“Let’s write some goals.”

Collective groan.

By 10 years old, my students are tired of making goals.  I don’t blame them.  After more than four decades of writing goals, I’ve grown a bit weary of them myself.  It’s not that I don’t have goals.  It’s just that I’m an “Achiever,” (according to one of the many personality assessments I’ve done over the years) and my life is pretty much an infinite list of goals because I get depressed when I’m not working on accomplishing something.  So, writing goals down seems a waste of time – time that could be spent on trying to achieve some goals.

When it comes to having students write goals, I feel like we are just going through the motions.  They write something they think I want them to write, sometimes even make a “plan,” and then pretty much go on living their life the same exact way they were living it before.

I will be the first to admit that it’s my fault that goal-setting never seems to go far with my students.  I usually start out well, checking in with them regularly, and then life seems to happen and goal-checking just doesn’t seem to lead the list of priorities.

So, I’m going to make it a goal to be better at helping students make (and achieve) goals.

It’s possible goal-making has never seemed very genuine to me because I’ve been skipping an important step with my students.  Instead of doing WOOP, we’ve been doing WOP, and that extra “O” apparently makes a big difference.

WOOP, according to Gabriele Oettingen, stands for, “Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan.”  The problem many people make in setting goals, by Oettingen’s reckoning, is ignoring the potential obstacles.  We are usually good at figuring out what we want to accomplish, how it would feel, and how to get there, but we tend to omit any consideration of the very real problems that we may encounter on the way.

Just to digress a little, I know that WOP can have negative connotations, but it was actually the nickname of one of my husband’s uncles.  It took me a few years after meeting Uncle Wop to find out how he got his nickname.  It turns out that he was running to go outside when he was a kid and ran into a glass door.  Wop.

And that’s kind of what we do when we skip the Obstacle part of WOOP.  We know we want to get somewhere and have a quick plan to get there, but we don’t think about what might stand in our way and how to deal with it or avoid it.  We hit the glass door.

And we WOP instead of WOOP.

And if we are really unlucky, we get labeled with an unfortunate nickname that lasts for another seventy years.

If you’d like to read more about WOOP and see an example of each step, check out this article on Mindshift.


Make a Manifesto with Canva

As our school year begins to wind down, my 5th grade gifted students are attempting to synthesize all that they have learned by determining what they “know for sure.”  While browsing the examples on Laura Moore’s TCEA Hyperdoc website (click here for my original post about her Hyperdoc presentation), I found this “Manifesto Project.”  When I showed it to my students, they were excited about designing their own manifestos. We did a lot of brainstorming and discussion before the students started working on Canva.  The examples I am showing you are just rough drafts (including mine), but I think they are off to a great start!  Knowing the personalities of these students, I am very impressed by how the students were careful to choose words and designs that really reflect their values and beliefs.

I remarked that it might be fun to make each manifesto into a t-shirt, and the students got super excited about the idea.  So, if anyone has done something like that before, please give me suggestions in the comments below!

If you are interested in more ideas for using Canva in the classroom, here is a link to their lesson suggestions.


You Are More than a Number

As we begin our spring testing season in Texas, I would like to share a video that our principal, Dr. Cody Miller, posted on our school’s Facebook page this weekend.   At our elementary school, and across our state, students in 4th and 5th grades and many other grade levels will be taking STAAR tests this week.   Educational decisions will be made based on the results of these tests.  Sometimes, in our zeal to prepare our students for these assessments, we inadvertently send the message that we value high academic performance above all else.  In Dr. Miller’s video, he reassures our students that educators and families are aware that standardized test scores only communicate a small fraction of the abilities of each person.  We honor kindness, creativity, leadership, and so many other strengths our students exhibit each day.  Their art work, music, athletic feats, selflessness, collaborations, and innovations cannot be condensed into numbers or plotted on graphs.

Assuming we know a child based on a test score, or even a series of scores, would be like judging the health of our planet by measuring the height of a blade of grass.  Although these measurements give us some information, they definitely do not sum up the whole.  This may seem obvious to most adults, but some of our students may need the comfort of this reminder.

image from woodleywonderworks on Flickr

Word Mandalas

I am such a geek.  Last night, I was researching mandalas for an upcoming lesson with my 4th graders.  I remembered that Richard Byrne had just published a post about a new online magazine creator, so I thought it might be fun to try it out and let my students collaborate on the magazine.  Then, I started looking for images to put on the magazine cover, and came across a mandala that used words instead of symbols.  There was no information on how it was created, so I did a search for word mandalas – and that is how I landed on Mandific. (I still haven’t discovered how the original word mandala picture I found was made, but that’s okay.)

Type a word into Mandific, and it will create a mandala for you using the letters of the word.  You can adjust the color, the spacing of the letters, and the design.  See if you can figure out my word in the mandala below.

mandalaword art
Word Mandala created with Mandific

H/T to GeekMom for sharing this tool on a blog post.

Then, I continued my search (I won’t tell you how long I spent on Mandific before remembering my actual mission.) I found MyOats.com.  Still not exactly what I was looking for, but it gave me another alternative for including words in a mandala.

Created with MyOats.com

As you can see, I didn’t spend a lot of time on that one because I had suddenly become obsessed with finding the perfect word mandala generators.

My next attempt was with using the word cloud generator, Tagul.

Word Cloud
Made with Tagul

I also tried Tagxedo, which will allow you to upload your own image to make into a word cloud. However, I had so many problems with it not loading correctly on three different browsers, that I finally moved on to some iPad apps.

WordFoto has always been a favorite of mine.  I uploaded a photograph of a mandala from the web, and then added some text. If you are not familiar with WordFoto, here is a post I wrote about the app.

Photo Mar 22, 7 21 43 PM
created with WordFoto app

My last word mandala attempt was created with the TypeDrawing app. I uploaded a mandala photo, and then traced the main lines with words and some of the symbols offered in the app. After completing my drawing, I changed the photo opacity setting so that only my drawing shows. I have to say that this was my favorite creation.

Photo Mar 22, 7 46 23 PM
created with TypeDrawing app

Photo Mar 22, 7 44 12 PM

I will keep you posted on what we use! If you have any other ideas for word mandalas (that don’t require expensive software like Photoshop), please let me know in the comments below.

Undercover Robots Camp 2017

Do you live in the San Antonio, TX area?  Do you have a child aged 7-11?  Then this is the camp for you!  I am offering an Undercover Robots Camp this June, 2017.  We will be using the fabulous Dash robots from Wonder Workshop.  (Robot purchase is not required, but bringing your own can result in a camp discount.)  Here is the link to the registration page.

You can see highlights from last year’s camp sessions here and here.  We will be doing the “Spy School” session again this year (with modifications for students who previously participated) as well as a brand new “Circus” edition during our second week.

For more information, click here.  It’s going to be great fun!!!

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 5.41.40 PM

Joey’s Mental Health Recovery

Three years ago, I decided to host an online class that would encourage students to “make things” over the summer.  It was called, “Design a Theme Park,” and I invited some famous makers to help judge the different categories each week.

Joey Hudy was one of those makers.  Well-known for the video of his appearance at the White House Science Fair with President Obama, Joey was an inspiration to many of my budding “makers-in-training.”  I invited him to be a guest judge of the student-designed theme park rides.  Joey’s mother kindly responded for the teenager that he would be happy to do it.  I wish I had kept copies of his mother’s comments, because I remember that she was excited about any program that promoted maker-education and/or STEM, and her supportive words were very motivational.

Joey had a difficult time choosing a winner from my students’ projects. The day before he announced his decision, he posted this, “I’m sitting here getting to judge your awesome projects. I don’t really like picking winners, you are all winners. You all did exactly what I want kids to do..
Don’t be bored…make something!
Ok..the winners are..drum roll.”

Joey’s mantra of, “Don’t be bored…make something!” has lived on in my classroom since then.  I have been following him on Twitter over the years, and often chant those same words to my own students – particularly right before they are about to leave school for long vacations.  The enthusiasm of Joey (and his mom) have directly and indirectly affected my teaching style and educational priorities ever since the first time I viewed his marshmallow cannon demonstration.

Today, I saw a Tweet that announced sad news about Joey.  He is now 20 years old, and was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia. In this “GoFundMe” post, Joey’s sister makes an impassioned plea for help with the staggering medical costs facing his family as they navigate the difficulties of identifying the appropriate treatment and care.

This post struck a chord with me for many reasons.  First of all, I benefited from the great kindness of Joey and his mother when they donated their time to my students as proponents of STEM and maker-education.

Secondly, I know, first-hand, the treacherous havoc that mental health issues can wreak on the sufferers and their families.  Over 15 years ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and PTSD.  This was not a surprise to me, as other family members had received similar diagnoses or exhibited symptoms that were never treated.  Therefore, I have great sympathy and empathy for Joey and his family.

I write this post for two reasons: to ask you to consider donating to the Hudy family to help cover Joey’s enormous medical expenses, and to also ask you to consider what our country and/or world can do to educate people about how to better identify and aid the people who suffer from mental illness.

I wish the best to Joey, Elizabeth, and the rest of the Hudy family.  Thank you for all of the contributions you have made so far to “making” this world a better place.  It’s time for the world to help you now.  With so many people behind you, I guarantee you will continue to be a positive force on this planet for many years to come.

We are All Connected!

As I try to communicate to all of my students, K-5, the importance of understanding diversity and our global interdependencies, this video strikes me as one way to remind them that we must think beyond our immediate surroundings.  I originally found this video, “We are All Connected,” on KidWorldCitizen.org.  There is a page on human rights lessons for kids, which includes the video as well as many other resources.  I will be adding this video to my Pinterest Board of Inspirational Videos for Students, where you can find many other motivational short films to use in your classroom.

we are all connected
image from: We are All Connected

Great Minds Don't Think Alike!

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