Category Archives: 3-5

Smash Boom Best

Smash Boom Best is a debate podcast for kids.  Season 3 will be airing this summer, 2020, but you can still access past episodes from Seasons 1 and 2, and even vote for your choices here.  For example, I listened to “Invisibility vs. Flying” before writing this blog post.  The episodes are an excellent way to introduce debate to students in upper elementary and middle school with their kid-friendly topics and efforts to include their young listeners by inviting them to submit debate ideas.  The “Micro” and “Sneak Attack” rounds add to the fun.

Once your students have listened to a debate or two (the episodes are about 35 minutes long), you can use the curriculum provided by Smash Boom Best to help them create their own exciting debates.  On that same page you will also find downloads for scorecards that can be used during the debates and some other debate resources.

Smash Boom Best is part of a family of podcasts that also includes Brains On.  This is an award-winning show where the host investigates those burning questions we have about science, like, “Can you dig to the center of the earth?”  More episodes can be found here.  For educator resources and some transcripts of select shows, you can go to this page.

 

Leonardo the Leprechaun

I mentioned that I would be trying to create some digital breakouts when I posted this.  Leonardo the Leprechaun is my first attempt, and I thought I would share it with those of you who might be able to use it this week in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

I should tell you that I have already asked my 4th and 5th graders to give this a try, and I made some changes each time based on their feedback.  We definitely had some major issues – one of them being that the new Google Sites is currently blocked in our district.  If your students are unable to access the link, that is probably why, unfortunately.  The other glitches were all my fault, but I’ve hopefully fixed them!

Your students may want to write down the answers they get for each clue, as they will all need to be submitted at the same time in the Google Form.  Also, I’m not revealing any answers here – I don’t want any smart problem-solvers Googling to find them!

I’d be happy to get your feedback here, or you can e-mail me at engagetheirminds@gmail.com

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Click here to get to this Digital Breakout!

My Brain on Open-Ended Projects

Thanks to some inspiration on Twitter from Jessica Hirsch (@jhirschcusd), I thought it would be a neat idea to have my 4th grade gifted students try to create Makey Makey Operation games with shapes.  (They are on a Geometry unit in their regular classrooms, so this seemed like a good time to try it.)  As my classroom once again became a Disaster Zone Lab of Innovative Thinkers, I realized that I pretty much go through the same thought process every time we embark on these adventures. I tried to make a visual of it, which you can see below.  I ran out of space at the end, so don’t assume that these things always end on a high note…

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We will hopefully complete the project next week, and I will blog more specifics about it.  If you aren’t familiar with Makey Makey, you can see my post from earlier this year about the Onomatopeia Poetry the students created with Scratch and Makey Makey.  And yes, my brain went through the same steps for that one, too!

Gifts for the Gifted 2017 – beanz

A few 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 on every Friday in 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, you can visit this page. Also, you can see last week’s recommendation here.  And, if you want to see the more than 100 games and toys I’ve recommended over the years on my blog, check out my Pinterest board.

Despite the popularity of mobile devices and computers, I think that children still get a thrill out of getting something from a physical mailbox.  If your child is interested in making video games, reading about new technologies, and learning different programming languages, you may want to consider getting her/him a subscription to beanz, a monthly magazine about “kids, code, and computer science.”

beanz would probably appeal the most to children between 8 and 13 who are avid fans of reading and technology.  However, if you are a parent or teacher who wants to develop a child’s desire to create, this magazine could also be a huge resource for you.  This monthly periodical explains technical topics, such as coding with Python, in a way that any layperson can understand.  It gives a lot of examples, great graphics, and many suggestions for projects that children can do.

To me, it’s not just important for children to learn how to use technology responsibly but also to learn how to maximize technology’s potential for creativity and innovation.  beanz helps to inspire kids to use technology for making things – not just for consuming entertainment.

beanz is available online and as a print magazine.  You can view the latest issue here, but some articles are only available to subscribers. For $29.99/year, you can receive the print magazine and online access.  I think this is a great deal, but if you want to spend a little less you can opt for the $15/year online subscription.

For a unique gift that will delight any creatively “geeky” parent or child, you should definitely consider beanz!

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Empatico

Empatico is a new site that is being developed to match students with other classrooms around the world.  Because the site is beta testing, you will need to give them your contact information in order to gain early access (expected launch in September, 2017). It is designed for students 8-10 years old, and includes two types of activities: “Sparks” – short activities meant to last 3-5 hours, and “Fires” – experiences that last 2-3 weeks.  You can see some examples of activities on this page.  I’m already excited about the “Ways We Play” activity, in which students share the different ways they entertain themselves with a class from another part of the world.  I am always looking for opportunities for my students to connect globally (see our Valentine Project from earlier this year and my Skype resource post), and Empatico looks like a promising free resource that we can utilize!

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Screen Shot from Empatico

FIAT Contest/Celebration

Fish in a Tree, the awesome book by Lynda Mullaly Hunt that I reviewed here, has just come out in paperback.  The paperback includes the main character, Ally’s, complete Sketchbook of Impossible Things.  In honor of this, Hunt has launched a nationwide contest for students in 3rd-8th grades to create their own incredibly unique writing or artwork, photos of which must be received by May 12, 2017.  You can find all of the details, including the list of prizes, here.

Also, if you have time, Mrs. Hunt recently did a live webcast for School Library Journal, and I think that you can view the archive by registering here.  My 3rd graders and I watched it today, and found it very inspirational.  Mrs. Hunt talks about her own learning difficulties, the many real-life models for her characters, and how her long-term goals helped to keep her on track.  If you have spoken to your students about growth mindset and grit, then you will find her speech will really resonate with them!

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New in paperback here!