Category Archives: Language Arts

Let’s Talk Turkey

I’ve gathered a few more ideas this year to add to my Cornucopia of Creative and Critical Thinking Activities for Thanksgiving, which I published a couple of years ago.

  • First, I want to go back to a suggestion in my Cornucopia post, which was, “What are you Thankful For? Ask it Better.” I’ve been using different prompts from this article with each grade level.  For example, my 5th graders brainstormed what they are thankful for that they cannot see.  My 2nd graders brainstormed what teachers might be thankful for, as you can see below.  I really like this twist on giving thanks.

Thankful Teachers

What are teachers thankful for? You might not see it in the picture above, but one of the students wrote, “Other teachers.”  And that is very true.  Thank goodness for all of the awesome educators who are kind enough to share their resources on the web for those of us who aren’t quite as creative!


EngineerGirl has been literally rated, “A Great Website for Kids” by the Association for Library Service to Children.  After visiting the site, I have to agree with ALSC that it is an awesome site for young students who would like to know about engineering.

Obviously, the site is aimed at girls.  However, there is a lot of information that will appeal to both genders.  The “Try on a Career” page allows you to click on different types of engineering occupations to learn more.  The site also includes interviews with engineers, resources,  and information on “How to Get There.”

EngineerGirl is currently sponsoring an essay contest for girls and boys in grades 3-12.  Students must propose a new technology that they think would help in at least one of these areas:

  • Safety
  • Health
  • Well-being, and
  • Environmental sustainability

Entries are due by 2/1/16.  For more information, go to this page.

I’m definitely adding EngineerGirl to my “STEM Inspiration” Pinterest Board!



One of my fabulous colleagues, Suzanne Horan, shared the Litograph website earlier this week, and I’ve been trying to narrow down my wish list ever since!  (My birthday is coming up so – Perfect. Timing.)

The Litograph website sells t-shirts, posters, and totes that are based on famous literary works.  If you look at them closely (their website allows you to zoom in), you will see that the artwork is actually created by text from the book – kind of like word clouds taken to a whole new level!

Some of the products have illustrations on the front and back, so be sure to scroll over them to reveal both sides.

Don’t see your favorite book represented?  You can make a request and vote on other suggestions here.  (I voted for The Giver and The Princess Bride.)

Thanks to Suzanne for the tip (and the flour she brought me to save me from a Squishy Circuits disaster earlier this week)!  Happy Phun Phriday!


Makey Makey Lesson Plans – Beyond the Piano

Many of you, like me, may have found the Makey Makey to be quite fun and a great way to inspire creativity.  But where to go from there?   Makey Makey now offers a Lesson Plans section with suggestions for integrating the Makey Makey into your classroom. The current list is fairly short, but I’m guessing there will be more added as time goes by.  I like the ideas, particularly since they are way more creative than anything I would dream up.  My favorite is the Candid Camera one, which would be a great way to spark writing in the classroom.

from Makey Makey Lessons
from Makey Makey Lessons

English Idioms and Their Meanings

It’s Phun Phriday – and tomorrow is July 4th!  As we celebrate Independence Day, we should remember the rich history of our country and its diverse inhabitants.  We should also remember that not everything we say makes sense to speakers new to the English language!

Illustrator Roisin Hahessy has created a delightful set of posters to help out those who might be confused when we casually say things like, “Hold your horses!”  You can check out the fun series here.


Disney’s Create Tomorrowland XPrize Challenge

Okay. Full Disclosure – George Clooney is one of my favorite actors. But I promise that is not the reason I chose to mention the “Create Tomorrowland XPrize Challenge” on this blog even though George Clooney happens to be the star of the movie this contest is promoting.

I haven’t seen the movie, and I don’t know a lot about the contest, other than what can be read on the website.  However, if you know a child between 8 and 17 years of age who has an inventive imagination, you may want to investigate this opportunity.  The contest asks for videos, images, or stories that envision a beneficial invention that might exist in our future.

You can see specific entry guidelines here.  Don’t forget to visit the “Idea Portal” for some real-world examples of people who are working to shape a better future for all of us.

Submissions are due by 5/17/15 – so don’t procrastinate!  Who knows what life-saving ideas might be hibernating in the mind of a student, just waiting for the right circumstances to be revealed?


Please Allow Me to Reiterate

I was feeling pretty clever.

As most of you know, that is never a good sign.

My creative, engaging activity for the day turned out to be one of those lessons that makes a teacher ask the dreaded question, “Should I continue this fiasco or give up and find a video?”

The concept was simple: I wanted to use the idea of Hexagonal Learning with my 3rd graders so they could synthesize what they had learned from our systems thinking book, Billibonk and the Big Itch.  One of the online tools for hexagonal thinking is called Think Link.  This reminded me, of course, of ThingLink.  And I thought, “They can make ThingLinks of their Think Links!”

Technically, the students didn’t use Think Link, though.  Instead I used the Hexagons Generator from ClassTools to print out the hexagons with words that related to the book. The students worked in groups to connect their hexagons in deep and meaningful ways that they could explain in detail using an interactive ThingLink.

Well, that was the plan.

The students quickly arranged their hexagons.  Then they took pictures of the groups and started making their ThingLinks.  They liked the idea of using video to explain each node that connected 2 or 3 hexagons, and started to get creative – using newscaster and professor voices.

Then they started to get a bit silly.

Plus I realized that their connections weren’t exactly deep and meaningful.  And some of them didn’t make any sense at all.

And then 2 groups accidentally lost 45 minutes of work on their iPads.

And the third group finished theirs, but ThingLink stubbornly refused to save it – grimly offering that I could “retry” or “delete” each time I attempted to upload it, but making absolutely no effort to offer the preferred third option, “Start this day over with a little less smugness and a little more planning.”

I looked at my giggly group of grade schoolers and took a deep breath.  Despite having to start their projects over, they were all quite cheerful.  And, the truth was that I had learned a lot from listening to their recordings – a lot that I needed to discuss with them to ensure they understood the text better.

We gathered in a circle and reflected on the day.  We clarified lessons learned.

And we decided to try it all again next week.

Earlier in the day, I had talked about “iterative”  with some of the teachers in the lounge.  We  agreed that it seemed to be quite the education buzzword these days, and I looked it up to make sure I was using it correctly.

This was the first definition I found. (Google’s version)

iterativeNot exactly helpful.

So, without any sense of irony, I looked it up again. (Wikipedia’s verson this time)

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 5.33.55 PM

Next week, we will attempt iteration #2 of the Hexagonal Learning Lesson.

Hopefully, we will get some things right and all of the mistakes we make will be new ones ;)