WOW! Wednesday: Tom Spall, AES

I strongly encourage you to never use the word “bore” or “boring.” It says a lot about a person. It’s hard for me to imagine being “bored”, ever. The world is so exciting and fascinating, yes?” -Bill Nye (The Science Guy).


I’ve always told myself that I’m good at teaching Science. This year, I’m proving it. Going from a 4th grade Math/Science/Social Studies teacher to a Science/Social Studies teacher was a great leap for me. In the past, Math has always taken precedent in my teaching and curriculum. Usually, this meant pushing Science and Social studies into my day when I saw fit, if only for a few minutes. I’ve gone from two classes/40 students to 4 classes/80 students this year. All 4th-grade students from Alton come and go, every day, for 70 minutes into an exciting adventure of a classroom. As I sit writing this blog, I get pumped-up just talking about the great stuff we’ve been working on, and the many things that still await our exploration.

After 5 years of teaching, refining my skills with the newest and most updated technology practices, and an amazing summer at the 2013 WOW Academy, I knew that my 6th year of teaching was going to be tech-driven! My students this year have become pros with the Chromebooks! We use them daily for emailing, researching, journaling, scientific discovery, and inquiry. In Social Studies we’ve started using Google Drive for online Journals. This has been helped with Google’s awesome research tool built right into Drive. Students are able to take notes during class, share their journals with me, and research information.

Chromebooks have helped keep my class almost “paperless,” including online tests shared with all my students in Google Drive. My students have also had opportunities to take quizzes using Google forms.

Science inquiry, technology, and a positive learning environment have taken over my classroom and my students are excited about coming to class every day.

So far in class this year we’ve built solar ovens and explored the properties of the Sun. We’ve melted chocolate to examine the properties of matter and heat. We also checked the properties of matter by examining the properties of different fruits and whether or not they sink/float in water.

Recently during our solar/light energy unit my students created Google Presentations to inform people about why the Sun is so important to their lives.

Last week was by far the students’ favorite week yet! Dubbed “Rocket Week,” students witnessed the power of mechanical energy! Beginning with the introduction to pressure with mentos and Diet Coke, we followed up by launching water rockets using a 7-foot homemade rocket launcher (video). The week ended with 5 different launches of Estes engine rockets using various size engines and variables. During this mechanical energy week we also used the Chromebooks to examine pushes, pulls, and various forces by viewing Rube Goldberg machine videos, and completing chain reaction machines via the web. Later this week students will be challenged to create their own Rube Goldberg machines at home.

Finally this week we are experimenting with batteries, bulbs, and electrical energy. I’ve brought up my Lionel trains and train set to have the students create circuits to make the train run. We are also going to be researching the effects of electrical energy on our daily lives and exploring the traits of an Electrician.

There’s never a dull moment in Mr. Spall’s 4th grade Science and Social Studies Class. Positive energy and a welcoming environment encourage all students to do their best. Making mistakes and failing at something just open the doors to other future successes and discoveries. A rule for when you walk into Mr. Spall’s class is that you need a smile on your face, and expect to be greeted with a cheer! :)

Finally, I use Twitter every day! It’s the best professional development a teacher could ask for. I get tons of ideas, suggestions, and educational connections via this social media tool. My teaching over the past year has greatly improved because of the resources that I now have from Twitter. Follow me @tommyspall

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