Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Our FIRST Iron Chef!

Last night, we got together with a group of friends and participated in our first Iron Chef competition! Prior to the evening, we all suggested secret ingredients and they were tossed into a hat. Then the youngest member of the group (i.e. a 1-year old) picked the ingredient and assigned each couple a "course" to prepare. 

The secret ingredient was.....


Scott and I were responsible for coming up with a main dish using apple as its star player. Our wheels were spinning all weekend. Finally, we decided to make ribs with some sort of apple glaze to drizzle over the top. 

Before tossing the soon to be applely-tasting ribs in the oven, I used Twisted Belly All Purpose Rub to coat the ribs for extra flavor. I may be biased, but Twisted Belly is my favorite rub - the only one I ever use. :) Even Chip is a big fan of the product!

Next, after consulting my fellow chef, my ribs cooked at 300 degrees in a pan of apple cider for about two hours. Oh, I added a few apples on top of the ribs for kicks. After two hours of cooking, I scorched my fingers and flipped the ribs over to cook for another two hours. 

While the ribs were cooking, I prepared the an apple glaze to add an extra apple-punch to the ribs. 

Apple Glaze adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
You'll Need:
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 C Apple Jelly
  • 1/2 C Maple Syrup
  • 1/4 C Spicy Brown Mustard
  • 1/2 t All Spice
  • Pinch of Ginger
  • 1 T Corn Starch
Make It!
  • Bring the apple cider to a boil and let it reduce by half. Add the jelly and syrup to the reduced cider. Next, add in the mustard and spices. Add in cornstarch to thicken the glaze. 

Once the glaze was ready, Scott coated the ribs and stuck them back in the oven for a few more minutes. After a while, we turned on the broiler as well. 

To top off the ribs, we diced one apple and sprinkled the apple bits over the ribs as a garnish with the glaze. 

I don't mean to brag - okay, I will brag - but the ribs were amazing. 

We each gave scores for the other dishes in the competition and rated them on Taste, Plating, and Originality. 

The results were tallied... calculated.... recounted.... analyzed... and

WE WON! Not only did we win bragging rights, but we get to take home a pretty stellar traveling trophy with a fork on top! 


Now, it's time to spruce up the trophy and start planning our next Iron Chef dish!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Soaking Up the Last Ray - A Bachelorette Bash!

A few weekends ago, I had the great honor of hosting a bachelorette bash for my best friend and SOON to be Mrs.! And I thought....

Thanks to PrettyPaperParties and her adorable Etsy shop, I was able to get the word out about the par-tay back in April. I highly recommend working with Brooke while party planning. She was great to work with and very flexible when I forgot a thing or two...

After what seemed like an eternity (yes, I'm mildly dramatic...) it was finally bachelorette weekend! Before Abby arrived, I decorated the house with a few bachelorette goodies including this banner:

Using free templates... YES FREE! .... from, I printed the backdrop for the banner and topped it off with letters cut from my Cricut. Notice anything missing? Yes, a few rings and the word the didn't make the trip across town. Oops! I had time to fix it. 

Waiting for Abby when she arrived into town was a little gift bag with a personalized t-shirt from DearAddieWomen's Etsy shop. It was the perfect gift to kick off the weekend! Plus, she shipped the shirt within a few weeks to me - talk about great service!

On Friday evening, we started off the weekend with a Mexican-themed Honeymoon Shower. All of the ladies showered our bride-to-be with honeymoon themed gifts and a rousing game of Bride Scattegories. It was fantastic! Plus we had a piƱata and delicious bikini cookies... 

Another Etsy favorite was Rachel Carl's shop. (Visit her Etsy shop here) I ordered these adorable, and personalized, straws back in April and had been anxiously awaiting their debut! 

The banner looked even cuter with the bride-to-be (and the word the... oops) posing in front of it!


The rest of the weekend was spent soaking up the beautiful Missouri sunshine at the Lake of the Ozarks and a delightful night out on the town. 

A great weekend - one for the memory books to say the least!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Letter to Future Me

Tuck this idea away for the start (and end) of the school year....

 I was inspired to do this project by a teacher at my high school who had her students write letters to themselves in her classroom. Her promise was mail the letters back to each student several years down the road. Imagine the surprise when my friends opened up the letters they had written in high school to themselves! I wanted to create the same type of nostalgic experience for my students... with a slightly shorter time period. 

On one of the first few days of school, I have my brand new 5th graders write letters to their "future selfs". After discussing goals for the school year, I have students write a letter to themselves for the last week of school. Then, once my students leave my doors for the last time (and I've dried my tears), I send their letters to them in the mail. Of course, I always take a peak once more at their writing and admire how much they have grown over the past school year. I'll admit, it's a neat experience for me as a teacher. 

This year, I had several students remind ME about my promise to send the letters in late May. They were not going to let me forget that I had made them a promise on the first day of school!

Calling Mr. Postman!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Some More of What?

What better way to wrap up a great year in science class then eating s'mores on the high school lawn? We are fortunate to our have our high school and elementary school within walking distance of one another.  I am not sure why it took me three years to start collaborating with high school teachers - c'mon Jordon! Get it together! Luckily, I had two teachers more than willing to let my students learn a thing or two from their high schoolers. 

After chatting with a friend and high school teacher, we decided it would be a great idea to have our kids construct solar ovens in our respective classrooms and then share our designs with one another.  Once I told my students they would be collaborating with high schoolers and eating s'mores - they were hooked! 

For almost two hours (yes! It's true!) my kids were hard at work on their ovens. Using pizza boxes donated from a local Italian restaurant, Lil Rizzos , and materials borrowed from the kitchen.. my students began constructing. 

On an exceptionally sunny day that week, we set out our ovens, crossed our fingers, and hoped for the best. In case you're wondering - yes - I made myself a s'more too. 

A few hours later, we came back to find our chocolate had melted into an ooey-gooey delightful afternoon treat. We enjoyed our s'mores, chatted about why our solar ovens were successful, and checked on the progress of our high school friends' ovens as well. Great conversations paired with learning and a delicious treat sound like a great afternoon to me!

This video was a great resource for my kids in the planning stages of their solar ovens - especially for those with little to no experience (cough - me included - cough). 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"I CAN SEE THEM TYPING!" Collaboration Through Google Drive!

I wish I could bottle the excitement and pure joy that was had in my classroom this afternoon. Honestly, at one point I was standing in the middle of the room watching as my students' eyes widened with excitement and wonder as their new pen pals typed a story along with them. 

Now, let me back up! Yesterday, I shared how a friend and I had our students "meet" one another through a Mystery Missouri Skype. Read more on that experience here. 

At the conclusion of our Mystery Skype last week, we (the teachers) informed our classes we would be collaborating on a little writing project through Google Drive. The anticipation set in and we had to wait a few more days until our schedules would allow us to log on at the same time. 

Miss Kazanowski did a little leg work going into the project: chatting about partnerships, logistics of how it work, topics to write about, etc. This morning, Miss K sent me a list of her student's individual Google Drive accounts. Right after lunch, students logged onto our classroom Google account (we only have one for the whole class) and I taught the entire group how to share a document with a new user on Google Drive. Next, students were sharing blank documents and quickly adding snapshots of their cute little smiles to give their new digital pen pal a visual of who they were chatting with. 

While my class was waiting for Miss K's class to return from recess and log on, we were teaching eachother - wait... let me rephrase that sentence, my students were teaching one another tricks with Google Drive and from there the ball was rolling! Students were typing bios about themselves and sharing information for their buddies to get to know them a little better. I even learned the phrase, "my selfie game is strong on IG" - this apparently means you take good selfies. Good thing I have my 5th graders to keep me hip. ;)


the moment happened. 

The first 5th grader -in another city - in another school district - logged on and started typing. A student shouted, "THEY ARE ONLINE!" Then another student shrieks, "THEY POSTED A PICTURE!" As more students shouted updates around the room, other students were dashing to their computer screens to check out the live update. Within minutes, everyone was chatting live with their new pal. I even threw out a few live tweets myself. I was inspired by Miss K's live tweeter during our Missouri Skype. 

With the help from Miss K, managing students in her classroom, and myself bopping around to computers in my own classroom, we were able to get students writing in a no time. Honestly, they were so excited to get started I didn't have to remind them twice! Overall, we had students writing wacky stories line by line, limericks, haikus, and even a story about tacos.  

I'm certain the number one question I will be asked in the morning is, "When can write with Miss K's class again?" 

Making Missouri a Mystery (Mystery Skype That is...)

A few weeks ago, a teacher-friend (Miss Kazanowski - find her blog here)  and I started chatting through Twitter about having our students collaborate on a writing project through Google Docs.  This teacher-friend and I live in different cities and teach in different school districts - so we had the perfect opportunity in the palm of our hands! 

First, we structured our first "meeting" as a Missouri Mystery Skype. By this point, both of our classes have participated in Mystery Skypes prior to, so we just informed our classes the school they were searching for was located in the state of Missouri. Introducing the task naturally brought up several learning opportunities (and refreshers for some): bodies of water in Missouri, highways, interstates, county lines, boundaries, etc. 

I made maps for my students (pictured below) to reference back to if Google Maps became a little daunting. Prior to our Skype, we spent time in Social Studies reading these maps and challenging one another to find specific cities, highways, lakes, etc. 

Throughout the Skype, students' excitement and engagement was through the roof! They were rushing around the room, whispering questions, and working together to try and find the exact location of their new digital pen pals.  It was incredible to overhear the fantastic geographical application happening. Questions thrown around such as, "Are you west of Jefferson City?" and "Do you border Kansas?" 

Oh! Another mini lesson we had prior to this Skype was about the language to use while communicating via Skype. We made a giant T-Chart of "Things To Say" and "Things Not to Say" while Skyping. As you can imagine, the "to say" list had things like west, east, north, etc. The "not to say" list included words like, close to, above, below, etc.  It was exciting to hear my students applying this language while communicating with new friends. Don't get me wrong, I had to throw out reminders - but hey, it's a start!

Miss Kazanowski had one of her students live-tweeting our entire Skype, and I have to say his play by play of the afternoon was spot-on and equally hilarious. What a great idea to have kids tweeting the experience! Here are a few of his tweets:

Once the students pinpointed the location, Miss Kazanowski and I shared the exciting news that not only were we friends from college but we would be doing a writing project together! When we shared we were Mizzou Alumni, all the kids stared at me (well, us...) in shock and disbelief! 

Check out my blog post here to read about our collaboration project through Google Drive!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Guest Post! Reviewing Science Vocabulary

Even though my blog has been pushed to the side (frequently) this year, I still firmly believe it's one of the most powerful ways to connect with educators. This post is one of the reasons why I believe in the blog! A fellow teacher in Missouri, Cori, reached out to me through my blog and since then we've been emailing back and forth sharing ideas. Below you will find her fantastic idea on using games (Pictionary, Taboo, etc.) in the classroom to spice up your review of vocabulary.
I love playing games: card, board, video, word, mind. So any chance I have to incorporate games into my classroom, I am all over it! When we finished our final science unit before the MAP test, I wanted to incorporate vocabulary into our review, but of course I wanted to make it fun for everyone, myself included. I needed something that the students would look forward to while we did our other review activities. I knew some quick & easy educational games were the answer.

As I began thinking about the kinds of games I wanted to play, two came to mind rather quickly: Pictionary & Taboo. My kids love to draw and we have played a version of Taboo with context clues that they loved; I knew these would be good options.

When we play Pictionary, the students are divided into two teams. The first team member picks a card and begins to draw a picture that represents that card (or sort of looks like the word). The student has 30 seconds to get his/her teammates to correctly guess the word. During this time, there are many excited and loud students saying all kinds of science words: exactly what I want to hear!! They may not always be related, but they’re science words and the effort is there! Now, if team one has not correctly guessed within the 30 second time limit, team two has a chance to steal, Family Feud style. Each team member gets a chance to draw. At some points, after a difficult word or science tool, I ask the students some questions about the topic or show them an example. When we played through the first day, the student who drew the Spring Scale card had a difficult time. After some thought she drew a picture of apples on a scale, like at the grocery store, and her teammates came through with the correct answer! Once she had finished, I showed the class a spring scale we had used for some of our labs and we discussed Newtons and Force.

For Taboo, the top word on the card is the one the team needs to guess and the words on the bottom are the buzz words that cannot be said.

Students play on two teams. A student holds the stack of cards and tries to get the teammates to correctly guess the answer after giving clues. If they cannot think of the word or the team is having trouble guessing, he or she can skip the card and place it at the back of the stack. (Even with the best clues, sometimes the team is still stumped.) The student has 30 seconds to get as many correctly identified cards as they can. During the game, it was great to hear the students connect the words to experiments we did or sing parts of songs we have learned. As I noticed kids skipping words, I made note of what we needed to still review.

Overall, we have played the games the past four days in my classroom. We take about 15 minutes at the end of the hour after we have done other review activities. This has really been fun for the students and exciting for me as their confidence grows with the various science words. Hopefully, with the extra practice, the students will win next week as we begin the MAP test.

If you're interested in downloading Cori's freebies, access the vocabulary pages here.


Thanks to Cori for demonstrating how powerful a blog can be!

Connected Educator
Happy Monday, teachers!

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