I love Projects. Geometrocity, the City Made of Math

I'm just going to throw this out there, "I love projects".  It doesn't matter if it's reading, math, science, whatever--I just love projects and project based learning.  Giving students a large scale (or long-scale) project, seeing them attack problems, deciding where to start, and/or working within a group is one of the best things we can do as teachers (I don't have any data to back that last statement up).  Yes, it takes a lot of work to make sure students are progressing and making appropriate progress--but it's what we do.

Let me clarify this a little more:  I love projects that take place in the classroom.

I don't always trust projects that go home then come back a little too perfect.  Yes, your parents can get an "A" but did the kid even do anything?

"We also need to bring back science fairs," I scream as a step of my soapbox.

Before you get mad and tell me projects are a hassle let me tell you the positives that happen when they're done correctly:
  • Collaboration and Cooperation (two completely different ideas, both equally important)
  • Stirs creativity and imagination
  • Creates problem solvers
  • Allows for immediate feedback from peers and their own self-reflection/assessment
  • It integrates technology more efficiently
  • Connections to the real-world

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I create project based learning activities for my students because I've seen the positive impact in their engagement levels and also allows for multiple modalities of their own learning to be used.  Some of these projects are shorter single day events while others may take a month.  It doesn't matter which kind I use, just that my students stretch their learning potential.

If you're looking to incorporate more project based learning opportunities in your class, might I suggest trying out Geometrocity: A City Made of Math.  This can be completed individually, within a group, or even as a class project.  Your students will literally be designing, planning, and building a city using geometry.

A great luxury of having a daughter in elementary school is that she always wants to try out what I create. She is my quality control.  So her and a friend spent an afternoon creating buildings, using nets, to design 3D models of their city.

Geometrocity is broken down into Phases (which the teacher has total control over) and students work through them with each step building on the next incorporating geometry skills to build sections of their city.  

One of my favorite aspects is you can differentiate this immediately to students whether it's choosing lower level sections (less vocabulary) or pushing kids to make it to the challenge section.

If you're interested in learning more about PROJECT BASED LEARNING check out my post on ten tips to make PBL a success in your classroom.

Still need more?  Stop by and see all the PBL's I've created.  They range from designing a zoo to surviving on deserted islands, or even creating colonies in outer space


And is it really a surprise that the first building my daughter made was Target?  
Nope.  We love Target.


Bright Ideas: The Power of the Paper Plate

Welcome to another Bright Ideas Link-Up where bloggers from around the world sharing tips, tricks, and ideas that work for them (and could work for you).  Here in the Chicagoland area we're enjoying a pleasant summer filled with almost perfect temperatures.  This means a lot of cooking out.  That means a lot of paper plates.  And that got me thinking about...

These flimsy cardboard plates may not hold a hot dog or hamburger without breaking, but they're a perfect school (or summer) supplement to almost any lesson.  The groundbreaking secret is that almost anything can be created with paper plates.

My idea is this:  If you're looking to have students create small projects based on lessons you're teaching give them a stack of paper plates and just tell them to create.  No rules, no boundaries--just the to craft an idea based on the lessons they learned.

There are 20 step tutorials on paper plates creations and some of them are just incredible--but let's give some of the imagination back to the kids.  

Last week my daughters and I spent a couple of hours just making stuff.  They came up with so many ideas during that time; frisbee, scuba gear, shield, cat, snake, owl, monsters, and even an ear of corn.  I would say a topic and my oldest would tell me something she could make.

I'm not even suggesting using paints or glitter.  Just make it quick and easy and tell the kids:  scissors, glue, tape, and crayons.  That way the clean-up will consist of simple scraps.

Here's some of my kids hard work.

Kids have such a bigger and better imagination than most of us anyway.  So let them create.  Mine keep asking when they can create that "paper plate magic" again.  

I even got into the swing of things and created a Flava-Flav styled clock and then recreated the alien facehuggers from Alien (some of you might be too young or scared for that movie). Look at my imaginations!

If you're interested in seeing some examples, tutorials, and Pinterest boards for more paper plates tutorials check these out:
Try this idea in school or as a summer craftivity.  Break the norm.  That's it--now I'm off to put some potato salad on a floppy paper plate and wait for it to collapse in my lap.

If you've enjoyed this post (even a little bit) feel 
free to follow me on FacebookTPT, or even here.

As the summer rolls along sit back, relax, and visit all the other great ideas (probably a lot better than mine) and come up with some ideas to drive the kids crazy when school starts.

Word Up! The Word Cloud Symbaloo Board

This is a cross-post with A Class*y Collaboration.

Word Cloud Generators have been around since the dawn of the wireless modem (that's a really long time in tech years).  Kids and teachers love them because they're quick and easy to integrate and look pretty.  That's right, I said pretty.  

The only way to make them better would be to put them in an accessible place that everyone could reach.  Drumroll, please................I put together a Symbaloo board with 12 world-renowned word cloud generators. 

Now your students (or you) can pick which one they'd like to use.  Some of these are new to myself, but you've got the classics like Tagxedo, Wordle, ABCya.  There's some newbies that you might not have ever heard of--so check those out too.

Take some time, bookmark this for the new year, and get your kids creating.  
A couple of ideas for using word cloud generators include:
  • Poetry unit: Pick a poem and insert the words.
  • All about Myself:  Students write words they think will describe them the best (great for beginning of the year, get-to-know-you).
  • Adjectives, Nouns, & Verbs:  Lot of choices here describe rooms, objects, people, subject areas, and more.
  • Character Traits from Novels:  Pick a character and write about his traits.
  • Parent Gift:  Students describe parents/guardian and then print it out (include frame if possible). 
  • Create class posters
  • Class list, let everyone get a copy too. 
  •  Social Studies:  Historical characters and their significance.

Here is a quick on I used with Word Mosaic.  
I kind of like it.  It is pretty (and totally me).


BarCATlounger totally thinks you check this out.


Tune Into Tech: Using Weather Websites to Strengthen Math Skills

Normally when we think of the weather we automatically assume that we're talking about science.  Or the Weather Channel.  And if we're talking about the Weather Channel we're talking about Jim Cantore and THUNDER SNOW!  

But we're not.
We're talking' bout MATH

An alternative for spicing up your typical calendar, morning meeting, or math lesson is to introduce a weather website to the class.  There's so much mathematical information in our weather that it's a little ridiculous. It's so easy to put throw it on a Smart board or display it on a mobile device.  Here are some great sites to start with:

Think about having your students do any of the following:
  • Graphing/charting daily temperatures
  • Find the difference between Highs and Lows for that day, week, or month.
  • Use temperature, humidity, wind speed, or barometric pressure to find mean, median, and mode.
  • Using average rainfall amounts per month and comparing them to other areas all around the world.
  • Comparing temperatures around the world and discovering the differences.
  • Allow students to create word problems based on weather
  • Use the weather map and understanding how the numbers correlate with one another.
  • I could add more, but by this time you're probably beginning to glaze over my post.
The opportunities are limitless when it comes to combining math and weather.  If we stop and think for a minute we realize that understanding the weather is a real-word applicable skill that everyone needs to know.

How else are you able to predict if you're school will be 
having a cold-weather day because of the wind chill--MATH!

Here's a great site for kids to become a Math Meteorologist:  

Understanding the concept of Math-Weather is more relevant every single day.  And the are numbers inside each one of those concepts.  Tornado's, Hurricanes, Floods, Blizzards, Earthquakes; these are all based on mathematical figures too.  But we tend to lump it strictly into science--but we shouldn't.

Think about STEM:  Science, Technology, Engineering, aaaaaaand Mathematics.

Next time your looking for a little way to spice up you math just turn your attention to the clouds (not the digital kind that no one understands, I'm talking fluffy-cumulus ones) and think about how you can integrate weather into your math with a side of technology.

Thanks for stopping by and don't forget to check out all the other great blogger posts for Tune Into Tech:  Math Edition.  Stop by  Learning to the Core and iTeach 1:1 for more like this or to link-up yourself. 


Video Vault: It's Only An Illusion

Just watch.

Video Vault: Smart Every Day: Venomous Fish

This guy and his videos are awesome.  
Dare I say that he's a bit like Bill Nye.  
Oh yes, I dare.

Prezi Shortcuts on the Keyboard

Here's a first-rate tutorial on how to use keyboard shortcuts when creating with Prezi.  Many people don't realize that almost all computer programs can be run without the use of a mouse.  The learning curve can be steep if you've never tried it before, but even learning some of the quick tips make a big difference.

Check this out and share it with your students or colleagues (if you feel so inclined).


...and just a reminder--cats are jerks.

Tune Into Technology: ThingLink & Literacy Skills

Time for another Tune Into Technology, the perfect summer link-up because I have time to try out everyone's ideas for and then steal 'em and say I did it all myself.  Seriously Learning to the Core and iTeach 1:1 have a great thing going--so jump in this and share your tips too.

A few months ago I wrote about ThingLink (which is a pretty amazing website) that allows users to annotate images and digitally "write" on them with links, images, and quotes, and/or your own typing.  It's really easy to use and I was jazzed up when Jen at Tech With Jen  wrote about and shared some of the uses with it.  So of course, I had to go and check it out.  Then I knew I'd need to find a way to use it..and I did.
Then in April, Jeanette from Third Grade Galore (who I teach with) and I got together to figure out a culmination project  for her students after they read the book Charlette's Web.  We discussed it for a while and I share the idea of using ThingLink with her (and she ran with it).  It would be a good use of technology and reading skills intertwining with one another.

For their final project (and I hope I'm getting all the details correct) were going to create an interactive ThingLink with three of the most important parts from the book.  

Here is what a finished one looked like:

Here were the steps students took:
  1. Pick three important plot points from the book.  Students could decide which ones they picked and why.
  2. They had to draw what those scenes were (using those inference skills).
  3. Jeanette and students took photos of each set of three pictures.
  4. Upload to ThingLink.
  5. Students then typed in what was happening in each scene.
  6. BOOM!  All Done (but this actually took the kids a little more time)

Students could then access each other's work and even leave comments (which is probably the coolest part).  The chance to receive immediate feedback from your peers is awesome --just like blogging.

I love seeing the combination of art, reading, and technology all coming together (and pretty seamlessly too).  This is a project that allows students at all different learning levels to differentiate for themselves as they work.  Some kids only wrote one detail per image, while others wrote almost a paragraph and had multiple links on images.  This isn't even including the peer review where students could leave comments.
  • ThingLink is free, they also have an educator portion too.
  • It can be used on computers and mobile devices.
  • You can use images from the inter webs  or upload your own.
  • Almost all ThingLink creations are public and easy to access.
  • All can be embedded in sites (much like I've done with these)


In closing..if you get a chance check out ThingLink and give it a try.  
You will love it and be happier than a bear in a swimming pool.

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