Category Archives: K-5

Creative Thinking with Hearts

And another bonus post for today!  (Some things just can’t wait to be posted!)  Joelle Trayers gave me this idea on her blog, and if you don’t already read her blog you should!  Her depth and complexity ideas for primary aged children are awesome!!!!!

Anyway, I showed my 1st grade GT students a die-cut heart, and asked them to turn it around and look at it different ways to see what else it could be.  I showed them some of the examples from Ms. Trayers’ class, and told them they could NOT use any of those ideas, even though they were fabulous. To be creative, their drawings would need to be different , not copies.  Then, I let them brainstorm as many ideas as they could – even though many of them said they already knew what they wanted to draw.  And here is where I think I might have improved on the last time I tried this activity – I told them to go around the room to look at everyone’s ideas.

“What does it mean if someone else had the same idea as you?” I asked.

“It isn’t unique!” one girl answered.

“So, is that the idea you want to use today?” I asked.

They all agreed that no, it was not, since we were focusing on creativity. They finally got to start their designs, and I was really impressed that most of them were so different.  Here is what they drew:

Hockey Puck
Hockey Puck
Shining Heart
Shining Heart
Air vent in the wall with a picture hanging on the wall on top left. The air is coming out of the vent (squiggly lines) and blowing the girl's hair.
Air vent in the wall with a picture hanging on the wall on top left. The air is coming out of the vent (squiggly lines) and blowing the girl’s hair.
Pencil Top Eraser
Pencil Top Eraser

The Magic of Mistakes

Class Dojo is creating a series of animated videos for young students to promote a Growth Mindset.  “The Magic of Mistakes” is the second video to be published, and I think it has a great message for your students.  While we don’t want our students to be afraid of making mistakes, we need to be careful about the way we emphasize the importance of mistakes.  Mistakes can be good – but only if you learn from them.  Mojo’s friend, Katie, helps to make that distinction in “The Magic of Mistakes.”

There is a short discussion guide that you can download for the video, which includes questions for parents and students to think about at home.  Class Dojo will be releasing a video for this series once a week for the next three weeks, so be sure to stay tuned!

For more Growth Mindset resources, check out this Pinterest Board, which includes videos that are appropriate for students of all ages (including adults!).

screen shot from Class Dojo's "Magic of Mistakes" video
screen shot from Class Dojo’s “Magic of Mistakes” video

From Puffy Paint to Laser Mazes

I saw a tweet about a construction toy called, “Brackitz” that intrigued me the other day.  I followed the link to their website, and clicked on video that shows their product being featured on the Today Show.  It looks like a great addition to any Maker Space.  As I watched the video segment, though, I saw some other wonderful suggestions for sparking the imagination of young children. Meredith Sinclair, who blogs here, showcases some fun indoor activities that you may not have seen before.  Her creative ideas include: making your own puffy paint, injecting water colors into a jello mold, mess-less finger painting (genius!), and a “laser” maze you can make with things in your own home.

Watch this short video, and then head over to Meredith Plays for even more reasons to wish you were a child again!

Know How to Play

Creativity Kickers

Jeanne Muzi recently posted two lists of “Creativity Kickers” on the blog, Four O’Clock Faculty. The lists offer great ideas for formative assessments and creative challenges.  In “Creativity Kickers, Part 1,” I found a couple I would like to try in my own classroom, such as the “Yes, And… Cards” and the “Student Created Knowledge Cards.” The second post, “Creativity Kickers, Part 2,” suggests the “Brain Breaks Cup,” which is a great idea that I’ve seen used by one of my colleagues and highly recommend.  The “Character in Search of Setting” suggestion is a fun idea for encouraging some creative thinking that I would also like to try out.

Check out the rest of the options by clicking on the links above!


The Winter Break Survival Guide for Parents

For many families, the second week of Winter Break is when boredom kicks in.  New gifts and games have lost their luster.  No one wants to return to school or work – but lack of structure is beginning to feel less like freedom and more of a chore as everyone tries to find ways to fill up endless hours of do-nothingness.

If the above paragraph describes you, here are some suggestions for making the next week less daunting

  • Winter Break Challenge – For a fun idea that might tear your child away from a screen for awhile, give them a bunch of old board games and let them “re-mix” them to come up with something new.
  • Logical Journey of the Zoombinis – This fabulous game that will teach your child logic and problem-solving skills is available on iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac.  There is a cost, but it is well worth the price.
  • Apps for Creation – Here are some FREE apps I recommended last year for creation that are still some of my favorites.
  • Makey Makey Something! – If your child got a Makey Makey for Christmas, this post might inspire him or her with some ideas for projects that go beyond the banana piano.
  • Design a Marble Run – Here are 10 ideas for DIY marble runs made from household materials.
  • Build with Slotted Disks – Use the templates to cut out your own disks for building out of cardboard or other sturdy paper.

For more ideas, check out and Design Squad.  Also, don’t forget to read my latest, “Gifts for the Gifted” post for the most valuable present you can give your child.

Your Winter Break Challenge

4 More Ways to Survive 4 More Days

Just in case you didn’t properly ration your Teachers’ December Survival Kit,  and you are finding yourself desperate for ways to make it through this final week before the break, here are some more activities that I’ve found from some of my favorite bloggers:

Candy Cane S.C.A.M.P.E.R.

Ugly Sweater Challenge (I love the Ugly Sweater fractions!)

Toys Go Out (scroll to the end of this post for a great book idea and a link to lesson plans!)

Quiver and Holiday Writing – augmented reality fun for the holidays


Gifts for the Gifted – Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding

As I continue this year’s Gifts for the Gifted series, I should re-iterate a few things.  First of all, these recommendations are for all children – not just those identified as “Gifted and Talented.” Secondly, these gifts will be much more meaningful to their recipients if the gift-giver follows through by enjoying the gift along with the child.  This is particularly important to remember with today’s gift suggestion.

Hello Ruby began as a Kickstarter campaign by Linda Liukas, and is now available for purchase.  Liukas wanted to create a book that would showcase Ruby, a young girl who refuses to back away from a challenge.  Linda Liukas, as she learned to program, used the imaginary Ruby as her own inspiration to persevere in problem solving.


Some of you may recognize “Ruby” as a programming language – but don’t expect this to be a textbook. As Liukas states in her “Introduction for the Parent,” this book is not intended to teach programming.  Instead, it “introduces the fundamentals of computational thinking that every future coder will need.”  Targeted toward students in primary grades (I would recommend 2nd-4th), this book includes programming vocabulary, such as “functions” and “loops,” but is not a curriculum.

There is an “Activity Book” included in Hello Ruby.  This portion of the book includes 22 short activities to reinforce the coding concepts in the story.  Each one connects back to the storyline and characters, continuing with Liukas’ delightful illustrations.

I would recommend reading this book along with your child, and doing the exercises together.  If you pair the exercises along with some introductory programming activities, such as The Foos, Box Island, or Kodable, great connections can be made to the concepts in the book.  Also, be sure to visit the Hello Ruby website for more resources, including printable pages for the activity book.

For more in the “Gifts for the Gifted” series, check out this page.  If you would like more resources for programming for kids, here is my Pinterest Board for that topic.