myRebus

myRebus is a fun tool that teachers can use to create picture sentences for students to solve.  For example, I made the one below for the students who signed up for my summer Google Classroom.  Can you tell what it says?  The site allows you to type in any sentences and it will generate the rebus for you.  It does ask for you to input your e-mail to have the rebus sent to you, but I just take a screenshot.  This could be a fun alternative for spelling practice or even a strategy to get students to pay attention to directions on an assignment.  Another great use is for Breakout Edu clues! For students who want to create rebus puzzles, they can use this site, or you might want to take a look at this lesson plan I wrote for Canva.

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5 Resources for Design Thinking Challenges

When introducing Design Thinking to children, it’s important to include the “empathy” part of the process.  Sometimes, it is easier for students to practice this with fictional characters before they begin applying it to real people.  I’ve curated a collection of both free (green) and paid (purple) resources that offer character cards you can print out to distribute to students so that when they are designing they have a “client” in mind.  If you would like some suggestions for books and videos to help teach empathy, Joelle Trayers has several blog posts that address this topic.

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image from Wikimedia Commons
  • Younger students will enjoy these Adorable free printable from Krissy Venosdale of literary characters
  • The City X Toolkit includes dozens of fictional character cards that can be printed out for free.  (For more information about City X, you can read my blog post here.)
  • Jackie Gerstein created a “Maker Education Card Game” that you can view and use for free here.
  • The Extraordinaires series has different kits at several price points.  You can read more about it in my post here.
  • Khandu is a set of cards that I purchased awhile ago in a crowd-funding campaign.  Like Extraordinaires, it includes characters and challenges.  My set also includes “Ideation,” “Inspiration,” “Action,” and “Prototyping” cards.  It’s a pretty comprehensive pack of 70 full color, thick cards.  Although the pricing is in euros, you can also purchase it through PayPal.
  • Design_thinking.png
    image from Wikimedia Commons

Storybooth

Storybooth is a website that gives students voice in a unique way.  Students who are registered can record stories and submit them.  The Storybooth team chooses submissions to animate and produce as videos with the original narration on the site.  It reminds me a bit of the StoryCorps animated videos – just designed for a younger audience.

As an elementary teacher, I would probably not assign my class to record personal narratives on Storybooth.  Instead, I see myself using some of the videos as a resource for inspirational stories to show my students.  I would urge you to choose carefully, as there is a wide range of topics from cyberbullying to dealing with getting your period for the first time.  If you are a secondary teacher, or a parent or educator who knows a particular student who has a story to tell, however, you might consider encouraging that child to make a submission.  Having your story chosen to be animated is surely a very validating experience!

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Advice from Storybooth on story submission possibilities

Below is an example of one Storybooth video that I think would be valuable to show students of any age.  If you are doing a lesson on Growth Mindset, friendship, or empathy, “I Wish I Was Invisible” would fit right in.

For more videos, visit the Storybooth website, or you can also check my Pinterest Board of Inspirational Videos for Students.

Be the Last to Speak

Teachers talk too much.  Even though I am aware of that, I still find myself speaking more than I should in the classroom.  I think that I am better than I was 20-something years ago when I first started teaching – but I definitely want to improve in this area.  The great Simon Sinek (author, consultant, and motivational speaker) gives advice about this in the attached video.  Even though Sinek is speaking in a business context, many top educators like Jo Boaler would certainly agree that teachers should be included in the group of leaders who would benefit from this following this guideline.  Instead of complaining that our students are too lazy to problem-solve, we need to ask ourselves how often we actually give them the opportunity to do their own thinking.

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image of Simon Sinek from http://www.amc.af.mil

For more inspirational videos for teachers, here is my Pinterest Board.  I also have one for students (some videos are on both boards).

We Love Maps

“We Love Maps” was the most recent theme for the bi-annual Barbara Petchenik Children’s Map Competition. The contest is open to entries from children all over the world who are 15 years old or younger, and it really is amazing to see the creativity displayed in the wide range of winners chosen by judges at the International Cartographic Association’s annual meeting this month.  You really must click through the gallery of pictures to appreciate the artistry of these children, as well as the messages they chose to convey with their renderings.  Special shout-out to Champ Turner, from Austin, TX, for having his map chosen for the “Public Award” with the most votes.  With 34 different countries participating, it’s nice to see a winner from my home state!  To learn more about the competition (which only happens every 2 years, unfortunately!), click here.

map
image from Pixabay (since I don’t have permission to reproduce the actual contest entries)

Make Everybody Feel Stunningly Robust

As I posted last week, our family has been on vacation.  This is how our relaxing trip began (at 6 am):

“The Uber is here!  OMG why isn’t everyone ready?  I told you it would be here at 6, and it’s here!  We need to wait outside.  Where is the key?  You can’t find the key?  Fine!  I’ll lock everything and go out the garage door.  Take my stuff.”

5 minutes later in the Uber, “Where is my black bag?”  Assured that if it was with my stuff it got put in the trunk.

15 minutes later at the airport, “You didn’t put my black bag in the Uber?!!!!!”  Apparently it was not with my stuff.

And that’s when the Uber driver reassured me that he could quickly bring me back to the house to retrieve the black bag that basically had everything in it we needed for the trip and have me back to the airport in plenty of time.  My husband smartly did not point out that we would not have had this extra time if he hadn’t insisted we get to the airport early.  He knew, I am sure, that I would have snapped back that I wouldn’t have left my black bag at the house if he hadn’t made me get up at such a ridiculous time.

You might think that this was a terrible way to begin a vacation and you would be right. However, what could have become an escalating crisis resulting in a missed plane and a potential divorce actually turned into an enlightening car ride that made me appreciative of all of the amazing people we meet during life’s journey.  So, I have decided to dedicate this post to all of the awesome people I encountered during our vacation, beginning with the Uber Driver who volunteered to drive 30 minutes alone with a hysterical woman who placed ridiculous value on a “black bag” which no one but the woman seemed to believe existed.

Anh, the Uber Driver – Anh heard “Proud to be an American” on the radio as we traveled back to my house and confided in me that the song always makes him cry.  He is so happy to be in our country and that his daughter is able to go to school here.  He choked up as he spoke about the people who have died for our freedom, and vented his anger at his former homeland where they apparently spend a good amount of the school day teaching students to hate Americans.  Anh is the epitome of American patriotism.

Linda, Steven, and Nya at the Cellar Door Bookstore – Our travels began in Riverside, California where our daughter was competing in a tournament.  After a failed trip to Palm Springs (where it was literally 118 degrees), my husband and I despaired of doing anything but going to the local mall to watch movies.  (I don’t recommend 47 Meters Down if you are planning to ever swim in the ocean again.) . The Cellar Door Bookstore was a refreshing oasis in the middle of a blistering hot trip.  I adore independent bookstores, especially ones with resident dogs like Nya.  I bought a lovely book called, All These Wonders, which is stories from The Moth.  Linda and Steven were so friendly and full of advice that I seriously considered moving to Riverside just so I could work in their store.

Lisa at Game Seeker  – We finally got to migrate from southern California to Santa Barbara, where we discovered this delightful shop on State Street.  I love games, but usually end up buying them online.  However, Lisa reminded me why it is so important to patronize local stores like hers.  She is very knowledgeable and personable.  When she learned I had chosen the game Dog Pile for my classroom (gotta work on those spatial reasoning skills), she recommended something I had never heard of called Plus Plus, which she said would provide hours of building fun for my students.

Crystal at Stanford – My daughter and her friends wanted to tour Stanford while we were in California.  By the end of the tour, I was ready to auction off everything I own just so I could attend.  Crystal, our tour guide, was as enthusiastic about Stanford as Anh is about living in the United States.  She showed us her own Foldscope, a paper microscope that had been invented at Stanford, told us about all of the hands-on opportunities she has had since she began last fall, and passionately spoke about the dedication of her professors.  Crystal pointed out one science building on the tour where Stanford co-hosts a 24-hour live feed with MIT, stressing that Stanford believes in collaboration rather than competition.

What struck me about each of the people mentioned above was the enthusiasm and passion they brought to their work.  Through my interaction with each of them, I felt inspired and ready to embrace my life with more zest.

And so I leave you with an image and quote provided by Inspirobot, an artificial intelligence inspirational quote generator, that seems to perfectly deliver the message of this post.

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Nope.  Wrong one.

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Probably the reality check I need most of the time.  But still not the right one.

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This one hurts my head.

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Yep.  That’s it.

Blogcation 2017!

I will be on vacation this week.  Posts will resume on July 17th!

Great Minds Don't Think Alike!

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