I learned to love math later in my school career (high school). I was one of those people who thought I just wasn’t born with the “math gene.” With the help of great high school mathematics teachers, math became one of my favorite subjects even though it still didn’t come easily to me. I found that I enjoyed the logic, the challenge, and the satisfaction of solving difficult problems. In addition (no pun intended), I love teaching math precisely because it doesn’t come easily to me; I think I can communicate the interim steps to the solution in simpler language than someone who has a brain that quickly jumps to answers.
You may have seen my post on 15 Math Sites that Won’t Make You Fall Asleep, which links to many “fun” math pages online. One of the aspects that I like about many of these sites is that they encourage conversation. “Parallelogram” is a new one that I need to add to my post. It is a weekly set of math challenges by Dr. Simon Singh that will be sent to your students for free. The questions are designed for 11-13 year olds, but I plan to try it with my 4th and 5th grade classes. Teachers can sign up, and have students join through a class code to be added to a teacher dashboard. You can get a preview of the program here. Keep in mind that the match challenges do include video clips, and I always recommend that you preview any videos before showing them to your students.
thinkLaw is a curriculum that aims to teach critical thinking skills through the use of real legal cases. The program’s founder, Colin Seale, won the “Shark Tank One Day Challenge” in 2016. thinkLaw is aligned with US standards for grades 5-12, but some of the lessons can be used with younger students. To purchase the full curriculum, you will need to contact the company. However, you can download a free sample and purchase other segments on the Teachers Pay Teachers website.
When looking at the free sample that is offered, “The Chair,” I realized that it fit in beautifully with an ethics discussion my students and I conducted last week about Tuck Everlasting. In the story, one of the main characters (spoiler alert!) hits another character over the head with a shotgun. At the time, we talked about whether it was ever okay to hit someone and, if so, under what circumstances is it acceptable? “The Chair” walks students through a real legal case from the 1950’s, in which the aunt sued her 5-year-old nephew for pulling a chair out from underneath her. Students learn legal terms such as: plaintiff, defendant, liable, and battery. They find out the four criteria for the legal definition of battery, and weigh the evidence to determine if the nephew should be held liable.
When it comes to Depth and Complexity, this thinkLaw lesson incorporates many of the icons: Multiple Perspectives, Big Idea, Details, Ethics, and Trends, to name a few. Students are polled a few times throughout the lesson to see how their thinking changes as they get more information. After learning the outcome of the case, they are given a similar case to analyze using their new skills.
At first, I couldn’t quite gauge the interest of the students. The conversation was hesitant, but everyone seemed to be absorbed in learning more. (There are 7 students in this class.) It wasn’t until recess time that I learned the impact of the lesson…
Me: “Okay everyone. It’s recess time. We are going to have indoor recess because of the weather. You can play foosball, Osmo, or one of the other games.”
They moved toward foosball, and then one student said, “Let’s have court!”
Suddenly, furniture was being moved, parts were being assigned (judge, attorneys, plaintiff, defendant, witness), and a new scenario was proposed. For the entire recess time, with no input from me, the students applied everything they had just learned to their imagined court case.
Instead of playing foosball.
Kind of funny when you think about it. Holding court during a recess. (very bad legal pun – sorry)
Experienced teachers know that we often don’t know what has made a real impression on our students. If we do find out, it may be years later when a student visits and says, “Remember when…?” This time, however, I received immediate proof that this lesson is likely to stick.
Want to find out who won the real legal case? Download the free sample for yourself here! Also, check out some of their other lessons (not free, and I haven’t reviewed them) that could be great for this time of year, including an MLK Jr. one, Valentine’s lessons, Superbowl, and Winter Olympics. (I’ll be doing, “Always Watching” with my 5th graders next week because it ties in so well with The Giver.)
In addition to doing Genius Hour with my 3rd-5th grade gifted students, I have been guiding 5th grade students through what I like to call, “Genius Camp” during our school’s weekly enrichment time for the past year and a half. For my first post on this, which explains the logistics of the time, you can read here. Basically, I work with one 5th grade homeroom for 45 minutes per week for about 6-8 weeks. (It was 6 weeks last year, but we changed the timeframe this year.) During the last session, the students teach lessons to the rest of the students in 5th grade. It’s kind of a Genius Hour/EdCamp hybrid because there are students choosing what they want to present and other students get to vote on which session they would like to attend. (You can go to this folder to make copies of all of the templates listed below.)
Week 1 – Intro. to Genius Camp, brainstorming ideas for sessions
Week 6 –Practicing and critiquing each other’s sessions (all materials due this day or students cannot present the next week)
Week 7 – Other homerooms fill out Google Form selecting 1st, 2nd, 3rd choice for sessions. Sessions are presented during enrichment time that week. Each participating student receives a label with name, session name, and location. There is an adult supervisor at every location.
As you can see from this post that I did toward the end of last school year, Genius Camp has not been perfect. But I have seen many, many successes that have outweighed the obstacles. My favorite part has been witnessing students shine who often don’t get the opportunity to demonstrate their interests or their strengths during the school day. Every 5th grader gets to participate in Genius Camp, and I enjoy discovering their passions. Many times I hear comments from the adult supervisors like, “I had no idea so and so has such a natural talent for teaching!” or, “I never knew so and so knew so much about World War II!”
If you can find a way to bring Genius Camp to your school, whether through enrichment time, an after-school club, or by carving out time in a regular class, you and your students will find that it is time well spent.
Last year my 1st grade GT students got to participate in the Virtual Valentines project. When you sign up for the project, you can choose whether to participate at a Level 1 or Level 2. We decided to do Level 2, which meant we would find a partner class to exchange virtual valentines with and Skype with them. Our partner class turned out to be in Canada (we are located in San Antonio, TX), and it was quite a learning experience for both classes. The Canadians were stunned to see that most of our students were wearing shorts in the middle of winter – not an uncommon occurrence here. And my students were thrilled when the Canadians turned their camera to show us the snow falling outside.
In making their valentines, I encouraged my students to add a little “Texas Flair” to make them unique. You can see some examples here. The Canadians made an adorable slide show for us.
I am definitely planning to participate again, and I hope that you will consider signing up as well. Even as flat as our world has become through the internet and social media, there is still much to learn about people who live somewhere else.
Happy Phun Phriday! I bookmarked this a long time ago, and just re-discovered it. For those of you new to the blog, I like to share random things on Fridays that usually have very little to do with education. I suppose you could have your students do some math with this – or you can just enjoy it!
My 3rd grade gifted students decided to study volcanoes for their Genius Hour project this year. (Since I only have 3 of them, they do a project together.) When I was getting ready to print out some Planet Earth sheets for my 1st graders from QuiverVision, I noticed that there were also some volcano ones. These are both part of the free Education Starter Pack, which you can find here.
My students love these augmented reality sheets because they can make their own coloring into 3d images. The QuiverVision app also allows you to take video and pictures. The 3rd graders figured out that they could make the volcano erupt by repeatedly pressing one of the buttons, so they recorded some video of it in action.
While we searched for an online diagram that would help them to realistically color their volcanoes and identify the sections, I ran across another way to create a 3d model that will show the interior and exterior portions of a cone volcano. Mt. Fuji is one of the free PaperCraft projects available from Canon. You can download the file, print it on cardstock, and follow the instructions to make your own mini Fuji. There are some other interesting science papercrafts on there as well. My students haven’t tried the volcano one, yet, but are eager to attempt in next week’s class.
My next idea is to possibly incorporate the QuiverVision video into the DoInk Green Screen app so we can put the students in there narrating what is happening as the volcano erupts. Talk about being on the scene!
If you haven’t been formally introduced to Hyperdocs, you may want to check out this post from last year. Michele Waggoner tweeted out a link this week to an incredible Hyperdoc using Google Slides. The Hyperdoc is to be used for a literature circle activity based on the book, Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. It embeds Depth and Complexity into this collaborative presentation using David Chung’s ideas for literature circle frames. This doc is 139 slides long, and gives students many opportunities to do meaningful reflections, activities, and discussions. It looks like Michele put weeks of work into preparing this, and I, for one, am grateful she is sharing it with the world!