One Liner…Or: the inspiration I get From Work

I know I haven’t posted in a while guys. I am very sorry about that! I keep thinking I’ll get everything scheduled out and be able to be on here more often but…we all know my ability to stick to organization is a bit iffy. However! All hope is not lost!

Today I wanted to talk to you for just a second about the types of inspiration I get at work. See, I am a music teacher for pre-k – 12th grade students. My children’s and Middle Grade stories are fueled through real life experiences and little character quirks of my ever day existence. However, I don’t usually get a lot of inspiration out of my 7th-12th graders. Every once in a while that does change…last week, for example, we were doing a group project in the Jr. High class. When it came time to perform, a couple of groups either didn’t have anything done OR were very obviously only carried by one or two lead girls. I don’t say this to be sexist, it is fact: The boys just didn’t want to do the work and expected their girl folk to carry them. So later that evening I texted this line to myself:

The problem with hiding behind the girls’ skirts so that you don’t have to do the work is that those skirts keep getting shorter, and you do not.

I know it isn’t much, but sometimes the smallest line can start off the greatest story. Maybe this will be that line! Or maybe it will sit here, lonely in its italics. I guess only time will tell.

 

Teacher Review: Next Lesson

*I was asked to give my honest review of NextLesson in return for a small payment and membership*

There is often a struggle for teachers to find a balance in their lessons. Not just to keep the students behaving and listening…but really to keep them engaged and learning. This struggle seems to get more difficult each year and is especially evident in upper elementary and middle school students, who have grown into themselves and their social stigmas enough to start worrying more about what their friends are doing or thinking, than what the teacher is!

A site that can help you find these types of lesson is NextLesson.org. They have interesting, engaging, and multi-directional lessons that are sure to please administrations, teachers, and students. I have spent the last few days excitedly searching through lessons for various subjects and age groups, finding dozens that I would have either used as is or found a way to adapt to the correct age group if I was teaching this year. However, I am not in my own classroom (so far) so I decided to review a lesson that grabbed my attention as soon as I saw it on the site.

The NextLesson set of plans I chose to review for this post is geared toward sixth graders and should immediately grab the attention of your students, engaging their minds and actively helping them to learn in a way that makes it fun and inviting for them.

Entitled “Build a Time Machine”  with the driving question/subtitle “How Can We Learn From People in the Past?”  this lesson begins with your own choice of activity that will peak student interest in the subject of time, specifically points of time. Look at the science book, look at the history book, and let them know where in time you’ll be studying (traveling). then discuss the driving question. Sound odd? You betcha…but guess what’s next? A video introducing the idea of time travel and, specifically, building their own time machine.

That’s Right!

Students will build their own desktop time machines from repurposed, recycled materials found around their homes or towns. No purchasing materials, and no having other people (like your family!) bringing them to you. This project is scheduled to take 5 weeks, corresponding to ‘time traveling’ in class while learning world history and while discovering the possibilities of making time travel work using science.

During this month of lessons, NextLesson provides you with ideas, suggestions, and print outs so that students (AND TEACHERS!) have what they need at their fingertips. With ideas like a ‘Tweet Board’ on which students write ‘tweets’ to brag about their projects, a ready to use ‘how it works’ page for students to explain the science behind their machine, and a group video or essay giving advice to the next generation of time travelers (And giving the teacher student reflections) this set of lesson aids is sure to get your gears whirring!

*warning: Geek Moment Approaching* So, warm up your Tardis, grab your Sonic Screwdrivers, and come on! The Ancients are waiting…

Dragon on My Neck – For Teachers!

I am very excited to let you all know that, along with writing, I have now started a TPT seller’s page. This page currently includes reviews and quizzes for Barbara Hay’s The Ill-Gotten Catfish, and Tim Tingle’s How I Became a Ghost, as well as Quizzes, Pronunciation, Writing Prompts, and Lesson ideas for the first 3 chapters of Dragon on My Neck. 

While you can find all of these things on my TPT site: HERE, and find the books on Amazon.com: Here, Here, and Here; I have a special offer for you teachers.

I am well aware of how much money we make, and how much out of pocket most teachers spend to make the learning experience more fun and easier for all those involved. So here’s the deal: If you are a teacher looking to purchase one or more classroom copies of Dragon on My Neck, or an entire set of the Stone Dragon Saga, you are invited to contact me here, or message me via our Facebook page Tyree Tomes. I will give you a large discount on the books and, if you would like, will even have them shipped to my house, where I will autograph them for you before sending them on your class.

If you would like to utilize the quizzes, lesson ideas, and suggested vocabulary sheets I have set up, I will also provide those at a large discount for you! I am really not looking to make a fortune off of these things, I just want to get the books into hands that will enjoy and use them, and hopefully learn something in the process!

If you, or someone you know, might be interested, Please let me know! You can look at a few preview pages on TeachersPayTeachers if you’re curious about the set up.

**UPDATE** I forgot to put this in originally but I am willing to visit your classroom, either in person or through Skype/Facetime calls, and discuss writing, ELA, my books, and even the connections with other topics, such as Science or Social Studies. Possible activities include a ‘special’ lesson for me to teach (corresponding to your content area and current lessons of course), writing with the students, discussing books, discussing Dragon on My Neck (or the other books in the series), and so on. I would like to think that this could be considered a great reward for students who work hard or a classroom reward for everyone making a certain percentage on their quarter grades etc.

Thank you and have a marvelous Day!

A little Advice

Lately it seems like every time I go out to the store or to grab a bite, someone recognizes that I’m an author, a teacher, or both. I live in a small community and there are only so many times you can purchase colored pens and notebooks before people start asking questions! Recently, a student at the local college asked me what boils down to the same questions everyone else asks but phrased it so well that the questions inspired this post! (Way to go, random friend of a friend of a kid I used to babysitter, well played!)

Here are her questions, phrased as closely to her actual words as I can remember it:

Aren’t you Beth Tyree? That goes to church with….? They were telling me that you’re a writer. That’s pretty cool…I’ve never heard of your stuff but I’m thinking of looking it up. (Ok, that part doesn’t count toward the ‘phrased well’ portion!). I like to write too. In fact, I am taking a class this fall that includes a lot of writing. Do you have any advice on how to get it all done? 

Why yes, yes I do. Thank you for asking.

*WARNING – Longer Post than Usual in 3-2-1-ACTION:*

Advice for Students:

1) Whatever the reason for your writing is, always ALWAYS do your best. There absolutely no excuse for a strong writer to execute weak and horribly written essays just because you didn’t feel like writing to your class topic.

2) Likewise: DO YOUR READING!! Make sure that you are researching, reading, and working everything the teacher assigns, and possibly a little extra. I know the thought of all that work panics you (especially at 2 am Sunday when the project is due by 7 am Monday) but I promise, it is worth it! Take it from someone who flubbed off a lot in College…You NEED to pay attention!

3) Use your time wisely. Most professors include projects and their due dates IN THE SYLLABUS! That means that unless something drastic happens to change things, you have known about that insane presentation since the first day of class (or possibly earlier considering friends, online chats, etc connected to the school). I’m not saying to get hyper and do all the classwork week 1 (MOM!) but use that schedule book you bought with the school logo on it for something other than girl’s nights and dress up at the bar weekends. When you organize it all out and do the work in small segments, you tend to get it done earlier and with better grades. (You also impress teachers).

BONUS:  Realize that most teachers are not being ‘mean’ or ‘hard on you’ because they don’t like you or think you’re stupid. Most teachers are hard on you because they believe you can do better. I am speaking from experience here…I had a couple of professors who rode me hard about showing up, taking the time to work on my assignments, writing style, etc. At the time I thought they must hate me, but now I realize that they loved me. Students that show potential but don’t live up to it will get more guff from their teachers than students who work hard but just don’t get it.

Advice for Teachers:

1) Make your expectations very clear from the beginning. Unless something drastic happens, don’t change your rules or plans in the middle of the semester. That is unfair to the random student that might actually have started work on their projects…and creates more work for you in the long run (even if its just repeating your reasoning for the 543rd time)

2) Remind students of upcoming deadlines, projects, etc. Speak about it in class, often. Use the last five minutes of your time to ask if they have questions or comments. Make sure you maintain office hours and have an email account they have access to. Most students won’t utilize this availability, but the few who do will thank you later!

3) Show your students that you aren’t just being ‘mean’ or ‘hard on them’! Share some of your work in class. This may just mean that you discuss how a similar class helped you finish your degree, or a book/article/play/song/equation(ugh, math!) you are currently working on. Let them be your beta audience. Grammar class? Drop the normal (i.e. BORING) paragraphs about Sally’s cupcake stand and have them edit an intentionally messed up page from your most recent story. Some sort of Mathematics teacher? Assign a house plan or put your remodel blue prints on the board and work through the issues with them. Use real life experiences and show them tat you are also human and, as all teachers are, a perpetual student.

Advice for Authors:

1) Just write already! I know that as a student or a teacher, (or a full time CPA or a Mommy, or whatever it is that you do) your time is precious and limited. Whatever it is that you do, whatever it is that takes up your time, you will not be completely satisfied with yourself until you take the time to write that idea out! The question that usually riles me up the most is: I have this great idea I’ve been kicking around for years, want to hear it? NO! If you really like the idea that much, I’ll be more than happy to READ your drafts, but I don’t want to hear an idea you’ve had for that long and never written down. By this point it has probably disintegrated so much that I wouldn’t even be hearing the real idea that started you thinking anyway.

2) There will always be someone pushing you, nay-saying you, or ignoring you. That is life, no matter what you do. Writers are the brunt of a lot of this! Friends and family ask why you haven’t finished that new novel yet (you know, the one you started writing last week?) and in the same breath with ask how you plan on living as an author, ask what ‘real’ thing you’ve done lately, and tell you about 3 other people who are authors but just got published in a magazine or hired to write ads for some major television syndicate. DO NOT LET THIS STOP YOU! Get discouraged, be sad, be mad, but don’t be done. Take a break if you need to, clear your head, then get back to writing. Everyone has a different story and it is up to you alone to write yours!

3) Finally, allow yourself to take that break without guilt. Honestly, the breaks will help your writing grow and thrive. And, real talk here, your characters will go with you anywhere all the time. No matter what you do or where you go, they’re part of you. Taking a ‘break’ doesn’t mean that you walk away and completely put them out of your mind. It means your mind needs to focus on something else for a bit and that is perfectly acceptable and, I would say, encouraged. Have fun, meet your friends, get some fro-yo and ride in a carriage just because. Go to the lake or the zoo…but take a notebook and some pens along because you never know when the next idea or chapter will pop up and need to be written immediately even though you are on a ferry watching dolphins jump off the coast of the island you’re visiting.

Do you have any stories or questions? Let me know! I can’t wait to hear from you all!

Writing Portfolio

At the beginning of the school year I put together a writing portfolio with my students using a combination of old teacher manuals, a new book on teaching writing, and Pinterest ideas I had been pinning for years. What came about was, in my opinion, a fun and interesting container for student writing, notes, and ideas. We used the portfolio 173 out of 180 days this year, the others were review and state testing days! Special Needs/IEP students used the exact same set up and papers as their classmates and working in these portfolios was like having an automatic active assessment as well as an immediate chance for remediation.

I have been asked a few times, by a few different people, to lay out how I set this up. I don’t think this is a hugely different design from the rest of the portfolio ideas that are out there, but I took some pictures and will now walk you through the set up and use of my Writer’s/Writing Portfolio.

Materials List:

1 – 1 inch 3-ring Binder (We used the ‘view’ type)

1 – Set Page Dividers/Tabs (OR tape and construction paper in

a pinch)

Loose Leaf Notebook Paper

Set of Graphic Organizers (grade/class appropriate)

Crayons/Colored Pencils/Markers Etc.

Scrapbook Paper (optional)

…………..I also used the book Getting to the Core of Writing (level 5) by Richard Gentry, Jan McNeel, and Vickie Wallace-Nesler. (My state repealed Common Core but the writing standards are similar and this book is GREAT!)

A Treasury of Critical Thinking Activities By Teacher Created Resources

And Pinterest ideas from various Bloggers for Anchor charts and craft ideas.

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This is what the scrapbook paper was for! We decorated covers to slide into the viewable fronts…just another way to personalize student writing. When they have that much time and interest invested, students might take more care of what’s inside (about a 50/50 chance!)

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As you can see, the first few pages of the portfolio offer more chances for personalization and connection with the students. The interior title page (“Ms. Tyree’s…) can be decorated etc, allowing for personality to show itself immediately. The dedication page makes future assignments go from horrid homework to being for someone students actually care about…whether they be friend, family, or famous. Dedicating their work in such a manner both transfers the responsibility from teacher to student (I dedicated to MY friends/family…I am the AUTHOR and must do MY best) and gives students a sense of ownership for their portfolio and their work.

The Table of Contents page gives students a way to quickly flip through to needed information. When coupled with the page dividers (shown in these pictures are actually strips of paper or sticky note written on and then attached via clear tape) the table of contents provides an extra organizational tool for all.

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In the “WRITING IDEAS” tab we have the ‘AUTHORITY LIST’. The authority list is literally a list of items the portfolio builder feels authoritative about. For example:  my list (shown above) includes mythology and movies (writing research…really!), and Tinkerbell, Minions, and Crochet. These are things I feel very knowledgeable about and if I need to decide on a topic for a quick in class essay, I can choose from this list and whip up a first draft fairly easily. That’s the point, after all, of the ‘ideas’ section: The ability to recall what you know about and write it down without too much of that frustrating contemplation that gets students down before they ever write a word.

Next comes the Heart Map. Students (or other authors) draw a big heart in the center of the page with the words “I LOVE…” written inside. They then haphazardly fill the page with the names of things that they love. These are not necessarily items that they have to know a lot about, but merely things that they feel emotionally attached to. Many students will write things like ‘my friends, my family, soccer, music…’ and this not only gives you an insight into that particular student, it also provides them with topics for research projects, science experiments, or even art projects (to name a few).

Third in line is the Treasure Map (not pictured). The Treasure Map is an interesting art piece in which students think of a place that holds a lot of memories for them. Hopefully this place will be a holder of both good and not-so-great memories, or mostly good (most people will not draw a map of a bad memories place holder). They then draw an outline/blue print of that place…much like a pirate’s treasure map would be laid out. Then they place an X over the places with the strongest memories (i.e. the tree house fort behind Grandma’s house, the creek next door, etc.). If they are asked to write a narrative and don’t know where to begin, a look back at the treasure map can provide a bevy of inspiration. WARNING: Younger students and some IEP students will have difficulty differentiating between writing a fictional account and writing the bare bones of whatever actually happened. With these students make sure that you either tell them to write the facts, or are VERY specific when it comes to the fiction you want. Don’t write it for them, but make sure they understand the difference.

Finally, we have the memory hand, I also call the Emotions Hand. Students trace their hand and write a different emotion on each finger, the thumb, and their palm. They then (in a different color works best) list a few things that make them feel the emotion listed. (i.e. ANGRY often includes siblings, teachers, homework….PROUD was a difficult one for elementary students and usually just included good grades, winning a race, or praise from parents/teachers).

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The beginning of our ‘Writing” section is a page for Goal setting. This is really included so that the teacher can have individual conferences with each student and set goals for their writing. You put the date set, the goal, and then eventually the date met. Pretty simple right? Well I apparently can’t just leave well enough alone, so I not only did conferences, I also had students do small group/peer readings and discussions…and then they set another goal as well! This really pushed them to view their work not as another grade, or another essay for homework, but as something personal to them. Some of the best goals were set, and met, by my ‘special’ students, because (and I quote) “No one told us we could before”.

After the goals page is a set of loose leaf papers for story ideas and first drafts. The first page was a mini table of contents…students were asked to put the date written, the title, and the page number of their works.

Then came the graphic organizers and outlines section. I passed out 13 pages of organizers and 3 types of outlines during the first week of school. These included a KWL Chart, A Fact Chart, A Vinn Diagram, a Tree Chart, A Brainstormer, and a Cause and Effect Diagram.

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Since I taught fifth graders, we did some minor modifications to these pages, allowing them to use these much more easily. For example, the KWL chart had an extra column to allow for ‘things we couldn’t find the answer to’, while the Timeline page was alternately described as a paragraph outline…giving students a slightly different way to outline their essays along with the typical bulleted or roman numeral set up.

The final thing in our portfolios was, in my opinion, the most important; the writing journal. Every entry began with the day’s date in the upper left hand corner, then the word ‘prompt’ and the day’s prompt written out. Most day’s I gave the students 10 minutes to write to the prompt, usually while playing music softly in the background (a variety of artists and types). About 1 day a week I made students write without music, so that they would be used to noise or silence and able to work through during the testing (you never know what the ‘quiet’ class work next door might include!). Friday’s were always ‘free Friday’…allowing student creativity to come out as they wrote to their own inner muse for the day.

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Over the course of the school year, most of my students went from maybe getting a sentence or two written in the 10 minute time limit, to getting at least a half page. Most of them started writing more than a full page! More than anything else in the portfolio, even more than the differentiated (yet all the same) outlines, graphic organizers, and ‘what we know’ pages, I believe that the daily timed writing allowed my students the room to grow as authors, which is the best aid you can provide for students or aspiring authors! (one more quick example: an IEP student upped their score from a 4th grade writing test score of UNsatisfactory {but about 2 points from limited Knowledge} to ADVANCED on the 5th grade test. Writing, just like anything else, has be a daily habit. Like exercise, your muscles get used to be worked and can easily jump back into the push ups and chin ups of your mind!)

State Testing

My classroom is a mess this week. Not the fun we’re learning and exploring so there’s paper and words everywhere kind of mess. No…the we-have-to-take-state-tests so everyone is needlessly jittery, nervous, and sleepy kind of mess.

These tests are supposed to analyze and showcase what a typical Nth grader should know…there’s just an issue or two with that type of thinking.

First of all, in a ‘typical’ classroom setting with ‘typical’ characters, there is really no such thing as ‘typical.’ Each child and each day brings with them new challenges. For example, in a ‘typical’ 5th grade classroom in my district you will find a range of 10-13 year olds most, if not all, of whom learn in a different style! There is a range of skillsets for each subject (math, reading, spelling, writing, social studies, art, music, even for P.E.) that can go as low as 1st or 2nd grade and as high as 9th-12th grades (and beyond). That range of skills may even occasionally be found in the SAME student.

As teachers, we spend our days differentiating learning, drilling vocabulary, and responsibility, and worrying that we aren’t doing enough; because really, how much is enough? Then our nights are spent analyzing, grading, and preparing. As a mother, I have trouble separating the care, preparation, and work I put in to the 85 ‘kids’ I have 5 days a week, and the 2 yr. old that is actually mine. My toddler cringes when Mommy brings work home.

Secondly, in a state where the testing vendor, standards, and leadership all changed this year (two out of three more than once) even a “normal,” “typical” teacher with “normal,” “typical” students and a “normal,” “typical” classroom (if any such a place actually existed) would be having issues right now!

No students are ‘cookie cutter.’ Different economical, ethical, lingual, and regional backgrounds are creating even siblings with vast cultural differences due to the constant rise and fall of industries. Yet every student, even those deemed in need of “special instruction” is given THE SAME TEST with the bare minimum of assistances provided to those whose paperwork is in order.

Now, I know that my students are all working to the best of their abilities, whatever those may be. However, every student from bottom to top has expressed concern. Now that they NEED it none of them can seem to recall those random grammar rules, how to find a LCM, why Paul Revere had a horse, or how solids melt (to name a few). One student confessed today to wondering if perhaps he had forgotten how to read.

All of this because of the LIFE ALTERING IMPORTANCE of these tests that is so highly stressed to them all now. Low scores for 5th graders mean remedial courses instead of fun electives. For 8th graders these tests may make the difference between a driver’s license or a bicycle in High School. So you can see why there might be some concern. Add to that the fact that students who have been receiving tutoring, in class remediation, small group, etc. all year are now required to go it alone, and you come out with nervous students and paper shreds under almost every desk. Though some will last longer, and some much shorter, in our school this phenomenon will last for 2 weeks.

TWO WEEKS! Some look at that time frame at scoff at our concern. “2 weeks,” they say, “What’s that in the grand scheme of thing? Don’t you spend another 30+ weeks in school?”

Yes, yes we do. Thirty weeks of preparing our students, and ourselves. For teachers the testing outcome can affect our employability. For students it can affect their ability to choose electives in 6th grade, or even to advance with their friends. For the WORLD OF ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENTS, this is the equivalent of Olympic Qualifiers. Though we try to boost student confidence, a lifetime of training has placed a pressure on them to succeed, no matter what we say.

Pressure may make diamonds, but right now it is making MESS out of my class.

Confessions of a Sort

My mind is not linear. It is a swirling, spinning, sassy mass of song lyrics, television and movie quotes, and characters begging for release. I only do math under protest…extreme protest…but I could happily play my flute or write my stories for days on end.

I love teaching, but I have to be careful not to write with them on days I’m really feeling creative…because I get so deep into my story that I can’t deal rationally with the world around me. I don’t want to teach, i don’t want to listen to them, I don’t want to answer their questions or deal with their grades; I just want to write! On days like that I have to just take a step back and I’m afraid that I’ve taken away from my novel, and certainly my novelizing time, by forgetting the whispers from the back of my mind as I try to concentrate on teaching instead of the multiple lives within me.

When I do that, When I don’t write, when I work or take care of my daughter, or make myself do whatever it is I’m ‘supposed’ to be doing instead of taking those few short minutes to jot down an idea…I become a beast. If I have waited too long, suppressed myself too long (usually two to three days) I become moody, almost angry, like a Ms. Hyde…a Lady Hulk…a, well you get the picture.

*Sigh I feel better now. Confession is good for the soul!

Happy Day and may your Inspiration flow like a river that bubbles and babbles infinitely.

The First Mythical, Magical, Inter-Species Taco Stand

Today, much like every other day for the next 2 weeks, my classes are concentrating on refreshing their minds, spirits, and creative fingertips on narratives. For those few hundred readers out there that are NOT 5th or 8th grade writing teachers in the state of Oklahoma, let me fill you in really quickly…state tests for writing are beginning on february 24th, the prompts include reading passages (2 passages and a prompt usually), and they state just announced that the prompt will definitely be some sort of narrative piece. (PHEW!)

Since every passage based narrative prompt I find is some sort of Folk Tale (Of which there are 7! sub-genres) we have been happily diving back into that unit. While discussing pre-writing today, Mrs. L’s home base and I connected my ‘brain blurb’ of 5 random characters/items in order to create a truly epic brainstorming….I give to you, (ON MY BRAND NEW WHITE BOARD) The pre write for my children’s picture book (Oh yeah, hey mom if you’re reading this..I need to discuss something art related with you…):

THE FIRST MYTHICAL, MAGICAL, INTER-SPECIES TACO STAND!

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I LOVE THIS IDEA! I can’t wait to get started…my other 2 novels may just have to take a back seat for a hot beefy minute!

Though you can’t see it clearly, what happened was that my five ‘fairy tale’ words were “Dragons, Fairies, Unicorns, Humans, and Tacos” since 4/5 of that list love to eat Tacos…well, you see where this is headed right?

Teaching Voiceless

I have lost my voice. If I talk above a whisper I either sound like James Earl Jones or Alvin (of Chipmunk Fame). I have 82 5th grade students, many of them 10-13 yr old boys. You would think that this day would both begin and end in disaster. However, so far those rambunctious boys are the ones holding me together. They have taken leadership roles, helping me to make announcements, corral talkative pre-teens, and even volunteered to pass out papers and clean up the class. They even modeled writing!

I am so proud of ‘my’ not so little terrors right now. They are going to be so mad at themselves when I’m better but I still expect them to step up like this! *cue evil and maniacal laughter*

Now if I can only stop squeaking and sounding like I’m crying every time I cough or try to speak above a whisper…Where did that hot tea go?

Poppin’ Lesson

Have you ever written something that keeps giving you enjoyment or teaching you long after you’re done? Something that you LOVE but that you just know will not provide the same level of enjoyment or knowledge to anyone else? I had one such moment yesterday as I set up my classroom for our Friday Experiment. I waited all week with excitement, tried the experiment three times at home (just to be SURE that it really works!), and was almost completely prepared by the time I got to school Friday morning…if you forgive the few minutes of panic as I raced through the hallway asking fellow teachers for balloons.

Though I knew what the experiments outcome would be, I waited with baited breath to find out what my student teams a) came up with for their hypothesis and b) how they would react to the outcome.

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I set up our center ‘activity’ table (a new addition for the new year) with a box of Baking Soda, a bottle half filled (about 8 oz) of Vinegar, a balloon, a set of measuring spoons, and a funnel along the left side. On the right hand side of the  table I laid out a bottle of Sprite with a little off the top, a funnel, a balloon, and a packet of Pop Rocks (strawberry, but I don’t think the flavor matters). I had students break into two teams. Each student was to draw out the ‘ingredients’ however they saw fit, then discuss with their team to come up with a timeline and hypothesis for the experiment. One team was to focus on the  left side, the other on the right.

We had an astonishing (at least to me) amount of spot on, or almost so, guesses at to what I would do and what would happen. Then we had a few incredibly interesting but not very close to truth hypothesis…that make me want to try out what they suggest!

After about ten minutes of group talk and hypothesis writing, everyone turned to the center of the room and watched me perform the experiment.

1) use funnel to place a tablespoon of baking soda in a balloon, use other funnel to place pop rocks in second balloon.

2) open bottle and place mouth of balloon CAREFULLY over mouth of respective bottles.

3) raise balloon and release dry ingredient into the liquid below.

If all goes correctly, Sprite and Pop Rocks or Vinegar and Baking Soda will react together to release the gas and blow up their balloon. In the second class, a student requested a bottle of EVERYTHING (i.e. vinegar, sprite, pop rocks, and baking soda). Surprisingly, this set up yielded a pretty awesome result as well.

Sprite and Pop Rocks blew up a balloon with more length than width, and only a small amount of length (around 5 centimeters for 3/4 of the classes. Last class had a larger balloon at almost a full inch and a half in length).

Vinegar and Baking Soda has a more violent reaction that the Pop Rocks and Sprite, so that the balloon stretches in width, as well as height, and is several inches in size. According to my students, it tries to ‘boom’ but just ‘blows up’. (I love their love of creative sentence structure!)

Finally, the all in bottle creates a reaction somewhere between the other two, filling up its balloon with a beginning reaction that is violent and slows down to a delightful lava lamp effect as you watch the pop rocks jump around within the liquid. The balloon fills up to approximately 3 – 5 inches in length and 1.5 inch in width…though my last class of the day lucked out because I finally hit it just right..that balloon actually filled out to be slightly larger than the vinegar and baking soda one!

Some students wanted to measure the different sizes of the balloons. One suggested we try the experiment with every color of balloon available to us…or re-do the experiment using all the same colors of balloon…just in case. And a few wanted to drink the sprite mixture (I didn’t let them 😦 ) But amazingly enough, almost all of my 80 students could actually EXPLAIN the reaction and WHY it happens! Not only that, but they made the connection between solid (bottle), liquid (yup), and Gas all having volume and mass…and explained to me how the air displaces as we moved (CAREFULLY) the bottle and poured liquid into, and then out of, the balloon (still attached to the bottle’s mouth).

To call me a proud teacher is a bit of an understatement at this point. To top it off, my principal came in and observed the final installment of our day and got to see a class who is usually a bit slow and behind the others (due to behavior issues and a need to change my teaching style for them, ick!) excel and ask do to do more work to figure out exactly what was going on! (and I only had to get on to two students while she was there, a new record!)

Ok, you know you want to try this out so my one suggestion is that you choose something a bit more carbonated than Sprite. Coke worked well during my home tests. If you try it out with something else, let me know! I loved this so much, I think we’ll do it again next year!