Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tech Video Project

In my Technology as Culture class we have spent the better part of this 2nd quarter working on video projects.  We originally were doing these videos as part of the Show-Me a Movie contest; however, a minor oversight on my part and the very detailed efforts of my students put all our videos over the 2 minute time limit.  So they ended up just being videos that showcased someone special, a community, or something new.  Students spent a good amount of time storyboarding, formulating ideas, a script, and a plot, taking pictures and videos, editing, screencasting, and producing to make their movie.  They were graded for not only their effort and time spent, but also on these categories on the rubric below.

The students did an awesome job of combining tons of technical elements--from picture in picture, to voiceovers, to embedding screencasts and music, and much more!--in their videos it really made them come to life.  Check out the 7 videos the students created on the playlist below--I'm sure you'll be just as impressed as I was!  Or you can see them all on the playlist here!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Investment Cartoons

The one great thing about teaching economics is that a lot, no almost ALL, of my examples I use in class are real-life ones.  It was so great to be able to pull up an ad for a local bank and show them exactly what their interest rate was on their savings accounts, or CDs.

In social studies we've just wrapped up our investment cartoons.  The students studied 4 types of investments (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and savings accounts) and the risks and rewards associated with each of them.  Students then had to choose 2 of the investment types that stuck out to them and create a cartoon detailing the 2 they've chosen.  Here's the directions they were given:

We did this same activity two years ago the last time around when I taught economics.  I was impressed then, and am even more impressed now with the cartoons these 7th graders came up with!  They are so darn creative, and I love how they take characters from cartoons, movies, and even themselves and put them into their cartoon!  It's really great to give them an outlet where they can use things they're familiar with to discuss content.  Here's some of the cartoons they created.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Stock Market Game

Two years ago, my first go-around teaching economics, I decided to have the kids learn first-hand what the stock market is and how it works.  So we got signed up to play MarketWatch's Virtual Stock Market Game.  This year for our economics unit, I decided to go ahead and launch my 7th graders into this game again.  OHHH EMMM GEEEE.  I could not have anticipated the HUGE amount of engagement and positive response this game would have on my students!  I mean, two years ago, the kids liked it and got into it, but nothing like these current 7th graders are.  Throughout the different team classes we are literally having to pull kids away from checking their stocks (I love it!) because they're so entranced with the game.  Anyways, I am just so happy and proud of how engaged these students are with not only the game but with how the stock market works.

If you are an economics or social studies teacher, definitely check out the Stock Market Game through MarketWatch and the Wall Street Journal.  It's free, you can customize your game however you'd like, and students can join by simply creating an account with an email address.  This is hands-down my favorite part of our economics unit, and it really gets students not only involved with the stock market it gets them first-hand experience on how stocks, shares, holdings, etc... all work.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Behavior Over Time Graphs

Behavior Over Time Graphs, or BOTGs, are a component of Systems Thinking.  Systems Thinking is the process of understanding how things influence other things within a whole system.  This year in social studies we are going to do a lot with Systems Thinking (as I've previously posted about), so today we started off introducing the basics of Systems Thinking with BOTGs.

We first started off by watching the above screencast about what BOTGs are, and then practiced "reading" and "telling the story" of BOTGs from ones we looked at.  We also went through this presentation to go in-depth further with what BOTGs are and do some more practice or not only making them, but telling the story a BOTG we looked at was telling us.

Students were then unleashed to create their own BOTGs over the National Geographic documentary Six Degrees Could Change the World that we spent time watching and analyzing the different "problems" (or, as the students would discover, things that are changing) that our world would come across with climate change.

For having never done anything with BOTGs before, these students blew me away: they embraced this new form of "graphing" or "reporting" and created many different BOTGs that identified the different changes over time that could/are happening with climate change.

We'll be diving in soon to other components of Systems Thinking, so stay tuned for more posts soon! :)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Camp Lakewood Expedition

I know this post is about a week or so late, but I still wanted to share out about or first overnight expedition to Camp Lakewood!

First off, I have to brag on this class: they are ah-mazing.  Seriously.  Each and every one of them surprised me in some way on our expedition: from trying something new, to sleeping away from home for two nights (heck, I'm way older than them and I still get uneasy sleeping away from my own bed!), to the immense amount of cooperation and teamwork they showed throughout our three days there.  It was so incredible to watch and so awesome to be a part of.

The entire purpose of this expedition was teambuilding.  There wasn't any "core content", as there is on all of our other expeditions, but instead it was a time to work together with their classmates to grow as individuals and as a class.  Students had time in the evenings to reflect on their day and what they learned, and then do it all over again the next day.

Students got to do a challenge course, climb a really high tower, work together on teambuilding activities, learn how to shoot a bow and arrow, participate in stream ecology, go on a survival hike and learn how to start a fire, and much more!

Check out the video below for a compilation of our week.  It was such an awesome one that I don't think will be leaving the students' memories any time soon!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Wall Map

One of my favorite projects in 7th grade is the giant to-scale wall map the students create using latitude and longitude points.  Here's the map the 7th graders from 2 years ago created: class of 2016 wall map. We do this project in conjunction with our geography unit, which highlights a ton of the geographical features and resources that we cover in class (i.e. latitude and longitude, states, capitals, countries, landforms, water bodies, etc...).

The reason this map "works" in my classroom is because there is a giant "blank" wall (which happens to be a retractable wall between my room and the math room) which allows for our map canvas to unfold.  Side note: if you're interested in doing this in your own classroom and don't have a giant open wall at your disposal, no worries!  You can do this same project on your ceiling--you just get to get even more creative in attaching it to the ceiling.

We start off by first covering 5 of the 6 wall panels with blue paper (approximately = X feet).  We then use giant world atlases to help us locate the latitude and longitude points of the different continents.  Students are divided into continent teams of 2-4, depending on the size of the continent.  Students in each class have a continent, and then the next class continues work on the continent that their peers were working on beforehand.  Students use a 2 inch x 2 inch grid as their latitude and longitude guide, where each 2 inch = 4 degrees (either latitude or longitude).

This is the longest "leg" of the project: making sure the longitude and latitude coordinates are matching up from the atlas to the paper, and between the different continent groups in the different classes.  Students, despite becoming frustrated at times, keep pushing through until their continent took shape and had borders.  Once the borders were done, then the "filling in" happened: country outlines, labeling capital cities, drawing rivers and mountain ranges, and so on.

Then, when it was all said and done, students outlined their continents in marker (we'd been using pencils up until this point!) and then start cutting out their continents.

The final stage was then putting the continents on the blue paper, using different coordinates and latitude/longitude lines (i.e. equator, prime meridian, etc...) as our guide.  Then, voila!  The wall map has come together, and the students have a super cool giant world map visual at their for the rest of the school year.  Golly, I sure love this project.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Metrolink Expedition, Part 2

Here it is!  The follow-up post to our Metrolink Expedition.  Students spent about a week in either art or tech creating Metrolink pieces: students created a Metrolink route, using pictures taken from the expedition as well as created videos that compared and contrasted the two stations the groups stopped at.

For the art pieces, students created a collage. Each piece represents a community with a MetroLink station. They created the sky from magazine pieces and represented their stops through photos that they took during the expedition.  When each collage is complete, all of the individual art pieces are connected to create a “St. Louis Block,” modeled after the Harlem Renaissance artist Romare Bearden’s, “The Block.” We have also created our collage in his style of art.  QR Codes are added to each work of art to connect the video projects created by the tech (video) groups also comparing and contrasting communities. 

For the video pieces, students took the videos and pictures they took on the expedition and created a video that compared and contrasted the two stations the group stopped at.  Students used the 5 themes of geography (MR. LIP) to first identify the different movement, region, location, interaction, and place within each station, and then used it to compare and contrast the stations together.

All in all, I am soooooo impressed with the art and videos the students came up with!  Seriously, these 7th graders continue to amaze me with their creative skills.  Take a look below at a few of the art pieces (nicely QRed with their video project linked) and videos from the expedition.  Enjoy! ...and if you'd like to check out ALL of the videos, here's the link to the 2012 Metrolink Expedition Playlist.

Metrolink Videos:

Metrolink Art Pieces:

Metrolink Expedition, part 1

I titled this post "part 1" because it indeed is just that: it's the first part of our expedition in explanations and pictures, presented by me.  Part 2 will be the same thing: the Metrolink Expedition, but from the students' perspectives in the videos and art pieces that they are currently working on in social studies this week (so stay tuned for those!).

First off, I just want to exhale a big sigh of relief: the night before our expedition the forecast looked grim: severe thunderstorms with damaging winds and hail.  Eeek.  Not exactly ideal for an outside expedition and lunch in Forest Park!  Somehow, by a stroke of luck, the rain and storms held off till Friday night and we had a perfect day for our Metrolink expedition.

And for those of you who aren't familiar with St. Louis' mass transit, the Metrolink is part of Metro Transit in St. Louis, which is similar to a subway or elevated train you'd find in other big cities.

We spent the entire day before our expedition in social studies prepping for our first expedition of 7th grade (and first expedition for the students in general).  We went though this presentation, which detailed almost every aspect of our expedition and our mission.  The students were then put in small groups where they were assigned two stations that they would identify all 5 themes of geography (remember MR. LIP???) and then compare and contrast both stations using the 5 themes.

Like our Bellefontaine Cemetery Expedition last year with the current 9th graders, this was a completely mobile expedition: there was no pen, no paper, and no workbook: it was all done digitally using iPod touches.  Students were given the directions loaded as an iBook onto their groups' two iPod touches and set off to identify the 5 themes of geography at their two different Metrolink stops.

We were fortunate this year and had a representative from Metro there following us around all morning and afternoon seeing exactly what our expedition entails.  We've been doing this expedition (or modified versions of it) for the past 10 years at MRHMS, and it was great that Metro came out to take part in our learning and exploring of the city and its transportation system.

Our principal Dr. Dillon put together a great compilation of all of the teachers' tweets and pictures from the day, so if you'd like to check that out CLICK HERE.

Wow, overall, this was an amazing expedition and a fantastic day.  The students did an amazing job of not only following our expedition's mission in regards to their behavior, but they completely surpassed my expectations of information collecting and exploring of the stops.  They got some amazingly detailed responses captured by their group members and took some really great photos of all of the stations and the vast diversity and similarities between them.  Below are some snapshots from the expedition itself, but the real showcase of this expedition will be in their art and video projects, which I hope to blog about in the next couple weeks.  So for now, enjoy these expedition pics!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


In my tech class, before we start our massive Show-Me a movie project, we have been exploring different tech web-based programs, so as to have a wide variety of video creation options when the time comes to start our video project.

We spent some time making cartoons on xtranormal, and now we've moved on to Screencast-O-Matic, which is a free (yahoooo!) online screencasting tool.  At first, the students were like, "Uh, why do we need to learn how to make a screencast?!"  I had them search for "how to" videos on YouTube of their favorite game, or something they like to do online.  Boy, were they surprised that there were so many "how to" videos out there on almost EVERYTHING they use!

So I set them loose to create their own screencasts on anything they'd like to do: how to create a YouTube account, how to make a new folder on a Mac, and so on.  What I like the most about this mini project is that students are becoming the teachers: they're having to figure out how to teach another person via a screencast how to do something on their computer (pretty cool, eh?!).  I love this.

Check out some of their screencasts they whipped up...again, I'm super impressed! And if you're a teacher, try doing this with your students!  Have an online or computer task that you don't want to keep squawking out over and over to them: turn the task over to a student and have them create a screencast. Then it's a permanent resource for you (and all students!) to refer to if they forget "how to" do that task.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Alrighty, so I just HAVE to blog about this amazingly awesome FREE app/site I've been using.  Seriously, I cannot sing their praises enough...and the fact that it's not only dedicated to educators but that's it's FREE too?!!  OMG.  It is BY FAR my new favorite education tool.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, check out Remind101.  It's this site where you can send text messages safely to students and parents about anything you need to update them on: homework, upcoming tests, projects, expeditions (field trips), due dates, school changes--and so much more.  It's sooooooo easy to set up too.  You simply set up a class, and it generates a unique number for parents/students to text your username (mine is @MrsMooney) to and BOOM!  They're signed up for text alerts.  So incredibly easy.

My favorite feature HAS to be the "schedule later" one.  This is so incredibly amazing...and here's why: I always think of a reminder I want to send my students/parents for that night at about 8:30am.  I KNOW come 7:30pm when I want them to get that reminder I am definitely not going to remember to send it.  It's so great that at 8:30am when I think of this reminder I can schedule a text to be sent to them later that night--so amazingly cool.

Another way we use Remind101 at MRHMS is for all of our important staff announcements, updates, drills, and anything else our admin team wants to be sent out to all of us quickly.  Yes, email works too, but we all are not always on our email 24/7; however, we always have our cell phones attached to our hips, so we use Remind101 to receive text updates instantly about any important MRHMS matters.

Did I mention there is also an iPhone app for it?!!  This is so great--especially when those rare occasions come up in which I do remember past 5pm to send a reminder to my students/parents, I can do it from the FREE Remind101 iPhone app--which is also super easy to use too.  Golly, I just am in LOVE with this service!

If you are a teacher, CREATE AN ACCOUNT NOW.  Seriously.  You'll be so glad you did.  In the technology-driven world we're living in, why not embrace a tech tool that the students already use more than anything else (texting) and use it to your advantage in your classroom.  I am so glad I found this amazing program!  Make sure you check Remind101 out on TWITTER too--they've always got good stuff to say! 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

MR. LIP Projects

In social studies we just finished our first big project of the year, MR. LIP...which is actually an acronym for the 5 themes of geography (movement, region, location, interaction, and place).  After learning all about what the 5 Themes of Geography are, students selected a city and a country out of a hat in which they were to identify how the 5 themes of geography are evident in that place.

Students set off to uncover information about these geography themes in their city and country.  Most students headed over to The CIA World Factbook to get started.  If you've never used the facbook before, you're missing out!  It's got some great resources about all of the countries in the world--everything from population to literacy rates to major cities.  Students also explored other sites like National Geographic to research about their city and the 5 themes.  Once they found their information, they created a Keynote presentation (PowerPoint) detailing the 5 themes in their city and country.

Wow, these 7th graders BLEW ME AWAY with their Keynote and research skills!  They all did an excellent job of bridging the 5 themes and their research together in a very creative and eye-catchy way.

Below are links to some of the students' MR. LIP projects.  Enjoy looking through them...& maybe learn something new about a city in our world!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tech Culture

This year I get to teach an amazing class called Technology as a Culture, or Tech Culture for short.  I'm super pumped about this for several reasons.  First, it's a class solely focused on how our culture is centered around technology--how cool is that?  And secondly, the big culminating project for the year is that the students are going to make a video to be entered in Cooperating School District's Show-Me a Movie Contest.  I'm super pumped about this because I'm always so blown away by what students can create when given a little creativity and iMovie.  Stand by for more updates throughout the semester with this project.

The first project we did this year in Tech was kind of a culmination of learning different Internet-based programs and applications on the computer to get the kids familiar with the different programs/applications we are going to be using this year.  The first thing the students had to do was a Google image search challenge.  They had to do a scavenger hunt-type activity using Google images to try and find these 15 images and make sure they met all of the requirements (see sheet below).

Once students found their 15 images, they then selected 8 to focus their short movie around.  Students then took their 8 images and created a storyboard that was going to detail the 8 scenes of their story.  They could create a completely outrageous fictional story, or a believable one--the only requirement was that they had to use only the 8 images they selected.

After their storyboards were complete, students set out to create their iMovie (after watching this great iMovie '11 Basics video and with some iMovie instruction and how-to from Mrs. Mooney :).  Their movies had to follow these simple guidelines:

Once again, I was amazed at what only 2 days and a limited amount of iMovie experience these kids came up with!  We spent a day in class watching the short movies (see below for some of the movies) and critiquing them using post-it notes (one post-it note per video with two comments on it: something you liked, and something that could have been improved upon).  All in all this turned out to be a great starter project and I look forward to bigger projects and more detailed videos these tech students are going to come up with!  Stay tuned!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Systems Thinking

Systems Thinking is something we are going to use a lot in social studies this year.  However, this is something that you'll probably see across the middle school because it it not something that is limited to just one content area.  Systems Thinking is the process of understanding how things influence one another within a whole.  There are many different tools we use in Systems Thinking, one of my favorites being BOTGs or Behavior Over Time Graphs.  BOTGs focus on patterns of change over time rather than isolated events.  Check out the video below for a quick BOTG tutorial.

In social studies this year we will use BOTGs (& other Systems Thinking tools) a lot.  We will use them to graph changes in our environment, changes in our economy, changes in the way we use to live as opposed to now, and many more things.  BOTGs are a great tool for students to be able to visually and quickly show a change over time without having to worry about long paragraphs or detailed drawings.  Stay tuned for some upcoming projects and assignments with BOTGs involved!  I hope you'll be as impressed and I will be with what these 7th graders come up with!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Welcome to the 2012-2013 School Year at MRHMS!

Wow, where has the summer gone?!  I feel like it was just the last day of school, I blinked, and now a whole new school year is starting!  WHOA!  As crazy-fast as I felt the summer has gone, I am super excited about the new school year starting.  After just completing my first loop at MRHMS, I am so excited to start anew with a new group of 7th graders this year!  I got the pleasure to meet several 7th graders this summer during our home visits, but I am so looking forward to meeting all of them later this week!  I can't wait to learn with and from all of these amazing kids this year.  Did you know teachers end up learning just as much as their students do during a school year?!  It's true!  My students teach me so much every year!  I always look forward to going back to school and learning something new from them everyday.

One of the "new" things I'm going to do this year is use the program Remind101 this year in my classroom.  If you've never heard of it, I suggest you check it out!  It's a great FREE program for teachers to easily and safely stay in contact via text message (or email) with their students and parents.  I'm hoping to get as many of my social studies parents and students onboard with this program from the very beginning of the school year.  Here's all they have to do to receive updates about social studies via text message throughout the year:

I think this is going to be an awesome resource (and reminder tool!) for students and parents for everything from homework, to expeditions, to essay reminders!  I'll keep you posted as to how it pans out.

For all my teacher friends out there, I hope you have a fantastic school year!  And for any of my students and parents, I hope you have an amazingly awesome--and stress free!--school year as well!  I'm thinking some tapeball action may be in order for the first days of school...everyone loves a good team building competition, right?!  I know I sure do! :)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Liberty Today! Summit Reflections

panoramic view of Monticello

The past week I have been fortunate enough to be invited to attend the Liberty Today! Summit at Monticello in Charlotesville, Virginia.  For all of you out there who have no idea what or where this is, let me give you a brief little overview.  Monticello was Thomas Jefferson's home, and as it turns out, is a very appropriate and perfect place for a history conference about the Revolutionary time period.  The program I'm participating in is called Liberty Today! which "Will help teachers make history relevant through new media, and create a growing community of educators to contribute to our modern understanding of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  Liberty Today will be a highly innovative scholarship program for top teachers and international fellows using state-of-the-art on-site and on-line training."  So I've been asked to help create this Liberty Today website which will help teachers and students learn, interact, and become immersed in the rich history of Jefferson and the Revolutionary era.

Jefferson's Home

Whew, okay, so now that the background info is done, I can get on with my personal thoughts and reflections about the summit.  I guess I should preface first that I have joined with this program one year into it, so most of the amazing teachers here have been working on this project for a year or so.  With that said, I haven't had any of the background work they all have had already.  At first, I thought I was going to be an outsider and really "out of place" since this was a group of people that had been working together for so long already and done so much work and I'm this random gal from the midwest who's going to encroach on their thoughts and work.  Wow, was I completely wrong; not only have these teachers been so welcoming and friendly, they've seemed to welcome an "outsiders" opinions and insights on the work they've already done.  I kind of feel like since I have such "new eyes" on this project I can maybe help with ideas and such that maybe have been at a stalemate or looking for a new perspective upon which to look.

So onto the actual, we've done a lot in such a short amount of time!  Instead of giving you a step-by-step of what we've all done, I'm going to instead tell you what I've gotten out of the summit and what I've been inspired with.  First off, we've gotten to spend much of our time at Montalto, a gorgeous building atop the taller mountain next to Monticello.  With a view like this, you can't help but be inspired and immersed in the time period.  Honestly I think that just the atmosphere we've been in all week has greatly helped my own thoughts and ideas (so any of you out there who are reading this and planning a conference: LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION! A good location makes for a fabulous conference!)

View from Montalto


Besides the awesome view and location, I have been inspired by so many things this week.  The first is just the feeling I got from touring Monticello and Montpelier (James Madison's house).  Wow, what an incredible feeling it was to walk in the houses where our presidents and their families lived over 200 hundred years ago.  I was inspired and yearning to learn more about not only Madison and Jefferson, but also the period in history.  I wanted to find out more about the dinner parties Madison had, or how Jefferson may have been a bigger weather nut than me.  With this information excitement coursing through my veins it hit me: this is what I want my students to feel when we are learning about history.  I want to make them excited and "come alive" when we are talking about events in history.  This really changed my focus for the week: how can I come up with different challenges and lesson ideas that would make this happen with my students?  So I began to brainstorm different ideas and really tried to immerse myself into the resources we have at MRH and how I can use that to make history come alive for my students.  I then used the resources and collections provided by Monticello that will be used in the Liberty Today site to fuel these ideas.  I remembered back to our Bellefontaine Expedition in May and how much that made the Civil War come alive for students, and I tried to think of ways to recreate that excitement every day in the classroom using the Liberty Today site and resources.

All in all, after seemingly being overwhelmed and "outsider-ish" feeling, I've come to realize that those feelings weren't justified; really this summit has inspired me to embrace history and strive to make it come alive for my students, so that they develop a passion and appreciation for the past, and that they question things not out of spite, but because they are yearning to learn and explore more about the past. 

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