Tuesday, April 30, 2013

EdCampWaller - April 28th, 2013

Wow, what a whirlwind weekend.  This weekend Waller hosted it's first ever EdCampWaller!  We had over 200 educators from all over Texas!!  Several of whom drove over 7 hours to be there.  To say that it was an incredible day is an understatement.

The idea of EdCampWaller came from when Stacey Huffine (@TechNinjaStacey) and I attended EdCampDallas in September last year.  We fell in love with the idea and knew we had to bring the concept to our area of the state.

So the planning began on the drive home from EdCampDallas and we've been working hard since.  We had over 55 sponsors that provided us with wonderful door prizes for our attendees.  From a entire school license to Flocabulary, Houston Astros tickets, free Blue Bell Ice Cream, Camtasia Licenses, 2 Google Nexus 7s, a ByteSpeed Netbook, tons of shirts, and so much more.  We're proud to say that every single person walked away with several door prizes!

The day was incredible!  As people arrived they were greeted with smiles as we checked them in on iPads from their registration on EventBrite.  They then got free goodies from companies like Google, Remind101, Claco, Premium Outlet Mall (in Houston), Evernote and many more.  Participants also were provided with a free light breakfast of bagels from Panera Bread and bottled water (Thank You TCEA and AnswerUnderground)

As people entered the auditorium they were able to see all the awesome door prizes up on stage and the giant blank schedule in the back of the auditorium.  The schedule filled in quite quickly!  We were a little nervous ahead of time that maybe the schedule board wouldn't fill in, but I think we got a great variety of sessions for every hour!  Some have debated whether or not our EdCamp was in the true EdCamp style of all sessions being discussions and round table environment.  I agree that that is something we can definitely do better at next year!  There were some traditional presentations (which EdCamp founders sometimes frown upon) but in the end all I heard was how much people learned, and to me that equates to a success.  Is there work to be done to make our edcamp better??  OF COURSE!  So we greatly appreciate ALL the feedback we've received!

We also had a group of Student Council members selling snacks and drinks to participants.

Now when it comes to attending sessions, I truly wish I could have cloned myself.  There were WAY too many great sessions I wanted to attend.

I lead a session during the first time about Flipped Classroom and PBL.  It was awesome mainly because I got to lead it with 5 of my students!  The room was beyond packed and my students were a little overwhelmed and nervous but they did awesome!  And we got some great feedback.  It was my students first time presenting in front of teachers and they rocked it!

I also got to see a session lead by Fayettville Students and man they were incredible!!  Some great conversations happened in that room!  Another overflowing session I caught some of was the Teach Like a Pirate session lead by Chris Kelser (@iamkesler).  All I could hear was great ideas being thrown around by the entire room.  If there was any session Saturday that was very in the EdCamp mindset it was definitely this session!!

There were even more incredible sessions that I could just be writing for hours!

The only real complaint we heard about the day was that ever annoying WiFi!  I think what happened was somehow there was a "limit" set on the WiFi and it kept kicking people off.  I'm not sure if that's what happened but it is definitely something we are fixing for next year.

200 teachers from all across the state of Texas came together on Saturday.  75% of whom had NEVER been to an EdCamp or much less any conference.  And from the feedback we've already received from a survey LEARNING HAPPENED!  And teachers got connected with other passionate educators from around the state!

So in closing, THANK YOU to everyone who attended.  Thank you to Waller ISD and Superintendent Danny Twardowski for allowing us to use the Waller ISD facilities.  Thank you Rosa Ojeda for doing a ton of prep before and on the day of.  Thank you to the entire EdCampWaller planning team.  EdCampWaller was a great success because of EVERYONE involved.  Powerful things happen with passionate educators come together.  EdCampWaller is proof of that!  Can't wait for EdCampWaller 2014!

By the way check out this awesome video the ever incredible Andrea Keller (@akbusybee) made of the day! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0i7jyzDOdCU

And Two sessions were recorded (Genius Hour and PBL; with @iamkesler and @cfanch)
You can view them by visiting these links

Fancher PBL
Part 1 -
Part 2 –
Part 3 –

Kesler Genius Hour

Please join in on this GREAT document created by Mindi Vandagriff (@mindivandagriff) and Amy Pratt (@apratt5) They said they would love to have notes from every session, so please feel free to add yours and keep the link to refer back to.

And you can check out our slideshow by visiting http://cellblock.com/watch.htm?id=mWyCzcGeTyBfYdccSTkG

Interested in attending some other EdCamps in TX?

EdCamp San Antonio (July 15) - http://edcamp.wikispaces.com/edcamp+San+Antonio

EdCamp Dallas (Oct 12) - http://edcampdallas.wikispaces.com/home

Friday, April 26, 2013

State Testing Results!!

Ok so I know I didn't blog last week! My bad!  What we did last week was that my fifth graders were given third grade TEKS (our state standards) by a 3rd grade teacher that the 3rd graders were low in.  My fifth graders created games, presentations, whatever for those TEKS, and then on Thursday of last week each group of fifth graders got a group of 4-5 third graders for 45 minutes that they had to re-teach that TEK too.  The kids had a blast and were so professional!

This week was amazing, because we got our results from our STAAR (state) Test that we took about 2 weeks ago.  If you have been following my blog you know that I have been Flipping my classroom this year. Then in October I made the decision to move to completely Project Based Learning and not to teach even ONE test formatted question.  I had a thought that my students could preform well on a test without ever being "taught the test".  And what's even better is my principal totally supported this endeavor.

Now that's not to say I quit flipping.  All the lessons were flipped (done at home) and class time has been spent completely on project based learning with no test formatted questions and no worksheets.  Now before I continue I must admit, that two weeks before the test I was asked by my district to teach some test formatted questions.  We are a recognized district, and it understandably made them nervous that I hadn't taught any test formatted questions.  So for about 5 school days we worked on Test Formatted Qs and it was PAINFUL (you can read about it in one of my previous posts).

But 95% of my instruction was not test formatted.  I focused on making sure that my students were mastering our state standards through hands on learning and inquiry based activities, never even talking about or considering a state test.

So to say I was nervous about our scores is an understatement.  I was terrified.  I had a LOT riding on our state scores.  In Texas, assessment scores are tremendously valued and looked at.  So I knew we were being watched closely by our district and other 4 elementary schools.

Well we got scores back this week.....out of my 75 students, 72 passed!  That equates to a 96% pass rate!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I was elated.  I have NEVER scored that high, even was I was "teaching a test".  I also had 22% commended (and one perfect score!)!  To say I was excited is an extreme understatement.  And I was finally able to tell my students yesterday how they did (had to wait until after we took Science STAAR this week).  They were jumping up and down, screaming, everything!  And they were also pumped because for the first time we were the top scoring school in our district too!!  Now our district did awesome with STAAR scores this year, but my kids wanted to be at the top of the heap (because only one exam, out of about 8 exams, have we actually been on top).  So when we found out we had the highest scores we were thrilled!!  We even scored above the district average!

Now I have two weeks before 5th grade has re-takes, and then those three students of mine will get to re-take their exam and if they all pass we'll be at 100% passing!

I am just so thrilled to finally have DATA PROOF that the Flipped Classroom and Project Based Learning WORK if done correctly!  You don't have to teach a test, or teach test formatted Questions to get your students to be successful.  I've been preaching that all year, and now I finally have data to back me up!

My students are learning deeper, gaining more knowledge, and making memories more than they ever would have had I taught them a test all year.  I focused on our standards and worked from there!  So now, it's time for us to celebrate :)

*** If you would like to learn more about my Flipped Classroom or Project Based Learning I have a Webinar coming up with Sophia.org on May 7th at 6pm CST and you can register for it here http://www.eventbrite.com/event/6037667827

Friday, April 12, 2013

Archery, Mosaics, and XC, OH MY! Week 27 April 8-12, 2013

Man what a great week!

So on Monday I wanted to do something different.  Our After School program has had archery equipment for a while, and I am the certified Archery Instructor for the program....so I thought, how can I use this in Math?

So I went out, set up the targets and equipment and then got a piece of chart paper, drew it into spaces and put a math problem in each space.  So in other words, I taught them archery, and as they shot they would have to solve the problem that their arrow landed in to earn their team points.  The kids had a blast and so did I, even if it was CRAZY windy!

The on Tuesday we started a Mosaic project I found on Pinterest.  Again, it's one of those ideas I found on Pinterest and then totally transformed it to fit my class.

Here's what my students did....they were given a piece of large chart paper.  Then they were given a ruler and had to decide if they were going to make their squares 1 in by 1 in, 1.5 inch by 1.5 inch, or 2 in by 2 in.

After they made that decision they went and got construction paper to begin cutting their squares to make a mosaic self portrait of themselves.  This took QUITE a while because I was continually going around making sure they were actually measuring and making squares instead of a bunch of rectangles.  It took two class days for each class to finish (which totals to about 2 hours); and some students had to have a working lunch or take it home to finish it.

So after everyone was done, on Thursday we did the math with it!  First they had to write a fraction displaying how much of each color they used.  Then they had to simplify those fractions....yes some of them had VERY large denominators (that we normally don't work with in 5th grade) so I let them use calculators when simplifying the fractions (hey, we use calculators as adults!).

After they wrote and simplified their fractions, then they had to determine the perimeter of their shape (depending on what measurement they chose to use at the beginning).

And after they determined the perimeter of their picture they had to determine the area of their shape (not counting the eyes, hair, or neck).

It was a lot of math, but it was really fun!  And afterwards we got to display them in the hallway.  Since my kids are now Minecraft addict they were all commenting about how much their people look like Minecraft characters, which I found pretty funny.

This week was also fun because the students got to use their devices, and QR codes to do a warm up using SMART XC (extreme collaboration).  The kids scanned the green QR code, answered the question, then scanned the black QR code, which connected them to the SMARTboard, and they typed in their answer.  Their answer then shows up on the board somewhere and after we have a bunch we can see which one is correct!  And what's great is I can choose for the information to be anonymous so no kid has to worry about being made fun of if their answer is wrong.  Thanks to @RafranzDavis for showing me this!

So it was another great PBL week, with still no test formatted questions.  We're learning AND having fun! Couldn't be better!

Friday, April 5, 2013

STAAR Week! Week 27 April 1-5, 2013

So this week was finally the time.  The time for our state standardized test (or STAAR).

So Monday we had a last minute review where I mainly just talked with the kids about setting a goal and not stressing out about the test.  I haven't mentioned STAAR much this year because I think it should be treated just like any other exam and not given all this extra attention too.

Tuesday we took the Math.  We have four timed hours to take it so we took it from 9am-1pm.  The kids seemed to work really hard, but I had 3 kids finish in the last 10 minutes!  Talk about stressed!!

Then Wednesday we took the Reading STAAR.  The reading is also timed for four hours.

Talk about two terrible days of testing!  I was soooo bored just walking around for four hours monitoring my students.

Thursday and Friday we did something different.  Our After School program has purchased this lego for Education set, so I borrowed it.  Thursday my students build lego robots from the set using the directions and plugging it into a computer and making it work.  Then Friday I had the students create their own working robots from their imagination and not from a book!  They had a blast and really got to learn while playing!  It was great!  I have some cool project ideas for next week that I'm excited to blog about :)

Also, for the next two weeks (starting Monday) I will also be tweeting for the twitter account @PRIschoolyear  please feel free to follow the account and check out my tweet as I take on a new endeavor with PRI!

I also forgot to blog about last week how we played a review game with QR codes.  The kids would scan the code, answer the question, then find the next card that had the answer at the top.  It was a blast!