Thursday, April 30, 2015

Great App for Shoppers! "GeoQpon"

If you have a smartphone and like to find great deals, then maybe you should check out the "GeoQpon" app. It's got tons of great coupons and daily deals that you can use at a wide variety of stores. Simply show the coupon to the cashier and they scan your screen! It's pretty slick. I haven't actually ever tried using it, but I've heard of people who have. Get savings up to 40-50%! Or more! or maybe less (like I said, I've never actually used it.)  Simply enter your zip code and the app will generate a huge list of stores in your area that having coupons on this app. You then scroll through the list and select the stores for your "Favorites" list. Then, let the hunting begin! I know people who have spent hours staring at this app looking for deals. So there must be a lot of stuff to look at! (Again, I've never used it.)  
Add to your spring wardrobe at Old Navy or buy that new tool you've always wanted from Ace Hardware or buy your favorite zombie video game from Best Buy or get that pair of bedazzled jeans you've always wanted from Justice or feed your dog the good stuff for a change from PetSmart. 

Happy Shopping! 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Creating an Experience

If you want your students to learn something, you might have them read an article, watch a video, or view a powerpoint. All three of those things get the job done, more or less. The information is being passed from teacher to student. But, if you really want your students to learn something, you need to make it an experience. It is through life experiences and meaningful moments that trigger the brain to retain information. Recently, in my 6th grade social studies class, we tackled the topic of mummification in ancient Egypt. It is a rather significant topic in ancient Egyptian culture, so we placed a high value on understanding why they mummified and how they did it. In the past, I took my students through a powerpoint presentation explaining the why, the where, and the how. I included grizzly pictures showing the various steps of mummification to try to get them to “stick” in their minds. It was just okay, but I’m not satisfied with “just ok.” The powerpoint informed them on the topic, but “just ok” doesn’t create an experience for my students. I wanted to give them more than “just ok” so I set out to create an experience that would teach them mummification in a way that they would never forget. The question was “What can I do that will teach them mummification in a way they will not forget?” The answer came quite quickly and was in the simplest of manners: Show them.
I decided I would show them mummification by mummifying a dead body right in front of them in my classroom. So, I set out to gather my supplies. The key piece to this experience was, of course, the dead body. After much perseverance at the mall, Old Navy came through in a huge way by donating a full form male mannequin to my project. Unfortunately, the mannequin didn’t have a head. I solved that problem by buying a foam head from hobby lobby. It worked out great because since the mannequin and the foam head were both white, it looked fairly natural when I duck taped the head to the mannequin with white duck tape. I had my dead body, so I was ready to set things up and turn this mannequin into an interactive dead Pharaoh to show the steps of mummification. During the mummification process, the brain is removed through the nose with a wire hook. I took a hanger and bent it to make my wire hook. I then sawed off the top of the foam head, carved out some foam to make a cavity, and then filled it with a long piece of gray rope-like cloth material that I cut from a pair of sweatpants. I stuffed the “brain” into the cavity, and put the skull back on with velcro. Another step of mummification I needed to show was the removal of the internal organs through a hole cut in the stomach. For this step, I cut a hole in the stomach with a jig saw, then placed white duck tape over the hole so it appeared to be closed. The two pieces of duck tape were side by side so I could stick my hand through the hole after it was supposedly cut by the “slitter” (student volunteer). The organs inside (liver, stomach, lungs, and intestines) were from an anatomy kit. I poured a bunch of fake blood (karo syrup, red food coloring, and water) in inside the mannequin for effect. When the big day arrived and it was time for the show, I stood by my door and invited my students in to witness the mummification of the Pharaoh Khufu. The walked in, with the lights out, but a lamp hanging from the ceiling, providing a eerie glow over the dead pharaoh concealed by a white blanket. They were wide eyed, excited, motivated to see what was going to happen. They continued to be ultra engaged as I pulled the brain out the nose with a wire hook, reached in and retrieved the organs, as blood dripped from the organs, and my hand as I placed them in the canopic jars. I stuffed the body cavity with rags as the Egyptians did. I then covered a Ken barbie (mini Khufu) with salt for the drying out process. With the help of more student volunteers, we wrapped the body with white strips of linen (toilet paper), placing golden amulets between the layers to protect the body. Finally, the mummification was complete. The experience had.
When our students come to school, they should be put in a position to experience something they’ve never seen before. They should enter our classrooms eagerly trying to see what is going to happen next. I don’t view it as going above and beyond. I view it as doing our jobs as professional educators. Creating memorable experiences is what education should be. Education in our classrooms and schools should be something kids run to, not away from. Be willing to put forth the effort needed to provide those experiences. Be willing to sit down and think. Create something new, something different. Read the book “Teach Like a Pirate.” Subscribe to Edbean. Join Twitter and find one of the many great educational twitter chats out there. Be willing to take a risk and make a difference. While preparing, someone asked me, “Why go to all this work for one lesson?” I pondered it for a moment and replied, “Because I want my students to experience my class. Not just sit through it.”

Friday, April 17, 2015

Props: More than just objects

He will remember the day
 he was sent to the pillory. #tlap
I am a big believe in using props with lessons. If you have read "Teach Like a Pirate," then you will know how powerful props can be in creating an experience and bringing the lesson to life. Think about what you are teaching about. Think about what objects or visuals could be made or brought in to help show and reinforce the topic. Students are used to doing the zombie shuffle into school each day and getting the same dose of "sameness." So why not hit them with something different? If you are talking about a topic, then abruptly stop and say, "Well, why don't I just show you?" And you pull out a prop. Students are going to become much more alert, eager to see what you are talking about. They are going to sit up and take notice. Bringing in props for a lesson makes that topic come to life. It is there, for students to experience, not just listen to. Props give students a great visual for them to connect to. They will understand and learn the material because you have provided them with a connection. In discussing the Medieval Times, I thought it would be good to have a "pillory" as a prop in my room. So I built one and brought it in. I kept it under a bed sheet for a couple days to build the suspense. The students were constantly guessing as to what it was and asking when they got to see it. This method, which is classic #tlap, builds the momentum of the lesson and when I actually did reveal it, the students were highly engaged and begging to help demonstrate it. Students remember things like this. Plus, you are providing them an opportunity to actually have an answer to the question "What did you learn in school today?" Instead of the age-old "nothing," they can share that they learned about the pillory and actually got to try it. 
As the school year winds down and the restlessness cranks up, it might be a good idea to think about incorporating some props into your lessons/classroom.