Friday, September 23, 2016

5 Great Pumpkin Things!

So, I started a seasonal series of STEM challenges a few months back and we are having such a fun time! We've made snowflakes, Valentine ziplines, wind powered boats, seed dispersal models, Ferris wheels, and so much more.
It seemed only natural to leap into October with some pumpkin challenges!

STEM: Check this blog post for more about Pumpkin Launchers, Haunted House Mazes, and Pumpkin Elevators!

So, here we go with five things about pumpkins!

STEM Challenge: Build a Pumpkin Launcher! The idea with this one is to build a lunching device using some pretty wonky materials and then, of course, send a pumpkin soaring. Check this blog post for more!
The first of the pumpkin series is called Pumpkin Launchers!
The idea with this one is to build a lunching device using some pretty wonky materials and then, of course, send a pumpkin soaring. I found the little candy pumpkins (finally) at a dollar store and they were perfect. They weigh just enough to make this task a little challenging and besides, who wouldn't want to throw candy around the classroom?

STEM Challenge: Build a Pumpkin Launcher! A lot of groups made a catapult device to toss the candy and these were great. There were some groups that tried a sling shot type mechanism. Check this blog post for more!
A lot of groups made a catapult device to toss the candy and these were great. There were some groups that tried a sling shot type mechanism. However, holding the device in their hands became a no-no. Kids were throwing the pumpkins instead of having the launcher do the work. So, I made a new rule. The launcher had to sit on the floor!
We ended the class session by having every launcher brought to our launching pad and we sailed those pumpkins through the air to knock down some targets! The kids loved this one! 
You can see more detail about the Pumpkin Launchers {HERE}.

STEM Challenge: The second Pumpkin or Halloween challenge is to build a Haunted House maze. The photo is showing one that is about half finished. Check this blog post for more info!
The second Pumpkin or Halloween challenge is to build a Haunted House maze. The photo is showing one that is about half finished. This challenge is taking longer than we thought it would because we had to let our mazes dry before we could decorate them. I will devote a blog post to these when we get them finished. Let's just say the kids are loving these- mostly because of all the creepy crawly plastic bugs and spiders and skeletons we are decorating with! (I mean, really, look at that plastic roach- he looks real!)
You can see more details about Haunted House Mazes {HERE}.

Okay, here's just some information for you about pumpkins.
For the third challenge in this Pumpkin series I needed some little bitty real pumpkins. You know the kind that people usually decorate with- well, guess what? You cannot buy those in Alabama yet! So, I resorted to a dollar store sippy cup pumpkin, which actually worked out really well! I filled that little thing with sand to make it heavy and - BAM - I had the pumpkins we needed for the challenge. 

UPDATE: I found the little bitty pumpkins! 
For size reference I took the photo with an apple. They are tiny, but so cute! Five little pumpkins was about $3. So, we tried the elevators with the plastic ones and the real ones! Super fun! Keep reading!

STEM Challenge: Build an elevator to lift a pumpkin! Check the blog post for more  information!
Seriously, are you kidding? That is the cutest thing ever. It's a pumpkin elevator. My test class made these very quickly and I equally as quickly changed the task rules to make it more challenging. The elevator has to be lifted by some kid of cranking device with a handle!  These are also not quite finished so I will devote another blog post one day soon to show the finished and decorated models! Kids loved these, too!

So, that's it for Pumpkin stuff!
Except for this:
My favorite flavoring ever in the history of the world. Every time I go to Wal Mart I buy three or four containers. I have enough to last until next summer.......just sayin'!

Go visit Doodlebugs Teaching and see what everyone else is writing about this week!
Come back next week for my monthly Book Review Post!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

First Grade STEM- It's About Towers!

Welcome back STEM Friends!
It's STEM time in first grade and I decided to try a tower event!
My big kids love building towers, so I thought this might also work with the littles!

I learned very quickly that the materials were going to need to be easy to manipulate. The test class had masking tape, but they couldn't tear it and trying to cut with scissors was a disaster. So, I opened the cabinets and searched for something different. We came up with colored tiles and cardboard tubes!

I tried to match the tubes and make sure everyone had three that were the same length, but this didn't always work! The little kids found that the tubes were hard to stack. So, they resorted to many other things to make tall towers.

One idea was to just fill the tubes up with tiles! This didn't make them taller at all, but it did seem to make them less easy to knock over. I was told by one little smartie that "this is what a bricklayer does!"

I also saw a lot of roads being built to connect the tower parts. Very, very quickly this little tower adventure turned into a story telling adventure. Every group had a story to tell about what their tower was for and what all the parts of it would do. They were quite imaginative!
By the third class I made the story part of the challenge. Build the tower, name it, and tell us all about it!
Some teams also discovered that piling the tiles and then stacking the tubes would make a really tall tower and they loved making those piles!

Some things I definitely discovered:
First graders really loved their towers.
First graders approached this task with imagination. Every road or tile or tube had a function and a story about it.
They were NOT competitive at all! It didn't matter to them that their towers were little. My big kids compete endlessly to have the tallest, biggest, best, but the first graders never thought about it!

So, that's our first tower event. Each team had three cardboard tubes and a bin of tiles. They were told to build a tower! Easy prep, easy directions, lots of fun!
Coming soon:
Mazes with Pom-Poms
Cup Towers
Toothpick Geometric Shapes

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Few Secrets About TpT You Need to Know

Welcome STEM Friends and Science Friends and TpT Friends!
Some of you know that I have a little Teachers Pay Teachers store and let me just tell you- it's quite an adventure. I started my store in 2013 and I have learned so much! Hopefully today I can let you in on  a few secrets about TpT and help you with your shopping!
If you are a Teachers Pay Teachers shopper this blog post has some secrets to share!
Now, let me also tell you that I don't know everything about TpT and you may be able to add to this conversation with your own experiences. Want to hear the biggest boo-boo  I ever made as a buyer?
When I made my first purchase I waited patiently for my file to arrive.
I waited for 30 minutes and still didn't have my stuff.
I decided the whole site must be a scam... so I went back to the store and did some checking and discovered
I was waiting on an email......

Anyway here are some secrets....

Teachers Pay Teachers shoppers- did you know this? Sellers cannot access your contact info! Check this blog post for more secrets!
This comes as a surprise to some folks. Sellers are not privy to your personal contact information. So, just know that when you leave a feedback or a question and ask sellers to email you.....We can't! I recently was asked to email a file to a buyer and she didn't know I could not do this and I realized that probably a lot of buyers don't know. So, what do you, as a buyer, do when you need to be contacted?
First, check the file you purchased. A lot of sellers put contact information on their Terms of Use page. If that cannot be located, then leave a question on the seller's home page or the product page. However, remember that the seller will need your email address in order to contact you! I usually just leave my email and ask the buyer to send me a message!

Teachers Pay Teachers shoppers- before you leave feedback try the Question asking feature. Check this blog post for more!
The graded paper above is rather startling, isn't it? Wow. Anyway, what do you do if you find a mistake in a product that you have purchased? 
Let me tell you what sellers would love to see:
Email us at the address in the product.
Or leave a question on our main store page. Just let us know you found a typo or incorrect information and where it might be in the file.  If I get a message like that I fix it as soon as possible and re-upload the file.

Teachers pay Teacher shoppers- did you know you can use the "Ask a Question" feature to find out more about a product, request something specific, or alert the seller to a problem? Check this blog post for more!
Look at my example and you can see the 'Ask a Question' tab on my store's main page. When I am asked a question I answer quickly and take care of the concern that is brought to my attention. After I have responded the buyer that posted the question will receive an email from TpT, not me, saying the question has been answered. Return to the page and check it out!

Teachers Pay Teachers shoppers! Be sure you grab those credits after you make a purchase! Check this blog post for more secrets!
You probably already know this! But, just in case you don't....
Whenever you leave feedback you earn points based on the cost of the product. When you accumulate enough points these can be used to discount new items you are purchasing!
If you need to do this right now, just go to your account and click on the drop down menu at the top listed as 'My TpT'. Then scroll to 'My Purchases'. At that page you will find all the items you have purchased and you can arrange them according to which ones need feedback.
But, before you do read my next secret!

Teachers pay Teachers shoppers- Meaningful feedback is helpful to the seller and to future buyers! Check this blog post for more!
Feedback can be a very helpful thing for sellers. If I receive detailed feedback that tells me the best parts of a product and how it was used or includes notes to future buyers, this lets me know I am on the right track. 
Even when the feedback is not so great (like the last one on the above image) I can still determine what I need to do! For that last one I immediately went to that file and added an answer key and re-uploaded it quickly. That buyer was right and I was grateful to her.
Here's one more tiny secret.....
when feed back looks like this:
I really don't have a clue what this means. Was it okay? good? great?
Details inform not only the seller, but future buyers.
Thoughtful feedback is sooooooo appreciated!

Teachers Pay Teachers shoppers: Be sure your read those product descriptions and check the previews! This gives you a chance to make great buying decisions! Check this blog post for more!

A lot of sellers work really hard to make product descriptions and previews that will let you know exactly what you are buying. If a product doesn't have these, then be wary of the purchase. I mean, think about it, if you buy a new car you look at it first, right?
So, look at your potential purchase the same way! Use the product description and read about the product first. Then try the preview. If you still don't understand what you are getting, ask a question before you purchase it! 

So, there you are- a few secrets about TpT that may help you as a buyer.
Here's another secret, click on the image below and you can connect with other teachers that write blogs and join this weekly link up with Doodlebugs Teaching!