Sunday, April 27, 2014

Full STEM Ahead......

My love affair with Donor's Choose is still going strong!  They never let me down when I write a grant, and it has gotten even easier to request needed materials now that they have partnered with Amazon as a vendor.  I also LOVE the fact that all donations are matched by Donor's Choose within the first 7 days the project is posted.  I usually put my request up on Facebook, Twitter, and email close family members and have my grant funded within a few days between people I know and those I don't.  In the days of limited budgets and stagnant salaries, Donor's Choose is truly a life saver!!!

My current project is focused on STEM activities for my Kindergarten and first grade students. STEM -- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics --seems to be a major push in lots of school rights now, and I wanted my kids to have a chance to explore these academic disciplines in a fun way. So, how did I do it?!!! I came up with the idea that I wanted to request a variety of building materials -- Magnatiles, plank blocks, Legos, stacking cups, and gear blocks-- and use them in engineering centers. Each center has a specific task card to guide students in what they should be building with the assigned material.  However, there is a lot of room for students to use their own critical thinking skills, creativity, and problem-solving abilities within each task.  Some of the websites I explored to add to my own ideas were these great Livebinders here and here.

I introduced the idea of becoming an "engineer for the day" with these YouTube videos to help explain what an engineer does. Kindergarten saw this one:
First grade will see this one:

I also wanted to incorporate teamwork skills, which can be a struggle for this age group, so I created a teamwork checklist that we follow during the center activities. Students rate themselves at the end of the lesson and give themselves 0, 1, 2, or 3 teamwork points as a way to reflect on what they did well on and what they need to improve. The Kindergarten students helped me brainstorm the three skills:  Passing materials, whispering and making a plan, and talking nicely and using manners.

Each child also has a center activity sheet to help with accountability for completing the center. Again, I explain the sheet at each center and assist as needed, especially with some of my English Language Learner students.

These engineering centers are particularly exciting for my Kindergarten kids who I teach "specials" (enhancements, rotations) to each day because they can complete the entire rotation of centers over the next five to six weeks.  At this point in the year, I wanted to mix things up and have more of a challenge since the majority of my students are reading and can handle being a little more independent. I am creating groups to ensure that at least one really strong reader is in each group and am assisting when needed.  My first graders will only receive one lesson so they will probably only get to explore one of the following five centers:

1.  Magnatiles:  Students work on building a house together.  They start with a cube and use their imaginations to add the magnetic tile shapes to create the rest of the structure. On the activity sheet, students identify the shapes and colors they used and sound out the names of the shapes to write them down. In my  opinion, Magnatiles are one of the coolest building materials around. If you haven't tried them before, you've got to check them out!!!

**Permission was given to post these pics of students on my blog since I am required to share pictures with Donor's Choose.

2. Lego Center:  Students attempt to build a "pet carrier" for Bruno who is 5 blocks wide by 1 block high.  They have to think about how he will get in and out and how he will breath. Initially, I was having students use the plank blocks for this center, but I could tell they weren't as familiar with these types of blocks and it was harder for them to build a tall structure so I switched the Lego and plank task cards....always tweaking and adjusting!

3.  Gear Center:  Teams works to create a new invention that will create wind in this center.  They have to see how many gears they can get to turn and count the final number for their activity sheet.

4.  Plank Center:  This center is focused on having students build a bridge that a toy car can cross.  Students practice using measurement and compare hand lengths to the bridge to determine how long it is for their center sheet.

5. Stacking Cups Center: Students attempt to create a tower using Solo cups.  The task card stipulates that the tower must have at least four levels and use at least 20 cups, and students draw the tower on their activity sheet.  Check out how great my kids did in the picture to the right!

Here are some more close-ups of the students' work on their center activity sheets (left and below).  So far, we are having a blast and I am really enjoying seeing the students use their creativity to work together, use their brains, and have fun! My first grade kiddos start their lessons this week, and I think they will do an even better job due to having another year of maturity and problem-solving skills. I truly could use these centers all the way through third or fourth grade and may do that next year!!!  Send me a comment if you have done any STEM activities or have any other questions!                                      Happy Counseling! ~Angela

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Integrity and Beyond!!!!! - Part One

Two more days until Spring break starts and we are going to make it!!! I have been having fun with my Easter egg hunt again this year (see my post from last year here and download some free new quotes from the Life on the Fly Store). I have also been doing some exciting lessons on Integrity.  I found a great idea from my friend and previous guest blogger, Rebecca Atkins, on her blog here. Check out her original description of the lesson and write her a nice comment. :o) After being inspired, I tweaked the lesson to include some of my own activities and objectives. I taught the lesson in first grade, but I could have delivered it in second or third grades with no problem. I will be posting my original Kindergarten Integrity lesson later this week.

First, I started out with my Integrity definition pre-survey (D is the correct answer) and noted the baseline data.

Then, I connected the definition of Integrity to some current events with this great news story found on the Today Show website.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

We discussed the story as a class and did an oral retelling activity to incorporate some literacy objectives and emphasize the behaviors showing Integrity.  I ended our class discussion with the cliffhanger question, "Do you think the boys earned the $50,000 or not?!" and got the students' predictions.

Next, we had a blast with a kinesthetic activity "Balloon, Balloon" (see my Ordinary Objects post here) where the students got to pass the balloon around until I said FREEZE.  The lucky student catching the balloon read the behavior their hand was touching, and we decided if it showed Integrity or not.  I had TWO rules to make this game a fun learning experience rather than a free-for-all mosh pit.
1)  Feet had to stay planted on the ground as if they were rooted to the ground
2)  We had to be silent/quiet while passing the balloon (after all, trees don't talk!)

We discussed behaviors such as lying, stealing, cheating, following the rules, admitting you are wrong, recycling, littering, etc.  I wanted to incorporate Earth Day themes since that celebration is coming up later this month!!

It was really fun! I had also created a Smartboard slide where we could sort the behaviors visually to Integrity/No Integrity sections on the board, but we didn't really have time to do both.  We ended the game by brainstorming other behaviors that show Integrity at school and at home.

Finally, I introduced our flower activity.  The students enjoyed creating the petals and decorating their plants and pots. I even incorporated some Science objectives and had early finishers label the different parts of the plant, which the class had been learning about in class.  Check out the finished products to the left and below!

 Happy Counseling and Enjoy! ~ Angela

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Guidance Essential Standards

Tomorrow I am sharing a Guidance Essential Standards presentation at the NC School Counselor's Regional Drive-in Workshop for the Capital Region of North Carolina.  I could not be more excited to be with my NC peeps and the fantastic state organization that offers us so many professional development opportunities.  I am posting my presentation here so the attendees of my workshop can easily access the information as we discuss and delve into the Guidance Essential Standards.  My blog readers can also check out the information below.  I hope it will be helpful to you!

If you are interested in getting a copy of the K-5 Guidance Essential Standards crosswalk document I have created, you can find it at my Life on the Fly store here.
 Happy Counseling! ~  Angela
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