Tuesday, March 25, 2014

STEM Training

Why is it when some people hear "STEM" they moan and groan or run away in fear?!?! Today, I attended the first day of a two-day STEM training held at my district office. I have to say that the training we had today was among the best I have ever experienced in my 10 years of teaching. First of all, it was almost all hands-on and conducted in the same manner one would expect teachers to use STEM with their students. It was also full of authentic, real-world reasons that it is crucial we integrate STEM in our schools. To make this training even more "21st Century Skills"-oriented, we collaborated via video teleconference with teachers in Korea and mainland Japan.

As an educator, sometimes I cringe at the thought of having to do group work during training. Today, my group was fabulous! Our first task was to build the tallest tower we could using only 15 sheets of printer paper. My group got to work quickly and created a tower that was 61 inches tall! Since we were given no time to really plan the first time, we did the activity again with time set aside for brainstorming ideas and planning, and we managed to get our tower to be an inch taller :) Below is a picture of the first tower:


Our other activities were awesome too! The second was creating a "pyramid" of plastic cups without using our hands. The only tool we had was 4 strings tied to a rubber band. That was an amazing lesson is communicating and using teamwork! Our first try, we were the first team to complete our pyramid. We had the opportunity to perfect our technique, but I think we were overthinking things, and it took us a bit longer. 

The final activity was creating a lunar landing module. We designed something great, but then we realized we were designing the module based on the Earth's properties, and not thinking about the moon. So, our awesome design with flaps designed to create wind-resistance would have done little to help our little module on the moon. It was a great way to show that sometimes, it is REALLY important to develop background knowledge before jumping in. 

I am so excited to go back tomorrow and learn more about the Engineering Design Process and all of the neat materials and activities we will get to use from Engineering is Elementary! I truly wish I could just teach every lesson the way we were learning today. I noticed integration of not only the STEM subjects, but several others as well!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

February = Lots of Fun in First Grade!

Wow! I never realized how much fun I missed out on as a 4th grade and 7th grade teacher! Last week we celebrated our 100th day of school and Valentine's Day. This week, the students are excitedly researching U.S. Presidents in honor of President's Day. Next week, we kick off our celebration of Dr.  Suess with Literacy Night. All of these things seem to be much bigger deals to my little 6- and 7-year olds. While I would sneak in some fun with my older students, February meant that our Terra Nova testing was right around the corner, and I think that put a damper on some events. So, I am trying to enjoy every last minute of pure JOY that I get to see in my students' eyes on these wild and crazy days!

I don't have a camera in my classroom this year, and I keep forgetting to grab my phone or camera when we are doing awesome stuff. I promise we have had some educational and fun days :) For the 100th day, we enjoyed a healthy snack thanks to an idea from Pinterest. Students had a baby carrot (for the 1 in the hundreds place) and two slices of cucumber (for our 0 tens and 0 ones). I have never seen children so excited to eat veggies! They loved it! We also spent time building structures out of 100 plastic cups, decorating silly hats with 100 stamps, pictures, words, etc., writing about what we would do with $100, and making art out of the digits of 100 (another awesome Pinterest find).

On Valentine's Day, we tried to keep it mellow. I introduced some fun Valentine's Day math centers in the morning. My wonderful student teacher led a fun art and writing activity. Students created "pop art" hearts, and we used those as the covers of our Valentine's Day cards. Students practiced their letter writing skills inside the card. Then, we enjoyed some treats and passed out Valentines in the afternoon.

I am excited to see how anxious the students are to do research to learn about new things. The President research activity has been a favorite! I will share pictures of these once they are finished. I am sure I will have a lot of great stories to share over the coming weeks.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Math Museums

So, I am very new to Everyday Math, but one recommended 1st grade activity is creating various "math museums" to display objects related to the topic we are focusing on. A few weeks ago, I had my students bring in 5 items from home that showed numbers. We then classified their "number" objects into things we find/use at home, at school, and in the community. We also discussed the various ways numbers are used in our daily lives (money, measurement, addresses, phone numbers, street signs, etc.). It was a great way to make the math that we study each day relevant. For many days after we "opened" our museum, students were bringing in new examples or pointing out numbers in textbooks, the cafeteria, and all around the school. My next museum will be a "Patterns Museum" since we are focusing on patterns right now. I am excited to see what the students bring in to share!

Do any of you use Everyday Math? What are your favorite activities?

Here are some pictures of our "museum":

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Moving on down....to 1st Grade

Well, I suppose I need to change the title of my blog because as of this past Thursday, I am now a 1st grade teacher! On August 2nd, my family arrived in Okinawa, Japan. Less than a week later, I got a few calls for interviews at Department of Defense schools (I taught in the same system in the US). I interviewed at two schools, both for 1st grade, and received job offers from both! I accepted a position at my children's school and it has been a whirlwind ever since.

I got to meet my wonderful students and their parents on Friday. It was so hard for me because my classroom was NOT at all ready, but the parents were so gracious and understanding. Our household goods did not arrive on the island until Thursday (2 months after they were packed and shipped from our home in NC), and I had given away quite a bit of my teaching gear because I was worried I wouldn't get a job and I would not have the room in our home to store it. Boy am I kicking myself now :) I did save a lot of books and other materials, so I will just have to deal with what I have for now. Fortunately, my school has great materials in the classroom ready to go.

aI spent today organizing my home and working on plans for the first week of school. We start on Monday! Tomorrow I will be heading in to finish up my classroom the best I can for the start of the year. I have a feeling it will be an ongoing process, but I am so excited! I am praying for quick shipping since we don't have teacher stores or anything here. EEK! I hope you will continue to visit my blog, as I will continue to share ideas and activities, but now they will focus a bit more on primary concepts!

I hope everyone has a WONDERFUL school year!!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Feeling Lost this Summer!

This is the first summer in quite some time that I haven't had any planning to do, and I am not sure that I like it! Since we are moving to Japan, I do not have a teaching job lined up. It doesn't sound very promising that I will get one anytime soon :( So, I have been browsing Pinterest and all of the teaching blogs to try to gather awesome ideas for all of the grade levels in case I have the opportunity to teach. What are some of your favorite blogs for "general" education ideas?

Monday, June 17, 2013


The end of the year festivities this year were bittersweet as I said goodbye to my students and my school. My family is moving to Okinawa, Japan this summer. I had to give away TONS of my teaching materials, and that was SOOOOOO rough! Fortunately, I know that my colleagues will get so much use out of them. I still have about 6 bins of things, so I won't be heading overseas empty-handed. I am not sure if I will be able to get a teaching job for next year, but who knows.

Here are pictures of the gifts I did for my students:

I just found some cute, FREE water bottle labels, threw in some smarties, drink mix, and a crazy straw. They all seemed excited!

I had my students do an activity I found on the blog "Confessions of a Teaching Junkie" called "Just One Word", then created word clouds using on Tagxedo.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

End of the Year

Wow, this school year has definitely flown by! My grade level has decided to do a "Minute to Win It" game day to celebrate the last days of school. I am so thankful for all of the wonderful teacher blogs out there who have shared information about how they did activities like this in their classrooms. We are also doing some heavy-duty review, especially in Math. I am sad to see how much my students have forgotten, even with regular review throughout the year :(

What are some of the end-of-year activities you do with your class??