowflake idea...but I got it from a friend of mine who is a science lab teacher at another school. She was showing me how she had her third graders make dipped wax snowflakes as part of their study of matter. She awesomely lent me all her supplies so I could do it with the students I had. The tech component was they had to make an iMovie (new skill for them) explaining what they did (in the iMovie they had to have one definition, they had to use at least two unit vocabulary words, and have a safety tip...we kept it pretty basic because we had to finish it that day but the requirements could certainly be increased based on grade and available time). 

The teacher very nicely gave up a large chunk of time for this. She teaches math and science and we used both blocks. She was giving a math test and said it could wait until the next day (we are on our last few days before the holiday break).

In my demonstration to students we talked about the characteristics of a solid and a liquid and how matter is effected by temperature (in this case heat and cold). They knew this from their unit so this was a review and a hands on demonstration of these concepts. 

This is what you need:

Crayons - We went with blue. The science lab teacher had asked the art teacher for all the broken unwanted crayons since she didn't care what state they were in. The students had to find one blue crayon...size didn't matter.. from the container and strip any paper off of it.

Snowflake Templates - You can find free printable templates HERE. 

Hot Plate - Please warn your neighboring teachers and the front office that you will be melting crayons so if anyone reports a weird or burning smell that it is just your class. You will get wax on it so you might just designate it your "science hot plate" for future projects. 

Pie Pans - You need two and you can get them from the dollar store. They are acting as a double boiler on top of the hot plate (so water goes in one that is going to be on the direct heat and the other will be on top of that to melt the crayon). Get some started before class so you aren't waiting forever to have a base of melted crayons.

Coffee Stir Sticks - Just to mix the crayons and pop the wax around the snowflake openings. They will be thrown away when you are done.

Wax Paper - We used a large piece next to the hot plate for dripping when the kids blew on their snowflake to cool the wax down.Warning!!!! - You will get wax on your clothes so wear an apron or clothes you don't mind having wax on it (I didn't and had to google "how to get wax off clothes")

Plastic Tweezers - The science lab teacher got them out of one of her kits...so you might check your kits to see if you have them. That is what you are using to put the snowflake in and out of the wax. 

Fishing Line - Only if you are hanging them up or want the kids to hang them up at home.

Extra Hands - This would be a great activity to get parents involved or if you have floating friends around the building (I have been known to ask the assistant principal for help...guidance counselor...office staff...literacy interventionists...school social worker...etc.). In this activity there were three adults in the room..which was super helpful. There was the teacher, a push in interventionist, and myself (at one point we even had the math coach in the room). 

From a classroom management point of view we did everything step by step. (1) I gave a little review of the activity and the learning points. (2) We all cut out the snowflakes and did the folding and cutting together (3) We called table groups up to get their snowflake dipped. All this could have been done in her  35 min science block. Tables who were done could opt to do another snowflake (to keep them occupied...or you need to find something else for them to do).

We added the element of making an iMovie so students took pictures along the way and this is what made the activity longer. We directed them when to take pictures. I had the first group take too many pictures (basically of all the stages of cutting and folding the snowflake)...so I reduced it for the second group (one shot of the template and then one shot of the finished snowflake). I then had to walk them through how to make an iMovie since they had never used that app before. The first group I did a whole group walk through and let them go on their own but I had a lot of whining and needing help. The second group we did everything together step-by-step and it went a lot better. 

The teacher and the students seemed to enjoy the activity and it was the perfect time to do it with the class (the week before Christmas break where the students needed something engaging and the teacher needed something to keep them engaged :)  

Monday, December 14, 2015

Touchcast (Green Screen) Video Entry




I worked with a class of 5th graders last week making green screen videos with their TouchCast app related to Westward Expansion. The one featured above was the "best of the best" and was entered into a video contest put on by TouchCast (fingers crossed they win). The teacher will win a Studio in a Box to use with future classes.

It was the largest project I have done with students with the app. I have played around with it on my own but organizing and executing a script based project definitely was more time consuming then I originally thought. I now have a better idea of how I would go about planning it next time. I am hoping to get the app added to all 3-5 iPads in the district next year (I wish they had a web version as well for our middle/high students who use Dell tablets). The only problem is that the app is rated for ages 12 and up so principals have to agree/sign a waiver to have it added to iPads. I'm hoping that if I have more student samples that it will be an easy "sell" (so watch this space for more video ideas).

Modeling "Call Back" Chant


I was in a classroom the other day helping with something TOTALLY unrelated to the teachers lesson. As I was working I was listening to the teacher teach math to her 1st graders. She did such an awesome job (I mean I stopped what I was doing to see what she was doing...teaching 1st graders is a rough subgroup for me...control wise). Anyway, we had to test out what I was helping her with (signing 1st graders into our science tech book) and I asked her to repeat this "call back" she used with her students as she modeled how to use the shortcut we set up. I video taped it because it was too cute not to.

I tried it today in a 3rd grade classroom and they picked it up pretty quickly. I would like to say I was as successful as the teacher in the video but alas I failed to model what "watching" looked like first (my mistake).

So, if you are going to use this call back make sure students know and practice what "watching" looks like before introducing it.

Christmas Music Composition Recommendation




Last night I attended a Christmas concert put on by the Marine Corps Band and it was...as always..outstanding. My favorite piece was the one above called Minor Alterations - Christmas Through the Looking Glass composed by David Lovrien. It made me think of a Christmas themed circus (dark and light) as I was listening to it. The unusual remake or remix of all these iconic Christmas songs made it on my December music list for the classroom (for sale on iTunes for .99).

I thought I would share...since I had never heard of it until last night.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Technology Newsletter - November and December 2015


Each month I work on our department's monthly tech newsletter. It gets compiled from a variety of sources...resources/ideas from other tech coaches, upcoming technology support activities, blogs I follow, etc.

Just recently I added a project corner where I highlight three or so tech projects that either I have done with students, seen teachers do with students, or other coaches have done with students. It is definitely worth a look if you need any ideas for incorporating technology within the curriculum.

A lot of items are relevant to our district only but you should be able to skim and scan quickly to find items that might appeal to a wider audience.

Click on the following following newsletter links to view -

November 2015 Elementary Tech Newsletter
December 2015 Elementary Tech Newletter

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Student Peer Feedback



I was in a training class today where we were talking about how to teach students to give feedback. The instructor showed this video which features the evolution of a butterfly drawing a student completed after receiving peer feedback at various stages. The difference from start to finish was impressive! I loved the video and thought it would be something I would share with students (when teaching them the importance of feedback).

The instructor then had us go around the room and provide feedback on group projects. She had us use sticky notes BUT we had to write on the sticky side so that when we left the note it was face down as opposed to face up...so that way people walking around couldn't copy each other's responses and the feedback was private. That was pretty awesome (yet another idea I would copy).




The feedback we left was "Praise, Question, Polish" - something you liked, a question you had, and a suggestion for improvement or something to think about. I made the suggestion to change it to "Praise, Pause, and Polish" - I like alliteration. The pause would mean  "pause and share a question you had".