All posts by engagetheirminds

Which Door Will the Ball Hit?

The Kid Should See This tweeted the link to this great video, “Which Door Will the Ball Hit?” so I think it’s only fair to send you to their link to read more about it.  I adore this idea from Joseph Herscher of using Rube Goldberg-type machines to make video puzzles, and I think it would be an excellent “hook” to show students before asking them to design their own.  To get some practice before they design their first prototypes, they could play the Bubble Ball app, Goldburger to Go, or this game on

You can also view more of my Rube Goldberg posts here.  And, if your students enjoy puzzle videos, the TED Ed riddle videos are great.  (My students were big fans of the River Crossing Riddle.)

Image by SparrowsHome from Pixabay

Systemic Racism Explained

Before I get into this week’s post dedicated to eradicating racism, I want to make note of the moving moment that took place yesterday when teams for both the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees all took a knee at the same time to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement.  After this truly awe-inspiring scene, which you can read about here, they all stood for the National Anthem, demonstrating that we can honor our country while still wanting to improve it.

baseball kneeling

As more and more institutions in the United States acknowledge the problem of racism, it is important for young people to understand how embedded prejudice is in the history of our country, and the strength it will take to root it out.  TED Ed has a good animated video that explains systemic racism.  Though a four minute video certainly cannot give the whole picture, it is a simple introduction for students who may have the misguided belief that racism ended when schools were integrated.  If you want to have your class probe further, the “Dig Deeper” section includes a link to a Vox article that incorporates several charts portraying the racial divide that still exists in our country, including one showing the disparity among Native Americans/Blacks and people of other races who have been reported to have died from Covid-19.

This post is part of a weekly Black Lives Matter series that I have vowed to include on this blog.  Here are the previous posts:

Also, for more amazing anti-racism resources, check out the Live Binder curated by Joy Kirr.

Write. Right. Rite.

Last week, I mentioned the book Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and Youby Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi.  Reynolds is currently the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and he has joined with the Library of Congress to make a series of short videos challenging children to authentically express themselves about different topics.  The Write.Right.Rite. series currently has over 20 prompts, and each one is a personal invitation from Jason Reynolds to think creatively.  From asking you to design an award for yourself  to writing a song for the shower, this list of ideas would be fun for any writing classroom – and I really wish I could see some of the responses!

If you haven’t ever picked up a book by Jason Reynolds, you can get a quick idea of his unique voice by reading one of the wonderful, “Grab the Mic” newsletters he has authored.  Also, the Library of Congress has curated an impressive list of resources that give more information about this incredible author.

For more innovative writing ideas for your classroom, check out this post about 826 Digital, a project for young writers by another wonderful author, Dave Eggers.

Child Writing
Image by free stock photos from from Pixabay


Teachers and researchers came together to create the CoBuild At Home website during the Covid-19 pandemic with the goal of encouraging children and their caregivers to use common household items to build and create.  You can find multiple project ideas on the site that range from extracting DNA from food to making art from sneezes.  Most of the projects have short challenge videos, and many include downloadable resources.

In addition to the challenges offered on the CoBuild website, the Science Friday podcast is collaborating with CoBuild at Home to provide a CoBuild Camp from July 24th, 2020 – July 31st, 2020.  This free camp is designed for children in 1st-6th grades, and will include a one hour Zoom each day of the camp.  Visit the link for more details, and to fill out an interest form.  Be sure to fill out the interest form soon, as spots for this great opportunity may fill up!

Girl with Building Blocks
Image by Design_Miss_C from Pixabay

Stamped Digital Reader’s Notebook

UPDATE 7/23/20 – Here is a link to a guide for Stamped.  Also, find out more about author Jason Reynolds in this blog post.

For this week’s post dedicated to sharing anti-racist resources, I am giving you the link to a digital Reader’s Notebook that was tweeted out by Pernille Ripp (@PernilleRipp) today.  This is a Google Slides template created by Jennifer LeBrun to accompany the book, Stamped, co-authored by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. Stamped is based on Kendi’s book, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which Reynolds and Kendi “re-mixed” to create a book with the same information for younger audiences.  If you haven’t had a chance to read Stamped, yet, you may want to try purchasing it from one of these independent, black-owned, bookstores. It is extremely readable, and offers pretty much all of the information about racism that history textbooks completely ignore or wrongly represent to intentionally mislead readers.  The Google Slides template is extremely thorough, and the book along with this notebook and some well-orchestrated discussions would make a fine addition to any middle to high school curriculum.



This post is part of a weekly Black Lives Matter series that I have vowed to include on this blog.  Here are the previous posts:

Also, for more amazing anti-racism resources, check out the Live Binder curated by Joy Kirr.


Clay Smith’s Twitter profile (@ClayCodes) states that he is a “Former Talent Agent turned Tech Educator.”  Fortunately, he is kind enough to share some of his technology skills on his blog, “clayCodes.”  Specifically, he has created some helpful Google Add/Ons and Extensions that make teaching easier.   One of them, Record to Slides, may be of particular interest for teachers who are working remotely.  Once you’ve installed the extension, you can click on the blue camera icon on the top right near the comment icon in your Slides presentation.  It allows you to record a video, and add your recording immediately to a slide.  You can give quick instructions, add a surprise message for your students, or maybe give them a reminder to pay attention 😉  Of course, be wary of the amount of recording time you add to your presentation overall, as it can cause loading problems for students with lower bandwidth at their homes.

Slide Record Example

I haven’t tested it out, yet, but another cool tool by Clay that you can try is, “Classroom Assist,”  which allows you to use your voice to create documents, add assignments, and make other useful changes in your Google Classroom.

Thank you, Clay Smith, for making Google Slides and Classroom even more teacher-friendly!

Just a quick word about Google extensions – most of them do ask for permission to access your drive.  This means there is potential for hacking your information, so be cautious about the number that you add, and delete ones that you’ve added but don’t use.  Here is a recent article on this topic.