This is a reblog of a post that I did a couple of years ago, but it was originally titled, “Alternatives to Showing the Movie Frozen for the Next 14 Days.” Since that movie is kind of over now, I came up with a more fitting title for my recycled material 😉
You know how it goes. Grades are turned in. Textbooks have been collected. The computer lab is shut down. But the activity level of our students has gone up. What’s a teacher supposed to do?
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’ve been trying to get my students to reflect on the year. Using our class blog as a reference has helped tremendously.
Yesterday, with my GT 1st graders, I also asked them to look through the blog posts for their grade level. They used a simple printable I found from Laura Candler to write their favorite moments of the year. Here are some examples:
Using divergent thinking for activities like the Squiggle Challenge and S.C.A.M.P.E.R. were very popular with this class. Speaking of S.C.A.M.P.E.R., here is what some of them did with a page from my Summer Pool Party S.C.A.M.P.E.R. packet – Put an inflatable pool cushion to another use. (By the way, all of my grade levels, K-5, love doing S.C.A.M.P.E.R. drawings!)
One of the blog posts the first graders “re-discovered” as they reflected was this one. Try showing the Kid President video at the bottom of that post, and see if your own students can add to the list. We used Padlet, but old-fashioned pencil and paper works, too!
Here are some other ideas from past posts for making the last couple of weeks fun and engaging:
The Guru of Everything Google, Alice Keeler, partnered with Matt Miller to publish the DriveSlides Chrome Extension, which is available for free on the Chrome Web Store here.
Near the end of the school year, many teachers like to make slideshows of pictures from throughout the year. With DriveSlides, Keller and Miller have given us a tool that will make this process much faster if you want to use Google Slides. Once you install the DriveSlides extension, open the folder in Google Drive that contains all of the pictures you want to put in your presentation. Click on the extension icon in your toolbar, and watch the magic happen. (You will need to allow permissions the first time you use the extension.) After a slight pause, a new window will open and automatically create a Google Slideshow with all of the pictures in that folder.
My whole family gathered around as I made this quick demonstration with pictures of our family bulldog, taking mental notes so they could use the extension too. (I added the background after the pictures were all imported, using suggestions from the Google Explore Tool.)
Google Sites are blocked for our elementary students, so I show my 5th graders the Weebly for Education site if they are interested in designing their own websites. Sometimes students create them for Genius Hour projects. This year, my students were so excited about the manifestos they created in Canva that I suggested they use the images as launching points for websites that reinforced their core beliefs.
Students seem to understand the Weebly tools very quickly. In fact, as soon as they see all that they can do, they want to do it all – add images, video, quotes, links, etc… Many of them immediately went home the first day to add to their sites and are super proud to present them.
For this particular project, I asked the students to include their manifestos, along with a page that describes their “Dream Team” – famous people who lived lives that modeled the beliefs in their manifestos. (They used Academy of Achievement’s “Role Model” tool to help them discover potential Dream Team members.) They could also include inspirational quotes and videos.
Weebly for Education is different from the main Weebly site because the education version allows teachers to have a dashboard of students for free. However, from what I have been able to see, there is no way to view a student’s website through the dashboard until he or she publishes it. This is a little inconvenient as they are editing, but the benefit of all of the other free features far outweighs this issue.
You can see a screen shot from one of my student’s websites below, and click on the link to visit his site.
One of the things I wanted to try this year was to ask my students to do hexagonal thinking as they reflected over what they had learned. Since my 4th graders had already done some hexagonal thinking this year, I thought they might like to experiment with this activity.
First, they visited our class blog where I have been posting pictures from throughout the year. I showed them how to filter the categories to find all of the blog posts from their class. Then they chose pictures that were meaningful to them and saved them to their home drives.
After choosing 4-5 pictures, the students signed in to my account on Canva, and created their own blank “A4” projects. Once the project opened, they were directed to use the search window to find a hexagon frame. In Canva, frames have a cloud and blue sky in them.
What I like about frames is that you can drag pictures into them, and they will take the shape of the frame without overlapping.
After the students added a hexagon frame, they resized it and copied it so several could fit on one page. Once their frames were arranged, they uploaded their pictures and set them in the frames. Then they used text designs to explain the connections between pictures that shared sides.
You can see a couple of examples below. They would probably make more sense if you had been in my class this year, but this gives you the general idea.
This went better than my last visual hexagon activity, but I think I will improve it next year by giving a few more guidelines for the “connector” texts so the students will try to find unique parallels that aren’t readily apparent.
When I first ran across this site, I was a bit dubious of the value of a Clothesline Math activity. Basically, the teacher gives out a set of number tents to students, who then must hang them on a clothesline (which represents a number line). However, once I watched Shore’s video explaining how he introduces Clothesline Math, I realized how this seemingly simple activity could really start some incredible math class discussions. There are many decisions students need to make when they determine what benchmarks to use on the numberline, the order to place their numbers, and the amount of space in between. Even with a set of 3 fractions (1/2, 1/3, and 1/4), you could take up an entire class period.
Shore provides different sets of printable numbers (from various math disciplines) and an answer document on his site. Of course you can DIY with your own supplies and number sets based on whatever you are studying in math class at the moment.
I like the idea of students reasoning through this, and having to justify their responses. It can also be a great visual and kinesthetic activity that will be much more meaningful that choosing from multiple choice answers on a worksheet.
As the conclusion of another school year approaches, I thought it might be fitting to re-publish this post from last year with suggestions for ways to end the year “strong.”
I always laugh when people say that we should end school earlier in the year because the last few weeks are a waste. What do they think would happen if school stopped in April? Somehow I doubt the teachers or students would be any less eager for the last day. The way I see it, the only way to fix this problem is to never have a last day – or to never tell anyone when it is.
“Ok, boys and girls. Bus riders are dismissed and so are car-riders and walkers. Oh, and by the way, there’s no school for the next 2 1/2 months.”
Yep. That would go over well.
A surprise end-date probably won’t get the approval of any school board on this planet, so I recommend a surprise ending, instead.
What do I mean? I mean, don’t resort to the predictable, let’s-show-movies-and-wear-pajamas-and-read-all-day plans that are the fallback for so many teachers this time of year. This is your time to M. Night Shyamalan your way into teaching fame! (But not in a spooky “Guess what, you’re dead, too,” way – more in a “School is way more than filling in bubbles on a piece of paper” way.)
How can you surprise them? Here are some activities that could make the highlight reels of your students’ year.
The Class Dojo “Big Ideas” series is growing. Up until now you could find videos on: Perseverance, Growth Mindset, Empathy, and Gratitude. The latest theme is, “Mindfulness.” So far, only the first video has been released. In the past, the schedule has been to publish one per week. As with the other videos, there are discussion questions to use after viewing the short video. There is an also an option to share the video through “Class Story” with parents. The first video is a timely one for me as my students are currently practicing presentations of their Genius Hour research. I’m kind of curious to find out how Mojo solves his problem of “The Beast,” one that I grapple with quite a bit!
By the way, you can find more Growth Mindset videos and resources here.