Tiny Apartment Project – final display

At the beginning of April, my students and I launched into a new project. Some of the common questions at the end of the first week were along the lines of:

  • How do you use a 3D printer?
  • I’ve never done any 3D modeling. Will I be able to do it?

The project has now finished and I plenty to think about and reflect on. Students amazed me at their ability to learn and then work within the Tinkercad software. The purpose of this post is celebration. An amazing person in my building took student work and made a display. I wanted to share out the work and appreciate that the display was created. It is featured along a main corridor in our building.


Students also created a short screencast of their design. A video running together these short screencasts is below.


Teaching & Twitter (it’s worth it)

Five to ten minutes. I get in the habit of being involved with Twitter but time passes and it I get “too busy”. This post is that reminder to take the little bit of time in a day and check in. It is so worth it.

On Wednesday, I saw this post:

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What a cool idea. Get students quickly working with area and perimeter in an interesting problem solving idea.

IMG_1705On Thursday, a few students were finishing up early on their area/volume project so I pitched this idea and a stack of old newspaper at them. It was fun watching their process. They decided to start with getting the amount of paper to make a square meter.

A few moments later, they realized that their perimeter was going to be quite on the short side. At that point, a student said what could be the quote that makes my year worth it:



Should we just model it first? 

They sketched out a model of a few different ideas and included a scale.


Once their model was done, they quickly put the newspaper together.


Oops, it can’t be a rectangle so they made a quick adjustment:


A big thanks to @S_ODwyer for sharing her idea and to Twitter for a platform that makes sharing ideas easy. Take a few moments each day to touch base. Hidden gems are everywhere!

Let the students show the way (spreadsheets to Desmos)

Recently, I posted about the CER structure that I was starting to use more with my 7th graders in science. There, time was spent on representing evidence from multiple trials as well as different measures of center. I wondered about the use of Desmos in creating graphs. The goal is for students to be able to quickly create graphical displays so that the bulk of their time is spent discussing patterns within their evidence. Honestly, I hadn’t poked around in Desmos enough recently to know if it would be challenging or not. Graphing in Excel/gSheets often opens up the destructive side of me as it is quite cumbersome to make and modify graphs (at least at my skill level).

Today, students were finishing up assessments and and I tasked them with getting into Desmos and graphing the data they had recently done by hand. The goal was to explore, learn skills, reproduce the graph and then share out if it is possible.


Students got to cracking! I had them work individually to both allow for quiet in order for others to finish up assessments and to also allow for each student’s creativity in finding a solution. They were quite resourceful. Some began by putting in individual points. Others typed in entire tables. I nudged to find a way to copy and paste from the data in the spreadsheet. (I’m fully onboard in the power of spreadsheets to analyze data – I just can’t get the displays I want without frustration.) They reported back that they had. Entire tables can be copied from a spreadsheet and pasted into Desmos! Yeah! That’s quick! However, we had to do some restructuring of tables to make better meaning.

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gSpreadsheet Link

The trials and averages went into two different Desmos tables so that the formatting could be differentiated.

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Desmos Graph

Desmos Tip from students: Holding down on the color in the table provides extra options such as adding in a line between points if that is desired.

By the end of class, students were telling me that they were quite comfortable bringing tables into Desmos and then creating a graphical display. Desmos Tip: The wrench in the top right corner allows labels to be put on each axis as well as adjusting the scale.

So, I’m pretty excited both in having a potential system to make graphical displays and with the reward of putting my trust in the students. They could and did dive into the Desmos and finished by increasing the understanding of our community.

CER – Developing Structures

Evidence. It’s challenging for my 7th graders to keep coming back to evidence. Personally, I’ve struggled finding the right scaffolds for students to have them put together investigations and share their thinking. The following is my latest installment based upon some past work with Paul Andersen (@paulandersen) and continual shifts in thinking towards NGSS practices. In the end, student goals are to have strong conversations about their investigations, clearly model design, display key evidence and conceptually model their ideas.

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(Link to above document)

The structure above is used at the end of an investigation though students need to show their experimental design. (A topic for a different time – how much emphasis are people putting on the physical writing of a procedure versus setting up the experimental design and then moving forward?)

Experimental Design: In the experimental design, students create a model that shows their set-up with the independent, dependent and controlled variables clearly indicated. Below are a couple of student examples for an investigation where the mass of a dynamic cart was varied as students examined change in velocity with constant force or an applied force was varied.

What I like:

  • The visual nature of setting up an investigation through a model.
  • Highlighting the variables. My students are not always 100% confident on independent, dependent and controlled variables. This color connection makes them again talk about the variables. They also quickly realize if parts are missing from their model.
  • There is a focus on the experimental set-up. Students are talking about the parts of the investigation they are working with.

What I wonder:

  • For seventh graders, is this good enough? In the past, I’ve spent a lot of time word smithing on procedures and I’m not sure that that is necessarily time well spent. What do I really want? I would like students to have a strong foundation in designing investigations that focus on a relationship between an independent and dependent variable. I would like students to truly grasp the need to keep all other items controlled.
  • How can I mix in a strong foundation of procedure-type vocabulary that students then show on the model?
  • What can be done to improve on the current model? Does more need to be done regarding the independent / dependent variable relationship? What about the controlled variables – how do the key ones really stand out?
  • Multiple Trials – One group wrote to repeat for every trial though they did not indicate how many trials would be necessary. Maybe I should make this more specific.

Data: Once the set-up is ironed out, students move to collecting data. Organized data tables are challenging to set-up! We eventually get data tables constructed in a spreadsheet and students begin collecting. This post is more related to the workup of ideas so let’s move to the display of evidence.

What I like:

  • Paul Andersen was the one that led me to showing all of the data collected in trials on a graph. In the past, students showed the average only but a lot of information was lost. We now have conversations about the range of data and the confidence level of groups in whether or not they have a strong data set.
  • The graph is another place where we check in on independent and dependent variables.
  • Physics! We got reproducible data almost across the board and it really does make a difference.
  • Working up the data into a graphical display and then having students write a claim.

What I wonder:

  • Students are doing more with data in spreadsheets though get really turned around when it gets to graphing with the software. I like the investment of time to go into discussing the data instead of physically graphing but I don’t have a good solution yet for graphical displays. (I’m toying with Excel/gSheets, Desmos and CODAPany others?)

Conceptual Model of Claim: In support of the claim that student groups generate based upon their data, I’m working with the idea of a model to explain ideas. Evidence is shown on the graph, so the focus here is more in showing the big idea of the claim. This is definitely a work in progress and in need of refinement.

What I like:

  • Students are returning to the relationship of the independent and dependent variables.
  • By having this piece not focus on numbers, students talk more about representing their ideas.
  • A focus is placed upon the claim being a representation of the data. Our conversations were around what patterns are in the data and how can this be shown.

What I wonder:

  • Dot diagrams were provided as a way for students to model their thoughts. In other areas, is it good for groups to have similar models for better comparison or better to have groups represent in any way they like?
  • What additional description should accompany the conceptual model. Is the claim and the model enough?
  • Many more thoughts running around…

Reasoning – With my 7th graders, I’m finding that more structure is still a good idea when writing a claim. We return to the relationship of the independent to dependent variable and I want to see students including specific information from their trials of what was changed and what was measured. My focus has been on developing a solid reliance on evidence that I hope can then be used to eventually link to strong reasoning.