Feb 10

Claim Evidence Reasoning – CER

One switch I’ve made with my Science labs is in the way I have students write their conclusions. I’ve tried many different ways, I’ve even spent time working with my Science PLC on conclusion writing, and lately I’ve been having my students use the Claim, Evidence, Reasoning or CER method of writing conclusions. It’s quite sleek while covering everything needed in a conclusion. I have a few links to CER resources on Diigo, not many but at least some.

I’ve noticed that students struggle writing conclusions with more complex labs, especially when there are different labs each with different manipulated variables included in ONE conclusion. After finishing our STC/MS kit, Energy, Machines, and Motion (EMM), friction lesson I asked my 6th grade students to write a CER conclusion to show what they learned when testing to see how surface types, weight, and surface area affects sliding friction. The textbook asked students to summarize their learning AFTER all three labs. In retrospect, I’m thinking that next year I’ll have students write a CER conclusion after each lab maybe. The problem is that all three labs lead a more complete learning things that affect sliding friction so I’m still not sure if I want to do that. Instead of having 6th graders write a summary, I had them write a CER conclusion because I thought it would be better for them to practice CER. Because they were writing a conclusion with three different manipulated variables, many students were stuck.

Here’s the original CER template I’ve been using with my 6th graders (the sentence starters were added to help kids get started):

Sixth graders have practiced using the above template for one lab so far. It was a straightforward lab with only one manipulated variable so they were quite successful. Going from a lab with one manipulated variable to three labs with three different manipulated variables was too soon and too complex a jump as evidenced by how many students were confused and stuck. Some chose to write their claims in three separate sentences, one for each manipulated variable, then three separate evidence statements, and three different reasoning statements. Those who tried combining all three manipulated variables, the surface types, weight, and surface area, needed more support.

After repeatedly restating what Claim and Reasoning was, I decided to re-write the CER template instead of going around repeating myself. I also changed the sentence starter for the Reasoning part because one 6th grader started his reasoning sentence that way and I thought it was great. Here’s my new, updated CER template with sentence starters:

So I had a re-written CER template and I wanted students to practice. I came in and did a quick search in the morning for a video of a science experiment. One that was clear enough to my 6th graders to write a CER conclusion quickly enough to write, share and gain some confidence. I came upon this guy with a really nice garden who did a test to see if compost tea really made plants grow better. It was nice and worked!

Here are instructions if you want to learn how to make Compost Tea. The Compost Tea guy, as we came to call him, okay, as I came to call him, shared his claim, evidence AND reasoning with us so it was just a matter of re-stating his experiment!

  • I had kids write on their own after watching and discussing the video.
  • Then they shared with each other at their tables.
  • Then I had volunteers read their conclusions aloud.

Many of my students were successful and re-gained confidence in writing CER conclusions! Based on what I heard, I wrote the following CER Compost Tea conclusion myself:


One of my 6th graders wrote a blog post about sharing her CER Compost Tea Conclusion.

This worked out pretty well and I hope helps because the next EMM lesson, on the Force of a Motor, will have us testing different variables to see how we can get our little motors to lift the most washers they can. Writing a conclusion for that experiment is always a challenge.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.educatoral.com/wordpress/2016/02/10/claim-evidence-reasoning-cer/

Feb 10

Blogging for Real! #WATeachLead

WACORELaborateI feel like a real blogger now! Sure I started this WordPress blog with my first post on July 2006 (that’s coming up on 10 years!) but it wasn’t until a few years later that I started blogging for an audience beyond my students and their parents. Blogging on my own, for my own reflection and to share what’s going on in my classroom is great and I thoroughly enjoy it. So it was so cool to be selected as a teacher leader for the WA CORELaborate group (#WATeachLead) as one of their bloggers! I feel like I’ve advanced to being a real blogger! Not to belittle the work I’ve done here and the value I get from blogging, it’s just an exciting opportunity and I’m grateful to have it.


I’m Official!


Kick-Off Event!

We had a fantastic kick-off event and the group of WA CORELaborate bloggers brainstormed some fantastic topics to blog about this year. I have some awesome ideas for a couple of series I want to do and I was thinking, wondering, how to start it all off. I decided to make my first blog entry about standards. With the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), I am hoping that the negative ed reforms of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) era can be done away with, revoked, fixed, erased so that we can get back to the business of educating children. NCLB’s so called reforms have soured many people’s taste of standards and testing.



Permanent link to this article: http://www.educatoral.com/wordpress/2016/02/10/standards-good-or-bad/

Jan 18

Student Tech Support #edtech

CC0 Public Domain

CC0 Public Domain

I’ve been working on my school district’s tech committee since I started working at Chimacum in 1997. Our most recent district tech plan included a plan for moving our middle school to a 1:1 model. The plan required pretty substantial funding, the likes of a Tech Levy or a portion of a Capital Levy or Bond. After failing a big Bond last year our district decided to try another Bond this year. This year’s Bond is slated at major renovations of our oldest buildings and making them suitable for our students. Very important stuff.

Once the Bond passes the district can begin planning for a Capital Levy at some point. The idea is to either include a Tech component in the Capital Levy or wait until another time to run a separate Tech Levy. This is the way Bonds and Levies work, with the support of our local community!

In the meantime year after year of middle school students will go through our school without enough technology to fully prepare them for the type of future in which they will be expected to work. One thing we can expect for all our children, they will need to be able to use technology in one form or another to do their jobs and communicate and connect with others. I felt the need to find a way to get that 1:1 going. One of our middle teachers, a recent hire from CA who’s been teaching for a while, suggest we try Donors Choose or starting a kickstarter campaign. I thought that was a great idea!

So I did some searching and found that Donors Choose was a bit difficult because you couldn’t really start a project without points, which I didn’t have much from having used Donors Choose before, and we couldn’t really ask for enough money to get a 1:1 going for a school with over 200 students. Kickstarter was my next search. Fully equipping every student in our school would require around $75,000 and with Kickstarter you wouldn’t be allowed to keep what you raised if you didn’t raise it all. As much as I hoped we could find some very generous donors with lots of money, I knew it was unlikely that we’d get $75,000. The other site for getting money was Indiegogo. Through Indiegogo you can ask for as much money as you need and you have the option of choosing to keep whatever you raise if you don’t raise your full amount. So I did it, mostly by myself. I added the teacher who suggested we try this and my principal to the Indiegogo Campaign and I was off! I mean, I’ve been getting really good grant money for years so I’m no stranger to getting money for our school. I launched the campaign in October because I didn’t want our tech campaign to in any way interfere with the Bond that was going to go before voters in February. The campaign would be over by December, giving enough time for people to support tech and facilities later on!

Here are some posts I wrote promoting the Tech Campaign:
Help Our School @indiegogo
@Indiegogo Campaign
New Flyer for @Indiegogo Campaign
Tech Campaign @indiegogo Style

I found out, after the fact, that it’s NOT as easy as running a campaign like that and accepting the funds. Not that easy, for a school that is. Once I launched the campaign our building secretary and our district business manager began furiously trying to find out how we, as a school, could even accept funds raised this way. There seems to be little to no precedent for fund raising by getting money online like this. Plus there were issues as to whether the money could be collected for the building fund, for tech, or through the ASB, for students. The problem, I learned after the fact, is that collecting money through the ASB means the funds can’t purchase items to be used for curriculum – which is the whole purpose of a 1:1!!

After lots headaches, caused by me launching this campaign without getting it approved first, we were able to get the fund deposited into the school’s bank account! Whew!

Well, we didn’t raise the full $75,000 we needed to buy every middle school student a computer. For the campaign, I had to come up with backup plans in case all the money wasn’t raised. I thought a good Plan B would be to at least get enough computers for one of our grade levels. We have 67 students in grade 6, requiring at least $20,000. We didn’t raise that much.

My Plan C was then to take whatever monies we got and start a Student Tech Support Group! Here’s my thinking, it was based on an idea I got at the NCCE Conference I went to last year. Start with a small group of students. Give them each his or her very own computer. Have them use those computers to learn and to share their learning with teachers and parents. Those students become tech support for teachers and students wanting to use technology to learn in school! I would meet with the Student Tech Support Group weekly, after school, to share ideas on how to use technology in school to learn, do work and share the learning. The Student Tech Support Group can help teachers who need ideas as well as help students who already have their devices to use at school. And when we go to a full 1:1, the Student Tech Support Group can help anyone in all their classes! I actually think Plan C was a great idea.

Thanks to some very kind and giving friends, the Indiegogo Campaign itself raised $245!

Matt Werner $50.00
Debborah Stackhouse $20.00
Valerie Horner $25.00
Kristy Clum $100.00
Deborah Huynh $50.00

We are very grateful for their donations! Thanks to them, this campaign also got noticed and supported by two local groups!

Our school’s own WEAct Club has raised and donated over $350 to our Tech Campaign in support of the Student Tech Support Group!

The WA State Trooper’s Association, thanks to one of my 6th grader’s father, donated $900!

And our very own Friends of Chimacum Schools (FOCS) Foundation donated $1,000!

All told we will be able to purchase eight or nine Chromebook Flips to start our tech support group! I’m excited and still looking for ways to continue this support group until the time we move to a 1:1 program. I have a grant out right now to a CenturyLink Foundation to purchase 13 more Chromebook Flips for next year by adding more students to our support group. I’ll find in April if we get the grant.

Here’s a flyer I put together to invite students to our first meeting. From there I will give students a chance to join and become the first group of CMS Student Tech Support by having them fill out pretty substantial application to see who will be the best fit. Students who don’t get a school device, purchased with the donated funds, can still be part of the group if they have their own device to use so we might have more than eight students in the group! We’ll see how it goes. I’m expecting this to work out wonderfully. Maybe we’ll put together a wiki so that students can share what they learn and show all the ways they will use their tech to learn in school.

15-16CMSStudentTechSupportInfo by Alfonso Gonzalez

Permanent link to this article: http://www.educatoral.com/wordpress/2016/01/18/student-tech-support-edtech/

Jan 14

Multiple GAFE Accounts, Shared Devices?


When students access Google Classroom to view files or complete assignments they need to log into their personal GAFE account. Different students on the the same devices each different class period!

In my classroom students have iPads, Samsung Galaxy Tabs, Netbooks, Chromebooks, Laptops, or iMac desktop computers to choose from to do work that requires technology. Some of my devices are old enough that they are glitchy at best and downright frustrating to do anything other than surfing the net. We had some troubles when first using GAFE for a Slides activity. I found a work-around for accessing and editing Slides on Android Tablets.

Our most recent problem has to do with our devices being shared. On any given day students from one class will access their GAFE accounts then students in the next class will need to access their GAFE accounts. Seems pretty straightforward, sign out of the previous student’s account then sign in to yours. Yeah, that’s too simple. Day after day I get students coming to me saying that they can’t login to their account because it won’t log out of the previous student’s account. I try it and they’re right, Safari on the iPads as well as Safari or Chrome on the iMacs will not log out of one user’s account to log into another user.

Well, I found a workaround and it’s one I mentioned in my Problems with Tech post. It seems that iPad browsers, and/or older browsers on computers that can’t be updated anymore, have problems loading Google Drive as well as other current google pages such as slides.google.com, classroom.google.com, etc.

But all my devices, old and not so old, will access blogger.com! That’s the secret!

Blogger.com doesn’t just get my students onto Google’s services but also consistently allows students to logout of a previous user’s account and log into their account! Works like a charm every time. Google, please don’t change this!

Update: On Wednesday, Jan 13, a student came to me saying that every time he would log out of blogger.com and use his account it would return to the previous account. I checked it and it was indeed not working! My perfect, works-every-time fix wasn’t working on one of the new Samsung Galaxy Tabs S2!!

After several failed attempts, I tried switching the Android account the student was on – the Google tools account – to the other Android account – the restricted one – and my blogger.com fix worked! We were able to log out of the previous student’s (a different student btw) account to the current student’s account! These glitches never end!!!!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.educatoral.com/wordpress/2016/01/14/multiple-gafe-accounts-shared-devices/

Jan 13

WA Core Advocates

AchieveTheCoreJust this past weekend I attended a Common Core English Language Arts (CCSS-ELA) training put together by the Washington Core Advocates from Achieve the Core Student Achievement Partners. Because of my work with the OSPP I was invited to attend this fantastic training. I had the choice of going to the Math training or the ELA training. I wanted to attend the Math training. My thinking was this: I’ve recently had some CCSS-ELA training so I really want to get some Math training to familiarize myself with the Math standards. As a Science teacher I use ELA as well as Math so I should be familiar with the CCSS-ELA and the CCSS-Math. Also, my National Board certification is an Early Adolescent Generalist so Math was the logical next step.

I thought I signed up for the Math training but when I got there I was handed the ELA materials! I sure do hope those in our OSPP cohort who attended the Math training can have time time to share what they learned with the rest of us! I’m sure those of us who attended the ELA training will share with the rest of our OSPP cohort! I am willing.

The other training I had before was from two train the trainer sessions from our state union group, the WEA, for CCSS-ELA. I thought I had a good understanding of the ELA standards because I have been trained as a trainer! Well, I’m very glad that I got attend this THIRD CCSS-ELA training because I think I’m only now really starting to get it! Getting to participate in the WA Core Advocates and Student Achievement Partners training is really helping me start to cement what I have been learning through the WEA train the trainer trainings! Maybe it’s got something to do with three or the third time you learn something. I’m seeing how repetition really helps ME as a LEARNER.

Our Jan 2016 Convening Group

Our Jan 2016 Convening Group

We started our weekend by delving into the three shifts called for in the common core for ELA. Now, I had already delved into the three shifts at the WEA sessions, both of them, but something about going through it for the third time really made it click for me! I had wondered, why are we spending so much time learning about the three shifts and not just jumping right into the standards, but after this weekend I have a very different perspective. I’m shocked it didn’t hit me before. As the presenters explained, the shifts may be shifts for some teachers who need to change but for others, who have shifted, the CCSS shifts can help them “shift into high gear.” Either way, understanding the shifts puts the common core standards into perspective and helps provide focus for teachers to really help our students.

The three ELA shifts that teachers need to keep at the fore of their work with children are:

  1. Regular practice with complex text and its academic language.
  2. Reading, writing and speaking grounded in evidence from text, both literary and informational.
  3. Building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction.

We then spent some time learning about the Matthew Effect, which shows the research and reasons why our disadvantaged children start school behind more affluent children and why they are playing catch up for possibly their entire K-12 career. We focused on one equalizer, vocabulary. In order to make complex texts accessible to all our students, and to provide them the opportunity to learn from complex texts, we need to develop their vocabulary.

We learned some strategies for selecting the academic vocabulary that will help students learn from complex texts and become better readers. A fantastic part of our training was looking at what the research shows about which vocabulary teaching strategies work best and which ones do not work as well as we would hope. As a teacher knowing what works and what doesn’t work will help me make better use of the time I spend working with my students!

I plan to share specifics about what I learned in future posts. It was good stuff and I need to go back and review it before I forget too much! Stay tuned!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.educatoral.com/wordpress/2016/01/13/wa-core-advocates/

Jan 06

Same School Year But New Year Year

new-years-eve-1058678_640Being a career educator in K-12 always makes New Year interesting. New Year is a great time to start over and focus on meeting your goals or making new goals altogether. And yet the week before winter break we started a lab in my Science classes that we are finishing this week.

It’s only been one month but we started a lab in 2015 and are finishing it in 2016. Seems pretty cool when you think of it.

If I had one class of students all day I might have spent more time our first day together of 2016 reflecting and thinking about the new year but I only briefly mentioned the new year and asked if everyone had a good break with my first period class. Then we went right to business on the second part of our 2015 lab. I really hadn’t thought much about the new year, I was just really excited about continuing our lab investigating the force of gravity by distinguishing between mass and weight and designing a short experiment to analyze the relationship between mass and weight. Even short experiments are fun.

Personally, I have been thinking of the new year. I’m not big on resolutions but I do welcome the opportunity to reflect on my goals and to work on them full steam ahead.  I have a lot of exciting projects coming up that I’m going to be working on and I’m looking forward to them. Part of me hopes I haven’t signed up for too much but that’s part of the excitement! I’ll be sharing my experiences and learnings in future blog posts. This weekend, thanks to the OSPP I’m working with, I will be at a Common Core training with the Washington Core Advocates Student Achievement Partners. Two days in Seattle working with great people is going to be fantastic!

So I’m starting 2016 thinking about all the things I have to be grateful for:

  • My wonderful family – I have an incredibly loving and supportive wife and daughter that I treasure.
  • My school – I really do enjoy working in Chimacum Middle School. I work with awesome teachers and I’m having a great year with my 6th graders.
  • My health – I’ve been working hard to get my calves strong enough to be able to run injury-free. So far I started off 2016 by running a New Year’s Day 10K and I got a good time for me without hurting my calves! I am trying to get back into my training for a marathon. If I can start running 10K’s without injury then I’ll work towards another half marathon by the summer so that maybe next year I can try a full marathon. I want to try at least one!
  • My career – I’ve been joining some fantastic groups, attending great trainings, and presenting more and altogether those activities are keeping me revitalized to be the best teacher I can for my students. I’ve been getting more grants to provide more for my students and I have a few proposals still out there. I’m finding that I am living a growth mindset by using failure as a learning experience and not letting anything stop me from doing what I want to do and accomplish what I want to accomplish!

I’m sure there’s more to be grateful for but that’s what is most present in my mind. 2015 was a great year and 2016 is already looking to be even better! I’m just happy and excited at all that 2016 has to offer so far, and I’m sure it’s just going to be better.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.educatoral.com/wordpress/2016/01/06/same-school-year-but-new-year-year/

Dec 09

Working in Isolation

Wikimedia Commons Image

Wikimedia Commons Image

I’ve been meaning to write this blog post reflecting on a wonderful STEM summit I attended on Dec 1st, the WA STEM Summit 2015. I was wondering which takeaway I wanted to share the most or what I was going to write about the takeaways. And I will, but this blog post is about the one takeaway that is gnawing at me the most because of one statement that I can’t let go of.

Three things where the highlight for me from that summit. First was getting to see and hear Dr. Mae Jemison’s keynote. I am embarrassed to say that I did not know who she was before Dec 1st (even though I had seen her somewhere before). Dr. Jemison was the first African American woman to go into space! A real, NASA astronaut! She founded the Jemison Group where she has not stopped doing amazing things! She shared with us a fascinating project she’s working on now to give humanity the capability to travel to another star in the next 100 years! What? Yeah! What was even more amazing and had me reeling was her comparison of that project, being able to send a starship to another solar system in only 100 years, to educating our children. Yeah, I had to think about that one for a while. She compares what we do to her project because we are working now to develop skills and abilities in our students to do things that don’t even exist yet! The kids in my class will have to solve problems that don’t even exist yet and I’m trying to prepare them for that. I kind of see where she’s coming from. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of this amazing person! Well, I had seen her before, but I didn’t know who she was. See, Dr. Mae Jemison is the only real astronaut to be on an episode of Star Trek The Next Generation! Embarrassing that the only way I knew of her was through a Sci-fi show!

Her keynote was inspiring and I took away also that we need to expose our students to STEM and everything we can because we don’t know, we cannot possibly know, what will spark an interest in our kids to find a passion or do something amazing. So I attended breakout sessions on Computer Science, it was between that or Engineering and I wanted both equally and finally decided on Computer Science because this week is the Hour of Code week for Computer Science week. I joined a group discussing the issues around teacher training and readiness to expose our students to computer science and we generated some ideas as we discussed the issues facing educators. It’s very different when you compare the needs to teachers in grades pre-K through 8 versus high school teachers because CTE is not something we deal with in the pre-K through 8 grades.

One of the last speakers was Laura Overdeck who is the creator of Bedtime Math. Laura is a champion of early childhood math literacy the way you hear most speak of reading literacy. Her presentation was awesome and her Bedtime Math is really cool. If my kids were toddlers I would totally be using her materials to help them love math like children naturally do!

So with all that awesomeness, what was gnawing at me? No, it wasn’t related to space travel, computer science, or math literacy. Early in the summit there was a panel of STEM professionals and a group of high school girls. They asked each other questions and all were amazing people. One answer given by all the STEM professionals stuck with me. One of them put it best when she said, “we never work alone.” I can’t even remember the question but all them went on to explain how they solve problems in teams. The thought of working alone to do their jobs was preposterous. And even though I never feel alone because I’m always surrounded by my students, I am very alone in my classroom.

In our profession, teachers can close their doors and not work with other adults, with other teachers. That is why I crave my PLN and my PLC. I enjoy the times we get to meet, yes, even staff meetings. I enjoy having lunch with my colleagues. How can we show our students how to connect, communicate and collaborate if we try to educate them by ourselves?!

So yeah, and great summit and a great day with wonderful people and great food. And my biggest takeaway is that we in education should NOT work alone. We need to teach our kids together, as a community. So if we can’t afford to team teach, because even though it would cost a lot, two teachers in a classroom is the way to go, then at least making use of our PLNs and PLCs is crucial.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.educatoral.com/wordpress/2015/12/09/working-in-isolation/

Dec 07

Other Reasons to Gamify #gamification

I never would have thought of these, but they are interesting indeed and good to know. Even though these reasons to use gamification are targeted to and from the business sector, it doesn’t hurt for those of us in education to tap into this resource and know about these reasons.
4 Reasons to use Gamification in 2016 Infographic
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

Permanent link to this article: http://www.educatoral.com/wordpress/2015/12/07/other-reasons-to-gamify-gamification/

Nov 25

Tech Campaign @Indiegogo Style

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 7.49.53 PMIt may look like our 1:1 middle school Indiegogo Tech Campaign is not doing very well. We’ve only raised $195, not even enough to buy one Chromebook. I’m very grateful to those friends who cared enough about our campaign to donate. It’s very gracious of them.

The good news is that this campaign has some other contributors who have not donated via the campaign website. The other day at parent/student/teacher conferences I not only heard how supportive many of the parents are being by sharing our campaign through their social media connections, but two families in particular are helping out monetarily.

One family reached out to a trooper’s association and they are going to write a check for $900! That’s three devices we can buy right there! Another family told me that besides sharing the campaign with her contacts she is going to put a fundraiser together to get more technology for our school! Exciting indeed. :)

If you don’t mind, please share this post and our campaign. I’m not giving up hope that there are people out there willing to donate if they just knew this was going on!

Here’s our 1:1 tech plan:

Permanent link to this article: http://www.educatoral.com/wordpress/2015/11/25/tech-campaign-indiegogo-style/

Nov 24

Android Tablet Accessing GAFE Tools

Nov 24, 2015 3-34-00 PM When I received a couple of Samsung Galaxy Tablets running the Android OS I created a teacher account to buy and download apps for the devices. I then added student user accounts so that kids would not have access to my account, especially my credit card. In order to do that I made the student accounts restricted accounts.

When students worked on a shared Google Slides vocabulary activity I found out that the restricted user accounts on Android tablets did not allow the use of the Slides, Docs, or Sheets apps. Google Drive and Google Classroom apps were allowed though!

So I thought students would be able to access Google Slides via the Chrome browser. That did not work either! There was no way for students to access their slide deck!

Recently I received another two Samsung Galaxy Tabs, the S2 this time.I tried them out to see if the restricted accounts could access Google Slides. No luck. It worked the same way.

So I decided to create a regular user account. The regular user account does not have access to my account but the regular user account has access to the Google Play Store so they can download apps. As long as they don’t enter credit card or Paypal information they can’t download paid apps.Through the regular user account I was able to download, for free, the Google Slides, Docs, and Sheets apps! Yes! The Google Drive and Google Classroom apps were still available too.

So using the regular account I setup, students can access all of the Google tools we regularly use! But, yes, there’s a but, they now can’t access the paid apps that I shared with the restricted user account such as Book Creator, Explain Everything, PicCollage and my video editing and image editing apps. So students will need to access different accounts to use specific tools but at least we can do what need to do! This is how I use these devices in a classroom environment where they are shared.

Nov 24, 2015 3-36-15 PM

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.educatoral.com/wordpress/2015/11/24/android-tablet-accessing-gafe-tools/

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