Thursday, May 12, 2016

Bringing our Writing to Life!

The end of the year in room 52 has looked different for the past five years. May rolls around and I think, "Yep! Trying something new again..." This May was no different. 

This year, my students are filled to the brim with creative juices and I wanted to give them an opportunity to showcase their creative skills to wrap up the year. As you can see from this post about science movies, we are really good at being in front of the camera. 

This year, I challenged students to write an original fictional story and then turn it into an iMovie. The catch? They wouldn't be starring in it... They were to make all props and characters using materials around the school.  I must include that my classroom has been a disaster for three weeks and I'm totally-okay-with-it-sometimes

To get our wheels  spinning, students swiped through iMovie Trailers to get an idea for the theme and mood of their story. After they decided on a tone for their story, they had to complete a graphic organizer mapping out the beginning, middle, and end. This part was vital to the project being successful. We tend to have REALLY long "middle" parts of the story and then we, "fall off a cliff" (as a good friend calls it) and don't wrap up our story.  I even encouraged them to include a theme at the end of the story. 

I've kind of been flying by the seat of pants from day one, but I think it's working out! Here's the rundown of how the project went AFTER they completed a graphic organizer:
  • Students had to write and edit an original story in their writer's notebooks with partners. 
  • Students had to create all props. Students had to make (no more) than two backdrops and characters on popsicle sticks. This is where the project took a mind of its own... We have horses, Lego characters, Pizza Steve, and balloon men floating around the room!
  • Partners worked to create an iMovie trailer to show on YouTube to get the public ready for their movie!
  • The final piece... create an iMovie sharing your original story. 
Behind the Scenes  -- Creating Props

Behind the Scenes  -- Filming 

Right now, students are tying up lose ends and getting ready to submit movies tomorrow. In the mean time, you can check out our trailers on YouTube! 

Reflecting back on the last few weeks.... I have to admit, I've been on a bit of a roller coaster of decision making. At times, I've panicked and thought, "HOLY COW! We won't ever finish!" Then I'm flying high and thinking, "These kids are amazing."  I realized it was important to set daily goals with my students so they had a focus for each class period. It was also important, for me, to give up a bit of control and let the kids be creative! It was loud, noisy, messy, and kids were all over the place.... but they were creating incredible products! 

You can check out all of the trailers for the movies (coming to a theater NEAR YOU!) right here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Curb Appeal

When we bought our house last March, we inherited a pretty ridiculous jungle of overgrown plants lava rocks, and weeds. We gave ourselves the summer to you know... get married... and then we started on the front yard in the fall. 

Up until this point, I had never paid any attention to landscaping. I knew the basics...
"Oh, those are pretty flowers!"
"Wow, they should cut their grass."

Those two statements could sum up my knowledge on the subject matter of landscaping. 

The first order of business was to rip out the existing plants. Once spring rolled around, we started to research more about plants and landscaping. Boy, oh boy. My head kind of exploded. My Pinterest board is a great example of how my brain was bouncing around in the subject of gardening. 

We decided to plant a row of Hostas along the house and use Boxwoods under our front windows. I must point out... This decision came after many conversations with other people. 

When we had the old plants ripped out, we were fortunate to find lava rocks hiding beneath (sigh).  In addition to the lava rocks, Mother Nature and Planet Earth left many rocks for us to find as well. However, we made lemonade out of lemons and used the rocks to help us line a path to our backyard. 
We also felt pretty tough after all that diggin'. 

Our trusty 'ol Menards bucket made several trips to the woods with rocks filled to the brim.  (P.S. I did not carry the rocks, my strong husband took care of the part for me!)

The final piece to our landscaping masterpiece (I can call it that, right?) was mulch.  My husband and I were definitely not agreeing on the right number of bags of mulch. This was our conversation:

"I want to buy ten bags of mulch." - Scott
"WHAT! No way." - Me
"Okay... six." -Scott
"Five." - Me
...... Later at the store, I got distracted looking at plants and we rolled out of Home Depot with eight bags. Very sneaky, Scott. Very sneaky.

However, I should have listened because we need more mulch. :)

Moral of the story
: Buy all the mulch. You'll need a ton. Also, admit to your husband when you're very wrong on calculating the amount of mulch needed. 

Before... During... After

Viola! What should I plant next....

Read more about our house projects here

Monday, May 9, 2016

Tying the Knot - The Ultimate Lip Sync Battle

It's a bit cliche to say, "time flies when you're having fun...". However - it's so true! Time has been flying, we've been having fun..... and we have almost been married a year! I'm picking up where I left off back in July (gulp) and sharing about Tying the Knot with my super awesome husband. 

Like every other human on the planet, I'm a BIG fan of Lip Sync Battle on Jimmy Fallon (and the show on Spike)! I was hooked the moment I watched Emma Stone belt out Blues Traveler and All I Do is Win. 

My husband (of almost a YEAR.... I must point out!) and I had the most brilliant idea one night during wedding planning. 

Let's challenge our bridal party to the most epic Lip Sync Battle... of all time. 
So we did! 

We sent out a Dub Smash (a favorite app in the Robertson household) and threw down the gauntlet. 

Our amazing videographers - an incredibly talented husband and wife duo at Cork Creative -  captured the entire battle on film. Truthfully, I've cried every time I have watched this clip. 

Lip Sync Battle from Cork Creative on Vimeo.

Tara and Caleb poured their heart and soul to our wedding film and we are forever grateful for having them be a part of our wedding day. (Are you getting married? You should contact them right now.)

Friday, April 29, 2016

To Seesaw or Not to Seesaw?

This year, we are 1:1 in 5th grade with iPads. One of the apps my students have come to know is Seesaw. We were using Kidblog until it was no longer a free service. This bummed me out for a solid two days. However, I'm moved on and living life just fine without it. 

Read more about all that Seesaw offers here

One of the features I really like on the website are the Activity Ideas in the Teacher Resource bank. These gave me an idea of how to get started using Seesaw.  

Here are some Pros and Cons of using Seesaw:
(Please note these are all my opinions based on my experience as a classroom teacher)

The positives:
  • All posts require approval. These gave me an opportunity to review all posts before they were viewed by my students. 
  • Parents can login and view posts, comment on posts, and see what their kids are blogging about. I had several parents leave comments, like posts, and view content each day.
  • Seesaw sends a "This Week in Review". You can see the traffic on your site, parent visits, student logins, etc. 
  • Students can upload pictures, record video, draw something, add links from the internet, etc. The feature we used the most was "Note". 
  • Students can upload a picture and annotate on top of the picture. This is great for labeling diagrams or working through math problems.
A few Cons:
  • In the "Note" section (where we blogged) there are no formatting tools.  They couldn't change the size, make proper headings, officially indent, etc. 
  • If they don't finish an activity and they log off.. Poof! It's gone. (This has been our experience..)
My Wishes for Seesaw (is anybody reading this?):
  • Give students an opportunity to upload a photo and type text with it. Similar to Kidblog or another blogging platform.
  • Add formatting features in the Note section so we can take our publishing up a notch. 
  • Save drafts! Please let us save. Sometimes we have to take breaks with projects on our iPads and don't always finish in one setting. 
  • Let us save! Sometimes we want to keep the work we publish on Seesaw. It would be GREAT to be able to save those things to our camera roll for future portfolios. 
To wrap it up, I'm a big fan of everything that Seesaw offers. I think you should jump on board and give it a whirl.

P.S. Some of "My Wishes" may actually be a reality on the app... and I may have not figured them out yet. :)


Whew - It's been a while sweet blog. I'm in a bit of a bloggy funk and can't quite find the direction I want to go with my sharing.  I'm a bit of an over-sharer in my personal life, so it's a bit surprising that I can't figure out my why for sharing here. At home, my husband is reading the book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity. While he's been reading, we've chatted about different things in the book and one of the topics is mind-mapping. 

I use mind-mapping all of the time in my classroom, but it never occurred to me to apply this logic to my own life outside of school (What? Life outside of school!? Just kidding...) 

The other night, I began to mind-map my summer plans and my blog ideas. Before long, I had a laundry list of things I wanted to share in all aspects of my life. 

So - I'm back! 

Our morning procedure is a bit rushed due to specials beginning at 8:15 and kids arriving at 7:50ish. We have a small window of time to unpack, write down daily assignments, and get prepared for the day. As the year is winding down, I noticed the kids are quite savvy with their morning procedure and had quite a bit of free time in the morning. While, of course, I encouraged morning reading.... that was not always the popular activity in the morning. I get it... they wanted to chat, catch up with friends in the 15 hours or so that they hadn't been together.

Enter... #AprilBlogaDay!

Using the online journal, Seesaw my students wrote one blog entry per day in the month of April. I asked for student suggestions on topics (or hashtags) and I created an anchor chart to display. It was one brilliant student idea to make Fridays a "catch up" day. 

As a class, we created a few ground rules. These ground rules really set the pace for our blogging experience. Since Fridays were "Catch up & Comment" days, we even had great discussions on leaving positive, specific feedback to our peers. It was amazing to see how students were helping one another edit and proofread their post. Plus... they are really good at finding the perfect emoji for every.single.occasion. 

While I gave my students the opportunity to submit ideas for the blog, I, of course, had to add in a few of my own. After a morning of blogging about #chicken (I heard about all kinds of chicken.. baked, fried, grandma's, KFC, using it for fish food....) I asked the students to blog about reading. A student piped up, "this was your idea wasn't it, Mrs. Robertson?" :)

Something I really enjoyed about my student's blog posts was what they chose to share. I learned so much more about my students through their blog posts. Some blogged about school, family, siblings, weekend activities. While they were blogging, I was able to "talk" to each one of my students because I could comment and ask them questions after they published. 

Today, I created a Padlet for kids to submit ideas for our "#EndofSchoolBlogaDay". I'm excited to see what they come up with!

Check out my blog post on the pros and cons of using Seesaw in the classroom. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Thinking Caps ON! STEM Challenges in Science

What happens when you give students a random assortment of materials (rice, popsicle sticks, straws, tea bags, glue, jelly beans, and toothpicks... to name a few) and challenge them to create something? Magic! Magic happens! This year, I've really embraced STEM challenges in my science classroom and I strongly believe you should do the same.  I can't take credit for these incredibly creative challenges. SmartChick Teaching has been my source of inspiration! I highly encourage you to check out her TpT store here

Here's a recap of the there projects we've competed in 2016:

While studying animal adaptations, students were challenged to create a bird's beak. Their beak could be designed to pick up rice, beans, lentils, or seeds. As you can see below, some groups wanted to "be the bird" and truly experience this STEM challenge!


My students are currently in the midst of their American Revolution unit. I wanted to join in on the fun in science... so we created structures to keep tea bags dry when dumped in the Boston Harbor. Originally the task was to create a "crate", however... I was flexible with different designs that were presented. I couldn't crush the creativity happening in the room! 

We even had a live stream of the Boston Harbor playing through our Apple TV.  We decided it wasn't the best idea to stand in a semi-circle around the table for the rest of the day, so we played a live feed and continued about our business. 

By the time the end of the day rolled around, all of the tea bags were still dry... we had to sink them. It was very exciting! 

Our latest project was building geodesic domes out of jelly beans and toothpicks. Students had to build the strongest structure. To find the winner, we put chapter books on top of the structure. The current champion held 13 chapter books! It was incredible.

During this project, I felt like I was the host of a cooking show. Bouncing around from group to group, channeling my inner Giada De Laurentiis, asking each group to tell me about their project and asking, "why did you decide to use a jelly bean that way?" 

At the conclusion of each project, we've debriefed and had great conversations about what went well, what didn't work out so well, and what we learned about engineering. After every project, each class has commented how powerful it was to work as a group because everyone offered great ideas and contributed to the genius of the project. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Arkansas? CHECK!

Before I was a homeowner, I had the great pleasure of renting a duplex from an amazing couple. They are both living the dream of retirement, but you would never know because their day planner is quite full! 

Among the countless hobbies they enjoy as a couple, they also have traveled the entire country together. Throughout their marriage, they have visited (almost) ALL 50 states together. I find this feat rather remarkable and I challenged my husband to do the same with me. 

Don't get me wrong... I could go for another week in the Dominican Republic, but I'm ready and willing to check out good 'ol U.S. of A's beauty as well. 

For Valentine's Day, we checked off one of our neighboring states and officially visited The Natural State. 

May not seem like most to some.... but boy-oh-boy, I enjoyed every minute with my Valentine and two best friends!

More to come on our Eureka Springs trip in a future post. 

Happy Thursday!

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