Godzilla Gazette, 17

Week of December 15, 2015


  • From Grace
  • The Reflective Practitioner
  • Weekly Events
  • For Your Information

From Grace

Happy last week of the semester, everyone! We're half-way through the journey we started in August and we've seen roads both easy and difficult to traverse. Whatever we've encountered, however, we've made our way together and I am so proud and honored to work with each of you. Every individual brings a unique set of strengths and together we form a strong, dependable, and talented group of travelers. I hope this winter break allows each of you time to rest from the road well traveled, time to relax and find joy. Happy Holidays to all.

Speaking of new adventures, this year we tried something new to encourage our students and to provide core teachers time to work together and plan. In honor of our Maker Movement - both before and after winter break, this week's Reflective Practitioner is all about fostering the creativity of our students by allowing them to build and design. I know I get excited every time I see our students engaged in this type of learning and I've seen our students enthusiastic about what they're doing - what could be better? One of our Maker volunteers was talking to me about her experience and was blown away that students were going back to their designs and making revisions with the goal of improving the effectiveness of their catapults. Isn't that what learning is all about? When we talk about failure as a tool for learning - engineering and design show us the way.

So kudos to all of you for trusting that our volunteers will take good care of your charges, for finding ways to tie these lessons into what you're doing, and for your willingness to give the Maker Movement a shot. Small tests along the way - this is how we grow. As you build in creative activities and wrap it up activities and celebrations this week, remember to take the time to enjoy how far we and our students have come on our journey.

Happy adventuring, all!

The Reflective Pracitioner

Capture the Learning: Crafting the Maker Mindset

DECEMBER 2, 2014

by Lisa Yokana

Innovative Educator, Artist, Designer of Creative Curriculum

You've heard some good stuff about the maker movement such as how making helps students learn through embodied cognition, creates a mindset that's empowering, and builds creative confidence. You're interested in crafting some maker lessons but don't know where to start or how to do something that works in your classroom. Or perhaps you're worried that you don't have time to do a long, involved project. How do you still teach the Common Core or cover the required curriculum? These simple steps will get you started.

Teaching Creativity?

First, identify the content you need to teach. Start with a simple lesson or unit to get your feet wet. Is it atomic orbitals or the grammatical structure of Mandarin? What specific information and material should students understand deeply through the experience?

Second, think about the skills that you want students to use and practice. Do you want them to develop empathy for the characters in a novel or for abolitionists during the Civil War? You can craft a lesson that allows students to practice and hone these specific skills. To teach close observation in biology, ask students to adopt a tree for the year and visually record how it changes over time.

Third, think about restrictions or limitations for the project. All creativity needs restraints. It could be as simple as the materials you want students to use. Perhaps you limit them to using recycled materials that they gather. Have them explore the properties of the material before they use it, because you cannot assume that students have making experience. How much can wire bend before it breaks? Successful projects don't have to be high tech -- they can be as simple as paper and colored pencils.

Fourth, craft a main question, the simpler the better. Ask math students to create a tool that can measure the height of a flagpole. Make it relevant. Ask world history students to make mandalas that demonstrate their understanding of the eight-fold path in Buddhism. How would you show the "right mind" or right action? For math and science students, how can you measure the water output of a stream?

The Power of Design Thinking

Capture the learning. Ask students to document and assess their process, identifying the thinking skills they've used. What was hard? Where did they get stuck? What did they do to get past it? This builds habits of mind like grit.

Grading creative projects can be difficult, so create a rubric that includes students' process. Have them tell the story of their thought process. And have them write a paragraph about their intent, as this allows those with lesser making skills to explain what they were trying to convey. Grade craftsmanship, because no matter their skill level, sloppy projects detract from the creator's intended message.

Showcase the projects. Honor your students by displaying their work. It can be a museum walk in the classroom or a gallery opening one evening, inviting parents in to celebrate.

Big image

Personal mandalas from a world history project, and tree journals from an advanced biology project. Photo credits: Nicola Minchillo (mandalas) and Lisa Yokana (journals)

In a maker classroom, no two projects look alike, which can be difficult to manage within a 40- or 50-minute period. Stanford’s d.school has developed design thinking, which is a codification of the artistic or scientific way of thinking:

  • Understanding and empathy
  • Defining the problem
  • Brainstorming solutions
  • Prototyping a solution
  • Testing the solution
  • Reiterating.

Design thinking allows teachers to have control over messy maker projects. You can set distinct time restraints for different steps of the process that will keep everyone on roughly the same timeline. For instance, you can insist that the research phase is finished by a certain date so that students can share information with one another before they move on to the brainstorming stage.

Understanding vs. Experience

So should students make things? Asking them to express an idea translated into another medium requires them to know something holistically and more deeply. They must understand both its complexities and its parts. It's the same as knowing something well enough to teach it -- you have to understand it completely, as well as how all the different pieces fit together. Students may know how many troops died during the Vietnam War, but going to the Memorial and experiencing it physically, walking through the space, touching the names and having a personal connection is a more human way of knowing. This understanding is intricately tied to our senses and creates a deeper, layered knowing of an abstract concept, making it personal and relevant.

Weekly Events

Monday, December 15, 2014 - C Day - UGLY SWEATER DAY!

  • Happy Birthday to Vicky Gutierrez (December 14)
  • PDAS - 8:00 am - 3rd grade - Grace
  • PDAS - 9:00 am - 2nd grade - Grace
  • CAC - 3:00 pm - Stefanie's Room - CAC Members
  • Board Recognition - 6:45 pm - CAC - Grace

Tuesday, December 16, 2014 - A Day

  • PTA Board Meeting - 8:00 am - Library - Grace
  • Chemistry is Fun Assembly! - 9:00 am - Cafeteria - All Invited
  • Learning Celebration - 10:00 am - Kirstie, Amanda
  • Learning Celebration - 1:15 pm - Cafeteria - Sicily

Wednesday, December 17, 2014 - B Day

  • Kindergarten Holiday Performance - 1:45 pm - Cafeteria - Parents
  • Last Day of Homework Center!

Thursday, December 18, 2014 - C Day

  • Band, Choir, Orchestra concert - 8:00 am - Cafeteria - All
  • SEL Meeting - 9:00 am - Office - Grace
  • Mathews Holiday Party! - 6:00 pm - Shoal Creek Saloon - All

Friday, December 19, 2014

  • Staff Development Day - Gifted and Talented

For Your Information


  • Take attendance every day through TEAMS
  • Follow report card deadlines - see email from Maria
  • Ensure 504, IEP, ELL, and Gifted Accommodations are being followed
  • Actively supervise your students
  • Check our calendar for important events
  • Have fun!

Kudos: Do you know of something good? Share it with Grace to be included here or write it in the comments below!

  • To Sicily and her students for teaching us about shining our light!
  • To Amy, Lisa, and Jimmy for a delightful Winter Concert!
  • To Corinda for teaching the entire sixth grade all day long!
  • To Brett for running a smooth and well-organized Homework Center!
  • To everyone for a semester to remember!

Upcoming Events:

  • Winter Break! - December 22 - January 2
  • January Maker Movement - Week of January 5
  • STAAR A Training - 3rd-6th Grade - January 8
  • Fairy Tale Theater Performance - Week of January 8
  • Principal Coffee - January 9
  • Peace Through Pie - January 17

Website to Explore:

  • https://getkahoot.com/- From American Association of School Librarians: Kahoot is a classroom student response system that is completely device agnostic. Whether they are using laptops, iPads, Chromebooks, Google Tablets, various smartphones or more if students can access the internet they can respond to all of the information provided via Kahoot. Using a simple drag and drop feature instructors can create quizzes, discussion, or surveys (which they call Kahoots) all of which can be embedded with images, text, video and more. Grades K-12.

  • Tip: Have a library game show where students answer questions about the library as an introduction to the space using their devices to respond. Check it out!