3-12, Books, Games

Gifts for the Gifted – Spiroglyphics

Several years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually (except for 2019) every November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, including my 2022 list, you can visit this page. I also have a Pinterest Board of Games and Toys for Gifted Students. 

This week’s addition to the list is going to appeal to those who find coloring to be a great self-care solution. But it quite literally has a bit of a twist. Spiroglyphics, by Thomas Pavitte, is a an activity book full of spirals. Each page initially looks dizzying and completely like the other pages in the book — until you begin to fill in the spirals. Using a felt-tip pen, choose an end and begin coloring in the spiral. Follow it all of the way to the middle, and take a look at your masterpiece. It will still look like a circular labyrinth. But as you start working your way back from the middle to the outside, a magical picture begins to emerge. With seemingly no rhyme or reason, the spirals you’ve colored combine with the negative space to reveal a picture.

Can you figure out what this Spiroglyphic designed by Thomas Pavitte will be when colored in? (Hint: it’s not the following picture!)
Can you see the animal? This took me a pleasant hour to complete. As you can see, I didn’t quite finish because my felt-tip pen ran out of ink. You can discuss among yourselves in the comments what type of writing utensil you would recommend for these 🙂

I don’t really understand how it works, but the process is satisfying. Pair it with listening to some music or a podcast (in my case, it was, “My Favorite Murder” but I probably wouldn’t recommend that for young children), and you’ve got a relaxing way to spend an hour with a truly fascinating product at the end.

There are several different Spiroglyphics activity books to choose from. The one that I tested out is the “Animals” version. It includes 20 different full size (12×12 in.) perforated pages of animals, which can be torn out. If you like these kinds of challenges, you should take a look at some of the other unique activity books offered by Thomas Pavitte, including Querkles and 1000 Dot-To-Dot books.

It’s hard to suggest an age-range for this gift. No reading is necessary, but it definitely requires concentration and a certain allegiance to coloring inside the lines. While the latter is not something that I regularly preach, straying a lot from the spirals is not going to give you the enjoyment of finally discovering the subject of your picture.

If you’re thinking of buying this for your classroom, the perforation makes it great for you to pass out pages to individual students or keep at a station for fast-finishers. Each one does take some time to complete, so you will need a place to store works-in-progress. Some other ideas would be to give them to students as they listen to a podcast in class, and/or to assign them to research or write about their picture when it eventually appears.

I actually know many adults who enjoy coloring, whether digitally or physically, to help them to relax, so this could also work for grown-ups or even as a white elephant gift.

Whenever possible I like to link to independent toy stores and bookstores. Here is a link to one of our local stores, Nowhere Bookshop, for some Spiroglyphics books you can order through Bookshop.org.

Check back in next Friday for another recommendation!

3-12, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Teaching Tools

Tailored Teaching: How AI Lets Students “Choose Their Own Adventure” in Learning

Okay, y’all. Prepare to be. BLOWN. AWAY.

If you saw my recent post on how to create a Connections-like game, you know that I follow Shelly Sanchez Terrell on all of her channels and she is always sharing incredible resources. She recently shared a link to a blog post by Matthew Wemyss, and I bookmarked it like I do with practically everything she shares.

Today I had a little time to go back and take a deeper look at Matthew’s post, and to actually try his suggestion. It’s an AI prompt that you can copy and paste into your own AI tool of choice (ChatGPT, Bard, Claude, etc…) to create a “Choose Your Own Adventure” type game with generative text.

“Cool,” I thought. I’ve been keeping an eye on all of these tools, and I’ve seen a ton of uses for education, but this was one of the more creative ideas I’ve run across. So, I fired up ChatGPT, and pasted in the prompt.

Matthew’s prompt tells the AI to ask for the level of students, subject, and specific objectives. After some thought, I told it: 5th grade, Language Arts, Themes and Symbolism in The Giver by Lois Lowry. Within seconds, this was my response:

And then I could start playing the game. The story began, and I was given a scenario with 3 choices. All I needed to do was to type in the letter of my choice to proceed to the next part of the adventure. You can see the beginning of my game play here.

Keep in mind that Matthew’s well-crafted prompt means that you can tell the AI any student age, any subject, and any specific objectives. And, of course you can tweak the original prompt to suit your own specific needs.

Can you imagine all of the ways you can use this for your classroom?!!!!! Put it on the big screen so the whole class can play, or allow your “fast finishers” to play, or motivate students who are having a tough time getting engaged — the possibilities are endless.

In the ever-evolving landscape of education, the fusion of technology and creativity has truly redefined the possibilities within our classrooms. Leveraging tools like ChatGPT to craft ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ experiences not only enriches the learning process but also ensures that our students are actively intrigued and empowered. It can be overwhelming to see the way that AI is so quickly and dramatically changing the playing field, but finding ways to integrate it into lessons can not only continuously give you novel ideas for inspiring and motivating students, but also show them the responsible and creative ways that it can be used to increase learning.

3-12, Math, Problem Solving


Maybe the site formerly known as Twitter is circling the drain, but I’m still getting some wonderful resources from it. Case in point is a recent thread started by @kathyhen_ where she asked for more ideas for fast finishers in her class. She helpfully provided a doc that she gives her students, and then many people responded with additional suggestions.

Though many of the sites are already part of my Math Sites That Won’t Make You Fall Asleep and Brainteasers and Puzzles collections, I did see a few that I need to add. One of those is called, Sumplete.

To play Sumplete, you simply click on numbers in each column and row to “X” them out so that they will actually add up to the sums on the right and bottom of the grid. In the example above, 19 is bolded, which means that row already adds up to it, so you don’t need to delete any numbers. However, the middle row needs a number deleted so that it will correctly add up to 16. I can click on the 5, but I need to make sure the 5’s column will then also equal 10 when it’s deleted, as it does.

The Sumplete page gives more detailed instructions if needed. As you can also see in the above example, there is an arrow next to 3×3, which you can click on to select larger puzzle grids. Once you get to 6×6, you can also choose the difficult level. The most difficult is 9×9 master.

Interestingly, the Sumplete page mentions that the puzzle was created in collaboration with ChatGPT, and you can read all about the steps the creator, Daniel Tait of Hey, Good Game, went through for this process. It inspires me to try my own puzzle creation, so I’ll let you know how that goes 😉

3-12, Critical Thinking, Language Arts

Create a Connections Game

If your students love “Connections” type games similar to the daily New York Times puzzle of that name, you may want to consider either authoring some of your own or challenging your scholars to create them on this site.

I’ve recently been noticing a huge uptick in visits to my post on PuzzGrid, and it’s not hard to figure out why. Even my family and friends have been getting into the NYT “Connections” game, usually right after they do their Wordles. For some, once a day isn’t enough, so that’s where PuzzGrid and the site below, shared by Shelly Sanchez Terrell (creator of many teacher resources such as her famous Teacher Reboot Camp) on LinkedIn, can help you quench your thirst for more. PuzzGrid has hundreds of user-created puzzles, and Swellgarfo’s site has archives of the NYT ones back to June in case you missed some.

Swellgarfo’s site has a simple, but attractive, interface for creating your own Connections games. All you need to do is type in your lists of words and their category descriptions, then click “Generate” to create your puzzle on a separate web page for which you can share the link. There are no ads or other distractions. Of course, I had to make one just to check out how well it works. See if you can figure it out! (If you’re not familiar with how to play the game, I have a more detailed description on my PuzzGrid post.)

I’ll be adding this to my “Brainteasers and Puzzles” collection. And if you’re one of the millions of people that can’t get enough of Wordle, you won’t want to miss my “Wordle Variations,” which currently has more than 50 options!

female scientist wearing latex gloves
3-12, Careers, Math, Science

Women in STEM Posters and Lessons from Ingenium Canada

I want to thank @MsABahri for sharing the link to these free Women in STEM posters on Twitter (still not calling it the other name, sorry not sorry). There are nearly 100 free downloadable posters on this site from Ingenium Canada, and I am sorry to say that most of the names are new to me. Fortunately, each poster in the series has an image as well as a caption to help us all learn more about each of these amazing people. In addition, you can go to this page for lessons that can be used with the posters, and 3 of the posters have been made into coloring sheets that you can download.

Don’t forget to check out the STEM videos, the interactive Timeline, and the other educational resources while you’re on the site. If your students are studying the ocean, there is also an #OceanDecade link that has specific posters and lessons for that topic.

You can also take the “Implicit Association Test” to get an idea of your own implicit bias when it comes to men and women in different careers.

Celebrating Women’s History Month – Getting Excited About STEM (NHQ201703280001)
Celebrating Women’s History Month – Getting Excited About STEM (NHQ201703280001) by NASA HQ PHOTO is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0
3-12, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Research, Student Products, Teaching Tools

The Big Fib Podcast Planner

One of my most recent workshop additions is one on using podcasting in the classroom. The title is, “From Script to Sound: Engaging Student Learning Through Podcasting.” During this three hour PD, participants learn how to use podcasts as a tool to help with reading and listening comprehension as well as to develop critical thinking skills. In the second half, they learn how to create podcasts using Canva (yes, it can be done!).

One of my favorite ways to start students off with creating in any kind of media is to use a “mentor” piece, whether it’s text, songs, poetry, video, or podcasts. In this case, we use a podcast called, “The Big Fib.” This is one of many productions suitable for kids that you can find on the GZM classroom site, an excellent resource which I blogged about earlier this year.

Choose an episode of the podcast that has a format your students can emulate for a topic you’re teaching. I chose “The Big Fib” because the premise of the show is that two people are being questioned, an expert and a fibber. The listener is supposed to be able to discern from their responses who is the expert and who is the fibber. There is a different topic each time, such as Ancient Egypt. The structure of the show not only supports critical thinking skills, but also easily allows for students to make their own similar podcast on any topic they are studying in class. (Though it’s not part of the GZM family of podcasts, another great “mentor podcast” is, “Smash, Boom, Best,” which you can read more about in this post.)

During the latest workshop, the teachers got to try out using the podcast planner which I’ve made based on “The Big Fib,” and to spend time working in Canva to make their podcasts. We didn’t have time to finish, but they got a good understanding of the steps, and I was completely floored by their creativity! One group chose the show, “Bluey” as their topic (which is apparently an extremely moving show despite being for pre-school kids), another was doing Edgar Allan Poe, and a third group — composed of an art teacher and two language teachers — had come up with a podcast they called, “Just Say It,” where they would ask a question and the two guests were supposed to respond in Spanish (but one would not be responding correctly).

The variety of topics from the teachers made it clear that this is something that could be done as a great assessment tool in most subjects because you could pretty much have students “show what they know” about anything with this activity.

If you’d like to make your own copy of the planning document they used (I made some modifications based on their feedback), click on this link. And, if you’d like to have me do this workshop with a group of teachers in your district, virtually or in-person, drop me a line at terrieichholz@engagetheirminds.com!