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.