This is a sweet video from FableVision that tells the story of two friends who choose different career paths based on their personalities rather than what culture dictates they “should do.” The message that you can be happy and successful in more than one way is one that I hope that I communicate to my own students and child.
Sometimes random themes show up in the various social networks that I follow. Today, I came across two completely different posts that appealed to my appreciation for creative ways for students to show their learning.
First, I saw this tweet:
.@NCTE: Inspired by this month’s Council Chronicle, a Tower and Wall series of poems and phrases. Built as we cut, pasted, and stacked. pic.twitter.com/eeKjD5ktyn
I like the idea of making poetry 3-dimensional, and I could see lots of ways to go with this idea.
Then, I saw a tweet from Russel Tarr about “Tubular Timeline Towers,” an idea one of his students designed for an open-ended homework assignment. What a great way to represent something chronologically!
The wheels are turning in my brain as I try to think of variations on this theme!
Thanks to Carrie Sledge on Twitter (@GreenGTAIM), I learned that General Mills has joined with RubeGoldberg.com to encourage creativity by inviting people to design Rube Goldberg machines that will pour cereal. The General Mills contest is only open to people who are 18 years and up, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the tutorials they created for using 6 of their cereal boxes to make simple machines. The Rube Goldberg site hosts its own contest for participants who are 8 and up, but you should definitely check the rule book, as there are detailed instructions and a registration fee. Whether you are competing in an official contest or not, creating a Rube Goldberg machine can be a great way to incorporate many curriculum-related skills, as well as the 4 C’s (critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity).
thinkLaw is a curriculum that aims to teach critical thinking skills through the use of real legal cases. The program’s founder, Colin Seale, won the “Shark Tank One Day Challenge” in 2016. thinkLaw is aligned with US standards for grades 5-12, but some of the lessons can be used with younger students. To purchase the full curriculum, you will need to contact the company. However, you can download a free sample and purchase other segments on the Teachers Pay Teachers website.
When looking at the free sample that is offered, “The Chair,” I realized that it fit in beautifully with an ethics discussion my students and I conducted last week about Tuck Everlasting. In the story, one of the main characters (spoiler alert!) hits another character over the head with a shotgun. At the time, we talked about whether it was ever okay to hit someone and, if so, under what circumstances is it acceptable? “The Chair” walks students through a real legal case from the 1950’s, in which the aunt sued her 5-year-old nephew for pulling a chair out from underneath her. Students learn legal terms such as: plaintiff, defendant, liable, and battery. They find out the four criteria for the legal definition of battery, and weigh the evidence to determine if the nephew should be held liable.
When it comes to Depth and Complexity, this thinkLaw lesson incorporates many of the icons: Multiple Perspectives, Big Idea, Details, Ethics, and Trends, to name a few. Students are polled a few times throughout the lesson to see how their thinking changes as they get more information. After learning the outcome of the case, they are given a similar case to analyze using their new skills.
At first, I couldn’t quite gauge the interest of the students. The conversation was hesitant, but everyone seemed to be absorbed in learning more. (There are 7 students in this class.) It wasn’t until recess time that I learned the impact of the lesson…
Me: “Okay everyone. It’s recess time. We are going to have indoor recess because of the weather. You can play foosball, Osmo, or one of the other games.”
They moved toward foosball, and then one student said, “Let’s have court!”
Suddenly, furniture was being moved, parts were being assigned (judge, attorneys, plaintiff, defendant, witness), and a new scenario was proposed. For the entire recess time, with no input from me, the students applied everything they had just learned to their imagined court case.
Instead of playing foosball.
Kind of funny when you think about it. Holding court during a recess. (very bad legal pun – sorry)
Experienced teachers know that we often don’t know what has made a real impression on our students. If we do find out, it may be years later when a student visits and says, “Remember when…?” This time, however, I received immediate proof that this lesson is likely to stick.
Want to find out who won the real legal case? Download the free sample for yourself here! Also, check out some of their other lessons (not free, and I haven’t reviewed them) that could be great for this time of year, including an MLK Jr. one, Valentine’s lessons, Superbowl, and Winter Olympics. (I’ll be doing, “Always Watching” with my 5th graders next week because it ties in so well with The Giver.)
In addition to doing Genius Hour with my 3rd-5th grade gifted students, I have been guiding 5th grade students through what I like to call, “Genius Camp” during our school’s weekly enrichment time for the past year and a half. For my first post on this, which explains the logistics of the time, you can read here. Basically, I work with one 5th grade homeroom for 45 minutes per week for about 6-8 weeks. (It was 6 weeks last year, but we changed the timeframe this year.) During the last session, the students teach lessons to the rest of the students in 5th grade. It’s kind of a Genius Hour/EdCamp hybrid because there are students choosing what they want to present and other students get to vote on which session they would like to attend. (You can go to this folder to make copies of all of the templates listed below.)
Week 1 – Intro. to Genius Camp, brainstorming ideas for sessions
Week 6 –Practicing and critiquing each other’s sessions (all materials due this day or students cannot present the next week)
Week 7 – Other homerooms fill out Google Form selecting 1st, 2nd, 3rd choice for sessions. Sessions are presented during enrichment time that week. Each participating student receives a label with name, session name, and location. There is an adult supervisor at every location.
As you can see from this post that I did toward the end of last school year, Genius Camp has not been perfect. But I have seen many, many successes that have outweighed the obstacles. My favorite part has been witnessing students shine who often don’t get the opportunity to demonstrate their interests or their strengths during the school day. Every 5th grader gets to participate in Genius Camp, and I enjoy discovering their passions. Many times I hear comments from the adult supervisors like, “I had no idea so and so has such a natural talent for teaching!” or, “I never knew so and so knew so much about World War II!”
If you can find a way to bring Genius Camp to your school, whether through enrichment time, an after-school club, or by carving out time in a regular class, you and your students will find that it is time well spent.
My 3rd grade gifted students decided to study volcanoes for their Genius Hour project this year. (Since I only have 3 of them, they do a project together.) When I was getting ready to print out some Planet Earth sheets for my 1st graders from QuiverVision, I noticed that there were also some volcano ones. These are both part of the free Education Starter Pack, which you can find here.
My students love these augmented reality sheets because they can make their own coloring into 3d images. The QuiverVision app also allows you to take video and pictures. The 3rd graders figured out that they could make the volcano erupt by repeatedly pressing one of the buttons, so they recorded some video of it in action.
While we searched for an online diagram that would help them to realistically color their volcanoes and identify the sections, I ran across another way to create a 3d model that will show the interior and exterior portions of a cone volcano. Mt. Fuji is one of the free PaperCraft projects available from Canon. You can download the file, print it on cardstock, and follow the instructions to make your own mini Fuji. There are some other interesting science papercrafts on there as well. My students haven’t tried the volcano one, yet, but are eager to attempt in next week’s class.
My next idea is to possibly incorporate the QuiverVision video into the DoInk Green Screen app so we can put the students in there narrating what is happening as the volcano erupts. Talk about being on the scene!