Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer Birthdays Celebration

Every year I struggle trying to figure out what to do for those poor students who happen to have their birthday over the summer. Normally, I like to have a big class party where I make cupcakes and we sing and watch a movie for them. This year however, I had a much better idea. In case you didn't know, I love to bake! It's a sad thing for me though because no one in my house likes baked food. Not even my 2 1/2 year old boy! What's a sad baking girl to do? Bring baking to school of course! This year, I decided to bake our birthday treats as a class. Originally I was going to have us bake cupcakes but since I didn't want them working with raw eggs, I decided to use blueberry and chocolate chip muffin mix instead (where all you have to add is water).We used both of these yummy mixes to make muffin puffs (basically muffin cookies). Of course I couldn't just have them mix in the correct amount of water and be done with it, I let them experiment. We put more water in one mix than the other and made predictions on what we thought would happen. We also discussed what to do to make dough or batter thicker or thinner if we were following a recipe (this knowledge definitely comes in handy when cooking). We came to the conclusion that adding liquid to batter would make it thinner and adding a solid like flour or confectioner's sugar would make it thicker.

 First, I lined the cookie sheets with foil and sprayed them with cooking spray.

(The pans we used at school were smaller. I had to recreate this at home because I forgot to take pictures at school.)

  Then, I let each of the students put a blob of muffin mix from each bowl on the pan and then I put them in the toaster oven. (At school we put each of the different batters on different trays.) Don't worry if the blobs are too close to each other.

While the muffin puffs were baking, I wrote all of the students' names (with summer birthdays) and their birth dates on the board. I passed out colored paper and assigned 2-3 students a specific student from the board. We spent some time creating hand made birthday cards. 

Once I removed the golden brown muffin puffs from the toaster ovens (they only take about 5-7 minutes to cook), the students passed out their cards and we sang Happy Birthday. Then, we observed the different muffin puffs to see what happened when the batter was thicker or thinner. We also talked about why some of the muffins ran into each other and how we could avoid that if we ever baked them again.

 After that, I passed out the muffin puffs and juice. We had such a great time and I think the students who had a birthday over the summer really felt special. It was easy, educational, and tons of fun! I will definitely be doing this again next year!


P.S. - Normally, I try to post something every week but over the summer I am going to try to post something every other week. We are in the wonderful process of moving which means fixing and painting EVERYTHING in the house. Oh the joys of moving!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

What Teachers Really Do Over The Summer

Most of us teachers have been watching all of the funny teacher videos of "What Teachers Really Do Over The Summer." Ms. South organized the whole event and one day after school turned into a fun-filled costume show of sorts. Everyone came out in full force with their boas, horse heads, masks, wheelchairs, and wigs. It was a blast and I couldn't have asked for a better end to the year. Ms. South made a great trailer for the students and we all watched it on the announcements on Friday. The big day will be next week for all of the students to watch the whole performance in all of it's glory! I can't wait! She was nice enough to post it on YouTube for all to see. Check it out below and enjoy the show!


Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Magic of YouTube

Everyone knows the power of the Internet, but one specific site has changed the face of education today. YouTube is one of the most widely used sources for informal education. If there is anything you want to learn, just look it up on YouTube, and more than likely someone will be there ready to share their knowledge with you. Personally, I use YouTube all of the time to advance my own knowledge outside of professional development opportunities, grants, graduate classes, and the like. I am well aware that I do not know everything there is to know on any particular topic, therefore I am always looking for new ideas or a fresh take on an old idea. Some teachers may spend their summers at the beach, but honestly . . . I spend most of my time learning (just ask my husband). Last summer I spent several hours a day watching YouTube videos to learn how to create a blog, as well as the title, tags, and widgets for a blog. I stayed up late learning how to create professional looking teaching materials through the use of an open source program called Inkscape. I even learned how to film, edit, and publish teaching videos to share on YouTube. I cannot express my love and admiration for this site enough. Some people may spend their time watching cat videos or funny babies, but I use it as a free gateway to gaining knowledge. You know what they say . . . knowledge is power! It's possible that I spend so much time learning because I don't have any cable or public television service, nor do I want it. I truly see myself as a lifelong learner and I always want to acquire more knowledge about anything that I can; television is a distraction to this process in my opinion. I am an inventor at heart, which explains why I am continuously curious. I use everything I do as a learning experience and then I use YouTube to help me figure out how I can improve upon those experiences. More recently, I have been using YouTube to learn a new way of teaching. Some people may already know this, but soon I will be moving away from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. My family will be moving into the Springfield, Virginia area and we couldn't be happier. As a teacher in Somerset County, Maryland, I realize that many other counties (including Fairfax County, Virginia) use a much different teaching model than what I currently use in my county. I have taught in many different ways throughout my eight years of teaching, all of which have their advantages and disadvantages. The key to anything in teaching is to file away the successes for later use and to learn from the failures or challenges that have been presented to you. I never truly see anything as a failure and I discuss this in depth with my students. The only way to fail is to give up! If something does not go as expected or as you had hoped, then the only real thing to do is to stop and figure out what went wrong and how can you fix it to make it work better. I see students become upset and frustrated when they think that they have failed. I then explain to them that this is not a time to be sad, but a time to think: What happened? How can I make this better? They change, they immediately stop and their mental wheels start to turn. An inventor is not someone who is the smartest man or woman in the world, but someone who never gave up and tried something multiple times until they succeeded. Yes, I realize I have wandered away from my original YouTube discussion, but this was important to say, as so many teachers ignore struggling students instead of giving them the tools needed to become self-motivating individuals. Now, back to my move to Northern Virginia. We are moving to Fairfax County and with that comes new challenges and experiences. I have been on a few interviews and have learned so much from each and every one of them. I did not realize how different the actual classroom teaching model was in other counties compared to mine. The need to know immediately took over and I began doing extensive research into the way that Fairfax County teaches. I have asked questions and emailed the Elementary Mathematics Specialist in the county. I have learned about DRA2, Words Their Way, Guided Reading, Responsive Classrooms, and Math Workshop. I have watched numerous training videos and other videos of teachers in the classroom using these types of teaching models, all without having to go out in the rain. YouTube is simply a wonderful tool for any teacher who just wants to know more. After watching videos of teachers using these strategies in their classroom, I began using some of them in my classroom as well. I like to test and try things out before jumping into anything (if at all possible). My students and I have a wonderful relationship, and I have explained to them that we are going to be trying new things and they are more than happy to oblige. We now have daily morning meetings and use transitions to get from one place to another. We meet in small, leveled guided reading groups and work on individual skills based on their needs. We use secret passwords (e.g., stars with words) on our chairs each day to help us learn new word patterns at our individual level (stay tunned for this blog post later). We meet in small groups to learn specialized math skills, which are based on previous assessments. So many changes in so little time, yet I feel nothing but happiness. I see how happy my students are to greet each other and pick transitions. I see how much they have improved because of the more individualized instruction. Nothing makes me feel better than seeing happy children learning. I have started to wonder where has this model been my whole teaching career? I have always worked hard to have happy students who enjoy learning, but this was something different. This was a whole new way of thinking and teaching, and I welcome it with open arms. I know that there is still more to learn and I am excited to see what else my good friend YouTube has to offer. I know what I'll be doing this summer, what about you?


Shaina Soderstrom