Monday, September 24, 2012

Soap and Milk Can Make a Cool, Colorful Science Activity

I saw a video of a science experiment I thought I'd share.  This is a simple activity requiring few resources (milk, plates, food coloring, soap and cotton swabs) that you can perform with your students.  

If you place a bit of milk in a plate with a few drops of food coloring in different hues, adding a bit of soap ignites a spectacle of swirls and spinning colors.  Kids would love to see the colors mixing together in a really surprising visual effect.  Explain the science behind it (involving the molecules in the soap "chasing" the molecules in the milk).  The video below explains the concept and shows you how the colors look once the soap is introduced.  You can also turn it into an experiment for students to record how the colors react in different types of milk and other liquids.  I've included a printable sheet for students to record their data during the activity.

Cool Things To Come on Substitutes, FTW!

Hi, guys!  Sorry I haven't been posting as much lately.  It's been crazy around here!

I have made progress with some longstanding plans I have for the blog.  I always wanted to offer "freebie" printables to include with some of the activities and books I post.  Well, that's exactly what I'm working on doing.  Nothing fancy yet, as I'm only starting to get the hang of it.  I just wanted easy, convenient tools for teachers to use in the classroom.  So, look forward to lots of worksheets, printable forms and activities created by me!  I'm already working on a set of activity sheets for a GREAT book I read recently that I will review soon.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Video: Students Creating Video Games

Check out this post from Education Week's site.  They show a teacher discussing the benefits of teaching students to design their own video games, an activity that is engaging, helps them practice material, and familiarizes them with skills that may help them in their career.

Check out GameStar Mechanic if you're interested in showing kids how to design their own video games.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Chaos Walking Series

As you know, I like to keep abreast of my popular YA lit.  The Chaos Walking: Book One series is one of the most popular series right now, and it is on its way to a big film franchise adaptation.

I read the first book in the series a few days ago, and I can see why readers enjoy it so much.  The pacing of the story and the nonstop action make it such an exciting read, your eager readers will tear through it pretty quickly.

The story (due to language and violence, I think it's appropriate for teenagers and adults) involves a young boy, Todd, who is on the cusp of manhood living in a world where everyone's thoughts are audible.  And I mean everyone, including animals (such as his lovable dog Manchee).  The character describes what it's like to always know everyone's thoughts; whether awake or asleep, intentional or not, people's minds are bombarded with images and words from others' minds.  No one's thoughts are private.  Not a single thought can be held in isolation.  Even the most private desires and fears are as public as shouting them from the rooftops.  The book calls this phenomenon, the outpouring of thoughts everywhere, as Noise.  The way it is described throughout the book is really a fascinating analysis of how the mind works.  Even animals have a voice because their thoughts are audible as well.

Todd was born into a world like this but, soon after the book begins, his whole world is tossed in an upheaval that destroys everything he has ever known, including the way he understands the world and the people he trusts.  He sets out on an adventure that causes him to question the strange society of his origin, the outside world, and what it truly means to be a man.

The story has all the works:  evil villains, a boy and his dog facing a rugged terrain through the wilderness, alien wars and crashing spaceships, hints of romance and the strong bonds of friendship.  It's a really moving story and sets the tone for what I'm sure will be an engrossing series.

Recommend it to your older readers!

Celebrate Reading with Class Book Awards

How is the school year going for everyone?  Hopefully, you're in the full swing of things and enjoying the new semester.  I know I am.

I came across this awesome idea on Scholastic, courtesy of the always helpful Beth Newingham.  She came up with a fun way for students to get into reading and recommend books not only to their classmates, but students who will be in the class many years later.  Get students involved in reading, rating, voting and selecting their favorite books year after year in a Class Book Awards ceremony.

Inspired by awards bestowed on notable books (like Newbery, Caldecott, etc), she had her class come up with their own categories and vote on books to give awards each month.  The categories can be changed from month to month.  October?  How about Book with the Best Villain or Spookiest Story?  Let students' imaginations run wild with categories; Most Likely to Be An Awesome Movie, Best Laugh-Out Loud Funny, and Book with the Character You Most Want to Be Your Friend could be some ideas to suggest.

Check out the sample ballot she used for her class' "Newiberry Awards."  As you can see, the categories the class generated are a bit more flexible and interesting than what you see in most awards.  Students can make their choice from among books they've read for school or recreational reading.  She even set up a special podium and special "awards ceremony" envelopes to pull out the winning books for each monthly occasion, giving the whole activity an air of authenticity.  She also recommends designing a special medal (cool art contest for the class?) just for the class award.  Once the ceremony is complete, a copy of the award-winning covers are displayed on a big bulletin board, and a special "medal" is placed on the cover of the books in the classroom library.  She includes the year on the medal that allows students to see recommended books from years past, voted and awarded by students who were once in their shoes.

How cool is that?  I love the idea and Beth Newingham's post walks you through the whole process of how she does it.  The activity is divided into two posts on her Scholastic blog, found here and here.

It would be great to start off the school year with this fun activity that really promotes reading and sharing amongst your students.  Check out her blog and start your own Book Awards!