Saturday, December 19, 2015

Free Digital Paper Set (until January 1)

If you're looking for a new set of digital papers, I just posted a new set that is free until New Year's Day (January 1).  These three papers are available in both 12" x 12" and 8.5" x 11" sizes and were created at 300 dpi.  Six coordinating frames are also included in this set.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Winter Holiday Cards & Animations

With Winter Holiday break just a few weeks away, it can be tough to keep students engaged in their work.  It doesn't matter whether they celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or just being off school for two weeks, they need something fun as we head toward break that still benefits their learning.

This year, I expanded the lesson I usually do to offer a few more choices for students to create a holiday greeting.  Their choices include creating a standard, printable greeting card in Microsoft Word or creating an animated greeting using PowerPoint or Kizoa, a cool new FREE (no need for download!) Web 2.0 tool.  

I have the benefit of each student having their own computer in my room, but all these options could also be completed in partners or on iPads.  

Animation has my 8th graders fascinated this year after an earlier unit where they wrote and animated a Choose Your Own Adventure in PowerPoint.  Lots of them wanted to do more with that and have chosen PowerPoint for this project, but I also have a sizeable percentage that want to try something new in animation and have opted for Kizoa.

If you'd like to do use this with your own students, you can get the full lesson here.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Building a Musical Instrument

One of my students' favorite units is our unit on the Physics of Sound.  Middle schoolers LOVE music, whether they are in the Fine Arts program or just active listeners to their MP3's.  So, when I tell them they are going to have a chance to learn more about those sounds and then design an instrument of their own, they're pretty excited!

We start with learning the physics of sound by doing several online simulations along with some research.  Then, with that knowledge, we learn about sound waves using a Slinky toy.  Be prepared to address potential silliness with this BEFORE the lab.  We always review the difference between having fun and being immature :)  

Designing the instruments, requires some research, but most students jump right in to figuring out how their instrument can be the best.  The instrument needs to be able to play three different notes and repeat those notes three times.  YouTube videos are great for this if your school has access to that.

We used a variety of recycled materials - some that I provided in the classroom and others that students chose to bring themselves.  During the planning and design phase, students draw their project and create a materials list before construction begins.

One of our more interesting final products was this carrot recorder:

If you'd like the full lesson, it is available here to download.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Choose Your Own Adventure Stories with Technology!

Do your students groan when you mention writing?  Even my reluctant writers LOVED this activity!  Choose Your Own Adventure books have always been popular with kids.  The aspect of having control over how the story goes and how it ends has appeal to everyone.  Giving students the chance to write their own AND incorporate technology with it to animate the story got everyone interested!

We started by having students write a draft of their story in Microsoft Word (any word processor will work though).  I teach 8th grade, so I had them write 12 scenes - each scene ends with 2 choices which then branch the story.  After discussing several methods for organizing that on paper (numbering paragraphs, using color, using a chart, etc.) I turned them loose to create.

This wasn't a quiet, writing environment though.  Instead, students were actively engaged not only in writing their story, but sharing as they went with their classmates.  They refined their ideas, tried different ones, and came up with some great stories!

Next, it was time to animate them.  We used Microsoft PowerPoint, but you could also use Google Slides.  After a quick demonstration of changing backgrounds, inserting transitions between slides, including animations on the pictures on each slide, and adding in hyperlinks to take them to the next point in the story, they were off and running.  Again, lots of interaction between students, showing off their ideas to each other and helping each other make it better!

Prior to this project, I have my students do some short tutorial/projects in PowerPoint to learn the basics.  My Information Technology classes are large (32 students) so students know they can't always have my undivided attention and have to help each other too.  We call this 3B4ME - they need to do three things to help themselves BEFORE asking for my help.  I use this poster to remind them (click here for your own free copy!)

If you'd like the full lesson for creating a Choose Your Own Adventure Story, click here to download.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Microsoft Excel Vacation Project

Where would you go on vacation if you were an 8th grader and told you had $5,000 to spend for your week's vacation?  There were some amazing (and creative) destinations in my Information Technology classroom!  Of course there were the kids who wanted to go to Disney World, but many had other plans:  China, Spain, Thailand, and even Switzerland were some of the destinations that showed up in a fun Microsoft Excel project we just finished.

Students researched their destination and determined costs for travel, hotel, meals, and sightseeing.  Then they created their budget in Microsoft Excel to see how they were spending their money.

This was a great culminating activity after we did some short tutorial/projects in Excel to learn the basics.  Students loved comparing destinations and prices and shopping on line for the best airline prices was a great "real life" lesson.  Many spent a lot of time looking for the most luxurious hotel for their money, but a few chose to spend their money elsewhere and opt for cheaper accommodations.

This was a fun, project-based, real-life simulation that showed students the benefit of budgeting and planning, along with learning great skills in Microsoft Excel!  If you'd like the entire lesson for your class, it is available here.

#microsoftexcel #planavacation #TpTcybersmile #projectbasedlearning

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Building Bridges!

One of our first building projects in 8th grade Concepts of Engineering class is to learn about the physics of bridges and then construct one with a team.  In addition to learning about bridges, the students also learn about budgets, time constraints and team work.  

After doing research (which they compile in an Engineering Notebook), they use some online simulations including WestPoint Bridge Designer to better understand possible options for construction. We always enjoy doing this as a bit of a competition, so see who can build the cheapest bridge that still works!  

Next they use Sketchup to design to scale the bridge they will ultimately build.  

Their planning phase prior to actual building consists of working with their team and a budget, determining which materials (and how many) to buy within that budget, and then finally, constructions begins with the teams.

After a lot of re-engineering (and documenting their work just like real engineers in their Engineering Notebook!) the final phase of official testing begins to see which bridge will hold the most weight.

If you'd like the full lesson, it's available from TeachersPayTeachers here.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Creating Pixel Art in Microsoft Excel

A few years ago, I was looking for a way to introduce my 8th graders to Microsoft Excel that wasn't boring or overwhelming.  I love all the features of this program, but many times the kids felt like it was just "too hard".  In addition to creating some super short, step-by-step tutorials that could easily be completed in one class period each, I thought coming up with a "FUN" activity to start them off successfully would be good.

Enter Pixel Art!  After we do two quick lessons on the basics (each lasts for one 50 minute class), we launch into Pixel Art.  The lesson lets them create two pictures from a legend,using the Fill Color tool to color in their choices.  They learn some more basics (change cell width, how cells are organized, now to move around in the program, etc.) while they are doing this and then they create their own picture and a legend to go with it so that a classmate could re-create it.

My 8th graders absolutely LOVE this and many continue working on more pictures throughout the year in their free time when other work is completed.  

When we start working with formulas, these kids are okay with it and realize that Microsoft Excel doesn't have to be intimidating!  WIN - WIN.  Next week, they'll be working on researching and planning a vacation, using Microsoft Excel for their budget and I've had a few ask if they can illustrate it with some pixel art!  Can't wait to see what they produce.

If you're looking for ideas for right before Thanksgiving or Winter Break, these are fun activities that kids love, even if you aren't introducing Microsoft Excel right at that moment!  Take a look at Thanksgiving Pixel Art or Winter Holiday Pixel Art to get your kids excited to learn more about Microsoft Excel.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Friday Freebie

Summer is a great time to plan new lessons and ideas for the upcoming year and get organized so that we can start the year without so much stress!  It's also fun to have some new and different things to use in the classroom.  

These four different classroom passes are customizable or can be used as they are.  It's fun to print them on different colored papers too.  Download these FREE as today's Friday Freebie!

Included are four (4) different customizable passes in PowerPoint, 4 to a page for easy printing and cutting.  You'll get:

~ Bathroom Pass
~ Hall Pass
~ Library Pass
~ Tutoring Pass

Grab them here and enjoy!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Humor in the Classroom

I teach 8th grade (Information Technology and Engineering) and while I admire those teachers who can act goofy with their kids, that's just not me.  However, I do still like to share my own sense of humor with the kids, just in my own more reserved way!

One of the things I like to do is post amusing posters in my room that still have a purpose.  I found this quote that I really liked on the Internet, and "made it my own" with a Grumpy Cat meme generator.  The pretty background digital paper is courtesy of The Cottage Market,

My the second week of school, my students know I love Grumpy Cat's attitude (I want to be her when I grow up!) and have a couple other signs using her in my room too and she often shows up with some of her attitude in my PowerPoint presentations or just at an odd moment on my SMARTBoard.  

How do you share yourself with your students?

Friday, June 26, 2015

TpT Seller Terms of Use

This summers TpT Challenge #tptsellerchallenge has gotten me totally energized about adding products and updating things in my store, adding this blog, a Facebook page and LOTS more.  I'm loving all the suggestions and information other teachers are sharing with each other too.  One of the things that was shared was creating a Terms of Use page to include with lessons on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Since I don't do clip art, backgrounds, fonts or any of the creative stuff, I hadn't even thought of that!  So, one of my tasks this week was to create my Terms of Use.

Now I'm working on a better looking credit page (the one that credits all those creative folks who do the digital papers, borders, clip art, and stuff that make our lessons look so awesome.  #tpt

I've also been reading other blogs and getting ideas and just loved one that Teacher Mom shared on her blog about getting in "Go Mode".  There are some really awesome resources in her post that are helpful to all teachers!  Check it out.

So, now I'm back to working on new lessons, revised lessons, and other great stuff for my classroom for next year.  I teach 8th grade Engineering and Information Technology so my lessons are always changing to keep up with the latest things.  I love creating lessons, so that works great for me!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Dare to Dream - Week #2 TpT Challenge

This week's Teachers Pay Teachers challenge is to blog about our dreams for our TpT store.  I'm just starting out, so my initial dreams are to increase my products and traffic to the store.  

But, that's not all!  Even though I started my store for additional income, I also enjoy sharing things I've had success with in my classroom with other teachers and learning from them too.  These challenges have let us learn more about each other and share tips and resources to make not only our TpT stores better, but also our classrooms, lessons and teaching!  #tptsellerchallenge #daretodream

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Follow Me on BlogLovin'

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

BlogLovin' is a great tool to organize the blogs you follow and let you read relevant material quickly.  They even have an IPhone app to let you read conveniently on your phone!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday Freebie

For those teachers using a projector or SMARTBoard type device in their classroom, it is easy to display your classroom agenda for students.  Today's freebie is a customizable PowerPoint that lets you easily type in your changes each day and then prominently display the agenda, along with reminders and your objective.  This always gets a positive comment from my administrators when they do a walk through or an evaluation too (extra bonus!!)  I like not having to write it on the white board each day!  Download it here.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Summer Lesson Planning!

Like so many teachers, summer is more than just a time to relax (although that's a good thing too!).  This year, it was time to add some new things to my teaching.  While my team-mate and I have been working on revising our pacing guides, we're also freshening up our lessons and adding some new ones.  You're probably doing that this summer too!

We're using MS Excel to create our pacing guide and color coding what we revised and what still needs to be done.  That's keeping us on track!  

I actually got motivated to start revising the "look and feel" of some of my lessons with a challenge that was posed by the Teachers Pay Teachers group, so in addition to adding new lessons, I'm getting more creative with the presentation of some of the old ones!

Our first week's challenge was to change an old lesson and I chose to make a small change to the cover of one (below).  More importantly, I've found lots of new resources for new products like digital papers and fonts to make creating lessons more fun for me and the kids!  ‪#‎tptsellerchallenge‬