KnowledgeCornerstone » Ramblings from an educator and life-long learner

ISN- A work in progress

I am one of those big nerds that still has my science work from when I was in high school.  That binder that was so painful to keep up with at the time?  It became a valuable resource in college when I was looking to jog my memory about something, or needed something in simpler terms.  (I am not THAT old, but the internet was not what it is today.)

I want my students to have that resource when they are in college.  Maybe they will major in science!  Although our ISN (interactive science notebooks) are a work in progress, I am pretty pleased with a few.  Now to get everyone in the class taking notes like this!


But I like it the old way

Today in class I told my students I was making videos for them to study with.  Although I don’t have it completely thought out/put together, I have a good idea what I want it to look like.  I showed them an example video today in 3 classes and we took notes together, discussing once again, HOW to take notes.  One of the things I learned at TCEA last week was a note taking method called WSQ (pronounced “whisk”).  Students watch a video, take notes, summarize and then come up with questions.  This was great!!!  Except…it was really similar to Cornell Notes, so why not just use the tried and true method???

I mentioned Cornell Notes again to my students.  A few moaned.  While I encourage my students to do what works best for them…they are still in middle school.  They are still trying to figure out WHAT works best for them.  For now I will continue to model Cornell Notes.  They will modify it as they need to.

One student smugly whispered under his breath…he liked it the “old way.”  The old way being just read and take notes.

So why not?  I am all for choices.  The students can watch a video OR read in their textbook OR if they want, do both!  As long as they are getting the information in some form that makes sense to them.  Then, we can have a deeper conversation in class!

Changing it up again

If only I could stick with my plans!  I had my lesson plans finished on Saturday.  I went to put them in my online calendar for the parents to see and as I was going through it again, I did not like the order of a few things.  After contemplating this for a while (ok…during church when I should have been paying more attention to the sermon), I decided that I wanted to address a different area first.  That meant reworking my lesson plans for the next two weeks.  Arg!

I am old school and do it out on paper first with a pencil.  It makes it easier to erase (which I do often).  Yes…this is why I don’t ever turn my lesson plans in on time.  :\


Eating an Elephant

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time…

When I started back teaching in August after a 5 year sabbatical, I had a whopping two days to get prepared.  I would be teaching 3 different middle school science classes (Integrated Science, Physical Science and Biology), plus I was to oversee the online high school science.  New textbooks had been ordered for two of the classes but had not arrived (and would not arrive for a couple weeks).  The previous teachers had left little usable material and the science lab was a wreck!  But…I was excited beyond belief to be teaching again!  I had so many ideas that I wanted to implement.


After about 3 weeks, reality came crashing into me.

It was impossible to do everything I wanted THIS year.  I just do not have enough hours in a day.  Every set of notes, every activity, every lab, every test I give has to be found or made from scratch.  Not to mention I have to pour over the content to make sure I understand it (remember it has been a few years since I taught science!).  There is no one to share this chore with since I am the lone middle/upper school science teacher.

Currently my weekends are filled with writing out lesson plans for the next week, gathering the materials for the activities, pulling together the tests and if I have time (literally…like it is not 11pm on Sunday night) I might get the notes prepared for the week.  Often times that happens during the week though.  Grading comes in spurts in the evening as I have time.  Throw in being a mom, wife, Girl Scout leader and PhD student, all of which often comes in second and should not, well…there is not a lot of time left.

desk clutter

From the very beginning of the school year, I have wanted to implement a “flipped classroom” model.  Just trying to maintain my sanity and NOT have a panic attack, has not allowed any additional time to CREATE the videos needed for the students to watch.  As the title mentions, I am in the process of eating a very large elephant.

Having just returned from TCEA (an educators technology conference held every year in Austin), I have a renewed excitement to TRY and start making videos for my students.  I actually tried recording something, but struggled with how I was doing and the whole thing crashed and burned the night before I left…leaving my sub to give the notes via a boring power point.

Now that I have finished cutting, pasting, laminating and cutting again, (and written this short blog post) I am off to try and make a few videos before midnight.  🙂


Technology in my class

I am fortunate to be at a school that allows students to bring their own devices.  Unfortunately, not ALL of the students have a device, nor do they all bring the same device, and I REALLY struggle with control of what the students are doing on their devices.  (Like when I call out that one student that is usually off task for having their tablet out, only for them to show me they really are taking notes on it THIS time. ugh!)

I have come up with a plan that I *think* might work.  I would like to find a way to get 12 chromebooks and 5 ipads (2nd+ gen) for my classroom.  This would give me everything I need to conduct class similar to a 1:1 environment.

Right now, the students are doing a bell-ringer with Socrative.  Since not everyone has a device, student have to wait and share devices (I have 3 in the mix).  I have tried doing this on paper, which is ok, it is just so much faster electronically since it grades it for me. 🙂

I am a very hands on teacher.  I would say we spend 80-90% of our time researching (with limited devices in the room), working in our interactive notebooks, and doing activities/labs.  When I need all of the students researching, we have to go down to the computer lab.  Unfortunately, one of my classes is not able to go since there is a class in there at the same time.  Instead, I have to ask the students to bring in their laptops (which not everyone has) so we can work in the classroom.

I would be a dream to go paperless and have the students upload assignments into a Google Apps for Education account (which is already set up, it just needs to be deployed). Students could work on their papers on Google docs and just share them with the teacher. Voila! No more excuses for the dog eating the homework!

Just last week I had a group of student come rushing down the hall to show me a game called Plague that they found about viruses. They were so excited and suggested we have a contest to see who can play the game the best. With only a small handful of students having access to a device that can run the game, it is just not possible right now. (I did ask other science teachers about a lesson plan involving the game, but with it being so new, no one has really come up with anything yet.)

I am also a huge fan of claymation.  The iPad has some WONDERFUL apps that allow easy claymation creation.  Once Again, I am limited to the devices that students can bring (and the apps they have on theirs).  Here is an example of a stop motion that the high schoolers created using my iPad.

Do you think my argument is strong enough?