All posts by engagetheirminds

ALA Art Drop Day

I got to be a small part of an interesting project on my last day at Advanced Learning Academy.  One of my colleagues, Dan Mallette, teaches a class for the high school students called, “Global Changemakers.”  Inspired by the World Art Drop Day in which the Southwest School of Art participates annually,  Dan tasked his students to each create two works of art based on the Sustainable Development Goals each student had chosen to study.  About a week before Art Drop Day, they started advertising #alaartdropday on our web announcements, and encouraged the school community to follow the Instagram account for our makerspace/studio (@studiozorro).  On the day of the Art Drop, I was able to accompany a couple of the groups of students as they took their pieces of art to different spots around campus to “hide” them.  Once a student found the perfect spot for his/her art, we took a picture of it in its location, trying to include a couple of clues to its surroundings, and posted the picture of the artwork on Instagram with the #alaartdropday tag.  Any student or teacher who was interested in one of the masterpieces could try to find it based on the clues in the Instagram picture, and claim it as their own.

The students had a great time hiding their artwork (one piece ended up on the railing inside the elevator). It was the perfect activity for the last day before Winter Break – allowing the students to get out of the classrooms and to come up with devious ways to camouflage their pieces while leaving them in plain sight.  A couple of staff members I ran into were excited about trying to find particular artworks that spoke to them that they hoped to display in their classrooms.

Finding a way to give students a larger audience than just the teacher and their classmates can be challenging.  This was a unique way to achieve that goal, and I hope that it will become an annual tradition at the school.

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Punny Literary Pet Names

Coming back to posting on a regular basis means that I am restarting my “Phun Phriday” posts, which are silly-and-not-necessarily-educational-but-they-could-be things that I’ve found on the web.  I curate these in a private Flipboard magazine that I turn to whenever I need a laugh.  Today’s entry comes from McSweeney’s.  It’s an article called, “Literary Pet Names Using Puns Unworthy of Their Namesakes.”  Mary Laura Philpott and Kristen Arnett have created a short list of nicknames for animals that includes cute, simple illustrations.  The first one, for example, is a dog named, “Virginia Woof.”  You can find a second list by the duo, with Mary Shelley the snail as its introduction, here. (Just be wary if you show this to kids, as the final one uses a synonym for donkey that some may find inappropriate – though I find it wildly funny.)

Happy Friday!

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Making Across the Curriculum

Making Across the Curriculum is a Google Site created by Rob Morrill on which he has curated ideas for “making” that integrate with different subjects.  If you click on the link for “Project Ideas by Class,” you will find suggestions such as “Loominous Literature” for English and “Living Hinges” for Engineering.  Some of the project ideas are repeated in different curriculum areas, as they are open-ended enough to accommodate numerous interpretations.  Although Morrill designed this site for his school staff, you may find some project ideas for your content area here.

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Image by Foundry Co from Pixabay

Thursday Appointment

Thursday Appointment is an Iranian short film by a 20 year old director that won an award at the Luxor Film Festival.  Though many of us may not understand the language, we can certainly comprehend the messages of kindness and forgiveness.  I am adding this to my Inspirational Videos for Students Pinterest Board.  Once you’ve watched it, you may want to click here to better understand the tradition that makes this film so beautiful.  This could also lead to a classroom discussion regarding customs in different cultures. I am including the original and a dubbed version here.

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Gimkit – Update

I wrote a descriptive post about Gimkit last year around this time after learning about it at TCEA 2019.  This online quiz game resembles Kahoot, but has some distinct differences which you can read about in my first post.

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Since last February, I’ve used Gimkit quite frequently with my students in grades 8-12.  It hasn’t lost its novelty, and quite a few of my students asked for it every week.  In order to do this, I had to do something that I rarely choose to do with educational resources – I decided to pay for it.  (For a great explanation of why Gimkit has chosen to go this route instead of a full-featured free version with advertising, you can read this blog post.)

Why would I pay for something that is available in other versions for free?  Because this game is different than anything out there.  Not only do students get to “purchase” fun upgrades during the game, but those upgrades can change based on different game themes that the developer (a high school student!) provides throughout the year.  For example, “Thanos” was a such a huge hit with my students last spring that when it was offered again for a limited window of time I scheduled an unscheduled review game just so they could play.  And don’t even get me started on the buzz that “Humans vs. Zombies” created in my classes in October.

In the past year, the developer has:

  • improved importing questions from other platforms, such as Quizziz
  • added “KitCodes” – a mode designed to get your students moving around the classroom instead of just sitting there playing the game
  • bulked up its website and customer support
  • continued to be open to educator and student feedback (you can get a sense of this from blog posts like this)

Gimkit takes risks with new ideas constantly being rolled out.  In December, the company mysteriously touted a “Winter Challenge.”  I told my class we were trying it out, but that I had no idea what we would be expected to do.  I hit the button, and everyone’s screens went black.  The groans were probably heard downtown.  But then numbers started showing up on their screens, and it was clear that this was not a game glitch, that we were supposed to do something.  I had no idea what it was, but that didn’t matter.  The students started talking it out, and collaborating.  As they slowly figured out what was going on, it became clear that some leadership was needed.  Again, my presence was superfluous.  Natural leaders rose to the occasion, and with everyone’s help, the challenge was accomplished.

The Challenge wasn’t even part of my review.  (That began after they completed the Challenge.)  Instead of a waste of time, though, it taught my students so many things that I am constantly yammering about anyway – Growth Mindset, Collaboration, Communication, Perseverance.  Multiple choice quizzes are generally not very deep learning, but this Challenge threw problem solving into the mix, and that was a huge bonus.

Some of my favorite classroom memories have been made using Gimkit in the past year: students choosing wild nicknames so their classmates won’t know who to target, kids snickering as they “ice” each other, groups gathering around a few classroom monitors because they want to see how the champions fare against each other, cheers and groans when the “Thanos Snap” lists its victims, and everyone clapping when we finally solved the Winter Challenge.

I don’t work for them, and I get no compensation for writing this post.  I just really like what Gimkit does for teachers and for students.

Big Ideas for Little Scholars

So here I am again. You may have noticed the (not so) brief hiatus. Or you may not have noticed it. If you’re a teacher, the latter is probably more likely. Noticing things that don’t directly affect your classroom is understandably low on the priority list during the school year.
In case you don’t follow me on other social networks, I recently posted this announcement, “On January 6th, most of my colleagues will return to work in schools and, for the first time in over 28 years, I will not. I decided to retire in December. There are multiple factors, and I still feel torn in two about my choice. However, with several family members about to have surgeries and a daughter about to interview at a couple of colleges out of town I am going to take advantage of the next couple of months to work on personal relationships before I decide on my second career. As the narrator of one of my favorite podcasts, Hidden Brain, recently said, ‘We often underestimate our ability to reinvent ourselves.’ Hopefully, I’m not OVERestimating it ;)”
I hesitate to call it retirement because, as my husband is quick to point out, I will be returning to work – but the actual job I will choose is a bit hazy at the moment. Here are my thoughts so far:

  • Starting as an intern at an advertising agency like Chandler on Friends,
  • Working as a staff writer for SNL or Stephen Colbert on The Late Show,
  • Training emotional support animals
  • Working at this bookstore if I can convince the owner I’m not a stalker
  • Going to law school
  • Running for office, probably something to do with Parks and Rec since I’ve been binge watching that particular show lately and Leslie Knope is one of my nonprofit heroes

While I sort things out, I figured I’d come back to this blog, which was one of my many hobbies that has fallen by the wayside in the last 18 months. As I was crafting this post, one of my dear friends from the world of Gifted and Talented tweeted a new site that she has begun, and I realized it was the perfect inaugural post for 2020.

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Donna Lasher has put together an amazing resource for parents and educators of advanced students from K-8 on this site, Big Ideas for Little Scholars.  With curriculum links, thinking skills strategies, and project ideas, this website is a dream come true for anyone who is looking for ways to challenge and inspire students.  This site is easy to navigate, and puts everything you need in one spot, including information on how to reach out to other teachers with similar interests.

When I first started teaching gifted children, there was a paucity of information, and I often felt like I was on my own.  Social networking has definitely changed this – to the point that the availability of materials can be overwhelming.  The structure and quality of Donna’s site makes this much more manageable.  It’s definitely worth bookmarking and visiting on a regular basis!

Thanks to Donna for sharing the site!  Like many of us, she has spent the time creating a resource that we hope will help others, especially our students.

Using Zorro Astuto

In the last two posts, I’ve talked about our “makerspace” at Advanced Learning Academy, Zorro Astuto Studio, and how we have incorporated a new badging system.  Today I wanted to give an overview of how the space is used.

ALA at Fox Tech serves students in grades 4-12.  Zorro Astuto is located on the 3rd floor, where we currently house grades 6-12.  Our goal is to give all of our students access in some way to this unique area for creation.  Because there are many tools that need training and supervision, this can be a bit tricky.

The first way that we give students access is through classes they can take.  Grades 4/5 have are currently doing a 3d design class using Tinkercad (1/2 are doing it first semester, and 1/2 will do it next semester).  They are taking the classes in another room, but will be learning how to use the 3d printers that we have in Zorro Astuto and one that is in their wing.

6th and 7th graders can choose from 9 week electives that we are offering such as: Intro to Design Lab, Carpentry, Robotics, 3d Design, and Electronics.

8th-12th graders can also choose from these electives, which also utilize tools in Zorro Astuto in Project Based Learning activities: Principles of Applied Engineering, Principles of Arts, and Engineering Design and Presentation.

The second way students may use Zorro Astuto is through interdisciplinary projects within their other classes. ALA offers Genius Hour, Wonder Courses, Tech Theater, and opportunities within core subjects to create artifacts that often involve fabrication on all levels.  In addition, we offered several “Teacher Tool-Ups” at the end of last school year to introduce some of the tools to teachers so they could consider possibilities for future Project Based Learning products.

And, lastly, we have Open Studio time twice a week after school.  For an hour and a half on Mondays and Thursdays, students who have signed Safety Contracts can come to Zorro Astuto to make whatever they want from the scraps we have.  Whether they are in a registered class or not, they are welcome to get certified on our tools and to use them for passion projects or school assignments.

In these ways, we hope that every student at ALA is inspired to learn and create.  As most teachers know, technology and required skills may change over time, but problem solving and creativity will always be needed.

solder-station-1548360_1920.jpg Image by digitalskennedy from Pixabay]