Sunday, November 19, 2017

Five teachers will each win 4 Marble Run Super Sets on November 28th during our Going Marbles on Giving Tuesday Caring Classrooms Contest! Visit the Caring Classrooms Facebook page for details: https://www.facebook.com/caringclassrooms

Do you remember the thrill of dropping a marble into a maze and watching it roll, spin, and finally end at the bottom of your run? Having your students create a marble run can be a fantastic learning experience for your students, and it makes a great STEM project, too. Believe it or not, you might even be able to the materials for this project absolutely free!

I recently decided to have my 3rd graders design and test marble runs as a part of my Forces and Interactions science unit. I developed the activity to address the Next Generation Science Standard 3-PS2-1: "Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence of the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces on the motion of an object."

When I began looking for materials, I discovered the Marble Run Extreme kit from Marble Genius which looked like the perfect resource for this STEM activity. I was going to order a kit from Amazon.com, but after noticing that many reviewers were able to purchase the kit at a reduced price, I emailed the company to ask about getting a discount. I ended up with something even better than a discount... they offered to send me a kit for free! I also ordered a set of six stopwatches from Amazon that my students could wear around their necks so they could time their runs and make adjustments.

For our first class experience with marble runs, we had large teams and I separated the kit so every team had the essential parts for their marble runs. After the activity, I contacted Marble Genius to thank them, and I raved about their Marble Run Extreme kit. I couldn't believe it when Jeff Forgrave, the founder of the company, emailed me back and offered to send me 10 more kits for free! One kit isn't really enough for an entire class, and he wanted my students to experience a true hands-on STEM lesson where every child could participate in designing, building, and testing marble runs.

After the kits arrived, I had classroom parents label every piece so I could easily put them back together again. Each kit includes 125 translucent plastic pieces and 20 marbles, so it was easy to make sure every group had essential pieces to create their marble run. I rolled up our classroom rugs and put them in the hallway so the marble runs would have stability on our floor.

The Challenge: Building the Slowest Marble Run
When it was time to start the activity, I divided my students into small cooperative learning groups and challenged them to design the SLOWEST run! I gave each team a set of marble run materials including a stopwatch, and I could feel the excitement and urgency in the room as each team worked on trying to build the slowest marble run in the classroom.

I loved hearing the excitement in my room as I watched how focused and engaged my students were, from high achievers to struggling students. One team discovered that the circular shape with the hole in the middle is perfect for slowing down the marble. I had the rest of the class watch that team’s marble run in action, and I challenged the other teams to match their time and increase it!


Every team wanted to time their run and change their design so they could increase the time it took for their marble to complete its run. Both boys and girls worked together on their marble runs, and had no difficulties making adjustments to the configuration of their marble runs.

Besides creating a run with the slowest time, we tried some other runs. One activity required the students to use all the pieces they were given to create the fastest run, and another criteria was to choose 5 pieces that could be removed from the kit that would help the run to be even faster.

Creating marble runs was fun for my students, and they really loved the activity. But what I liked best was the fact that they were experimenting and making critical thinking choices while exploring Next Generation Science Standard concepts related to forces and interactions!

Marble Run Extreme Kits 
The Marble Run Extreme kits worked great for this activity! The pieces are easy to assemble, sturdy, and made of colorful transparent plastic! My third graders are 9 years old, and the kits were so easy to use that none of them asked for my help putting their Marble Runs together. We loved watching the marbles as they traveled their way through the run because this kit features transparent plastic, making it extremely easy to watch and film the journey. Because I labeled the parts of each kit, putting the pieces away in the correctly labeled box was easy to do.

If you do this activity with your students, I recommend purchasing several kits so you'll have plenty of materials for your students to use when designing their marble runs. The more marble run kits you order, the more pieces each team has to work with. A total of 4-5 kits would be perfect for a classroom of 25 students so there would be lots of pieces for each team to work with.

If you order enough kits, you could even create a Makerspace in your classroom where your students can design their own Ultimate Marble Runs any way they want to!




Tuesday, September 12, 2017

DonorsChoose.org Wants to Donate $50 to Teachers!

Are you a public school teacher that has never had a DonorsChoose.org project get funded? Or, do you know a teacher who never has had a DonorsChoose.org project get funded?

You might want to watch my free webinar this Saturday morning on Classroom 2.0 LIVE. http://live.classroom20.com/

I know you will be inspired to write a project after the webinar, but don't submit your project until Monday, September 25th!

Why? DonorsChoose.org will be sponsoring Welcome Week beginning Monday, September 25th. All week long, public school teachers who submit their first DonorsChoose.org request on September 25th or later will receive a $50 kickoff donation from the DonorsChoose.org community. If that teacher is clever enough to write a project with a match, the $50 donation will be matched, bringing the total kickoff donation to $100!

Welcome Week will be a huge help to teachers that are brand new to DonorsChoose.org, AND teachers that have previously submitted a project before, but have never had a project fund. Both types of teachers will qualify for the $50 kickoff donation during Welcome Week if the teacher waits until September 25th to submit the project! The $50 donation will occur towards the end of Welcome Week.

Peggy George invited me to be a guest on the online webinar program, Classroom 2.0 LIVE so I can help explain to teachers how to successfully write a DonorsChoose.org project and get it funded. I will be giving away DonorsChoose.org gift cards to some lucky listeners, so try to attend this webinar!

During the webinar I will be guiding teachers step-by-step on how to write a project that will get funded! Imagine getting a $100 donation to a project that is under a total cost of $500!

I am a fan of writing small DonorsChoose.org projects because small projects often are easier to fund than large projects. If you want to write a project, I suggest writing a project under $200 that qualifies for a match offer so you will be able to successfully get it funded! Share this special funding opportunity with your teacher friends.

Here is a link to see the current DonorsChoose.org match offers:
https://www.donorschoose.org/match-offers

Friday, February 24, 2017

Laura Candler invited me to write a guest blog post on Corkboard Connections. My post is about using marble runs in your classroom to teach the Next Generation Science Standards about gravity and force.

http://corkboardconnections.blogspot.com/2017/02/marble-run-STEM-hands-on-learning.html

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Join our Postcard Exchange and Have 50 Amazing Postcards in Your Classroom!


You might want to participate in a fantastic activity for your classroom - a postcard exchange. Here is how it works: a teacher organizes an exchange, and finds 50 different teachers to sign up - each teacher represents one state in America. 
Each teacher works with their classroom to collect 50 postcards representing their state. They also brainstorm together what would be interesting to share about their state and town. The teacher organizing the exchange shares the addresses of all involved, so each teacher can easily print out and glue down the addresses onto their postcards.

On a certain date in the school year, each teacher involved in the exchange has to mail their stack of 50 postcards. What happens next is amazing! Your classroom will receive a postcard from every state!


Besides making a fantastic bulletin board, your students can learn so much with a postcard exchange. They can learn facts typed up on the postcards, see what interesting places there are to visit in each state, learn the locations of states as you track which postcards have arrived, and they can also learn about their own state as you have your students help you write a few paragraphs that will printed and glued onto all of the postcards that you will mail out.
To save on postage costs, I ask my school or district to pay the postage. I also ask each student to try and bring in 3-4 postcards. For those students that can't get to RiteAid or the local drug store and buy postcards, I have them pay me a quarter for each postcard I have bought.  Many of my students are thrilled to pay a few quarters for some postcards to mail out.

Don't buy the extra large postcard size, or your postage will be higher! 


For the past 16 years, I have been running a very popular and successful postcard exchange. The reason many people stay with our exchange for years is that everyone who signs up participates! It is very disappointing to belong to an exchange where you only receive 20 postcards instead of 50, due to low participation. 

Our postcard exchange takes all elementary grade levels, from kindergarten - sixth. I will send you labels so it is very easy to mail your postcards out. Our exchange has a few extra locations!  - You will receive in early December a postcard from each state, one from Canada, and one from Washington, D.C. too.

If you teach in the states we need, please send me an email to join our exchange!   franciesfocus@gmail.com
We need teachers from these states only:

        Nebraska, Vermont, Wyoming

Be sure to include your email address and your school mailing address so I can begin corresponding with you! If we don't currently need your state, email me anyway, so I can try and add you in case a space opens up next year!


If you don't see your state listed, there are other exchanges you can join. Try the Post Office posts at ProTeacher, and the Classroom Project posts at Teachers.net


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Join a Postcard Exchange to receive a postcard from all over America!


You might want to participate in a fantastic activity for your classroom - a postcard exchange. Here is how it works: a teacher organizes an exchange, and finds 50 different teachers to sign up - each teacher represents one state in America. 

Each teacher works with their classroom to collect 50 postcards representing their state. They also brainstorm together what would be interesting to share about their state and town.

The teacher organizing the exchange shares the addresses of all involved, so each teacher can easily print out and glue down the addresses onto their postcards.

On a certain date in the school year, each teacher involved in the exchange has to mail their stack of 50 postcards. What happens next is amazing! Your classroom will receive a postcard from every state!


Besides making a fantastic bulletin board, your students can learn so much with a postcard exchange. They can learn facts typed up on the postcards, see what interesting places there are to visit in each state, learn the locations of states as you track which postcards have arrived, and they can also learn about their own state as you have your students help you write a few paragraphs that will printed and glued onto all of the postcards that you will mail out.


To save on postage costs, I ask my school or district to pay the postage. I also ask each student to try and bring in 3-4 postcards. For those students that can't get to RiteAid or the local drug store and buy postcards, I have them pay me a quarter for each postcard I have bought.  Many of my students are thrilled to pay a few quarters for some postcards to mail out. Don't buy the extra large postcard size, or your postage will be higher! 


For the past 16 years, I have been running a very popular and successful postcard exchange. The reason many people stay with our exchange for years is that everyone who signs up participates! It is very disappointing to belong to an exchange where you only receive 20 postcards instead of 50, due to low participation. 

Our postcard exchange takes all elementary grade levels, from kindergarten - sixth. I will send you labels so it is very easy to mail your postcards out. Our exchange has a few extra locations!  - You will receive in early December a postcard from each state, one from Canada, and one from Washington, D.C. too.

If you teach in the states we need, please send me an email to join our exchange!   We need teachers from these states only:

Hawaii, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Vermont, Wyoming

Be sure to include your email address and your school mailing address so I can begin corresponding with you! If we don't currently need your state, email me anyway, so I can try and add you in case a space opens up next year!


If you don't see your state listed, there are other exchanges you can join. Try the Post Office posts at ProTeacher, and the Classroom Project posts at Teachers.net


Saturday, September 12, 2015

BizWorld Inspires Children to Become Tomorrow’s Leaders


What are the skills that the Leaders of Tomorrow need? Being problems solvers, collaborators, creative thinkers, and flexible. BizWorld provides all of this through cooperative learning, simulations of running a business, and "selling" a product. Students work in teams to start and run their own small business in a simulated friendship bracelet company.

I love BizWorld, and you might love using it in your classroom too! The Caring Classrooms Giving Community is offering a BizWorld kit valued at up to $300 in our big celebration contest this weekend! Click over to the Caring Classrooms Contest page to learn how to enter. 

This is what the BizWorld kit looks like
Students and parents are given BizBucks to go bracelet shopping as the culminating project in the BizWorld Bazaar! This is the most amazing 15 minutes you will ever experience!

The BizWorld bracelet program can take several months to do if you follow the script in the Teacher Manual. I select my favorite parts so my program lasts around one month. Perfect to relieve the testing at the end of the year stress!

The students learn how to be entrepreneurs as they create companies in the friendship bracelet industry. The kit includes a Teacher Manual, stock cards, BizBucks, 80 bundles of bracelet string, 30 students packets for students to write in, and 5 company packets for each company to complete.

Here are some of the activities I love for my students to do: Apply for a job after reading a classified ad, raise money from a venture capitalist (the teacher and/or a parent), design the product (friendship bracelet), build prototypes of the bracelet and then begin manufacturing, calculate the finances of running a business with salaries, rent, a loan from the bank, advertise the business by creating signs, slogans, and making a commercial, and finally - selling at the BizWorld Bazaar!

The Teachers Manual provides everything you need, plus there are also PDF files to print whatever you need. Even if you know nothing about financial literacy, the Teacher Manual has an easy to use script that makes you sound like an expert!

The Art Component is amazing: designing a logo, slogan, prototype, ad campaign, posters, and a commercial.

The Math Component is great: Students work in their Profit and Loss statements to see how their business is doing, and they happily count up their BizBucks at the end of the Bazaar to see what their profit is. They also learn that they have to "pay back" the entrepreneur who invested 20% in their company, and they have to pay for Billy's salary even if he didn't work very hard.

You need to replace the string each year, and BizWorld will provide it to you for free if you have your students complete an online Pre and Post Assessment test.

Visit the BizWorld website to learn more!  

Friday, September 4, 2015

How to Write Lots of DonorsChoose Proposals and get them Funded!



I was featured in a DonorsChoose blog on how to be successful in funding projects!

Laura Candler had asked me last year to write an article about DonorsChoose for her great blog, Corkboard Connections.

One Key Tip to getting your DonorsChoose projects funded: When there is a sponsor match, immediately submit a proposal that is not too expensive so you can realistically get your project funded in a few weeks!  Then have every friend and family member donate small amounts to your project so you have lots of donors!

Be sure to sign up for Laura's Corkboard Connections, the DonorsChoose blog, and my blog too!