Tag Archives: education

Gifts for the Gifted – Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome

With all of the political shenanigans going on in the world today, it’s comforting to know that we have a completely non-partisan president who is more concerned with dancing than making newspaper headlines – Kid President.

Kid President

If you want to give a gift that will inspire and make its recipient laugh, Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome is the perfect book.

KP's Guide to Being Awesome

I first wrote about this book in April, and I don’t think that I can improve on the ecstatic review I gave it back then.  So, I will direct you to that post for more details.

You could also watch this fun promo video for the book, starring Kid President as himself.

Do yourself a favor if you buy this book, and read it along with the child/ren you choose to favor with this gift.  It will be much more meaningful if it’s shared.

There are a few more pieces of KP merch available here if you are interested in pairing your gift with a shirt or poster.

Want some more gift ideas?  Check out my page of links to all of my past “Gifts for the Gifted” suggestions. 


Gifts for the Gifted – Magna-tiles

Around this time of year I post a gift recommendation each Friday as part of a “Gifts for the Gifted” series.  The title is a bit misleading, as it might imply that the gifts are only for children who have been endowed with the label, and that is certainly not true. Just as with any gift, you should select a product that suits the interests of the receiver.  These lists of potential gifts that I provide are ones that I feel will be engaging for children who enjoy problem solving and/or creativity.

I recently did a post about how Magna-tiles are a great addition to a makerspace.  This magnetic building tool is incredibly versatile and fascinates students of all age levels in my elementary school.  I’ve given Magnatiles to young children to play with as I conference with their parents and the older Maker Club students for building challenges.

Just yesterday, some of my 5th graders were trying to add some “flair” to one of their missions in the Wonder League Robotics Competition, and decided Magna-tiles would be the perfect prop to include in the video.

Photo Nov 19, 10 20 48 AM Photo Nov 19, 1 46 45 PM

The first architectural marvel turned out to be a spectacular failure. (I’ll try to share the video later today.)  The second one has potential but needs a bit more programming.

What I’ve learned, though, is that Magna-tiles really encourage children of various ages to use their imaginations – especially when they are collaborating with others.  They can also be combined with other projects.  Try using them with LittleBits (lighting up the clear colored set from within might be a nice challenge) or Legos, for example.  If you do decide to gift them to a young person, remember that it’s important to show interest and give them suggestions.  You can find some Random Building Challenges here.

For more in the Gifts for the Gifted series, check out this page or my Pinterest Board.


Thanksgiving Special

Last year, Colossal did a story on artist Hannah Rothstein’s “Thanksgiving Special” series.  Rothstein imagined the Thanksgiving plates of 10 famous artists.  It would be fun to show students one or two examples, and then have them choose an artist to represent in their own Thanksgiving plate art.  This activity would not only amp up creativity, but also be a lesson in art history and in seeing things from another perspective.  You could also use it to teach about parody.

My favorite piece is the Mondrian.  But, you should definitely check out the others on Colossal or Hannah Rothstein’s website.

Thanksgiving Special Mondrian by Hannah Rothstein
Thanksgiving Special Mondrian by Hannah Rothstein

GoNoodle Plus

I usually post about free resources, but I thought I would make an exception today.  The GoNoodle basic account is free, but all of the schools in our county just received access to the Plus version due to a generous grant.  To be honest, I had never even looked at the Plus version before now.

For those of you who haven’t tried GoNoodle, it’s a great site for promoting movement (also known as brain breaks) during the school day.  A free membership allows you to create classes and gives you access to a huge supply of videos that range from silly to exhausting.  It’s been a popular activity for the last few years in my Kinder, 1st, and 2nd GT classes.

The Plus version of GoNoodle cost $99 per year.  I was perfectly happy with the free version, but I am definitely enjoying the added features in Plus.  The biggest benefit is the option to customize several of the videos to fit your curriculum.

For example, the Mega Math Marathon will help your students practice grade level math fluency as they run in place.  Bodyspell allows you to create customized word lists for the students to spell out with their bodies.  When my 1st graders were learning about the continents on Monday, I was able to create customized multiple choice questions for them to answer while they experienced the Montana James adventure.

With GoNoodle Plus, I think the site will appeal to my older students (3rd, 4th, and 5th) as well.  Getting the opportunity to move around while still learning will be a welcome option for many of them.

Here is more information on GoNoodle Plus in case you are interested.  Also, this is the direct link to the GoNoodle Plus Integration Guide.  GoNoodle offers a 15-day trial if you aren’t sure you have the funds to commit for a year-long subscription.

GoNoodle Plus

Quiver Education – Planet Earth

The Quiver 3D coloring app was formerly known as ColAR.  It’s available on both Google Play and the iTunes app store as a free app. However, there are some in-app purchases on the free app.  Another option is to purchase the Education version of the app, which includes all of the content.

I published a post about this augmented reality app at the end of last school year, lamenting the fact that I had discovered the free Planet Earth page too late for my 1st graders to experience it.  This year, I knew I wanted to include this page as they learned about the continents, so I made sure to add it to my lesson plans before I forgot.

Yesterday, the students were introduced to the continents with a cute SmartBoard lesson involving a traveling guinea pig.  We also used my handy floor map (best $22 ever spent!) and the huge wall map I made (longest hours of my life) to see the continents in many different ways.

Then I asked the students to label and color Quiver’s Planet Earth page.  With a little instruction on how to use the app, I set them free to explore.

As I predicted, they were completely amazed to see their own writing and drawing come to life in 3D.  The other features (seeing the world at night or during the day, etc…) also fascinated them.

The one challenge of the app is getting the iPad the exact height above the paper to correctly “read” the page.  This meant the page could not be on the table, but needed to be on a chair or the floor for my vertically challenged 1st graders.  They adjusted to this quickly, but it also became a new activity when one of the students (accidentally?) waved her foot over the page.

“Look!  It’s showing my foot!!!!!!”  This, of course, led to a mass migration over to the iPad that suddenly had a shoe-shaped continent.

“What else can we try?”

“Let’s try a pencil!”  I found this suggestion intriguing as it actually appeared that the pencil was pointing at a particular continent. This seemed like it might have educational uses.  Granted, 3D-ness would not be necessary for that image, but it does make it more fun.

The pencil suddenly became less exciting when I found a Lego zombie that had been left behind in my classroom. This, of course, inspired more enthusiastic experimentation.  Because. You know. ZOMBIES. That makes geography so much more fun.

As usual, this lesson did not go the way I expected.  But, if it makes it easier to remember that South America and Africa are two rather large continents separated by an ocean zombie, then I’m not too worried as to whether or not learning took place.

Plus, they rocked the assessment at the end of the lesson.

Want more ideas for augmented reality in the classroom?  Check out this page of resources.

Quiver App - Planet Earth


Random Building Challenges

We have all sorts of building materials in B.O.S.S. HQ (Building of Super Stuff HeadQuarters) – from Legos to Magnatiles.  During the first quarter of our after-school Maker Club adventures this year, the students rotated through different building materials each week.  To make things interesting, they were given building challenges.  I wanted to make the challenges a little bit of surprise, so I grabbed ideas from all over the internet and put them in to one spreadsheet that was a template from Flippity.net.  You can make a copy of the Google Sheet template here. After you make your own copy, you can plug in whatever random ideas you have on the first worksheet.  Then, go to File-Publish to Web, and paste the link you are given on to the 2nd worksheet in the space provided.  Flippity.net will give you a link for the your new random chooser.

If you don’t want to build your own random chooser, you can just use mine.  This tool from Flippity.net is supposed to help you choose student names randomly, but it works for anything you type into the spreadsheet cells.  I just happened to want building ideas.  On my Flippity page, all the students need to do is choose the random icon, and they are given an idea for building.

Builder Challenges
Building Challenges on Flippity.net

I’ve found that it helps to have a bit of a focus for activities like this, as students sometimes find the challenge makes them even more creative, and they enjoy seeing how other students solve the same problem.

For more Makerspace articles, check out my Makerspace Essentials page!


Gifts for the Gifted – Rush Hour Shift

Around this time of year I post a gift recommendation each Friday as part of a “Gifts for the Gifted” series.  The title is a bit misleading, as it might imply that the gifts are only for children who have been endowed with the label, and that is certainly not true. Just as with any gift, you should select a product that suits the interests of the receiver.  These lists of potential gifts that I provide are ones that I feel will be engaging for children who enjoy problem solving and/or creativity.

Earlier this year, in March, I posted about a new game from ThinkFun called, “Rush Hour Shift.”  Longevity is always part of the criteria for the toys and games that I recommend, and Rush Hour Shift definitely fulfills that requirement.

Since I started teaching GT 14 years ago, Rush Hour has been one of the games immediately pulled out during indoor recess times.   Designed to be a single-player game the player sets cars up on a grid based on the challenge card he or she is playing.  Then, the player uses logic to slide the cars around so that the red car can exit the grid.

The only drawback to Rush Hour was that many of my students wanted to play with a partner, which sometimes resulted in squabbles as one person would get increasingly frustrated when the other could not see the “obvious” solution and try to take control.

Rush Hour Shift nicely resolves this issue.  In this two-player game, what can seem to be a relatively simple challenge can quickly become difficult when the players use the cards they’ve been dealt to change the traffic grid in the blink of an eye.

Rush Hour Shift by ThinkFun
Rush Hour Shift by ThinkFun

As you may observe in the picture above, the grid is made of three plates that can be “shifted” in order to block your opponent’s car or free your own. When it’s your turn, you must carefully choose a card in your hand to indicate what kind of strategy you intend to use to get your car closer to the end of the board on your opponent’s side. With 10 different game setups, 32 cards, and the unpredictable decisions that can be made at every juncture, the potential for months of game play is obvious.

Rush Hour Shift is recommended for ages 8 and up.  Children are quick to figure out the rules, and enjoy playing over and over again to try to outwit their opponents as they learn new strategies.

Some other ThinkFun games I’ve reviewed in the past are: Gravity Maze, Shell Game, Last Letter, and Robot Turtles.

For other recommended gifts for the holiday season, check out this page or my Pinterest Board.