Thursday, August 10, 2017

Solar Eclipse First Day of School's app Eclipse Safari Interactive Guide
My first day of school is the TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE DAY! We have the whole school geeking out over this quirk of cosmic geometry!

My first day of school plans are part of this week's Sunday Funday. Click the photo for all the details!

Although I wish we had a few days with kids before this huge event, I am super excited for an unforgettable first day of school! There are so many great activities and resources out there for the total solar eclipse but I was limited because we will only have students a couple of hours before the viewing. I suggested skipping lunch but the powers that be think they need food! Even though we are making solar ovens to cook hot dogs! We are going to start the day with an assembly to welcome them back to school and to show a quick video on what makes a total solar eclipse so amazing. Then the Solar Eclipse Fest will get started!

One of our awesome math teachers was able to sweet talk Pizza Hut into donating 400 pizza boxes for our solar ovens! Thank you Pizza Hut! A local restaurant donated a huge roll of tin foil. We will have students put these together first thing so they can be put outside to cook their hot dogs.

Other activities include a human sundial using sidewalk chalk, art with sun art paper, making bracelets out of UV beads, and constructing paper pinwheels.

We will also have solar experiments set up so they can collect temperature data. We will take data from things like a solar panel with a voltage meter, white/black paper, black and silver cans filled with  rocks, soil, water, and sand.

We will be using NASA's Globe Observer app to observe the clouds and temperature during the eclipse. This is part of NASA's citizen science project to record observations. The data collected by students will be used worldwide by scientists to study the effects of the eclipse. How cool!

NASA's website has an enormous amount of information, activities, guides, and lots more.

Make sure your glasses are NASA certified and get outside to view the Great American Total Solar Eclipse! Happy first day of school! Hope you have the best year ever!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Sunday Funday Goals

This post is part of a weekly blogging challenge #SundayFunday hosted by Julie. She provides the topic, you provide the fun! Please join us!

This week's topic is goals. I love the summer! Not just for the sunshine but for the time to {stay} in the rabbit hole of Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest! I can read books and peruse the internet at leisure or on the beach!

Building a community and student relationships in my classroom have always been my top priority along with engagement. The later is easier once students know they matter to you. I feel like I have student engagement down with flexible seating, interactive notebooks, crazy activities, and keeping up with all the things they are into. But with all of that, it is still about me. How I set up the lesson, activity, or notebook. How I want to assess them and what I want a finished product to look like. I knew there was more I could do to give my students a voice and I found it in this book. I want to EMPOWER my students! I want my students to be driven by a sense of purpose and meaning. To create curiosity so they want to learn.

Space Camp was an amazing experience for me this summer. Doing missions and creating a team badge were a couple of the things that got my head swirling with ideas of how I wanted this school year to look. Speakers at Space Camp said many times that the students coming into our middle school classrooms this year are the students that are going to Mars! I have always felt the enormous task of having the future in our classrooms...but they are GOING TO MARS! They will have jobs that require them to be self-directed, innovative, and creative. Even if they are not entrepreneurs, they will have to think like one. I want to EMPOWER them.

I want to empower my students to be self-starters. Last year, when I was video-ing and writing for National Board, they were vested in the whole process. They wanted to know what I wrote and were a big part of the planning. They were showing signs of being self-starters as they prepared the class to video, did the video, and wanted to reflect after. The process was for me but it empowered them. I had a true student entrepreneur who refinished and sold spool tables after being inspired by the one in our classroom. He was empowered.

I have never been scared to experiment or take creative risks. I watched my daddy do just that with each house he built. He was innovative and took creative risks like with the underground house he designed and built for us. I saw this article where the owner of Big A Fans discussed how "when you hire bright, entrepreneurial-minded employees who take initiative, and add to the equation people with the natural inclinations toward curiosity, transparency, and being contrarian, you've got the makings of a great workforce." The article's author described contrarians as "people that push against the status quo by doing, thinking, and behaving in unconventional ways, at the speed of innovation." After reading the article I labeled my daddy a contrarian and I want to be a contrarian in the classroom! I want to empower my students to be contrarians too, ready for the workforce!

So I am giving up a lot of control and giving {my} classroom to them. I want them to have real and meaningful math problems and true collaboration. I am also going to use classroom jobs. I think this will be a great way for them to start taking ownership of the class. Some of the jobs will be collaborative and some will be for managers or support personnel. One of the jobs will be a collaborative team that runs our classroom Google site. It will have information about the class, calendar, surveys, whatever else mathy-y they put on it, and a section for a family newsletter. Students will run the site and write the newsletter. I am super excited and super nervous about this! But I know that it will be awesome to empower these young people, who are going to Mars, to blaze a path of innovation and have a mindset of an entrepreneur.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Snapchat Geofilter for the Win

Snapchat is the social media platform most of our students use often every second of the day! I try to stay current on the things they love so I can do math with what they are interested in. We were planning our last cross-curricular field trip of the year and I had the idea to make a geofilter for the students to use while we were there. It was super easy to make and the students loved using it while we were geocaching! They were super impressed with me! So if you haven't heard of geofilters, it is just a filter that is overlayed on photos that gives your location or event.

See how fun they are! I love using them everywhere we go. They also have them for special days, holidays, big events. We haven't been to a city that doesn't have several options. You can make one for your event too! Start by creating an image. You want to think about the size because you don't want it so big it covers your face!

I clearly made mine too large! I would also think about making it more transparent. Next, I used to resize it and make it transparent. You can check Snapchat's website to make sure you have all of their criteria met!

After you have your photo ready, you get to draw the map boundaries of your geofilter. The geofilter will only work within that boundary and during the times you set.

My own kid thought it would be cool to do his promposal using one. I think she loved it! And so did the rest of the school! He received a lot of snapchats that day saying yes from his friends!

That's it! You submit it to be approved and earn big time cool points with your students! Seriously fun and easy!

Monday, July 31, 2017

File Folder Icons Makeover

Get rid of your MacBook blue file folders on your desktop! Upgrade to super cute file folder icons! Not a mathy post, but it will make your math files happy! It is so simple, I wish I had known about this long ago. Maybe you did! But if not, here are the steps to dressing up your desktop!

I use PowerPoint for all of my publishing. Back in the day I used Publisher but MacBook doesn't support it so I had to switch. They are very similar so use whichever one you have. Create an icon making sure it fills the entire page.

Make sure all of the images and text boxes are grouped together. To group, make sure all the images/boxes are selected or highlighted. Right click and copy the entire image directly from PowerPoint.

Then right-click the file folder you want to edit. Select "Get Info."

Click on the small folder icon first and then hit paste. Watch that plain blue folder change to your design!

No more ugly blue file folders! The fonts I used are Amatic from and Better Together from I am a font-addict!

Speaking of being a font addict...another trick that has saved me hours time when trying to find the perfect font! You can go to and it will display your text in every font that is installed on your computer! I know! Take a minute! Hope this folder makeover will bring your back to school desktop some happiness!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Teacher's Guide to Interactive Student Notebooks

I was asked to present Interactive Student Notebooks at our Gulf Regional Innovative Teaching Conference. I have used them in my classroom for 4 years and was super happy to share all of the things I have stolen from other teachers! I only had 50 minutes to talk about something I could talk for days about! What better way to teach teachers about interactive notebooks than to have them create their own! This is also my love letter to Math Equals Love for putting her amazing ideas out into the math world. I actually do have some of my own ideas but I am sure they originate from hers!

I put all the handouts together, in order, for each participant so I would not have to use precious time passing things out. I think this saved time. That and me talking super fast! I wanted them to leave with a product and something tangible they could refer to. My classroom model notebook that I keep through the year is helpful for me the next year to look back on.

It was important to me that they experience the "interactive" notebook like students do. A couple of the staple activities used in my classroom were easily adapted. There are not enough adjectives to describe how happy using Math Equals Love's Unit Dividers make me! You can see the green one in the notebook above. If you do interactive notebooks, you need these in your life!

The next thing was to show how important color with meaning is to the interactive notebook. I first saw the idea of a coloring page from Math Equals Love for translating expressions. For the conference, teachers color coded "Why Should My Classes Use ISNs?" into three categories.

These are all of the reasons I love using interactive notebooks with my students. My students answered a survey at the end of the year about them and the overwhelming theme of their answers were that the notebooks were fun and made it easy to keep up with their stuff. Students take ownership of their notebooks and are proud of them.

Pockets or envelopes are a staple of interactive notebooks. They are great for holding flash cards, task cards, any kind of cards you have! For the teacher's notebook, I put cards of all the supplies they would need.

Card sorts and matching are two activities that you can use for everything. This matching activity had the teachers match the word with things they needed to think about in setting up their notebooks for their classes. A shutter foldable had them talk about the administrative things when using notebooks.

My favorite page was the mini foldables! They turned out super cute! But it also gave teachers practice in folding and taping as well as ideas of what foldable to use for which notes.

How could I not show them POOF books? They are one of my students' favorite foldable. I first saw these at Math Equals Love where she had made it for exponent rules. Inside, teachers found advice about using interactive notebooks.

To show how to layer pages and how the tape makes hinges, the last page had a couple of pages of resources for them. Bloggers that do interactive notebooks and things to ask Google, especially MTBoS, were on the pages along with a place for them to write notes.

It only took two trips to haul the supplies into the building! I think I won for most stuff required for a presentation! Teachers seemed excited to take interactive notebooks back to their classrooms and that makes me excited!

Find all the things here!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

My Week at Space Camp

Alabama Legislators provided a week at Space Academy for Educators at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama! I met so many new and awesome teacher friends and have so much stuff to bring back to my kids in the classroom! My Harmony team leaders and the staff were the best and filled the week with more than I imagined! It was an amazing experience and you need to go!

It was an honor to be in the presence of amazing people in the space program. We listened to Ed Buckbee tell his inside stories of the Space Cowboys and share amazing behind the scenes photos of getting them to the moon. Space Shuttle Astronaut Wendy Lawrence wowed me with her stories of how she became an astronaut and her adventures in the space program. Homer Hickum, author of Rocket Boys, read from his book with emotion and inspired me to "aim high." Amazing people!

We trained like astronauts on the Multi-Axis Trainer that simulates the disorientation an astronaut would feel on reentry into Earth's atmosphere during a tumble spin. We also walked on the moon in a 1/6 gravity chair modeled after one the Apollo astronauts used for training.

We had two successful missions. One to the Space Station and one to Mars! It was super fun!

We survived being dropped from a helicopter into water like a splash down. Used our brains in engineering competitions where we made a lander and rover, built rockets and blasted them, wrote programming for a rover to go over Mars, and made a solar sail for our cubesat.

We had a blast and learned so much they graduated us. My team, Harmony, won the missions and received a special patch at graduation for our flight suit. We also created our own team patch, took so many photos and airdropped them we probably threw something off orbit!

I am now in the elite group of educators that call themselves Space Academy Alum! As Ed Buckbee said, "Keep the dream alive!"