Tag Archives: creative thinking

Makerspace Essentials – Magnatiles

I’ve seen Magnatiles at toy stores and a few of the children’s museums I’ve visited.  From what I could tell, they seemed like a great manipulative for building.  So, I finally ordered some last year.

A week after I received my set, I happened to be helping out in a Kinder classroom, and realized with a bit of disappointment that Magnatiles seemed to be a standard supply for 5 and 6 year-olds.  I worried that my investment would be met with disdain by my older students.

Sure enough, when I pulled out the set, the first thing a student said was, “We used to play with those in Kindergarten!”

But it wasn’t said critically; instead the third grader sounded nostalgic and wistful for the times when building with Magnatiles was an acceptable part of the curriculum.

Since then, my gifted students and Maker Club students have awed me with some of their Magnatile creations.  Sometimes I set what seem to be impossible parameters, yet the students still find a way to make my jaw drop.

The challenge was to build "something funny" so this group designed an office building shaped like eyeglasses.
The challenge was to build “something funny” so this group designed an office building shaped like eyeglasses.
A 5th grade challenge: Adapt a hayride for another environment. This group made a “hay” sled for the North Pole – with living quarters.

Lesson learned by me – never think that toys that encourage imagination are too “young” for my students!

For more Makerspace Essentials, check out this post!

Or You Could Organize a Flash Mob

“I don’t know why they even make the kids go to school during the last 2 weeks.  The textbooks have been picked up, grades turned in, and all the teachers do is show movies.” Okay, first of all – NOT TRUE! Okay, maybe some of it is sometimes true.  Possibly.

But think about it. Let’s say school ended in March instead of June. Wouldn’t we still have the same problems? As far as I can see, the only solutions are:

A.) Make the end date of school a surprise every year by having a groundhog predict it with his shadow:

“Hooray! He saw his shadow.  That means six more weeks until we can ask him to come out again and repeat this process.”

“Oh darn! He didn’t see his shadow! That means today is your last day of school!”


2.) Schedule all standardized for the last 2 days of school.  Because, let’s face it, that’s the only thing that gives school meaning. Otherwise, it’s just about learning for the sake of learning.

Granted, neither of those solutions would be very popular.  So, I think we have to go with Door #3 and make the last two weeks as meaningful as possible – maybe even more meaningful. What can we do to make ourselves, as teachers, feel less like babysitters?

Give our students some physical activity by teaching them how to pack up a classroom. Give our students some physical activity with GoNoodle or Deskercises.

Stretch their brains by showing them Monsters Inc for the 70th time. Stretch their brains by showing them Word Picture Brainteasers or stumping them with 50 Riddles.

Let them play Heads Up Seven Up. Let them play Creativity Games or one of the bazillion quizzes on Kahoot.

Reminisce by showing them a slide show of pictures from the year. Reminisce by creating a Thinglink of a class picture with links to a video from each student or allowing them to each make their own Pic Collage that represents their year. (Check out the new Pic Collage for Kids app here!)

Assign them to draw whatever they want, which usually results in Minecraft, Pokemon, or My Little Pony posters they all want to gift you with. Assign them to draw something that challenges them to think, like a S.C.A.M.P.E.R. picture or a Sketch Note that summarizes their year.

Have your students start moving your supplies to your new classroom for next year. Have your students design a Rube Goldberg Machine to move your supplies or try out one of the many engineering challenges supplied by the F.L.I. girls in their Challenge Boxes.

Speaking of boxes, you probably need to pack some – so get those young, energetic kids to load them up for you. Speaking of boxes, you can always have the students bring in their own, and design games to play the last day of school (on which they will be sure to bring those games home).  Even better, put all the stuff you don’t need anymore into a pile and challenge them to make something new using only those supplies (with the understanding that their new invention will definitely go home with them on the last day).

I think I’ve suggested enough ideas to last one or two days.  How about we crowdsource activities for the other 7 or 8 days?  Put your favorite end-of-year lessons in the comments below!

image from:
image from: Irvine Unified School District

Spring S.C.A.M.P.E.R.

Ms. Trayers (@jtrayers) at Not Just Child’s Play and I are always on the same wavelength!  I tried a new S.C.A.M.P.E.R.  activity for spring this week, and she posted about an Easter one that she did with her students.  I absolutely love that she had her students write their justification for the partners they chose for the Easter Bunny.  They are fabulous!

I need to add more writing to my curriculum and I am going to definitely use it more with these S.C.A.M.P.E.R. activities.  Usually, I just have the students do an illustration as a fun warm-up activity, but I like her idea to add a little more “depth” to their drawings.

The one I chose to do this week was from my Spring S.C.A.M.P.E.R. Packet, which you can find on my TPT site.  I asked my 1st grade GT students to imagine that a mother bird’s eggs has hatched but the last one is a huge surprise.  What is it?

There were a couple of Easter Bunnies, but then there were two that were opposite extremes of each other.  One student drew a baby hippopotamus, and another student drew a tiny little fly!  I asked them to identify what other S.C.A.M.P.E.R. piece they used to come up with these ideas, and they correctly named the “Magnify/Minimize” one.  And then there was the very cute, upside-down, walking baby cactus.  Talk about imagination!

Here is a free copy of the page that I used if you are interested.  You can find the rest of the packet, and other themed S.C.A.M.P.E.R. packs in my TPT store.

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iPhone 5s Parody

from iPhone 5 Parody Ad
from iPhone 5 Parody Ad

I’m still trying to digest all that I learned in a 2 day whirlwind at the Texas Computer Education Association Conference in Austin this week.  One of my last sessions was presented by the inimitable Leslie Fisher, who never ceases to make me laugh.  She started the session with this video, and I thought it would make a good Phun Phriday video for everyone!  Of course, my mind never stops thinking about education possibilities.  Even though it’s a parody, I thought of using it for a S.C.A.M.P.E.R. lesson for some of upper elementary students.  The parody takes the “M” in the acronym (which stands for “Magnify” or “Minimize”) to a new level.  What other crazy parodies could your students imagine with the rest of S.C.A.M.P.E.R.?

Creative Ways to Survive the Week Before Winter Break

Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 5.45.47 PM
Screen Shot from Kelly Wine’s Rube Goldberg-esque Holiday Machine Video

Let’s face it.  This week is hard.  No one – including you – is feeling very focused on academics right now.  To save everyone’s sanity, and to put smiles on all of the faces in the room, try some of these creative ideas:

Here are a couple I have mentioned before, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat.

More in this series:

Logical Ways to Survive the Week Before Winter Break!

Physical Ways to Survive the Week Before Winter Break!

A Wee List of Ways to Weather the Winter

Santa "Adapts" to a New Environment (a computer game with a "dedly turtle") from S.C.A.M.P.E.R. The Holidays
Santa “Adapts” to a New Environment (a computer game with a “dedly tertal”) from S.C.A.M.P.E.R. The Holidays

Thank goodness for people like Laura Moore (@LearnMoreStuff).  She collected a ton of December-themed tech activities, and bundled them all up in a Listly she embedded in this post.  With 3 more weeks until Winter Break, she realizes that we all need some ideas to get us through this crazy month.

I’m pretty sure Laura’s list will keep you busy.  But, just in case you still have some huge gaps in your lesson plans, here are some past posts that I’ve done with a Winter theme:

Text Snowflake Creator

Creative Snowflakes

The Twelve Days of Christmas (with Fibonacci and Pascal’s Triangle)

S.C.A.M.P.E.R. the Holidays

S.C.A.M.P.E.R. the Holidays Redux

Augmented Reality Holiday Cards (I might add some more to these in the near future, or you can watch these great instructions from @PaulHamilton8 on making your own.)

Holiday QR Codes (with a Kindness Countdown, Class Coupons, and Home Coupons)

Holiday Logic

Factory Balls – Christmas Edition

And, of course, yesterday’s post – If I Lived in a Snow Globe, I Would Wear My Bike Helmet to Bed

During this month, don’t we all feel like we live in a snow globe sometimes? ;)

A Cornucopia of Creative and Critical Thinking Activities for Thanksgiving

from the Autumn S.C.A.M.P.E.R. packet, "Put to Another Use"
from the Autumn S.C.A.M.P.E.R. packet, “Put to Another Use”  This student decided a hay wagon could be used as a Space Simulator for animals!

Many of us in the States have only a week and a half left before the Thanksgiving holidays. Here are a few resources that might be fun to sprinkle into the curriculum as everyone starts running for the light at the end of the tunnel.  All of them are free except for my shameless plug at the end :)

Pumpkin Adaptations – a cute activity from Miss Trayers at “Not Just Child’s Play”

Thanksgiving Thinking Hats  – I use this with my 2nd graders to see if they can “think about their thinking” (see my Thinking Hats post for more info)

A Thanksgiving Timeline via Google Earth – a wonderful way to integrate Thanksgiving, Technology, and Geography from Laura Moore at “Learn Moore Stuff”

Thanksgiving Fun – a plethora of fun tech activities from “Technology Rocks. Seriously.”

The First Thanksgiving – from Scholastic.com, includes videos, historical letters, and resource guides for teachers

Thanksgiving Jokes with Tom and Ben – a fun activity my Multimedia Club did a couple of years ago with the iPad

Thanksgiving Analogies – from “Minds in Bloom”

What are You Thankful For?  Ask it Better. – I love these great ideas for putting a twist on this age-old question, also from “Minds in Bloom” (You could use a Padlet wall for the responses – H/T to Richard Byrne)

You are the Historian – Investigate the First Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving SmartBoard Activities – pretty much what the title says :)

Thanksgiving Sudoku – online

Thanksgiving Sudoku – printable

Thanksgiving Puzzles (Sudoku, Magic Square, Word Jumble, etc…) – from Cybersleuth Kids

Augmented Reality Reward Coupons – not completely Thanksgiving related, but great way to show gratitude for a job well done (students LOVE these!)

Autumn S.C.A.M.P.E.R. Packet – available on TPT for the bargain price of $2.00 :)