December 2017 Reflection

Reflection for December

Scott Flynn, M. Ed.
Otte-Blair Middle School

Author Note

Scott Flynn, Department of Science, Otte-Blair Middle School.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to A. Scott Flynn,

Department of Science, Otte-Blair Middle School, Blair, NE 68008.


Reflection for December


Sphero – Battle Bots

“To battle!” That was how my Genius Hour class started the last day before the holiday break. The objective of the lesson, design a chariot with attachments that could pop an opponent’s balloon.  The chariot must travel by means of a Sphero robot.  In the design of the chariot, the students could not construct anything that would surround or protect the balloon that was attached to the chariot. The balloon must be fully unprotected and no higher off the ground than 6 inches. Seems simple.
In this assignment, the students would be using the learning cycle model.  Walbert, (2003) states that the learn cycle consists of three parts Figure 1: Concept Development, Concept Application and Exploration. According to Walbert (2003), “The learning Cycle is a model of instruction based on scientific inquiry. This model encourages students to develop their own understanding of a scientific concept, explore and deepen that understanding, and then apply the concept to new situations.” media-20180222

The equipment list for the project was as follows:  one Sphero, one red cup, one glue gun, five skewers and one box of various items which included popsicle stick, wheels, old toy car parts, straws etc.  Before students could begin the build process, students had to take the supplies and draw a sketch of what they proposed to build. Next, they needed to explain the sketch to me.  As the students were explaining their sketches, I used the method that Brooks & Brooks, (1999, p. 107) suggested. As a constructivist teacher, I would inquire the about student’s understanding of the project and share what their understanding was before I made any recommendations for the design. Generally, my recommendations were not needed. Then, I (Brooks & Brooks, 2001 p. 108) “encouraged students to engage in dialogue” with other students in the class and get feedback on their design.  Each student was required to get their design initialed by two other students and myself. This feedback is similar to that which we received in our community of learning when we built our float made of toys for the parade or when we circle up.

Next, the students needed to construct and test their chariot.  After testing, students were allowed to make modifications and retest.
After a retest of how their chariot moved, we then set up the battle arena. Students battled for ten minutes or until there was only one chariot left with a balloon. The ten minutes passed with several chariots left.  The students were frustrated and excited at the same time.  They began to share how they would redesign, how they would attack, why their design didn’t work.  I could see their curiosity of how to design a better chariot peeking in the project more now than at the beginning. Brooks & Brooks, (2001 p. 116) agrees with Walbert stating “constructivist teachers nurture students’ natural curiosity through frequent use of the learning cycle model.”

Unfortunately, we had to leave for break before we tackled the other two concepts of the learning cycle.


Natural Consequence

The only safety tip from me for the project was “glue guns are hot” which, the students found out themselves several times, to which they said, “Hey, Mr. Flynn, glues guns are hot!”

Christmas Music
This year I wanted to try something different as the students worked on their animal projects. In talking with my advisory group ideas were shared about what they do at the end of the year.  Several in my group talked about the music they played during the last week of class.  According to Erwin (2004 p. 43), “the best time to play soothing music is, when students are working quietly at their desks.”  It worked!  Students were quietly workings and humming along with their favorite songs.  It made the class periods go much faster for both students and teacher.

New Semester

Hello, 2018!  The new year starts with new classes and new faces.  New faces mean new names for this teacher to learn.  I figure by the end of a year I have learned about two hundred plus names. The problem is, I am terrible with names but great with faces.  I never forget a face.  I like how we made a symbol for each group we have in the learning community.  It was fun and helps me remember who was in my group. Erwin (2004, p. 48) states that “our name is precious, it’s an important part of who we are.” Erwin (2004, p. 48) suggests having the students put their name on a piece of paper with a symbol or symbols that represent who they are.  I am going to have the students do this on the front of the paper and on the back have them put a (Erwin, 2004, p. 49) positive adjectives which describe themselves.

Meaningful Learning

I have been supporting meaningful learning by journaling ideas from the community and literature.  I have been sharing my learning experiences via Twitter, Instagram, and my Facebook web page. I have set up a hashtag #WSCWP for Twitter in order to foster more sharing within the learning community.
Random Thought
What do you think?  You want to cause seventh graders to go into a tailspin on a question, ask them “What do you think?”.  I have made more middle student mad at that response this last month than I have in the previous four years of teaching science. Some of the comments from the students have been as follows: “You’re the teacher”, “That is why I am asking you”, and my favorite “You mean you are not going to help me?”  In the community, the instructors have used this on us.  It’s a simple technique once you figure out how to use it.  The students started to figure out I was asking them to think for themselves.  They knew the answers most of the time but wanted to know what the correct answer was from me.  I do have a new one to add to “What do you think?” and that is “Have you asked someone else in class before you asked me?”  That one is a fun one to use the same reaction at first, but again, they are starting to get the idea, I want them to find answers from other sources!


Brooks, J. G., & Brooks, M. G. (2001). In Search of Understanding. The Case for Constructivist Classrooms. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Erwin, J. C. (2004). The Classroom of Choice: Giving Students What They Need and Getting What You Want. (J. Houtz, Ed.) Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Littky, D., & Grabelle, S. (2004). The Big Picture: Education Is Everyone’s Business. (J. Houtz, Ed.) Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Smith, F. (1998). The Book of Learning and Forgetting. New York, New York: Teacher College Press.

Walbert, D. (2003). K-12 Teaching and Learning From The UNC School Of Education. Retrieved 12 28, 2017, from Learn NC:



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