Thursday, February 9, 2017

This Matters

Hi everyone! I'm slowly working my way through backlogged emails, sorry if you've been waiting for a response from me. Hopefully I'm back in business now.

And to mark my momentous return, here's something important to watch. #thismatters

Friday, December 2, 2016

Special Deal Reopened - Over 100 Resources!

Update November 2, 2016: Believe it or not, we've already begun for Fall of 2017, so this is open once again!

Update Aug 4, 2016 - Yes, this is still going!

As promised, the special deal I have offered the past two falls is again available! Well over 200 FACS teachers have taken advantage of the deal, from 38 states and 2 Canadian provinces. Altogether that's $5,600 FACS teachers have raised for blood cancer research, go FACS! Here's your chance if you missed out before!

For those of you who donated previously: Thank you again! Please pass this on (I'm hoping to break into California this year, I didn't reach anyone there last year! 8/4/16: As of two days ago, California has jumped into the fight!).

This deal includes:
  • 24 weekly bell work sheets
  • 39 skeleton note forms with corresponding PPTs
  • ~50 resources for various activities
  • 24 recipes, most in lab plan format, many with self-evaluation forms and video demonstrations
  • 3 sets of lab task cards
  • 35 video links used regularly in class
  • an oodle of additional resources not easily categorized
  • everything you see in my TPT store (which is not a ton, but a decent amount)
  • Please click here to see a much more detailed list of the items here
On TPT this would cost you a small fortune. For the next few weeks all of this can be yours for... $25
Nope, not a typo! Why? To fight cancer!

I will be running in the Chicago Marathon this fall, and I am running with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training! This is a cause very important to our family, as my husband lost his mother to multiple myeloma when he was still in high school. 

What does this have to do with FACS resources? Here's how to redeem the special offered above:
  1. Visit my fundraising page at bit.ly/CAP4TNT17 and make a $25 dollar donation. 
  2. Use the word "FACS" somewhere within the message box.
  3. Receive the full bundle within 48 hours! 
That's it! The only caveat is that if you select the option to remain anonymous, I won't receive your email address to send you your goodies. You can still keep your name from being visible on the fundraising page by selecting this option:


Benefits for me:
  • You will be helping me to reach my fundraising goal!
  • 100% of your donation will go to Team in Training!
Benefits for you:
  • Lots of great resources!
  • You'll receive a receipt that you can use for a charitable tax deduction (it won't count toward the paltry educator expenses limit!)!
  • You will be fighting cancer!
Benefits for patients and their families:
  • Donations to blood cancer research means more lives saved!
Visit bit.ly/CAP4TNT17 today, and thank you so much for helping in the fight against blood cancer!





Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Gingerbread Houses!

Here's a throwback post describing a fun end-of-the-(calendar)year project, gingerbread houses! Enjoy! 

Second quarter of my Foods I class is dedicated exclusively to baking, and the culminating project I like to finish out with is the creation of gingerbread houses. This was my sixth year implementing this lab, and I think that I've almost got it down pat - close enough to share, anyway. So, here we go!

OVERVIEW
Each cooking group creates a gingerbread house (or another imaginative structure that will fit within the given dimensions for the project). Completed gingerbread houses are displayed at the district Christmas get-together (an after school event), where ballots are available for all faculty and staff to vote for their favorite.

TIMELINE
I begin seven school days before the Christmas party (including the day of the party). This year the party was on Dec 18th. Here's how I worked out the schedule:

Dec 10th - Make the gingerbread dough. Chill over night.
Dec 11th - Cut out and bake pieces.
Dec 12th - Make the icing. Glue pieces together. Let dry over night.
Dec 13th - Begin decorating.
weekend
Dec 16th - Finish decorating.
Dec 17th - Super clean the kitchens.
Dec 18th - Party!

Learning Experience #1: The first couple of years I did this, I tried to go too fast. I wanted them to bake and make icing the same day; only gave one day for decorating; my first year I think I even tried to have them glue and decorate on the same day. Crazy. GO SLOW TO GO FAST!

LE #2: Leave at least one if not two class periods in between when you plan to end the lab and the day of the presentation. The first year I timed this so that they would finish the last day of the semester before Christmas Break. Yup, wound up being a snow day. Crap. Also, allow time for REALLY GOOD CLEANING. The icing can be really hard to see and gets everywhere, so they will need to re-clean the kitchens at least once after their final preparation day.

DOUGH RECIPE

This recipe will actually make enough dough for nearly two houses of the size I have the kids make. It's a good amount, because a) you'll have extra dough handy in case disaster strikes, b) kids can make little extras to decorate their houses with, and c) it's still a small enough amount that it will all fit in a cereal bowl, so will not take up astronomical amounts of room in the fridge.


LE #3: My first year I wanted to make sure they had enough dough for do-overs and such, and had them make a recipe that was twice this much. Big mistake! This is more than enough!

Note: It's fairly likely that the shapes will not finish baking by the end of the period, unless you are on a block schedule or have super efficient kids. This isn't a terrible nuisance; since these won't be eaten, you don't need to worry about keeping them fresh. In fact, once both classes finished baking and the ovens cooled, I just put all of the cookie sheets back in the ovens overnight. If this won't work with your schedule, consider adding another day to the timeline: roll/cut and bake on separate days.

PATTERN
The pattern I use comes from the website Gingerbread House Lane. If you follow the link, you can download a free PDF. I created this short video to demonstrate rolling out and cutting the dough pieces - I show it in class right before it is their turn to roll out and cut.


LE #4: Again my first year, I let the groups design their own house and make it as big as they wanted as long as it fit on the board I gave them. Oh, youth! This turned out to be a just plain stupid idea. I do give them the option of altering the pattern or getting other ideas approved, but they cannot exceed the dimensions of the above. The photo of the first year houses below portrays the ugliness but (thankfully) hides most of the insane mess created!



LE #5: Due to storage issues, next year I will slightly reduce the size of the pattern from above. The explanation is in the next section.

STORAGE
Obviously you're going to need a reliable place to store these while in progress, as they're going to be around for a week and you don't want to attract critters. In the past I've only had one class at a time doing these, so once I reduced the dimensions after the first year (seriously, what was I thinking?) storage was pretty easy: I simply kept them in the ovens and/or microwaves. Worked like a charm. This year I had two classes making them, so that wasn't going to work. I realized that they would fit in cake carriers - brilliant! Airtight and easily portable!


A few weeks before beginning this project, I started asking my kids to check if they had one of these at home and if they could get permission to bring it in. Several kids came back saying they could bring one. Perfect!

LE #6: Two kids actually followed through and brought them in. Sensing this impending disaster, I sent out a plea to my co-workers. Three came through for me on such short notice, which was really awesome. Next year, I will ask the staff for loaners earlier, and possibly purchase some for the classroom. They're only $5-$6 at WalMart, after all.

LE #7: Oh, brilliant plans gone awry! The assembled houses fit PERFECTLY in these. Until the kids put rows of Hershey's kisses or gumdrops along the top of the roof. Hence, next year I will slightly reduce the pattern to allow clearance for roof decorations.

ICING
For the icing, I use the Wilton royal icing recipe with meringue powder. It works extremely well and does not involve separating egg whites!

LE #8: Cut this recipe in half to start. Several groups will only need one batch. For those who need more, after they've made it once the second time they can put it together really quickly.

I use Wilton disposable decorating bags; these work fabulously, and you get 100 for $15. No need to invest in anything fancy.



LE #9: The first year I refrigerated the icing. This turned out to be an enormous pain, because of course it hardened and needed to be thinned out and all in all was a terrible idea. I now seal the individual pastry bags in gallon-sized freezer bags and toss them in a box with a lid for the next day(s).

LE #10: I used to give them decorating tips to use with the bags. This was a big ol' mess. Unless you've got a more advanced class or you have taught them to use these ahead of time, you will also wind up with a big ol' mess. They can fancy it up with other decorations. Just have them clip the points of the plastic bags and go.

Untested tip: One of the ladies that lent me a cake carrier said that she melts marshmallow fluff to use for "snow." She says it creates the perfect effect and will harden just like icing. Gotta try this one out!

LE #11: Be prepared for meltdowns on gluing day, both physically from a house or two and emotionally across the room. Keep a special eye on your perfectionists and the students who are used to being good at everything; this is challenging and at least a couple kids will get pretty upset. Before beginning this step I show them photo examples of houses that have "gone wrong" in the past and how those students came up with creative solutions (for such an example, see "The Bowl" below).

DECORATIONS
Typically, there are three items I buy for the decorating, all of them generic brand cereals in the really big bags: generic "Golden Grahams," generic "Fruit Loops," and generic "Fruity Pebbles." Those three bags provided enough decor for nine groups this year, and I had about half of each leftover for next year. I tell the kids in advance what I'm going to provide, and tell them that they are allowed to bring in any non-perishable items that they would like to add. Usually they wind up bringing in quite a bit of stuff, and surprisingly they're almost always really good about sharing with other groups - even when the other groups have nothing to "exchange." So nice to see kids being nice to each other!


EXTRA DOUGH
On the first day of decorating, I provide a limited number of cookie cutters for the kids to bake shapes out of their leftover dough (gingerbread men/women, Christmas trees, stars, that kind of thing).

LE #12: If ever you have letter cookie cutters out for some reason, explain the expectation that nothing inappropriate should be spelled out with them, and never leave the cutters unattended. My second year of teaching I left a pile of letter cookie cutters on a table when I left for lunch duty (my classroom door didn't close due to the fire escape in the room). When I returned I found some really nasty words spelled out on my table. Super. Luckily they weren't viewed by the wrong eyes before I could destroy them. Morons.

FINAL STEPS
Each group needs to come up with a title for their house, and produce a short story introducing it (just a paragraph will do, nothing extravagant). This will be part of the final display. I also take a picture of each group holding their gingerbread house. I then make a page for each house with a border, their photo, their title, and their story.

LE #13: While it would of course be better to have them do this themselves, computer lab time is EXTREMELY limited during this time period. Next year I will sign up extra early, and create a template for them to use to make their own display signs. That way they do the actual work, but all of the signs have a uniform look.

DISPLAY
I purchased two cheap Christmas-y tablecloths to cover the tables in the library that I used for the displays. A few students helped me set the houses around the tables, and their story pages in front of the houses. For the ballots, I simply printed out slips of paper with the titles of the houses, and asked the adults to circle their favorite, based on whatever criteria they chose. I set out a green tin and a red tin - one filled with red and green colored pencils to fill out the ballots, and one to hold completed ballots. To make sure this idea caught on, I folded up a blank ballot and put it in the empty tin, so that others would know what to do.


LE #14: Next year I am going to create categories to vote for: best construction, best story, most creative, etc. 


Next year they'll all be displayed on round cake carrier bases!

SAVING SUPPLIES
As I mentioned before, I had quite a bit of the Malt-o-Meal decorations left over, so I put them away for next year. First they went into Rubbermaid containers. I also put leftover decorations that the students brought in and donated (mostly because they didn't feel like taking them back home) in Ziploc baggies. All of the sealed decorations along with the tablecloths went into a copy paper box ( I LOVE copy paper boxes!) lined with a heavy duty trash bag (notice the many layers of defense to protect against attracting unwanted critters!). I labeled the box, and put it with its other box friends. All ready to go for next year!



LE #15: When reusing supplies from the previous year, be sure to unpack the box in front of the kids so that they know you're serious when you tell them that the decorations are a year old and they shouldn't taste test them. Soooo many kids learned to believe me the hard way. It really won't hurt them to eat year-old Frankenfood, but it will be quite stale and disgusting-tasting. And a couple of them will probably act like they're dying, drama queens.

RESULTS
And finally, here are the nine gingerbread houses and accompanying stories from this year's classes! Aren't they wonderful?










CONCLUDING REMARKS
This is a big, time-consuming project that takes a considerable amount of work, organization, and tight adherence to cleaning rules. BUT, the kids (girls and boys alike) are always highly enthusiastic and work really hard on them. The staff (and school board members, ahem) really enjoy the display at the party, so it is a good PR bump for your program. In the end it's pretty awesome to see their creativity at work. And, it's a terrific way to end the term right before the holidays. For me, it's a keeper!



Friday, November 18, 2016

Paper Plate Turkeys!

One of my objectives in Child Development is to get my students to realize that early childhood is not always the blissful, easy experience that they now remember it as - childhood is hard work! To address this, I pepper the semester with various activities to help them develop empathy for their younger selves.

One method is to make them complete "simple" tasks with their non-dominant hands, like coloring. They get so excited when I pull out coloring pages and crayons, until they find out they have to use their "other" hands (by the way, I'm very careful to determine everyone's dominant hand well before any of these activities, so I won't have any cheaters).

From coloring I move on to more difficult tasks, such as creating a paper plate turkey! This involves not only coloring, but also cutting, gluing, and stapling. Fun, but very difficult to do with your opposite hand.

To make the project go smoother, I assemble their supplies beforehand (yep, there are those formula cans and copy paper box lids again!). In the cans (which double as their personal trash cans while working on this project) I place a little baggie of crayons, a glue stick, and safety scissors. Then in gallon-sized Ziploc bags, I place 2 paper plates, a small square of yellow construction paper, a small square of red construction paper, and two googly eyes. Then the cans and the baggies are placed in box lids, making them easy to store until I need them, and easy to pass out when we begin.


For the instructions, I play the video demonstration I created. This frees me up to help frustrated students - and also to catch the cheaters who are using their dominant hands!

When we are finished, I have a volunteer walk the big trash can around so students can empty their mini trash cans. Then someone else collects the now empty baggies, and a third student collects the cans with the scissors, glue stick, and crayons. Having only three students taking care of trash and collecting supplies is WAY LESS chaotic than having twenty-something high schoolers running around returning items.

And of course, there is also written component to the project, in which among other things students need to describe the physical, intellectual, social, and emotional benefits a child would experience from this activity. Feel free to use any and all of these resources!

Gobble Gobble!




Tuesday, November 15, 2016

To Continue the Thanksgiving Theme... Thank YOU!

A big, heartfelt thank you to all of those who have donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through my FACS fundraiser over the past year and a half!


This year's donors live all across the country - take a look!


And if you think this was impressive, here's the previous year:


Even Canada pitched in!


It's been a really tough month, and I know an awful lot of us are worried about the future and where our country is headed, but this just goes to show that people who care and work together CAN make a difference!

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead


Thank you for being a part of my small group of thoughtful, committed citizens working to change the world!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Another Thanksgiving Activity

While discussing all things Thanksgiving in class, I always mention the Butterball hotline (also known as the Turkey Talk-Line®). If you're unfamiliar, you can call 1-800-BUTTERBALL any time in November and December and receive live assistance with your turkey questions.

To jazz up the Thanksgiving talk a bit I started calling the hotline on speaker phone during class. The kids have always LOVED this! It's a short, fun activity that demonstrates how to use your resources (as well as appropriate telephone etiquette).

For your viewing enjoyment, here's a clip from when President Bartlet called the hotline on The West Wing.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Thanksgiving Project - StoryCorps: The Great Thanksgiving Listen

Ever hear of StoryCorps? It's a fantastic repository of recordings of ordinary people interviewing each other about ordinary to extraordinary events in their lives. Via the Story Corps website you can search by topic, then link to or embed them. There's even a StoryCorps podcast!

In addition to providing great supplementary content to your lesson planning, you can even have your students participate in this project. They have a StoryCorp app that can be used to record interviews and upload them directly to the StoryCorps repository. 

How is this related to Thanksgiving? StoryCorps has an initiative named The Great Thanksgiving Listen, encouraging teachers across the nation to assign their students to interview a relative over the holiday to capture an entire generation's worth of stories (free Teacher Toolkit available!).  Is this a FACS project or what?? (Or history, English, speech, math, science... You could work it in for any subject!)

Here's a short intro to the initiative, followed by a couple of examples from the last year's Great Thanksgiving Listen. I think you'll immediately be hooked, just like I was!


Drive-In Proposal





Bucky the Mailman




Governor Clark & Mother



Tuesday, October 4, 2016

What I Wish My Teacher Knew & Mandated Reporting

By now most of you who have even the most fleeting of relationships with social media have probably seen the "Finish this sentence: What I wish my teacher knew..." assignment that went viral a while back.

First let me put aside the book controversy: the teacher who created the assignment is publishing a book of the finished sentences. That doesn't feel right to me, but I don't know enough about i (permissions received, etc) to broadcast a real opinion yet.

I'm curious about the groundwork laid before this assignment, and if other people really thought this through and laid their own groundwork before giving it out thinking "Oh this is great I'm using it tomorrow!" Because that question is a land mine. The value of it is immense, no doubt. But you are going to learn things that you are going to have to, going to be required by law to, deal with.

So the questions I have for people who have used this assignment: Were you ready for that? Did you prepare your students for that? Because if you just had them fill it out and hand it in with no disclaimer, you are seriously putting their trust in you at risk. You are opening the door to their most painful secret, and potentially will be forced to share it beyond the walls of your classroom. Do they know that before they begin writing?

I start addressing the issue of mandated reporting from Day 1 of the semester. I give out this getting to know you sheet:


And then my patter and explanation while they are working on it opens the discussion. For instance, when we get to "One thing you should know about me," I tell them "Now don't tell me that your parents lock you in a basement all summer chained to the wall, because then I have to deal with that." They laugh, then ask "Really?", and I go into my spiel about how it would be against the law for me to keep it to myself, and give a few other examples. When they get to "My favorite (legal) things to do in my free time," they all laugh. I laugh too, but then say "But seriously, if you tell me that you like to sell drugs to elementary kids and beat them up when they don't have enough money, I have to do something about that." And so on and so forth. And then I work in little reminders on the topic throughout the year.

I do not do this to discourage them from talking to me - in fact, I do this because I encourage them to come to me when they need someone to talk to, and because so many of them take me up on it. I just want them to know from the outset that there are certain topics of conversation that will absolutely not be kept confidential.

Not only that, I think it actually increases the number of students who privately approach me for help. One, that bit of honesty I give them up front builds trust. Two, some of them desperately need real help and just don't know how to get to it - when I tell them that if they tell me certain things I have to get other people involved, they come to me when they need other people involved. I can't begin to count the number of students who have come to me and confessed they've been thinking about or have attempted suicide - that is an immediate hand-off. I know that, they know that, they are coming to me to make that happen.

My advice: if you invite this kind of information, please, do know what you may be getting yourself into. And do take care to make sure your students know what they may be getting themselves into.

I've shared one of the ways I do it - how do the rest of you address the issue of mandated reporting with your students?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

It's August - You Know What That Means!

It's game time everyone! Just a reminder that I am still running a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society wherein you can receive a big bundle of FACS resources I've created in exchange for a donation. See the post "Special Deal Reopened - Over 100 Resources!" for details. Check out the map of FACS teachers who have contributed to the fight against blood cancer so far this year!


If you choose to join in the fight, please remember that if you donate anonymously I will not receive any of your information and will not be able to send you your bundle!

Good luck preparing for your students - make it an awesome year!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Cell Phone Polling

There are oodles of web-based Audience Response apps available that students can use their mobile devices to respond to ("oodles" is in fact a scientific quantity). In this post we'll take a look at Poll Everywhere (yes, it's free!).

Poll Everywhere allows you to create polls or surveys, then provide your students with an access link. The polls can also be embedded within Powerpoint or Google Slides, a nice touch to any presentation. Here's a short survey example so you can get an idea of the different types of questions available:



Trouble accessing this poll? Try accessing it at pollev.com/denisec573, then think of the possibilities!