RAFT Activity Kit: Static Merry-go-Round

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Giving Positive Reinforcement to Inspire Your Students

By Eric Welker, Master Teacher and Activity Developer, RAFT

Positive reinforcement is simple and necessary in all classrooms - but can be forgotten while class rigor becomes more demanding. Here are some easy tips to remind ourselves to praise our students daily.

1. Have a small whiteboard outside the classroom and write a positive message on it to remind students that you are glad to see them. Messages such as: "We’re lucky you came today, it's going to be an amazing day!", or "I will give you my 100% today." This type of positivity will have students coming to class with smiles on their faces and sets the tone for a fantastic day.

2. Incorporate stickers into your daily routine. As children, we all loved receiving stickers, but even young adults enjoy small rewards such as stickers for participation. Small stickers may be placed on the front of folders or binders for students asking wonderful questions or participating.  An easy way is to have a clipboard with all the students names and tally how many stickers they have earned and pass them out at the end of class. Of course, the teacher should give praise right away, but the students can wait for the physical reward until the end of class. 

3. Focus praise on the student, not just how you feel about their accomplishment. I consciously try to say “You did ….” which focuses the praise on the student. Teachers can also post positive sentence frames throughout the classroom to remind themselves of positive phrases.


I have seen teachers in upper elementary grades use the Santa Clara County Office of Education Norms of Effective Collaboration table tents with the Seven P’s during group work . The Seven P’s are pausing, paraphrasing, putting ideas on the table, pulling them off, paying attention to self and others, presuming positive intentions, and pursuing a balance between advocacy and inquiry.

Group work can be very difficult for some individuals, and being able to communicate in an effective and approachable way is a valuable life skill. So please remember that teachers are not the only people in the classroom. Students need  teachers to positively praise them, and also need to have the tools to positively praise each other.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Let’s Talk Innovation: Adapting Ideas From RAFT’s Innovation Institute for Your Curriculum

By Jen Rodgers, 8th Grade Science Teacher

Last summer I attended RAFT’s two-day "Innovation Institute."  It would take several posts to share with you everything I learned and was able to apply to my classroom.  However I would like to share one activity with you this time, and how I adapted this to teach a concept in my class.

I teach 8th grade science, and one of the standards we teach is how to use the Periodic Table of Elements and what the patterns are in the periodic table.  We know how amazing the science is behind the Periodic Table of Elements.  But translating that to 14 year olds and letting them discover how incredible it is that everything we know is made of these few elements that share so many characteristics and all fall into this pattern is no small feat.  We teach them about groups and periods, valence electrons, metals and non­metals, and how the characteristics follow a pattern and why. 

Using RAFT’s Idea Sheet “Thinking on the Outside of the Box” ­
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I started simple, using a couple of the simple puzzles given in the idea sheet to get them used to the process and how to use the boxes.  I made boxes out of the large sheets of poster board paper ($0.25 each!  I only needed two) and used post­it notes to put the pattern parts on the boxes.  This way I can use the boxes several times and I can keep the Post­-its for use in future years. 

To start, I give students their first box, ­ the first one shown on the idea sheet using A­F, 1­6, and circles, triangles, and squares.  I gave this puzzle one day during the beginning of class a few days before I began teaching the Periodic Table.  The intention here was to have them start to recognize patterns and be able to identify the missing element based on the patterns.  The next day I gave them the example with the men’s and women’s names.  This one was a little trickier, but with the scaffolding of the first one, they were able to work together in their group to deduce the pattern.  With this one, I took into consideration my population of students, which is 98% Hispanic, and based on their culture and names, decided to have “Rob” be the missing panel.  This helped, as names such as “Francene” and “Albert” are not that common in their world. 

Then we started to learn the patterns of the periodic table.  I taught them about periods, groups, valence electrons, electron clouds, and metals/non­metals/metalloids.  During this time I gave them two more puzzles with the boxes to build on their practice with recognizing patterns in this way.



Next came the Periodic Table puzzle boxes!  I developed the following puzzles for students to work together to determine the pattern and be able to use that pattern to figure out the information on the missing panel.






There is a few purposes to this activity.
1­ To have students collaborate on critical thinking and problem solving ­ a Common Core Skill Set that is very important in their development.
2.­ To drive home the content they had been learning of the patterns of the Periodic Table.
3.­ To check for understanding and help to dispel misconceptions.

I found this activity to be very successful throughout the entire unit of the “Patterns of the Periodic Table of Elements.”  From the beginning where they were discovering patterns, to the end where they were solving complex puzzles with detailed information of the elements and the characteristics they share based on their atomic properties and how that relates to their location on the Periodic Table.  It came full circle and nicely tied everything together.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Helping Students Understand the Engineering Design Process

Did you know NASA has created their Beginning Engineering Science and Technology (BEST) lessons to help K-8th grade students understand the Engineering Design Process?  The Engineering Design Process is a series of steps engineers use to guide them in problem solving. Engineers must ask a question, imagine a solution, plan a design, create that model, experiment and test that model, then take time to improve the original – all steps that are crucial to mission success at NASA.



Throughout the Building a Satellite to Orbit the Moon and Launching a Satellite activities, the emphasis is for students to understand that engineers must “imagine and plan” before they begin to build and experiment. To successfully complete the NASA BEST Activities, students must draw their ideas first before constructing. Students transform into NASA Scientist and Engineers as they create their own satellites using a cardboard tube and general building supplies including buttons, bubble wrap and aluminum foil. Then students must build a balloon powered rocket to launch their satellite. These highly engaging and multifaceted hands-on learning experiences are aligned with the Common Core State Standards and can be used to support core content curriculum in the areas of math, science, and language arts.

Visit RAFT for their incredible assortment of materials for NASA BEST Activities and general building supplies. 

NASA BEST Lesson Guide

Article by: Mera Burton-STEM Engagement Specialist- AERO Institute/ NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Making Toys From Recycled Material



RAFT was founded on the idea that extra materials should not be wasted, and instead, should be used to help children explore their creative abilities while learning. Many teachers use RAFT’s recycled materials to help solidify this idea – creating lesson plans that meet state standards, while engaging students in fun and inspiring ways.


Michele Guieu teaches art at the Montalvo Arts Center and specializes in multi-cultural and multi-media art. Michele pulls inspiration from her childhood in France and travels through Africa, giving her a unique view into societal influences such as global and environmental issues. Michele shapes these issues into meaningful pieces of art – through video, painting, photography, and elaborate installations.


In my art and through my teaching I am sharing my views and concerns about environmental issues. I engage the public and my young students to reflect, collaborate and create,” says Michele. Michele’s passion for the environment has been the driving factor for teaching her students with recycled materials.


Michele recently teamed up with RAFT to incorporate recycled and upcycled material into her art workshops for both children and teachers:

“This particular workshop, “Making a Toy From Recycled Material,” is about learning how to use one object to make another one. We as a society use a lot of things only once. For a lot of people around the world that is not the case. What if we had to recycle our materials to make other objects? Many children around the world cannot buy toys at the store and are making toys from recycled material. It is something children in our country were doing a long time ago (Native Americans and early settlers).”
 

Michele's workshops are also aligned with Common Core State standards 3-5-ETS1 Engineering Design and 5th grade-ESS3.A Natural Resources.



 
If you would like to see more of Michele’s art and lesson plans, please visit her blog.