Category Archives: 5-8

War

One of the sessions I attended at TCEA 2018 was presented by a group from Richardson ISD.  #4CoresonFire focused on some cross-curricular activities using tools that I’ve used before.  However, I got some great integration ideas I hadn’t thought of – which makes the session a success in my book.

One of the teachers described how she had used StoryCorps and Newsela to start a unit about the Civil War.  (Here are my previous posts on StoryCorps and Newsela.)  I starred my notes wildly as she spoke; this is my secret code for, “USE THIS AS SOON AS YOU GET BACK TO SCHOOL!”  My 5th graders were about to read the chapter in The Giver that describes Jonas’ first introduction to the concept of war, and I knew these would be great connections.

In the lesson described at TCEA, the teachers posed the question, “When do the costs of war outweigh the benefits?”  Their students discussed this, and then watched, “The Nature of War” on StoryCorps.  After a post-video discussion, the students read an article about the Civil War in Newsela (you do need to register for free to read the articles).  Then they launched into a study of the Civil War in their history class.

I tweaked the lesson to use with The Giver.  I used Pear Deck to give an interactive, student-paced lesson.  Here is the link.  If you want to use the presentation as intended, you will need to register for Pear Deck.  You can find out more about Pear Deck, as well as a link to get a premium code that lasts the rest of this school year, here.  Also, the StoryCorps video link is embedded.  Do to our district filters, students had to log in to YouTube on a separate tab before they were able to watch the video on their own devices.

I chose to use an article from Newsela about, “Just War Theory.”  Student responses at the end of the presentation varied widely from their initial ideas about whether or not war is ever justified.  Many of them agreed with the quote I posted at the end about war being banished from the earth – until I brought up The Giver.  There is no war anymore in this dystopian world, but there is also no freedom.

Is it possible to banish war without giving up most of our freedom?

That was a discussion that definitely engaged the class!

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Thrively Revisited

My first post about Thrively was in 2015.  Since then, the platform has changed a bit.  There is still a free option that includes a Strengths Assessment and links to resources and local activities connected to student interests.  However, there are now journals and online courses, such as, “Find Your Passion” and “Grit.”  There are even more options in Classroom Pro and School Pro that you can see on this pricing comparison page.

I am using Thrively with my 5th grade gifted students.  They completed the Strengths Assessment today and began the “Find Your Passion” course.  With the free version, I have a Teacher Dashboard, so I am able to see their Strength Profiles, Interests, and Aspirations.  I can also read the responses to the journal prompts.  Using the “Class Insights” menu, I can access summaries of class interests and click on each interest to see exactly which students chose each category.  You can also involve parents by inviting them to view their child’s profile.

After discussing the assessment today, one student thanked me for giving him the opportunity to do it.  The entire class was enthusiastic about completing the assessment and continuing with the courses, which are a great tie-in to working on Genius Hour.

Thrively is a great tool to help you learn more about your students – and for them to learn more about themselves.  One student ironically commented that she was pretty certain that she was not assertive like her assessment claimed – until we discussed the meaning of assertive and she realized that it can be a great strength.

Due to the vocabulary and the amount of reading involved, I would not recommend using Thrively with students younger than 5th grade.

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Parallelogram

I learned to love math later in my school career (high school).  I was one of those people who thought I just wasn’t born with the “math gene.”  With the help of great high school mathematics teachers, math became one of my favorite subjects even though it still didn’t come easily to me.  I found that I enjoyed the logic, the challenge, and the satisfaction of solving difficult problems.  In addition (no pun intended), I love teaching math precisely because it doesn’t come easily to me; I think I can communicate the interim steps to the solution in simpler language than someone who has a brain that quickly jumps to answers.

You may have seen my post on 15 Math Sites that Won’t Make You Fall Asleep, which links to many “fun” math pages online.  One of the aspects that I like about many of these sites is that they encourage conversation.  “Parallelogram” is a new one that I need to add to my post.  It is a weekly set of math challenges by Dr. Simon Singh that will be sent to your students for free.  The questions are designed for 11-13 year olds, but I plan to try it with my 4th and 5th grade classes.  Teachers can sign up, and have students join through a class code to be added to a teacher dashboard.  You can get a preview of the program here.  Keep in mind that the match challenges do include video clips, and I always recommend that you preview any videos before showing them to your students.

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Click here to learn more.

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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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.

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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!

Do I Have a Right?

With Constitution Day approaching in the United States on September 17th, I thought I would share “Do I Have a Right?” from iCivics.  It is free, and you can play it on your web browser or using the iPad app.  The game helps you to learn the rights you are given by the constitution as you assign cases to lawyers based on their specialties.  There is now a Powerpoint extension pack that teachers can use to reinforce what the students learn after they play the game.  The game is really engaging (my daughter and I love to play it together), and only one of many fabulous resources brought to you by iCivics.  If you haven’t used iCivics before, here is a little more information from a previous post.

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image from Pixabay.com

Send Me a Rainbow

If you teach older students who have their own phones, this might be a fun idea for an impromptu writing prompt.  The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has decided to make more of its artwork available to the public by digitizing it and allowing us to text requests.  Only 5% of its entire collection can be viewed in the SFMOMA’s physical building, but thousands more pieces are accessible through this new feature.  You can text the number 57251, and type, “Send me” followed by a keyword or color.  There’s something suspenseful about the whole endeavor that makes it a bit addictive.

I tried it out by texting, “Send me kindness, ” and received the following, somewhat depressing, reply.

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Maybe kindness was too abstract?  So I tried, “Love.”

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Now remember, this is the Museum of Modern Art, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by the answer to my next request.

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Not really sure what the museum bot was trying to tell me there…

Anyway,  I soon discovered that trying to use this activity as a “pick-me-up” was a bit too unpredictable, especially after I received a sad portrait of the war in Iraq after I asked for “home.”  However, my daughter and I did have fun using emojis and asking for pictures of bread and dogs.  (It does work with emojis, by the way.)

Not to be outdone by artifical intelligence, I decided to end our texting communication by asking for something that couldn’t possibly be mis-interpreted in a bleak way by a computer. “Send me a rainbow,” I asked.

And it did.

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