Friday, December 19, 2014

Oh What Fun!

Yesterday we embarked on our annual gingerbread house decorating party! Okay, they were actually graham cracker houses but it was still lots of fun! Thanks again to everyone who sent in supplies and joined our festive celebration. Thanks also for my wonderful and generous gifts! I loved all of them! Watch the video below for a little glimpse into the festivities. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Field Trip to Phoenix Courts

Every great field trip always starts with an exciting bus ride! Students were wowed by the tall buildings of downtown Phoenix and enjoyed the trip. 
First stop was "The Old Courthouse" and everyone had to go through a metal detector.
We spent a good deal of time in Judge Barton's courtroom and she gave us lots of information about the history of The Old Courthouse. She pointed out the lack of technology and even how some technology was impossible to incorporate because the building was built so long ago. She very patiently answered many of our questions, too! 
 Next, we headed across the street to the much more modern, South Court Tower. We took a combination of escalators and elevators all the way up to a courtroom on the 8th floor.
When we arrived, the person in charge of technology for the entire building gave a presentation about the technology used in the building including assistive technology (which several students got to test), microphones, projectors, and document cameras. This was very different than The Old Courthouse!
Next, students took a seat in the jury box and we heard two different mock trials.
First, Goldilocks took the stand and tried to convince us she was not guilty of breaking and entering and burglary in the home of the three bears.
The interrogation was pretty intense, and unfortunately, Goldilocks was quickly found guilty.
Next, Gretel of Hansel and Gretel took the stand. She explained to us how her poor brother had been captured and caged by an evil witch and she feared for her life! 
After a brief deliberation, the jury found Gretel not guilty and she was free to go! 
Thanks so much to our wonderful parent volunteers for all your help with this field trip and a HUGE thanks to Mr. Vingelli for all his hard work coordinating and setting everything up! 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Learning New Vocabulary With PicCollage

On Friday we competed in our first of three WordMasters Challenge meets of the 2014-15 school year. The WordMasters Challenge is a vocabulary competition based on completing analogies. Analogies involve higher order thinking skills which is based on logic and reason. We have been working on analogies and higher level thinking all year.
To prepare for the meet, students took up to three vocabulary words expected to be part of the WordMasters Challenge, looked up the meanings of the words and created a PicCollage using an iPad to demonstrate the meanings of their words. Students then presented their vocabulary words to the class and we discussed possible analogies and relationships for these words.
PicCollage is a fun, free iPad app that allows students to easily create beautiful photo collages. This app is easy to use and has lots of options to add text, stickers, different backgrounds, rotates photos, etc. 
Students really enjoyed becoming an expert on their new vocabulary words and sharing the information with the rest of the class. Our first WordMasters meet was very successful and the top five scorers were announced at the end of the day. This is a cumulative competition so scores from our next two meets will be added to the scores from this week to determine our final winners at the end of the year. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Churning Butter

Today in Science class, we churned butter. This integrated with a larger Social Studies unit based on the first Thanksgiving. After writing all the materials and instructions for churning butter, along with predicting what would happen, how long it would take for their butter to churn and a few other things, students worked with a small group churning a small container of cream to turn it into butter. Students observed the results of their labor and tasted the buttermilk they helped create as well. Everyone had fun churning the butter but I think everyone had MORE fun tasting the results of their hard work! Watch the video clip below to see our butter churning in action! 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Turkey Recipes Via Google Classroom

Every year of my teaching career I have had my students write Thanksgiving turkey recipes to create a funny class book. However, over the years this project has changed fairly dramatically. I used to have students write their recipes by hand. I would take the stack of recipes home and laboriously retype them all. I loved the finished project but did not love how much extra work it created for me.
This year I am extremely lucky to have 1:1 Chromebooks in my classroom and amazingly tech savvy students! I posted the turkey recipe assignment in Google Classroom (a fairly new feature of Google Apps For Education), students each created a document using a recipe template and virtually turned in their completed recipe. Google Classroom neatly tucked them all away in a beautifully organized folder for me! 
Then, we took the project a step further and created a class video about these books. Once it was uploaded to YouTube, a couple of students took the link and created a QR Code for us. We embedded the QR Code on the cover of the book so anyone reading the book can easily scan and view the adorable video.  

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Balance and Motion

In Science class, we just finished up a unit on balance and motion. We learning how to balance a pencil on the sharpened tip, using a counterweight. We took cardboard crayfish and balanced them in a variety of different ways. We created zoomers and spinners. We built roller coasters - both physical and virtual. But by far the most popular activities were the ones involving tops. Students loved creating, building and spinning tops!
Vocabulary we learned during this unit includes: counterweight, counterbalance, air resistance, stable, slope and rotational motion.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Honored to be Named a Jacobs Educator

Dr. Thomas Brush (Chair, Instructional Systems Technology Department), Josh Mika, Me and Kate Baker
This past weekend I had to great honor of traveling to Indiana University to accept the Jacobs Educator Award. This is an annual award which recognizes teachers across the United States who are using technology to support innovative inquiry-based teaching and learning activities in their classrooms. 
The weekend was a whirlwind of activities and events including touring the IU Campus, meeting with faculty, staff, students, parents of students and the other two awardees. Saturday morning we were part of a panel during Parent Weekend called "Why Teach?", speaking primarily to EDU students and their parents about our views regarding the opportunities, challenges, and rewards of the profession.
Part of the Jacobs Educator Award includes new technology for the classroom along with communication and ongoing collaboration with Indiana University's prestigious school of education. We will be doing many video conferences and professors and students from IU will be visiting the classroom throughout the year to observe how my students use technology for Inquiry Based Learning. 
Google Glass!
The events this weekend were extremely positive and inspiration and I am so excited to be a part of the team of Jacobs Educators and working with Indiana University. Of course, I am so excited for new, cutting edge technology, too! 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Vine Video Book Trailers

Students recently finished their first book report assignment of the school year. Everyone individually  read a book by Roald Dahl, created a poster about the book, wrote a brief summary and presented their poster to the class. 
We decided to take this project to the next level, by adding a unique technology facet to the assignment. Students used this awesome Vine video storyboard template created by Ms. Gwyneth Jones who was actually the inspiration for this entire lesson!
Using the storyboard, they wrote out the action and the dialogue that they wanted in each brief scene. Then, students recorded their book trailer with a partner or small group using the Vine App on the iPad. 
Vine is a short-form video sharing service. I was excited to try it with my students because iMovie (which I also love) tends to be very time-consuming. Vine allows students to record six second video clips which loop. I liked this project because it also forced students to really think about their message because it had to be very concise. It also allowed students to be creative and since their videos are published, they are also reaching an authentic audience. True 21st Century Learning in action! 
Once all the videos were uploaded to my Vine Channel, students found the video they had created and copied the link. Once the link was on the clipboard, they went to and shortened the URL. Next, the clicked on "details" to generated a QR Code, which linked back to their video. Once they accessed the QR Code, students copied the image and pasted it into a Google doc. 
They typed their name underneath using any font they chose and shared the document with me so I could print it. 
Once the QR Codes were printed, they mounted them to a piece of colored paper and affixed it to their poster.
Pretty fancy!
We have two walls of very unique posters about assorted Roald Dahl books!
Do you see the QR Code?
Next came the most fun part of the entire project! Students got to use an iPad and scan all the QR Codes and watch the Vine video book trailers created by their classmates. 
There were many steps to this project: storyboarding the script, recording and producing the video, finding the URL, linking the URL to a QR Code, inserting the QR Code into a Google doc, sharing the doc with me and then adding the physical QR Code to the poster and scanning it. However, my 1st and 2nd grade students never cease to amaze me and glided through the process. This will not be the last time we use Vine or QR Codes in class this year! View one of our Vine video book trailers below or go to my Vine Channel to see all of them. 

Friday, October 31, 2014


We have had a spooktacular time this week with our Prime Pumpkin Prediction Project! 
Students learned about circumference, radius, vertical lines, estimation, alliteration, units of measure, the life-cycle of a pumpkin and of course the grand finale, estimating and counting the seeds of a pumpkin. Thanks again to all the families who donated pumpkins. Watch the video below to see a little snippet of the seed counting fun. 

I create most of my videos on iMovie on a Macbook. On a whim, I decided to try out the iMovie iPad app. I was confused and am thrilled to say, I had a group of 1st and 2nd grade students guide me through creating this video! This is what they learned during our Apple Store field trip and they were obviously paying attention! Great job, students! I was excited to learn something new and am eager to use this iPad app more in the future. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Differentiated Lessons via Front Row Math

You may have heard your 1st or 2nd grade student talking about something called "Front Row" when they get home from school. No, this doesn't mean I have rearranged the desks (again!) and he or she is sitting in the front row. Front Row Math is a fairly new online math program that accurately isolates skills and gaps with every student. Then, it fills the gaps and builds on student strengths.
My favorite feature of Front Row is that it is adaptive. This allows students to work at their own pace on skills that are relevant to each student. During our math block I have been pulling students who are at the same or very similar levels and working with them either individually or in small groups. I am able to view data and reports through Front Row so I can see exactly what a student is struggling with or excelling in. So far I have found this data to be extremely accurate!
The students enjoy Front Row because it is gamified! When they get questions correct the earn coins and stars. Every so often the Front Row pig makes an appearance and students can spend their coins on items for the pig. From a teacher's point of view, I love that there is a game feature to keep students excited and engaged, but I also love that the game feature is minimal and limited so students are not able to spend excessive time playing games while not actually learning any math.

While students are working independently on Front Row and get stuck, there are a few options for them. My favorite way for them to get un-stuck is for them to watch a short, one-minute video which reviews exactly what they are having a challenge with. The videos go step by step to help students figure out what they need to learn or what they might be forgetting.
What has created the biggest buzz in education this year? That's right: Common Core Standards! Front Row Math is common core aligned. This program covers common core K-8 standards so students can work well above their current grade level, while still staying on track.
It's Never To Early To Start Learning Math!
Front Row is totally cloud based and students can use it on nearly any device including Chromebooks, iPads (there is a free app), MacBooks, etc. I explore a LOT of technology programs and am lucky I have the freedom and flexibility to be very choosy. Front Row is the best math program I have found so far to accurately differentiate math with my extremely unique group of gifted learners! Students are welcome to log in any time at home and show you what it is all about or use it on the weekends or evenings if they are looking to advance their skills on their own. The link for students to use is: and our class code is lztsbw.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Blogging to an Authentic Audience

Last week we learned all about blogging! Click here to view the presentation I reviewed with the class to learn some of the "rules" of blogging along with some important cyber-safety information. 
After learning about blogging, every student logged into his or her very own blog through and started writing and since then we have blogged three times! is an amazing tool because it includes all the wonderful features of blogging sites like Blogger and Word Press, but makes teacher management and safety very easy. It is incredible that 1st and 2nd grade students are using the same tools as adult bloggers and getting this excellent writing experience, while still remaining safe online.
Be sure to ask your student to show you his or her blog at home! Blogging will soon become a frequent option for the weekly spelling homework. We have several Skype calls set up in thew next few weeks to teach other classes with students in 1st or 2nd grade about blogging. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

First Mystery Skype of the Year

This week my class participated in our first Mystery Skype of the year! 
Their Cowboy Hats Threw Us A Bit! Turns Out It Was A Spirit Day
Students were assigned roles: greeter, questioner, researcher, answerer or closer. We practiced and eagerly waited for our Mystery Class to dial in.
We asked lots of questions and used maps to try to figure out where the other class was. We knew they weren't the largest state, or the smallest state, their state did not begin with a vowel and did not border another country. We were finally ready to guess.... was our Mystery Skype Class in Nebraska?
Back To The (Virtual) Drawing Board
Nope! We continued asking questions and doing research based on the answers and eventually guessed again. 
Hooray! We Got It!
Our Mystery Skype Class was in Pennsylvania and the Skype was facilitated by Mr. Soskil, an educator I met through Twitter. Mr. Soskil blogged about this activity from his perspective too. My class had a wonderful time with this Inquiry Based lesson and we can't wait to do another one! If you are interested in doing a Mystery Skype with us please contact me! Leave a comment on this post or tweet me @MsMensing