Sunday, December 11, 2016

Holiday STEM Design Challenges 12/12/16

This week of school is an exciting time for our scholars!! One way to join in their excitement is to give them a holiday specific design challenge!! I will be sharing with you via email two design challenges: The Final Snowman Stretch (primary-How tall can you build a snowman?) and Jingle All the Way (intermediate- Because the reindeer are getting older a new sleigh needs to be designed!)
I know you can adapt either of these for you scholars.

I leave you with a funny poem for teachers and hope your holiday is full of friends, family, and be sure to take a little time for yourself too! You all deserve it!!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Being a Teacher Blog Post 12/5/16

The countdown to our winter break is hectic to say the least with students who seem to have more unfocused energy than ever. I read a blog I follow by George Couros and thought I would share it with you because his view of reality along with his encouragement is perfect to hear at this time of year! Even when we think our directions are clear, sometimes we just have to take a deep breathe and state them in a different way. I especially LOVE his last line...Continue to be the positive moment that kids will remember years from now. Isn't that why we teach?

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Being a Teacher
November 29, 2016 by George Couros (follow his blog)

This time of year can be emotionally exhausting, so here is something that might brighten up your day. Watch the GIF below of a dad teaching his son to hit a baseball and telling him to “keep his eye on the ball”:

I laughed hysterically at this when I first saw it, and then thought about how hard it is to be a teacher. The emotional roller coaster that a teacher can go on in a single day, hour, minute, is exemplified in this post.

Watch it again:
What do you see in a short span with the dad?
I see the following…


All things teachers can feel in a matter of seconds.
Thank you teachers for all that you do. I know that this is insanely tough job, but I appreciate all that you do to not only get your kids better, but to become better yourselves. The hardest part of being a teacher is knowing that you will never truly know the full impact of what you do. Just know that the best teachers make a difference.

Continue to be the positive moment that kids will remember years from now.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Family STEM Night & Online Response System (DMAC) 11/28/16

Walking around Family STEM Night listening to the scholars and parents having discussions about the engineering taking place was insightful. I realize that often teachers do not feel appreciated, but I can guarantee you that your hard work was noticed! The amount of team work and collaboration that took place to make such a successful event speaks to your creativity and professionalism to always strive to provide the best family experience for Cannon community. 
"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." Helen Keller

Tired of SCANNING into DMAC?
You have options that will guarantee your DATA is accurate!

Using the Online Student Response System, scholars can enter their answers directly into DMAC using their iPAD or Chromebook. Students also get instant feedback, as do you! To access the Unit Assessments for your grade, click on DMAC Elementary Test Key List and it will take you to a spreadsheet that has all the Unit Assessments for 1-5, Science TEKS checks (3-5) as well as Reading/Writing benchmarks. Once you are on the spreadsheet you can hyperlink to Unit Assessments and the Answer Keys. The Online Student Response System will be turned on during the windows of testing for the benchmark for 5 days and then it automatically turns off as a built in security measure. But if you miss the “window” all you have to do is let me know and I can have it easily turned back on. We need to do this the DAY before you test. Please let me know so I can schedule time to assist you!
As a reminder, Kinder still enters math benchmarks into Euphoria & DMAC is used for 1st-5th math as well as 3rd-5th Science TEKS checks. 

“Mostly though, I am thankful for my students who make my job the hardest, most rewarding thing I have ever done“ William Chamberlain

Monday, November 14, 2016

Teachers as Facilitators in a STEM Classroom Part 2 11/14/16


Following up from last week we will look at the last 3 levels of Bloom’s questions to facilitate STEM lessons through questioning. We will continue to work on adding to these questions to reinforce our desire of deepening understanding and expand problem solving among our scholars.

  • What are the parts or features that match the criteria being asked of you?
  • What was the turning point in your design?
  • What is the function of (point to part of the project)?
  • Why do you think this will work?
  • What evidence can you find that will support your thoughts?
  • What did you decide to change that part of your project?
  • How is this similar/different compared to your brainstorm design?

  • Why was this better than your first design?
  • How would you rate or evaluate your project/design so far?
  • What changes would you recommend?
  • Is there a better solution to (problem with the project)?
  • How would you have handled (come up with problem they may have faced during project)?
  • How effective do you think your solution/design is? Explain
  • What would you recommend to other students who haven’t started this project yet?


  • What could be combined to improve how that works?
  • How would you adapt this to create a different design?
  • What changes would you make to solve that problem?
  • How would you improve (the weak part)?
  • How would you change/modify this so it does meet the criteria?
  • Can you invent a solution for that issue?
  • What would happen if…..?
Big image

Monday, November 7, 2016

Teachers as Facilitators in the STEM Classroom Part 1- 11/7/16

Teachers as Facilitators in the STEM Classroom - Part 1

To facilitate STEM lessons, teachers must prompt students to justify, design and evaluate ideas through their questioning. I recently read about a presentation on higher level questioning strategies in STEM lessons from Paul Pack and Deborah Haynie with the work they are doing at Liberty Elementary in Virginia. They took the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy framework and designed questions that would speak specifically to the EDP. This week we will look at the first 3 levels. Next week, we will explore the next 3 levels.

  • What challenge/problem were you asked to solve?
  • How would you describe your project?

  • What do you think might happen next?
  • Explain how this works.
  • What in your project shows (the new idea or criteria given)?

  • Could this have happened/been used in (real life scenario given in design brief)?
  • What elements would you change if you did this again?
  • How would you solve (problem in their design) with what you have learned so far?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Types of Questions for Real World Application 10/31/16

After reading a blog post by Engineering is Elementary on questioning strategies, I wondered how the intentional use of these types of questions could help us strengthen our scholars' understanding of each phase of the Engineering Design Process. Check out these five effective questioning strategies to help students process, engage and troubleshoot their own problems.

  • “Tell me what you are making?”
  • “Can you tell me more about your design?”
  • “What materials did you choose?”
  • “Can you describe the materials you are using?”

  • “What did you find out in your research?”
  • “Why do you think this will work?”
  • “Can you think of another solution?”

  • “Tell me more about what you mean by that?”
  • “How did you come to that answer?”
  • “Let me see if I understand you. Are you saying . . . ?”

  • “What happened when you tested your design? What did it do? What did you see?”
  • “What do you think is happening? Why do you think that?”
  • “What would you change about your design? Why?”
  • “What do you think will happen if you make that change? Why?”

  • What do you need to know about ________________ in order to improve your design? (Examples of the blank could be “wind energy” or “force in motion”.)
  • What do you know how ____________ works in the real world that will help you improve your design? (Examples of the blank could be “turbines”, “fences”, “roller coasters”, “bridges”

I also realized that #5 - Student Generating Questions not only aligns directly to the iteration process, but it also applies to the Distinguished category on the T-TESS rubric Dimension 1.4 (The teacher plans engaging, flexible lessons that encourage higher order thinking, persistence and achievement.) In order to reach the Distinguished level, the rubric states that the teacher must design learning that provides: Opportunities for students to generate questions that lead to further inquiry and promote complex, higher-order thinking, problem solving and real-world application.

So.... beyond the fact that developing great questioning skills can deepen student learning, as well as strengthen our own instructional practices, it is also simply an important skill to develop....for life! I leave you with the quote from the book A More Beautiful Question.

What is an Expository Essay 10/24/16

What is an Expository Essay According to TEA?

This question comes up from time-to-time and people often find it confusing in the elementary teaching world. I thought I would give a little insight into a traditional expository essay vs. the state tested expository test we prepare our students to take.

I found this generic definition online: The expository essay is a genre of essay that requires the student to investigate an idea, evaluate evidence, expound on the idea, and set forth an argument concerning that idea in a clear and concise manner

Well, in Texas, an expository essay is what I call a "personal expository". A type of informational text that clarifies or explains something. Students must explain their opinion, or knowledge, or thinking about a given topic. Expository writing is explanatory. Please read through these notes from Victoria Young, Director of Reading, Writing, and Social Studies Assessments at TEA.
Victoria Young's Discussion about Expository

  • Expository essays must explain what the student thinks about a topic. The student is free to explore the ambiguities of the issue.
  • To be focused, an expository essay must be centered around an explicit, specific controlling idea, which represents the student's take on the topic.
  • The controlling idea must be a direct statement of what the student will explain and must give the reader a clear idea of the goal of the essay.
  • The best development is real, based on a student's own experiences and thinking about the world.
  • Good development can't happen without good progression, and good progression requires meaningful transitions.
  • Student's presence in the writing itself, his personal feelings and thinking about the topic all expressed through what the student chooses to develop and how.
  • What impedes thoughtfulness and individuality: formulaic approaches and 5 paragraph essays=lack of thoughtfulness student uses fill in the box strategy

All of our Kinder-5th grade teachers need to keep this in mind as you ask your students to do expository writing in the classroom. In 4th grade, students are required to write expository essays for STAAR, from their own experiences and thinking about the world. Introducing this type of thinking/writing earlier than 4th grade is critical to their development and success on 4th grade STAAR!

Student Led Conferences 10/17/16

Student led conferences are approaching quickly in 2 1/2 weeks on November 3rd. Please take a look at this article & examples of her 3rd grade classroom's goal setting in writing (this easily transfers to ALL SUBJECTS) from the blog Two Writing Teachers.

Betsy Hubbard explains the steps she took to get the students owning their own goals, how she supports and holds them accountable. What I like most about Hubbard's article is how she had to build goal setting conversations into their everyday routines to be impactful. Make sure you read to the end "Steps 6-7" and her "Next steps to think about..." to gain the most insight into her journey. With a system in place like this, student led conferences will go smoothly because our scholars will be used to discussing their growth, goals and plans to improve.

Digital Textbooks in Arms 10/10/16

All text books are now accessible with a single sign on through ARMS!!. There will also be nightly uploads of new students once they are processed through our system, which takes about a week. Please take a moment to watch the video below to learn more about this!

If in the event there is an issue or you are missing students, please submit a work order in Eduphoria <HELP DESK< Digital Textbooks. Or, if you email the issues, I will be happy to submit one for you.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Student Voice 10/3/16

As we begin the new T-TESS and work towards having student-centered classrooms, I think that "student voice" is going to be an important piece to help students have more buy-in as well as personal responsibility in their learning. Russell Quaglia states inStudent Voice: The Instrument of Change:

"All human beings want their voices to matter. We like giving our opinions and offering ideas. We want to be the subject of our activities, not the objects of someone else's. We want to be active agents, not just passive spectators."

Please consider joining the STUDENT VOICE group to show you how to gain valuable feedback from your scholars to help design meaning work that will be engaging and fit with their learning styles. If you haven't checked out this Student Voice Smore that was shared with the district, please review it. Dr. Newell is hoping to engage folks in a variety of ways and encourage participation. There are sample surveys in the Smore for a variety of grade levels if this would be helpful for you.

The Student Voice meeting is on October 10 from 4:00-5:00 in Panther Den at PDEC. Please join to discuss ways you are using Voice as a tool in your classroom and learn new ideas from your colleagues. The following link will allow you to register in Eduphoria, and PLEASE fill in this quick 3 question Google form to share where you work.

Education Galaxy 8/26/16

Education Galaxy is up and running! If you haven't set up your classes, it's very easy to do! Go to www.educationgalaxy.comand log in using your email as your username and your last name for your password (unless you changed it last year.)

To set up your classes, you can go to "Student Center" and then "Create a Class". There's a video on the page that shows you exactly how to do it.

Use Safari and create a bookmark on their home screen

You can find the student ID's and PW's after you have set up your class. There is a way to print it out and I also have templates for stickers if you want! Let me know if you want the stickers! I have attached directions for finding the student logins.

Growth Mindset- 9/19/16

THANK YOU!! The Two-by-Ten Challenge created GREAT conversation in 5th and 4th grade PLCs this past week! ! (We ran out of time in 3rd grade but will add that to our next agenda)


Now that we have completed 4 weeks of school and spending time to review concepts is coming to an end, you may begin to hear students voicing frustration while attacking new concepts. It is important that we listen to our scholars, because those negative comments are often about their own struggles and we need to support their feelings.

Consider having a quick lesson about "fixed mindset" vs. "growth mindset" in your classroom. This is appropriate for all grade levels. I have share some examples that you might consider to help your students change their language in the classroom.

Remember that "one small negative thought can turn into: a huge, speeding ball of ugliness. On the contrary, a small positive thought can have the same effect blossoming into a beautiful outcome."

Mindset Design Challenge idea: Using Play Doh, pipe cleaners, and multi-colors of Post It papers, create models to represent a fixed mindset, a growth mindset, and an innovator’s mindset. Take a picture(s) of your structures and insert them into a single Google Drawings. Also insert a text box and write a brief blurb describing your thinking.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Two-By-Ten Difficult Student Strategy 9/12/16

Two weeks ago I wrote that STUDENTS really want a CARING teacher.  The only way to be a caring teacher is to develop a relationships.  So exactly how do you connect with and build a relationship with difficult students?   By using a strategy to have a personal two minute conversation with a challenging student for 10 days.  Please take a minute to read this ONE MINUTE INSERVICE article about the Two-By-Ten Strategy. 

I challenge each of you to commit to trying out this strategy.  Imagine the impact we can have a teachers to change the life of 30 plus students over the next 10 days.  Enlist a teammate to hold you accountable and let’s change the lives of our students.  I truly believe in my heart that each students deserves a caring teacher and I know you do as well, or you wouldn’t be a teacher!  

Instructional Coaching Model 9/5/16

Please take a minute to watch this video of GCISD teachers sharing how they have utilized Instructional Coaches in our district to reach their goals. 
Please let me know your needs so I can match you up with a coach. 

What do students really want? 8/29/16

What do students really want?

As I pondered this question and watched our students this past week, I realized that students come to school with expectations. They expect to be engaged with exciting new things and want to be in an environment that is comfortable for them to learn with a teacher who cares about them.  How do we provide those things?  As teachers we collaborate with our colleagues to design engaging work, show and teach empathy, and individually each teacher develops relationships that set the “tone and culture” of their class with classroom management.

Classroom management is key to your success!!  If this past week did not seem to go as smooth as you wanted, all hope is NOT loss.  SLOW down and model what carpet time/large group time looks like…again and again. As well as every other procedure that makes your class the best learning environment possible. If you allow students to disengage and wonder around the room, you are setting yourself up for a long year!  Other students are distracted because of this disengagement and eventually you become frustrated when your students are not making the academic gains they should be. Classroom management is personal but we need to make sure we think beyond our comfort level to guarantee that all students are in a space in which they can learn.

What do students really want?  They want a caring teacher that has amazing classroom management so they can learn.  It truly is all about the students.

I would love to come observe your group of students so I can collaborate with you some management ideas so you can have the BEST school year ever!!  Please email so we can set up a time.

 Please take at look at this FABULOUS website for some great tips for the first few weeks of school. You will be impressed with the topics addressed.

Classroom Culture 8/22/16

What a great start to our school year! The graphic below, created by George Couros, shares 10 wonderful ideas on how to create an amazing classroom culture this year!

Read more about each of these ideas here on his blog! How will YOU make an impact on your classroom culture beginning on day #1?

May 30, 2016

When you spend the school year giving of yourself to your students, it is important to relax and recharge! It gives you the chance to reflect and remember WHY you chose to teach.

Please reach out to me anytime this summer if I can help with you with any professional development. I look forward to hearing about the new things you learn and discover to use with your scholars next year!

I am proud to able to work with you this year and proud of the work done here at Cannon.

May 23, 2016

I forget each year how May becomes a whirlwind that seems to spin faster and faster. Students will be able to use iStation and Education Galaxy this summer. Please plan to spend some class time explaining this to your students and finding a way to help them secure their login information so they will have access at home. This is an easy way to help students have a spiral review of skills over the summer.

Thank you for all of your hard work with Young Engineer's Night because it was a huge success! This is proof that collaboration truly is the best way to plan to meet the needs of our students.

May 16, 2016

Teacher College Reading/Writing Workshops

Trent Deberry and Alyssa Newman have conducted workshops at four schools in our district to which we were able to send 6 teachers. They have a high level of expertise in reading/writing workshop and have helped teachers to enhance their reading/writing instruction in GCISD. Trent and Alyssa contacted Dr. Newell recently about the possibility of hosting a workshop (or set of workshops) in our area that would be available for teachers to attend for a fee.

While we have some offerings provided in-house this summer, this is a great opportunity to learn from experienced “Teacher College” trainers. The time frame for their offerings will likely be the first week of August (one-day sessions) at a cost of $100-125/per day, per teacher). Tona is willing to send teachers to this training so please email both of us if you are interested so we can help facilitate registration.

They have provided a survey link to get a gauge of the level of interest so they can finalize their class topics and schedule. If you are interested in this, please complete it.

May 9, 2016

Has Teacher Appreciation Week always been the week before Mother's Day? I know that teachers are not the actual parent of our scholars, yet as their teacher, you still act as a parent in many ways. You nurture and accept students unconditionally, where they are emotionally and academically. Just as being a parent is selfless, so is being a teacher. There is nothing easy about being a teacher, but you are an amazing group of professionals who put the needs of our scholars first, every day! Thank you!!

Important May Reminders:

Mathematical Mindset Book Club Kickoff on May 18th:

25 Book Challenge is due May 12th:

New Humanities Curriculum preview dates that are remaining:
May 12th - 3:30-4:30 - Hosted at Cannon Elementary library - registration link
May 19th - 3:30-4:30 - Hosted at CMS library - registration link
May 24th - 3:30-4:40 - Hosted at Cannon Elementary library - registration link

May 2, 2016

I wanted to take a moment to remind you that your hard work in the lives of our scholars DOES MATTER. Parents do appreciate everything you do, even if they don't tell you! I know you have a heart for kids and I appreciate everything you do to make the @canSTEM experience the best. I found this "One Hundreds Years From Now" reminder that each of YOU make a difference!!

End of the year assessment window opens up on May 2nd. We will be adding our writing assessments to the blue literacy folders stored in Brenda Milum's room. If you have any questions, please email me.

Also, the Humanities will be having their new curriculum overviews on every Tuesday in May. Have you signed up to attend one yet?

April 25, 2016

Currently at Cannon we have 10 teachers that have attended the 21st Century Learning Academy at the Fort Worth Museum. There are several more planning to attend this summer. This is a training that ALL teachers at Cannon should plan to attend, in order to deepen your knowledge about STEM-based instruction.

  • The 21st Century Learning Academy will provide educators with in-depth experiences on integrating STEM education into their classrooms. The pedagogy, practices and implementation strategies taught will enhance professional practice and help build educators' understanding of how STEM based instruction can benefit student learning.
  • 3-8 Educator's Academy: July 25-29, 8:30am-4:30pm
  • K-2 Educator's Academy: August 1-5, 8:30am-4:30pm

Please consider attending this foundational training to learn how to implement STEM strategies into classrooms. This class is a great addition to add to your STEM toolbox!!

Here is what two of your colleagues said about FWMSH:

Kami: "My experience at the FWMSH for the STEM professional development was the best and it was challenging. I needed the background to help me find my 'place', so learning pedagogy was fantastic! Also, because it wasn't tied to Cannon, (if I messed up, it wouldn't reflect badly) l was comfortable trying to merge pedagogy and 'Kami'. I had a blast and finally felt I was understanding STEM and actually did a pretty good job!"

Heather: "Going to the Fort Worth Museum STEM week greatly impacted my teaching because I understood how to incorporate engineering into any content I was teaching and how I could incorporate other content areas into the design challenge or project. This training also allowed me to design work to have students apply their learning to authentic global problems rather than just creating scenarios for them. It also made me understand the significance of the engineering design process and how this should be a guide not only for students to use but is a guide for us when designing lessons."