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…..?
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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.