Thursday, July 15, 2010

Summer - a time to reflect and refresh!

As I spend my summer relaxing after a grueling school year of assisting with our school's accreditation, finishing my masters program in one year and tackling the task of being director of our school's after school program, I am once again being reminded about how much I love the upcoming month of August. Nothing gets me more pumped up about the new school year beginning than the numerous ads that are out advertising back to school sales. While many parents cringe at the thought of receiving the upcoming teacher's supply list, I gleefully go from store to store to find the best deals for my buck!

After all - what other time of the year can you get 12 pencils for a penny?!? (Staples people - check it out) However, I have come to find out that over the past few summers I tend to over buy on these amazing deals. Upon last check, I discovered I have about 1000 pencils that have never been sharpened. Or about 100 folders that are simply collecting dust in my school closet. So this summer I have turned a blind eye towards these amazing deals and am simply focusing on ideas for my classroom. 

Speaking of which, I was lucky enough to have another one of my ideas accepted into Mailbox Magazine for intermediate teachers. Funny - it's an idea that I submitted almost 2 years ago and upon seeing it am reminded as to what a great idea it actually was! And saddened by the fact that I haven't used it for quite sometime. This summer's goal? To pull out and dust off those old ideas and to find some new ones!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Bringing Music into Science

Today I began one of my favorite lessons which I just started last year. Since we are headed into the end of the year and we have completed all of our Science lessons, I now have my students write and produce their very own Science Song. The only requirements - they must have three verses and have the chorus repeated at least twice.  Oh and of course it HAS TO TEACH A CONCEPT.  :-)

Last year I had kids do songs on the layers of the Earth, the ecosystem, and my personal favorite translucent, transparent and opaque. (Best part about the last song is they recorded their whole song mispronouncing just added to the character of their song!)

The students write their own lyrics using their Science book as a guide in groups of two. Each group needs to chose their own Science concept as I don't allow them to repeat. Once they have finished writing their song, they create their music and melody in Garageband (however, you could download the program called Audacity for free online or use Acid Xpress 7). Once they have their music created I send them into the "Recording Studio". 

The "Recording Studio" all set-up. 
Now this is the fun part - I turn my closet into the recording studio. Now....I know what you are thinking. Students a closet.  Yes. BUT I set-up a camera which is linked to my desktop so I can see them in real time.  Works perfectly and I haven't had a problem.  In the closet is a laptop with their music, headphones so they can hear their music while singing and my RockBand microphone stand and mic which is connected to the laptop to record their singing. I have even rigged a light outside that has red paper strategically placed over it near the top of the door for them to switch on so the rest of the class knows when recording is going on. 
The red recording light outside the door.

The kids absolutely adore this lesson and it gives them an opportunity to share what they have learned. As a gift, I record all the songs onto a CD and give it to the kids at the end of the year. 

If interested in checking out last year's creations you can visit my wiki at Science Songs:

You can also download the lesson plan and forms I created here:

Let me know any comments or suggestions you have. :)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Teacher Appreciation Week

As 2010 Teacher Appreciation Week begins, I wanted to take some time and thank some teachers who have made some type of impact in my life. 

Mr. Wilkins
This man was my eleventh grade Geometry teacher at Streamwood High School. I was not a very good math all. However, in his mind failure was not an option for me. Everyday he would give me a pass to come see him during his lunch hour (my study hall) and he would provide me with extra tutoring. He wasn't paid to do this. I remember him trying to eat his lunch while helping me.  I may not have received an "A" in Geometry but he taught me a gift far greater than just math. I don't think I ever got a chance to say thank you to him. However, 15 years later I still remember his selfless act and hope that one day I'll make an impression upon a student like Mr. Wilkins did on me. 

My Co-workers at School
I am lucky to work with an amazing staff at my school. Since there is only one teacher per grade, we don't have the luxury of sharing ideas within a grade level. However, we an amazing relationship with one another and support each other unlike any other group (within education and without) that I've ever worked with. No matter how bad of a day I'm having, I know that I can count on my colleagues to be there to pull me through. I'm blessed to be working with them!

A to Z Teacher Forum and Proteacher Forum Members
These are two forum boards that I visit often (especially during the summer when I have a bit more free time) and post questions and ideas and in return get some insightful responses from other educators. Again, this is a group that if you're having a bad day, you can go and find some comfort with these teachers. I've also been able to get some amazing ideas to bring back into the classroom from these boards. This is a group of educators who willingly share their time and ideas to help make us all better at the jobs we love to do. So I say thank you to all of you!

If you have an opportunity this week to thank an educator in your life, I hope you'll join me in doing it. Until next time, I would like to thank all the teachers out there who work so tirelessly to make a difference in a child's life in one way or another.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Socktacular Day

One of my favorite activities that I do with students is coming up - SOCKTACULAR DAY! This day is dedicated solely to socks, feet, toes, shoes, etc! The students love it as do I. First let me give a little background information on this annual festivity I do with my class. The original Sock Day was created by Mrs. Pam Seckinger, who I had the privilege of working with back in Phoenix. This teacher always had great ideas and activities and I'm happy to have borrowed this one. 

Let me give you the basics. First, prior to Socktacular Day I announce the actual date and discuss with students what we'll be doing that day. Additionally, I send home a note to parents to let them know what is going on. Students need to prepare a sock design (I usually give them a week) in the form of a person, creature, object, etc. I've seen some pretty amazing socks over the years. The students are able to enter their sock creations into a contest the day of Socktacular. The categories that I typically have are:
  • Original
  • Funniest
  • Beautiful
  • Cute
  • Crazy
  • Scary
Students can enter their sock into two categories. I then have other classes come in and vote for which they think is best in each category. The winner of each category receives a generous sum of class cash. 

While the voting is going on throughout the day, my class visits a variety of stations throughout the room. The theme of each activity at these stations have to do with socks. Did I mention I decorate the classroom with all of my crazy colored socks? I also invite students to wear their own crazy socks and we spend the day with our shoes off - not too worry....I stock up on air freshener that day.  

Some of the activities my students partake in are: 
1. Sock It To You Math - this station has math problems that have to do with feet. You know like 12 inches = 1 foot and so on. Students practice their measurement skills while keeping with the theme.
2. Wind Sock Art Project - I found an art project online where students create a wind sock. 
3. Big Foot - Students trace and determine the area and perimeter of their foot. After all scores are recorded for the class, they then determine the mean, median and mode of all students' results.

These are just a few of the stations I do and I'm constantly updating and changing them as I come up with new ideas. If you have a great idea for a station, let me know about it below in the comment section!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Teachers Who Inspire

As I finish my Masters program this past week from Full Sail University in Education Media Design and Technology, I am now flooded with more free time than I've had in over a year. However, my personality is one of that who likes to stay busy so I've decided I needed something new to spend my time on. Hence my blog - The Art of Possibility for Teachers has begun.

As educators, we always have those fellow colleagues who work with us or who we find online that inspire us. During my years of teaching, I have found many who have helped shape my teaching and continue to do so. I would like to take a moment to pay homage to those teachers. 

When I first began teaching in 2004, Mr. Coley's website was one of the first 5th grade classroom webpages that I came across. It was because of him, that I ended up creating my own website for my class! Not only did he inspire me to do that but he also provided many great ideas such as Roving Reporters, Club Ed and using a classroom economy. Additionally, he uses his website to showcase student work, which I just think is a fabulous idea! Even 6 years later, I find myself cruising back to his site to just refresh or check out his new ideas. Mr. Coley's inspires me still to this day and was one of the leading reasons I wrote my thesis on using technology to improve parent/teacher communication. He is not only an inspirational teacher I'm sure to his students but also to educators everywhere!

Many teachers are aware of this amazing teacher, Mrs. Newingham! Not only does she have a wonderful website, she also is a featured blog writer for Scholastic, Inc. Her ideas are revolutionary and make me wish I was a lucky student in her class. Always willing to share her ideas, she is one teacher I wish could work with to see in action. Whether you are interested in ways to use your classroom library more effectively (check out her page and resources on this!) or you are trying to find a way to make studying the states more interesting for you students, she has you covered! I'll admit - this past week alone, I have purchased the social studies books she uses off of Amazon, the CD from the publishing company and hats galore from Oriental Trading to make my U.S. State tour just as amazing. Not too mention, I'm busy creating travel tickets for my students. All in all - Beth Newingham is beyond inspiring and well worth your time in checking out!

There are so many more teachers out there who inspire me and I could go on and on, however I will discuss just one more. (But of course provide links to all the others). ;-)

Danny Pezzotta - Planet Bravo
Mr. Pezzotta is no longer a classroom teacher but instead has branched out and started his own business on teaching technology to kids. I have been lucky enough to know him since he was hired on to implement formal technology instruction at our school. However, over the past year he has inspired me time and time again to be a better teacher and implement technology in numerous ways in my classroom. Always willing to take the time out of his extremely busy schedule, Mr. Pezzotta has assisted me with numerous projects in the classroom including helping to create a formal excel payroll spreadsheet for my classroom economy and providing tech support for many of my own classroom projects. While he no longer gets to work directly with kids but is more behind the scenes, my own students have been indirectly inspired by him through his brilliance and willing to help me become better at what I do. I highly those that live in the Los Angeles area look into his company and summer programs for kids.

Links to More Inspirational Teachers:

Stay tuned for a new posting on using wikis for Literature Studies...
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