Monday, January 28, 2013

Epic Skype Day! January 28, 2013

Today was such an "epic" day in our class using Skype that I couldn't wait til the end of the week to Blog about it! is a website I've found this year that I LOVE.  It allows teachers to find other educators or businesses who want to Skype and let's them partner up.  So far this year my class has been able to Skype with 3 classrooms in England using Skype in the Classroom.

Well, I finally decided to put up my own "call-out" on Skype in the Classroom to allow my students the opportunity to Skype with kids from all over the world.  This morning we Skyped with Petter Hartman's class in Sweden.  Sweden is quite a few hours different than us, so we had to skype 30 minutes before our school actually began, and they had to stay after school 30 minutes their time in Sweden :)

I had about 35 students show up early to school for this experience.  We talked about climate, sports, tv shows, music, and even learned some Swedish.  It was a blast and Mr. Hartman's students were so well spoken and prepared.  I truly hope we can Skype with him again at some point.

Later that afternoon we had a Skype with Olympic Gold Medalist Steve Mesler.  While perusing the Skype in the Classroom website I came upon an activity by "Classroom Champions" about Skyping with Olympic Gold Medalists about setting goals.  I immediately signed up, and MY class was selected as the very first class to participate.  We've been looking forward to this for WEEKS, and my kids couldn't have been more excited.  We got special permission slips signed too because they wanted to record it!

We did a "Goal Setting Pyramid" activity ahead of time, watched a video, and prepared our questions.  Steve Mesler is an Olympic Gold Medalist for the US Bobsled Team.  All 70 or so of my students crammed into a room to listen to Steve.

I cannot express to you what an incredible experience this was.  Steve was energetic, engaging, and had a great sense of humor.  My students were enamored and interested the entire hour long chat.  We started the Skype by Steve telling us a little about himself, and then he talked about setting goals, and went over the whole "Goal Setting Pyramid".  He then worked with two kids (and the rest of the group) with looking over the pyramid they had already made.  At the end he shared a video with us and allowed time for questions.

It was truly and experience my students will never forget.  They have been talking about it all afternoon and are dying to Skype again!

I'm so looking forward to the Skypes we have planned with China, Australia, Spain, and Saudi Arabia coming up in the future due to connections on Skype in the Classroom.

Man, what a great day!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Week Eighteen- Jan 22-25, 2013

We had a lot of fun this week!

We were off from school on Monday, so our Flip Classroom picked back up on Tuesday.

For Tuesday-Thursday we began working on Probability and Predictions.  The kids loved this lesson because I prefaced it by telling them we were going to see who had a future in being a psychic   They were trying really hard to prove they knew how to predict haha.

We worked with square colored tiles to introduce the concept of Probability and then worked on randomly putting 24 different tiles in a brown paper bag and drawing out one tile at a time, putting a tally mark for that color, and then putting it back in the bag.  After students did that 24 times, then they had to make predictions about what the results MAY be after doing it 24 MORE times.  Some of the kids got it right too!

Then the students had to guess how many of each color was actually in the bag based on the results.

We also worked with colored tiles on the SMARTboard with kids dragging different color combinations on the board and students identifying the probability of picking tiles from the ones on the board.

This week I also picked my four highest kids in each class, and every afternoon they got to go work with our PPCD (PreK-K Life Skills) Class.  Man those kids loved working with the special needs kids.  The PPCD teacher said it brought tears to his eyes to see the compassion in the 5th graders as they worked with his students.  MANY of my other students found out and wanted to participate and I told them it was an incentive to work towards.  It's crazy how the worst behaved kid is often the one who works best with the special needs children.  So heartwarming.

Friday we worked on different math problems and if the kids got so many correct they go to shoot a wad of paper into a trash can, and if they made it they earned points for their "house".  Man those kids started working even harder to earn points for their houses!

I think besides the 5th graders working with the PPCD kids, the other highlight of my week was when Jonathan Bergmann called me a "Rising Star" with my Flipped Classroom work.  He is the guy who is often credited with STARTING the whole Flipped Classroom movement, so to get that kind of recognition from him was so amazing.

Next week is our first week of a new big review PBL assignment I'm creating.  Excited to see it in action!  And then the week after I'll be heading to TCEA all week to present and learn!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Week Seventeen - Jan 14-18, 2013

Had a blast this week!

This week was filled with many exciting things...I was asked to write a chapter or two in a new Flipped Classroom book coming out in August, I'm THIS close to getting my children's book published, I have another Flipped Classroom Webinar coming up in February (
and more!

Anyway, back to class stuff!

First this week we worked with Coordinate Grids/Points and instead of just plotting some points on paper, I built a life-size Coordinate Grid on the ground and kids used themselves to plot and discuss points on the graph.  It was a blast and really game them a visual of what it means to plot points.

Later that week we moved into Median, Mode, and Range.  To help teach that we did a bunch of different activities.  We worked on Median, Mode, and Range Riddles (with a deck of cards), we did a scavenger hunt in the hall, and students then got to write their own problems.  The students loved the Riddles the most because then they got to earn points for their "houses".

A few exciting upcoming opportunities we have is that NEXT Monday (Jan 28th) we will be Skyping with a classroom from Sweden to discuss simliarities and differences between our two countries!!  And then that same afternoon we'll be Skyping with Olympic Gold Medalist Steve Mesler about setting goals and the Olympics.  And then next week we will also be Skyping with someone from Venezuela as we learn about his country too.  My students are soooo pumped, as am I!  I know some of you may be saying "what does this Skyping have to do with math??", and my answer to that is....NOTHING!  But I want to give my students experiences they'll remember.  My goal is to build a complete student, not just one who can do math well, but one who has interacted with students from all over the world!!  The more fun I make my class, the  more excited students are to come to my class, and the easier it is to teach them math!  

Monday, January 14, 2013

Week Sixteen - Jan 8-11, 2013

I had such a blast this week!

The kids came back on Tuesday and I could not have been more excited.  You see, one of my New Years Resolutions was to dress more professionally at school.  BUT I still needed to have some of my personality in it.  How was I dressing before?  Well I was wearing different school shirts and jeans (which we're allowed to do).

But I visited the Ron Clark Academy in November and they all were dressed so professional and when I came back to my school and noticed all the teachers wearing jeans and t-shirts it was definitely a look that I wasn't proud of.  So I decided to do what I've always been told, "Be the change you wish to see in others".

So I dressed up all week.  I got two sports coats for Christmas and went out and bought some new pants, shirts, and ties.  I mentioned me having to have my own personality mixed in....well...that personality came out in my new pants.  I got a pair of lime green, orange, blue, red, and black pants.  I figured why not have a little "fun" and still look professional!  I even noticed a change in the way the kids interacted with me, in a good way!  So I will definitely be continuing it.

Anyway, we spent the week learning Geometry.  We covered different angles, transformations, and attributes of 3D Shapes.  I knew that this week's lessons would be pretty much a review of what they should have learned in 4th grade so I wanted to find a way to make it more fun.  I was perusing on Pinterest one night and found this awesome lesson using Angry Birds to help teach Geometric Figures (

So I had my students create their Angry Birds and Pigs.  Then I put them in groups of Four and they had to create their own Angry Bird "levels" using building blocks I provided them with.  Then they got to throw their paper Angry Birds at their Levels and try to "beat the piggies".  They had SUCH a blast!!  It will definitely be a lesson I use again next year!

I'm really excited about this next week as we move into Coordinate Grids/Points and Median, Mode, and Range.  I have some fun stuff planned!  Follow me on Twitter to keep up throughout the week! (@TechNinjaTodd)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Week Fifteen - Dec 17-21, 2012

Another interesting week!

So this week we took our first semester Math Benchmark.  I was VERY nervous, for several reasons...

 - it was the exact same Benchmark as last fall, with only 2-3 questions increased for vigor.
 - it would be a REAL tell of how my students are doing with their first year of the Flipped Classroom.
 - and the scariest of all for me, I haven't taught ANY test-formatted questions since Oct 15th.

So I was a little scared.  We took the benchmark on Wednesday and when I first got the results back I was disappointed   The students did not do bad at all, I was just very disappointed that they were 3% behind last years scores.

BUT, then on Thursday I pulled tons of data reports (I love looking at data) and went over the data reports with each student and found that out of 80 students, only 3 missed problems because of mathematical reasons (not understanding what to do or how to do the math).  The REST of the students that missed problems missed them because of READING errors (missing the word "Not" or "estimate").

That had never happened before.  Looking at last years scores, answers were all over the place and I had equal amounts of students missing problems because they didn't understand them and because they read to fast.

But what I learned from this year's group, is that because of the Flipped Classroom, my students have a MUCH clearer idea of what the math is doing and why they have to do the math certain ways.  I had never seen that kind of understanding with my students before and it made me very excited.

To me, that is proof enough that the Flipped Class is working.  My students' understanding of the math and it's processess is on SUCH a deeper level.  And it's easy to fix the "reading" errors they had from the test.  And I am thrilled to have the test scores I did WITHOUT TEACHING ANY TEST-FORMATTED QUESTIONS!!  That's the biggest to me, since we now live in a day and age where teaching the test is the easiest route!

I am excited to start the second semester with my students.  Great learning lies ahead!