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A Fun STEM Challenge for Kids Involving a Paper Plate and a Marble

When coming up with creative and fun STEM challenges for kids, you don’t have to look further than your closet at school for materials. All that is needed to create a mind-stimulating maze is a paper plate, construction paper, glue, scissors, and a marble. Kids today may not have any experience playing with pinball machines but after some simple instructions, they’ll be pros at paper plate pinball!
Here’s what needs to be done to make this project successful:
  • Acquire all of the supplies needed for each student. If you don’t have these items on hand, see if any parents want to donate them. They may have a huge supply of paper plates leftover from their last barbecue and not know what to do with them. That’s great news for you as it ensures you have the supplies you need to carry out this project without a hitch.
  • Demonstrate how to create simple arches and bumpers using construction paper. Create a sample paper plate pinball machine that can be used to demonstrate the process. You may want to experiment with different types of arches, bumpers, and obstacles so your students know what options await them.
  • Assist your students in cutting out paper strips and adhering them to the plates. Depending on how late in the day you teach this STEM project determines whether the glue will be dry in time to try out the pinball machines. You may have to extend the project into a two-day time period to ensure that all arches and bumpers are secure on the plates.
  • Have fun ‘scoring’ points with the marbles. Let your students explore their games by tilting them to try to get the marble into the proper slot. If your students wrote out scores for the different areas of the game, have them keep track of theirs so they can share it with the class later.

This STEM activity is easy to do. It requires little effort to execute and teaches students in a truly memorable way. It’s one way to incorporate fun and science in the classroom.

Character Building Activities to Use in the Classroom Today

Character is what defines a person. It gives their personality substance. It’s what they rely on to make solid decisions throughout their lifetime.
As a teacher and a role model, you have the power to help shape your students’ character. By modeling the right types of behavior and including lessons that focus on character building, you’re able to influence children and help them develop traits that considered desirable by society as a whole.
Here are some character building activities you can use in the classroom today:
·      Fill the bucket. Give each student slips of paper. Ask them to write something complimentary on them for each one of their peers. Have them pass out their compliments accordingly. Once everyone is finished with the task, ask the students to share some of their favorite compliments with the class.
·      Gratitude flower or tree. Create a gratitude flower or tree out of paper to place on the front of your classroom door. Whenever your class feels gratitude for something that has happened during the week, add a petal or leaf to the gratitude flower or tree. Give your students a turn posting the gratitude for the week so that everyone feels the magnitude of sharing it.
·      Helpful or hurtful. Have older kids look at magazines and share the language they feel is helpful and the language they feel is hurtful. Ask them to explain why they believe it to be true. This teaches them about empathy and thinking about how words make other people feel.

Character building is underutilized in schools nationwide. By engaging in activities that teach core values such as honesty, respectfulness, integrity, loyalty, compassion, and fairness, you’re helping children prepare for the real world and the many life lessons they’ll learn as adults. The more you focus on character building, the brighter future you give to your students who learn by example.

Productivity Hacks That Your Students Can Learn and Use to Gain More Time
As an educator, you know how challenging some lessons and projects are for your students. Given the short amount of time you have to teach them, you must ensure that your class understands what is being asked of them to do and that they can complete their assignments in the time allotted in or outside of class.
Timesaving shortcuts and hacks allow students to make the most of everything they’ve learned without interfering with their next project or obligations outside of school. By focusing on efficiency, you’re able to help them accomplish more in less time. The following tips can be used to help your students get things done fast.
Here are some productivity hacks that your students can learn and use to gain more time:
·      Rather than tackle the hardest task first, tackle the easiest. If it takes students two minutes or less to do, it should be the priority. Once the small tasks are out of the way, they can focus their energy on the more time-consuming task knowing they’ve already crossed several things off their To Do lists.
·      Commit OHIO to memory. Reiterate the phrase, “Only Handle It Once.” This applies to emails, instructions, and putting things away in the classroom. If students become mindful about this concept, they won’t get stuck revisiting the same tasks twice.
·      Stop multi-tasking. Focus on a single task and complete it before moving on to another. It prevents students from becoming confused and doing a task or project wrong.
Instead of rushing to get things done and miss the point of the lesson entirely, your students can maximize the time spent in the classroom by using hacks to increase productivity. They’ll retain more of what they’ve learned because they’re less focused on the outcome of the problems they’re solving or the processes they’re going through

Making the Case for Character Education

There are a lot of subjects taught in school but one that often gets overlooked is character education. It’s something that brings great value to the lives of students and the communities they live in. It helps influence their decision-making skills and shape their values. Children as young as Kindergarteners benefit from character education in the classroom.

The Six Pillars of Character
The six pillars of character include Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship. In the 1980s, the Supreme Court acknowledge that public schools are the perfect vehicle for learning core values. Unfortunately, character education isn’t a part of many educational institute’s curriculums.

Character Education Involves the Entire Community
When implemented in a school setting, it shapes student’s beliefs and actions. Schools are encouraged to make staff, students, and their parents active participants in character education. That way, areas of emphasis are determined by the community.

How It Benefits Students, Homes, and Communities
Character education training improves classroom interactions, lessens the need for disciplinary actions, and helps shape the future of students who rely on their training to do right by the world. It also gives parents and the community the skills needed to consistently speak about desirable character traits to students.

The Importance of Shaping Young People’s Future Through Beliefs and Actions
Making the case for character education is much simpler than it looks. It involves a commitment from educators and parents alike. Character education is something that is overlooked but necessary in schools around the country. It helps shape children’s moral values and helps them grow into well-rounded, rule-abiding citizens.

By accessing the right resources, educators can teach character education in a way that resonates with youth. It’s something they can communicate to other members of the school district as well as the parents of the students being taught. Communities are strengthened by character education and students that become exemplary citizens because of their strong moral values, infinite amount of respect, and desire to do the right thing at all times.

More Books About Hacking Education for You to Buy and Read

More Books About Hacking Education for You to Buy and Read

As an educator, effective communication is the key to meeting learning objectives. To get the message across to your students, you adopt a different way of delivering information in the classroom. Essentially, you work smarter not harder.

Some additional titles about hacking education that you’ll want to check out include:

 • Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School (Hack Learning Series) (Volume 1) by Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez. How schools approach challenges that get in the way of learning determines how successful their students are at overcoming obstacles. In Volume 1 of the Hack Learning Series, the authors address barriers to learning. They explain how to overcome negative attitudes, technology issues, lack of resources, and interruptions in planning time. It’s chock full of strategies that help you tap into your innate hacker mentality. A simple formula helps you implement hacks inside the classroom right away. First, you address the problem. Next, you identify the right hack and follow the step-by-step action plan. Finally, you see the hack in action because you’re able to put it to use right away.

 • Hacking Google for Education: 99 Ways to Leverage Google Tools in Classrooms, Schools, and Districts (Hack Learning Series) (Volume 11) by Brad Currie, Billy Krakower, and Scott Rocco. Get ready to change the way you use Google. It’s not just for browsing the web, it’s also for learning, communicating, and innovating. This guide is broken down into 33 chapters with 99 hacks to put to good use in the classroom. It tells you how to use Google Maps, Tours, Slides, and more to transform the learning environment inside your classroom, school, and district.


Character Education in Public Schools

Our public school system, from arrival to dismissal, is packed with objectives, lessons, and expectations. It may almost seem detrimental to throw another curriculum course on top of everything else. The case for character education, however, is different. Unlike the academic subject areas, character education teaches social emotional skills to students that they can use in any situation, whether the student is interacting with other students, adults, or deciding their course of action alone. Character education is an important element of socialization that can be easily overlooked. When students are introduced to concepts of character, they are asked to reflect on their own personal values and how they are treating others around them. With a well-written character education curriculum, students can be guided into considering their actions and how they affect others around them. This self-reflection leads to a positive school climate where students are more considerate of their own behaviors. Giving students and teachers a common vocabulary will allow them to communicate their emotions and ideas more effectively, and in turn, can reduce unwanted behaviors. 
Character education also allows for a stronger understanding of social emotional learning. When conflict arises between students, they can communicate to one another by their observations on each others behaviors through the lens of the common character values. This empowers students to self advocate and to advocate for others if they see peers are being targeted for teasing or bullying. A strong character education will also allow for the foundations of successful adult interactions. Through scaffolding character education throughout the years of development, students can be given a stronger understanding of their own character strengths and shortcomings. They can better understand how to utilize their strengths in each social situation, while understanding what character traits they need to practice to improve. By understanding their own strengths, they will be able to see the value in a diversity of character traits in their peers, and will be better able to work in diverse groups of people throughout their lives. 

What do you do to foster character education at your school?

Get Started on the Right Foot

Well, it's back to school and it conjures up feelings of excitement, new beginnings, and even a bit of anxiety particularly if you are a beginning teacher (even if you're not). That's to be expected, after all you may look back over the courses you took to prepare you for an elementary school classroom and wonder if you are.

When you do look back over the courses that you took to prepare you for elementary education, can you think of any skills or knowledge that you might need but haven't acquired yet? For example, do you know how to organize a grade book so that you can mark it 'on the fly' and correctly assess all your students by the end of the school day? Can you use an electronic grade book?

I know from personal experience that my own "classroom management" course barely skimmed the surface of what I really needed to know to be truly successful. There wasn't any discussion about how to utilize a grade book, how to take attendance, dealing with audiovisual equipment, distributing supplies to your students, construction noise, just to name a few.

I want to take this opportunity to share with you a strategy that I used with my students and it has saved me a bunch of time and needless to say aggravation. This strategy that I am talking about is, "Always give your students one direction at a time." I know what you're probably thinking, "Wow, this is going to take all day to do a simple task." But I can assure you that it will not. I go into a lot more detail in my classroom management book "Get Started on the Right Foot." If this was the only strategy that you took away from reading this book, it would more than justify the cost.

Would you like classroom tips and strategies that you can implement immediately? Click Here!

What is a strategy that you have used in your classroom that has worked really well? Please share!

The Best Books for Hacking Education

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. If you click these and make a purchase from Amazon, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support.

If you want to learn the ins and outs of hacking education, there are some excellent books on the subject. I’ve included three of the best I’ve found for you to review. They provide valuable insight on the subject and how it applies to you as an educator.

The books that you need to be aware of are:
  1.  Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School. Volume One in the Hack Learning Series by Mark Barnes, this book is every educator’s dream. Rather than dig through piles of data and research, you’re able to go to the root of the problem with practical solutions that are fast to implement and effective in their approach. A hacker’s mentality is needed to revolutionize the entire education system. This book explains ways to deal with classroom management, the need for additional books, wasted meeting time, and more. It provides solutions in the form of Pineapple Charts, The 360 Spreadsheet, Glass Classrooms, and dozens of other systems that you can follow step-by-step and ignite change in the schools you teach in immediately. 
  2. Hacking Google for Education: 99 Ways to Leverage Google Tools in Classrooms, Schools, and Districts. Known as Volume 11 in the Hack Learning Series, this informative book by Brad Currie, Billy Krakower, and Scott Rocco is all about Google. It’s written for teachers, principals, and district administrators who want to use the G Suite- Google Drive, Apps, Docs, Gmail, and all Google Tools at classroom, school, and district levels. There is a total of 99 hacks in 33 chapters. Some tips and tools apply to Google offerings that you may have never even heard of such as Flubaroo, Flippity, Tours, and YouTube Insights. Become the G-Master Supreme of the educational system you work in. This book shows you how to use Google for more than just web searches. 
  3. Hacking Project Based Learning: 10 Easy Steps to PBL and Inquiry in the Classroom. Written by Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy, Volume Nine in the Hack Learning Series is jam-packed with tips on how to do project based learning (PBL) the right way. Students are more inquisitive and creative because of your instruction. This guide shows you how to create umbrella questions that drive a project, assess the process formatively to determine its success, and practice patience when your students struggle to be productive. This book is a must-have as it enhances your experience as an educator and your students’ experience as learners.

    Go beyond the normal way of thinking about education. Apply logic like a hacker would. Simplify complicated and ineffective systems by taking a new approach to teaching. Make things easier on yourself, the other educators you work with, and the students that learn from you by buying these books and committing their hacks to memory. 

#1 Book title: Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School
#2 Book title: Hacking Google for Education
#3 Book title: Hacking Project Based Learning: 10 Easy Steps to PBL and Inquiry in the Classroom (Hack Learning Series) (Volume 9)

Things to Do This Summer to Prepare for Fall

Things to Do This Summer to Prepare for Fall

Many people think that teachers get to spend three months in the summer just hanging out--sleeping in, lounging by the pool, and not doing any work. However, any teacher knows that isn’t true. Just because students aren’t in school doesn’t mean teachers don’t have work to do. Some teachers take on summer jobs to make some extra cash through summer camps or tutoring. All of us spend the summer preparing for the next school year so we’re not overwhelmed. Here are some things you can do this summer to prepare for the fall

Take Classes
If you want to teach a new grade or subject, you can take courses so you can pass your local or state qualifications tests and gain a competitive edge. Teachers really looking to move up may want to consider pursuing a Master’s degree in Education. Summer is the perfect time to take tougher classes. 

Lesson Plan
Instead of stressing during the school year about lessons, take the summer to get as detailed as you possibly can. Assemble worksheets, build reading lists, and make a general outline of what you’re going to cover and when. The more you can plan now, the less you’ll have to do during the year when your time is consumed with actual teaching and grading papers. There are lots of resources available to help you create awesome lesson plans for any grade level or subject matter. 

Teachers work really hard. They spend six to seven hours a day teaching, plus a few hours each day and over the weekend grading papers and planning. Plus, many teachers take on extra tasks, tutoring, moderating clubs, or coaching sports teams. Many teachers work a minimum of ten hours on any given school day. You need a break, though. Take advantage of the time off to relax and recharge, both mentally and physically, so you can feel fresh and energized once fall rolls around. 

What are some things you like to do over the summer to prepare for the fall?

End of Year Projects and Activities

End of Year Projects and Activities

With the end of the school year upon us, students and teachers alike are getting ready for summer. Students are ready for months without homework or assignments, and are usually checked out by the end of the school year. Teachers are often just as tired of school as students are. Here are some ideas for end of year projects and assignments that are fun and can allow students to reflect on what they’ve learned and accomplished. 

Book Hall of Fame
Have students pick their favorite book that they’ve read during the school year and write a reflection about it. They can also draw a picture to accompany it. Hang the reflections on a bulletin board for next year’s students. 

Switch Places
If you want students to review what they learned this year, have them switch places with you. You can assign lessons individually or put students in pairs or groups. Assign each child or group a topic from the past year, and have them teach you and the rest of the class. It will help them remember what they’ve learned and give you a break.

Put On a Play
For a more creative project, students can write, direct, and perform a play about the school year. Ask them to incorporate things they learned this year in English, science, and history, as well as things that happened to the class outside the classroom.

People of the Year
Create your own awards show for your class. Students can pick their favorite president, historical figure, scientist, author, fictional character and more. Let them nominate people they learned about this year for awards. You can also have them nominate other people in school, like the principal or the lunch monitors. 

How do you keep your students (and yourself) motivated at the end of the school year?

Getting Students Interested In Reading

Reading is one of the most important things young children can learn to love. Good reading and comprehension skills start early, so it’s important to lay the foundations and get children interested in reading from an early age. Here are some tips for getting students interested in reading. 

Give Options
Not all kids are going to like the same books. While you may have some that are a necessary part of the curriculum, you should try to introduce your class to a wide variety of books. There is a book out there for every child. You just have to help them find it. Once kids discover a book they love, they’re often excited to find even more. 

Make It Come to Life
For many students, reading can seem dull, especially when books are difficult or take them a long time to read. Try to find ways to make a story come to life. Have students draw pictures of what’s happening in the story, or make a play about it. Even simply reading aloud in class with different voices for the characters can make it more fun. 

Offer Rewards
When kids are just starting to read, you may want to offer rewards or incentives to get them to read as much as possible. Stickers and small prizes can be enough of a motivator to get kids to open a few books. Chart their progress and the number of books they’ve read to encourage them to read just for the sake of reading. 

Send Reading Home
Students should be reading at home as well as at school. The more practice they get each day the better. You can even send slightly more advanced books home with students to read alongside their parents. For young children, even hearing adults read more advanced material can help improve their vocabulary and comprehension skills. 

What are some other ways you’ve gotten your students interested in reading? Leave your ideas in the comment section below. 

Spring Science Lessons and Activities

Spring is officially here. The weather is warmer, plants and flowers are finally blooming, and animals are coming out to play. Spring is great time to teach kids about science, since there’s so much of it taking place right outside the door. Here are some spring science lessons and activities kids can do both indoors and outdoors.  

Butterfly Life Cycle 
This is a great lesson for preschool and elementary-aged children. For younger kids, start by reading the classic children’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Then you can go as in-depth as you’d like about the butterfly life cycle. Study cocoons, metamorphosis and different types of butterflies. If you have the budget, you can even order a caterpillar and butterfly kit so children can watch it happen. This lesson also easily translates to art projects for younger kids.   

How Rainbows Form 
They say April showers bring May flowers, but those showers can also bring rainbows. Teach kids about light and how it mixes with rain to form a rainbowKids of any age can get in on the fun with a wide variety of activities and lessons of various difficultly levels. Have preschoolers shine a flashlight on the back of a compact disk, while older children can study refraction and light bending with flashlight, prisms and white paper.  

Plant Growth 
Spring is the perfect time to teach kids about how plants grow and why everything starts becoming green again as the weather gets warmer. You can even get hands-on by letting students plant their own seeds and watch them grow. With some egg cartons or Styrofoam cups, some fast-growing flower seeds, soil and a watering can, students can plant seeds and track the plant growth over time. They’ll get to see with their own eyes the transformation from seed to plant as they learn about plant growth in class.   

What are different science lessons you teach to engage your students?

All the best,