Tuesday, May 29, 2012

We Will Rock You!

Every year our PTO puts on an elementary school talent show that is a BIG hit with all the families on island, and every year the teachers put on the last performance of the night and try to top what we did the year before. This year we definitely outdid ourselves with total darkness and a couple hundred glow sticks from the dollar store. Some of the glow sticks don't appear as bright on the video as the did in person, but ohh well!

With our further adieu, here is the performance that we have to try and top next year:)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Teaching about ROBOTS!

I have a confession to make, I am slightly addicted to anything robots! I have quite the collection of robot stickers, toys, magnets, stuffed bots, robot books and am always on the look out for more robots. This being said, I decided that my culminating unit with my students would be robots. I am part way through it and I never could have imagined their excitement for this unit. I have kids coming up to me at recess telling me about robots they saw on TV or robot design ideas they thought of while eating breakfast; I love their enthusiasm and engagement!

To introduce the topic of ROBOTS I began with a discussion of "What is a robot?" I was amazed at the complexity even first graders could verbalize. I had a 6 year old tell me that "A robot is something that moves and needs either electricity or energy to do a job." Together my classes and I worked towards coming up with a common definition of what a robot is and I dispelled the myth that a robot has to have human-like physical characteristics. 

Robots of Today Video
Next I showed my classes (K-6th) a 10 minute web video by Ben Axelrod. It has lots of relevant and interesting information and we kept having to stop it so students could share their thoughts and make connections. There is about a 3 min section at the end of 4 robots dancing...I ended up fast forwarding through most of it to recoup time!

Here are some other great video resources on robots
Science Kids 
Clips from NOVA's The Great Robot Race
NDEP's A Flock of Robots
NASA's Video Podcasts on Robots
A HUGE Collection of Robotics Demos from The Google Self-Driving car to assembly line robots

Other online resources on Robots
Introduction to Robotics
Robot Activities
National Robotics Week (has activities to download and links to STEM projects)

Design/Build a Robot online
Widget's Build a Robot (Primary)
ABCya! Make a Robot (Primary)
Build a Robot (Intermediate)

Building Robots
I am also doing some robot building with my older classes. My students in grades 4-6 are making these little minibots:

I also have a LEGO Robotics set that was donated by a parent and have some students making an NXT Line Tracker.

Monday, May 14, 2012

ABC's of Technology Activity

For a recent Professional Development session that I lead, I decided to challenge my teachers on their knowledge of current technology logos. I passed out a printout of the chart  below to small groups and gave them 5 minutes to come up with the company/technology that each represents. I created this one, but cannot take credit for this idea, I found it here. The document I created is in PowerPoint; feel free to use as is or to update to reflect the technology you want to include.

My teachers did pretty good and got most of them, but there were a few that proved to be quite tricky! Here are the answers in case there are some you don't know:)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Problem Solving

I am always on the look out for online activities that will challenge my students to use their brains and think outside the box. There are a number of great problem solving sites that I have found that encourage my students use their noggins and the sense of pride and accomplishment they feel when they have mastered a task is amazing!

Ballooner (Kindergarten - Grade 3)
Ballooner was create by the site coolmath.com. Students have to go through a series of steps in their correct order to release balloons. I provide encouragement and tips as students play, but ultimately make them work through the levels on their own. I do let students help each other out. It seems that the students that seem to do very well academically are the first to give up when they can't figure it out; I love the pride on my their little faces as the ones that typically struggle are explaining how to pass the levels to their peers!

When I introduced Fantastic Contraption to my students a few months ago, I was amazed by their enthusiasm for it. I had 2 students that loathe school staying late to try and master levels and showing up early to share the progress they had made at home. This activity challenges students to use wheels, gears, and spacial reasoning to move a designated object into a designated box. The game provides a step-by-step tutorial that I do whole class on the SMARTBoard before sending kids to their own computers. There are 2 versions of this game, start with the original Fantastic Contraption and then move on to Fantastic Contraption 2.

Magic Pen/Magic Pen 2 (Grade 3 - Grade 6)
Students will need to help draw ramps, levers, and balls to help move a designated ball from one side of the screen to the flag. There is a great step-by-step tutorial at the beginning. Just a heads up; there are video ads prior to these games being loaded.

Light Bot/Light Bot 2.0 (Grade 5 - Grade 6)
This activity is a great predecessor to teaching students programming skills and the concept of using functions. Students have to move the bot onto blue squares and light him up. I suggest going through the levels ahead of time and even printing out the solutions to a couple of the tricky ones! Like Magic Pen, there is a video ad at the beginning that is unavoidable to play.

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