The Kuriositas blog recently featured, “Atomic,” a short video created by students at Columbus College of Art and Design. The students were tasked with creating animations of some of the elements on the periodic table, and this video is a compilation of some of the best. Learning about the elements and their symbols would have been vastly more entertaining when I was in high school if I had been given a similar assignment! In fact, there are a few elements in the video that I would swear I never heard of (dysprosium?), but now I will never forget them.
The New York Times has many lesson plans and other resources for educators that can help with the integration of current events. One portion of the site that you may not know about is the page that offers, “Over 50 Reusable Activity Sheets to Teach any Day’s Times.” With downloadable PDF’s of graphic organizers, games, discussion starters, and other lesson ideas, this page should be bookmarked on the computer of any upper elementary – secondary educator. One of my recent discoveries was the, “Literature Quote Bingo” PDF, (which just happens to include one of my most favorite Harry Potter quotes of all time). The students must match famous quotes to news stories, which is a great way to demonstrate understanding of the quotes and make connections to real world events. This is an open-ended activity that could be used with any selection of quotes. If your students enjoy quotes as much as mine do, then they will find it engaging and you will get some valuable insight into their perspectives.
I’ve been thinking a lot about courage lately. Some people seem to feel that it is synonymous with confidence, but I disagree. Confidence that you are doing the right thing does not necessarily make you courageous. In fact, I would argue that many courageous decisions are made with hesitation, and that tragic outcomes do not make the actions any less brave. I also know that courage does not have to be “big.” There are many small, courageous actions taken every day by unassuming heroes – as Mark Bezos reminds us in his tale of saving the shoes, and The King of the Island portrays with beautiful subtlety.
What is courage, then? With this great Google Slides Hyperdoc created by Sarah Landis, you and your students can explore the complex meaning of this word. Rich with thought-provoking discussion questions, “Courage” will invite your students to consider the many layers of the word with scenarios, videos, and writing prompts all collected into one digital document. It is an excellent resource for any secondary ELA classroom.
To learn more about Hyperdocs, visit this site created by Landis and her two colleagues, where they provide many other examples for use in all subjects. Also, Laura Moore has an excellent reflection on Hyperdocs here, which also gives links to awesome Hyperdoc projects.
My 3rd grade class is always pretty small, so we usually start the year doing a Genius Hour project together so they can practice research and presentation skills. This year, my group of 4 decided they wanted to learn how the Great Barrier Reef has changed over time, and what are the consequences of these changes. They seemed to have a slightly vague idea of what the death of the reef could mean – especially for people who live on the other side of the world. I ran across an excellent site that allowed them to see immediate and long-term effects of pollution and other human interference with the reef. The “Reef Simulator” allows players to choose a scenario, such as overfishing or tourism, and develop a hypothesis for how some of the reef’s dependents will react. With a press of a button, the students can then see a bar graph that reflects short-term population changes due to the scenario, and another button to see the long-term changes.
With a few multiple choice questions, the simulator determines how much understanding the users have of the graph, whether or not it supports their original hypothesis, and whether they want to change the hypothesis.
Since we talk about “systems thinking” in my classroom, this simulator was an excellent interactive that allowed my students to see that changes in a system indirectly affect every single part of the system eventually. They were truly surprised how animals like certain breeds of sharks might become completely extinct without ever being hunted or directly targeted by humans. To follow this up, I plan to show them this TED Ed lesson next week.
After playing the simulation, my students exclaimed, “We need to do something – NOW!” They felt even more urgency when I pointed out that the simulations each showed the effects of one human event, and that in real life the reefs are suffering from combinations of all of them…
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.
When a new student entered our 3rd grade gifted and talented class this year a few weeks after we’d begun classes, I thought we might need to spend some time filling her in on what she had missed so far. I was wrong. Growth mindset, the importance of stretching your brain, systems thinking – she had already covered these topics at her previous school. One day, we were talking about how, if you don’t learn about how to deal with challenges you might begin to avoid them altogether because you don’t want people to think you aren’t smart and she said, “This reminds me of Fish in a Tree!” She was so excited about the connection between this library book that she was reading and our discussion that I said, “I would like to read that book, too!”
“There’s extra copies in the library!” she exclaimed!
“Well, let’s all read it, then!” I said, completely caught up in her exuberance and not at all concerned that I had just committed our small class to reading a book that I hadn’t previewed yet and that the “recommender” hadn’t even finished. We went straight to the library and checked it out.
My student was right. Fish in a Tree is the perfect supplement to our classroom discussions. In the story, the main character, Ally, covers up her difficulty with reading. She eventually finds out, due to a dedicated teacher, that she has dyslexia. Along the way, she learns that making good friends is more worthwhile than trying to fit in, and that her imagination, perseverance, and courage are truly admirable.
The other young characters in the story, especially the new friends that Ally makes, remind me of many of the students I’ve taught over the years. Ally’s teacher exemplifies so many of the caring colleagues I have had the honor of working with during my career.
In the book, Ally’s use of figurative language – particularly similes – offers a lot of opportunities for discussion along with great mental images that make the story come to life.
If you are a parent, I encourage you to buy this book for your child, and read it together. If you are a teacher, read it along with your class (and here are some classroom activities to go along with it). It’s a heartwarming novel that emphasizes kindness, understanding, and individuality.
We all have things that scare us, of course. In the book that my 5th grade gifted students are reading, The Giver, the main character is “apprehensive” about an upcoming event. To help the students connect to the text, I asked them to list some of the things that worry or scare them. Using our green screen and the Green Screen app by DoInk, I had the students superimpose themselves on the image of Edvard Munch’s, The Scream. The students then used the WordFoto app to add their specific fears to the picture. Here is one result. (You can click on it to see a larger view.)
When I looked closely at this student’s final product, I noticed the word, “division.” I was a little upset because I had told the students not to put silly things just to get a laugh. In my mind, division and multiplication would fall into that category, especially since this particular student has never had any problems achieving well in math.
“Why did you put this word when I told you not to put something silly?” I asked him as I pointed at his picture.
He looked at me solemnly. “I meant the division of people. You know, how war and other things divide us.”
It’s good I asked…
The latest “Be Together. Not the Same” video from Android looks at the relationship among Rock, Paper, and Scissors in a completely different way. What if they actually use their differences to help others out? The resulting story delivers a cute message about standing up to bullies and embracing your uniqueness. The music from St. Elmo’s Fire doesn’t hurt, either 😉
In case you haven’t seen last year’s Android video with the same moral, here is a link to that post. (Warning: Cute Overload will ensue!)
Monotune, also by Android, continues on the theme.
If you are searching for Inspirational Videos for Kids, check out my Pinterest Board here.