Category Archives: 3-6

Gifts for the Gifted 2017 – Dog Pile

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.

dogpile.jpg

Dog Pile might be a good stocking stuffer for kids 8 and up.  Though the box recommends it for 10+, there is no reading needed (except for the instructions).  It’s a good game to promote growth mindset and spatial reasoning. Responsibility is another attribute you may need to cultivate, so none of the small plastic dog pieces get lost 😉

The multi-colored dogs included are in a variety of shapes.  Challenge cards are included with scaffolded puzzles from Beginner to Expert.  Each card has a region that must be filled by the dogs suggested on the card.  When placed properly, the dogs will fill the area of the shape without going outside the lines.

Dog Pile is one of the games I like to say belongs in the, “Solitaire Games Best Played with a Partner.”  My daughter and I take turns on the challenges for games like this.  In my classroom, students usually work in pairs or small groups on games of this category (like Rover Control).  Conversing about the puzzles seems to help, and kids tend to persevere more.  It’s also important to keep them on the challenge “continuum.”  Children often try the first couple of puzzles, think those are too easy, and then skip to the Expert challenges.  When the Expert level frustrates them, they sometimes declare the game is “no fun.”  Encourage them not to skip levels, as each one slowly introduces new difficulties that will prepare them for more complex puzzles later on.  If playing this at home, you will find that games like this have a lot more “staying power” when adults join in and model good problem solving skills.

You can watch the video below for a quick explanation of the game.

Oh, and if your household prefers cats, there is a feline version of the game here!

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#wgoitgraph

“What’s Going on in this Graph?” is a new feature from the New York Times that will appear on the second Tuesday monthly for the rest of this school year.  Building on the success of a long-running similar activity,  “WGOITPicture,” this version posts a graphic that has appeared recently in the NYT, with much of the information removed.  Students are encouraged to analyze the image by thinking about these three questions:

  • What do you notice?
  • What do you wonder?
  • What’s going on in this graph?

There is a comment section where students over 13 years old, (or teachers) may post their observations, questions, and extrapolations.  A moderator from the American Statistical Association gives online feedback on the day the graphic is posted, and then the actual details are revealed at the end of the week.

The first “What’s Going on in this Graph?” was posted yesterday.  According to the caption, it has some connection to Hurricane Harvey – but what, exactly?  That is for your students to try to discern.  From the comments I have read so far, there are some extremely perceptive students attempting to decipher the graph’s meaning; it will be fun to see the answer on Friday!

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The Twelve Days of Christmas Math Activities

Way back in 2012, I posted about some interesting math activities that you can do with the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”  This happens to be one of my most despised songs ever because of the redundancy.  However, it’s worth using in class to demonstrate a little mathematical magic and get your students to think about the true cost of ridiculous gifts that no one would actually want to receive (aside from five golden rings).

Four years ago, this is part of what I posted:

My 4th grade gifted students are studying mathematical masterpieces.  We had looked at the Fibonacci series earlier this year, and a couple of days ago, I stumbled across an interesting lesson that ties Pascal’s Triangle in with “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  We spent half our day: creating the triangle, finding patterns in the triangle, finding Fibonacci in the triangle, trying to make sense of a Vi Hart video about the triangle, and using the triangle to figure out how many gifts were actually bought each day.

The other portion of my post mentioned a website interactive that doesn’t appear to work any longer.  However, it was hosted by PNC, who has been kind enough to provide an updated version that gives current estimates of the cost of each gift. There are also some educator resources, designed for middle school and high school students, as well as a free printable coloring book.  I plan to actually have my student calculate the final cost of the gifts.  (If you want to do the same, don’t let them use the website at first because it reveals the answer when you scroll down far enough.)  This recording sheet is one that you could use for gift calculations.

A nice feature of the updated PNC site is the interactive graph near the bottom that allows you to see how costs have changed over the years for the group of gifts as well as for each individual gift.  This can yield some good discussions on what might be driving the costs up or down.

image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:XRF_12days.jpg
image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:XRF_12days.jpg

Genius Hour Digital Resources

In my never-ending quest to refine Genius Hour for my students and make it meaningful, I have created a few new digital resources that I intend to use this year with my 3rd-5th grade students.  We will be using Google Classroom, so I decided to design some Google Slides presentations that the students can use for collecting research and keeping track of what needs to be completed.  Here is the link to the folder of resources, which you can copy and edit to suit your needs.

My plan:

  • Assign the Research Planner as a copy to each student.  Reflections 1 and 2 are to be done at certain points as students progress through the Research Planner. The Research Planner also has links to some other helpful resources, and a great activity from Ian Byrd to help write good research questions. This slideshow is not their presentation – just a collection of notes.
  • Assign the Exit Tickets presentation as one copy to be edited by the students in the classroom at the end of each Genius Hour.
  • Include the Skype Interview and E-mail templates as assignments for students to complete when appropriate.
  • Once students finish the Research Planner to my satisfaction, they will be allowed to continue to the Presentation Planner.  This includes links to “What Would Steve Jobs Do?” and “The Worst Preso Ever,” both of which are great to show students before they design their presentations.  It also includes links to two TED Talks given by students.
  • After students successfully complete the Presentation Planner, they will be allowed to make their presentations, create interactive portions to follow up on the information given, and rehearse.
  • Finally, they will present!

If you’ve followed my Genius Hour adventures at all, you know that this plan will not work as hoped.  I am pretty sure that it will be an improvement over what I’ve done in the past, though.

Maybe…

Genius Hour Digital Resources
Genius Hour Digital Resources

Apple Swift Playgrounds

About a month ago, I downloaded a beta version of Apple’s newest iOS on to my iPad so I could try out the widely advertised Swift Playgrounds app that would be installed along with the new operating system.  I’ve been a supporter of teaching kids how to code for a few years, and I was curious to see how this app might be different from the many my students have been using.

Swift is a type of programming language that was developed by Apple.  A quick Wikipedia browse will bury you in daunting technical language if you are, like me, more educator than coder.  So, I will tell you that the biggest difference between this app and many of the ones that are already out there for kids is that Swift programming uses words and symbols, not blocks.

My sense is that most “real-life” programming languages don’t use drag and drop blocks like Scratch or Hopscotch.  So, in that respect, Playgrounds (which is what the app shows up as on your device) stands out from the crowd.  However, I wouldn’t disregard block programming apps completely.  They are excellent for teaching students the logic of programming – particularly non-readers.

Playgrounds is definitely not for non-readers.  Reading is essential for anyone using the app, and I would guess it is at least a 4th grade reading level.  I would not, therefore, recommend Playgrounds for younger students unless they are paired up with a capable partner.

The graphics in the app are okay, but nothing ground-breaking.  As with many coding apps, the user is trying to direct a cute creature around paths and obstacles.

The main advantages of the app are that it is free, offers many levels and challenges, and gives users an opportunity to see how a professional programming language works.  I would recommend the app for elementary/middle school students who have demonstrated understanding of key coding concepts and seem to be ready for something a bit more advanced.

Playgrounds should be available today with the download of the newest iOS.  I’ll be curious to hear what you think!

image from Apple
image from Apple

Undercover Robots Camp – Spy School

My students have loved using the Dash robots from Wonder Workshop so much that I thought they might enjoy some extra time with them over the summer.  So, earlier this year, I devised a plan for an Undercover Robots Camp to be held at my house.  Last week was the first session, “Spy School.”

Using 4 Dash robots, the campers were divided into teams of 3 for the week.  Dash received a letter that he was invited to train to be a secret agent at spy school, and each team took their robot through the different spy courses, such as speaking in Morse code and surveillance.  At the end of the week, their robots “graduated” from Spy School.

I’ve never done this before, so I wasn’t sure how it would go. Fortunately, I had a great group of campers who were willing to experiment along with me.  Throughout the week, I sprinkled puzzles and crafts (such as creating undercover disguises for the robots) along with the programming challenges, so there were lots of opportunities for every team member to shine and get involved.

My favorite part of the week was the graduation ceremony.  The students got so creative with my box of random stuff as they made graduation hats and gowns for their robots!  And one of the teams leapt for joy when they finally were able to program their robot to join the graduation procession at the precise time and spot.  (Sorry that the video below got prematurely cut when I ran out of space on my phone.  Oh, and one robot got replaced right before the final ceremony due to low battery power!)

This week is our second session, where Dash has his first assignment as a bona-fide secret agent looking for the saboteur of a robot pageant.  I’ll let you know next week how our undercover spies do in foiling the plot!

UPDATE 9/3/17: My Spy School curriculum is now available for purchase here!

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Thanksgiving Special

Last year, Colossal did a story on artist Hannah Rothstein’s “Thanksgiving Special” series.  Rothstein imagined the Thanksgiving plates of 10 famous artists.  It would be fun to show students one or two examples, and then have them choose an artist to represent in their own Thanksgiving plate art.  This activity would not only amp up creativity, but also be a lesson in art history and in seeing things from another perspective.  You could also use it to teach about parody.

My favorite piece is the Mondrian.  But, you should definitely check out the others on Colossal or Hannah Rothstein’s website.

Thanksgiving Special Mondrian by Hannah Rothstein
Thanksgiving Special Mondrian by Hannah Rothstein