Category Archives: 5-8

Erase All Kittens

Don’t worry.  There is nothing inhumane about this site.  And, if you are a fan of kittens and teaching kids how to code, then you will probably like it.

Erase all Kittens is a game that can be used to teach kids some programming skills.  The demo, which is available online, has several levels that scaffold learning to code (HTML and CSS) as the user plays a simple video game in which the goal is to release kittens from their box prisons.  Whenever you reach a kitten, you are rewarded with a short video of a cute kitten.  Each level is a bit harder, and you learn coding skills such as creating headings and changing colors so that you can more easily navigate.

My 11-year-old daughter was able to play the demo without any help from me.  She has a bit of experience with coding, though.  Whatever age level you try this with, the user needs to be able to read in order to make the necessary adjustments to the code.

If you want the full game, and you have some tech skills, you can visit this link.  Erase All Kittens is currently in beta, so the full version is not currently available to play online.  If you want to be notified about any updates, be sure to fill out your information on this page.

H/T to @wfryer for tweeting this link out last week!  If you would like to see more ideas for teaching kids how to code, feel free to visit my Pinterest Board on Programming for Kids.

Erase All Kittens

Whatever You Are, Be a Good One

I love inspirational quotes.  When I saw this book at the store, I instantly knew I would need to purchase it.  Each of the quotations is hand-lettered by Lisa Congdon, who began the series when she was doing a blog called, “365 Days of Hand Lettering.”  The title of the book,  Whatever You Are, Be a Good One, refers to the quote by Abraham Lincoln.

whateveryouare

I really hate cutting apart books, but each of these pages is worthy of framing.  There are several that encourage a healthy growth mindset, such as, “Success is never so interesting as struggle,” by Willa Cather, and, “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail my ship,” by Louisa May Alcott.  You will also find encouraging quotes about kindness and being happy.

I haven’t figured out how I will be using the book in my classroom, but my students love to look for quotes.  They enjoy browsing my Pinterest Board of Favorite Quotations, and also like to choose quotes from other books that I have in the classroom.  (I have a picture frame with scrapbook paper on the inside, and they use dry-erase markers to write a “Quote of the Week” on it.  They also use quotes in their Dream Team projects.)

Another idea would be to show the students the style of the book, and have them choose their own quotes to hand-letter.  The Paper by 53 app on the iPad is a nice tool for doing this.

You would probably not want to let younger students (K-4) browse through this book unattended.  There is a quote from Dostoyevsky that uses a word that some might consider questionable.  Many of the quotes are a bit difficult for that age group to understand, anyway.

page from Whatever You Are, Be a Good One by Lisa Congdon
page from Whatever You Are, Be a Good One by Lisa Congdon

VidRhythm

I found myself in Seattle a few weeks ago, stuck in a 12-person van with my daughter’s synchronized swimming team on a road trip.  The girls were getting a bit stir crazy, and I was trying to think of a game we hadn’t played yet.  I desperately texted a music teacher friend, “What was that fun music app you showed me last month?”

VidRhythm.”

vidrhythm

I quickly downloaded it, and got the girls next to me to give their input on the song and style.  Once you choose a song and style, the app tells you certain sounds to make as you are recorded, then mixes them into a fun video. The video can then be shared to your camera roll or on social media (if you desire).

The team loved it.  Suddenly every girl in the van was downloading the app to her phone and making weird sounds.  In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t a great idea to try it out in an enclosed space…

I was reminded of the app when I saw this article on the Huffington Post about a recent video called, “Schoolhouse Re-mix” by DJ Overeasy. (You should check it out. It’s great!)  I don’t think DJ Overeasy used the app to make his video, but the effects are similar.

VidRhythm is rated for ages 9+, and available on iPhone and iPad.  It’s free.  I’m sharing it today because it’s Phun Phriday, and it’s definitely a lot of fun. Of course, kids will be kids and try to make all kinds of sounds that are not suggested by the app – so be prepared if it’s on a student’s device to hear and see some unique videos that only kids would dream up;)

The Giver

from Lois Lowry's Newbery Acceptance Speech for The Giver
from Lois Lowry’s Newbery Acceptance Speech for The Giver

If you visit my Pinterest Board of Books for Gifted Students, you will see The Giver, by Lois Lowry, is prominently featured.  I read this dystopian novel along with my 5th grade Gifted and Talented students every year, and those of you who know me are aware that I don’t often do the same thing more than once.  However, this book seems brand new with every group of students.  The discussions are rich and we are always able to find many connections to current events and their own lives.

The Giver is coming to theaters this August.  It will be interesting to see how the book transfers to the big screen.  You can see how Lois Lowry feels about the movie in this recent Twitter chat in which she participated that is posted on Walden Media.  More resources from Walden Media, including educational materials, are available here.  I highly recommend Lois Lowry’s Newbery acceptance speech – which gives incredible insight into the formation of the book.

In the interest of full disclosure, I recently participated in Walden Media’s “Teachers are Givers” contest, and was one of the 4 winners.  They chose a teacher each week for four weeks, based on technology lesson plans we submitted.  I didn’t expect to win, as my amazing colleague, LeAnne Hernandez, won the first week.  However, I was fortunate enough to be chosen as the second winner.  I recommend you take a look at the winning entries, as there are some fabulous ideas for integrating this amazing novel with technology in the classroom.  I was truly impressed with the other 3 teachers’ submissions, and can’t wait to try them!  If you feel so inclined, you may want to vote for your favorite lesson plan.  The overall winner will receive a hometown screening of The Giver.

If you are looking for some other resources to support The Giver, you should definitely take a look at Teachers Pay Teachers.  I have a “Depth and Complexity with The Giver” product available for $1.00, but there are tons of other related products on the site – many of them free.

Also, here is a post I did awhile ago on Book Trailers for The Giver.

Read Write Think has a lesson called, “Memories Matter: The Giver and Descriptive Writing Memoirs.”

For older students, you can find some interesting resources on Schmoop (“We Speak Student”).

Whatever you do, if you choose to use this book with your class, be sure to leave lots of time for discussion.  This is a book that demands conversation.  Thoughtful dialogues will help your students to become much more reflective about its themes and implications.  You could probably spend a year on this book, and never fully explore some of the topics it suggests.  It will definitely make an impact, and will be a piece of literature that your students will never forget.

Osmo

A little background for those of you new to this blog: I teach Gifted and Talented students in Kinder through 5th grades.  I have been teaching for 23 years, and a parent for 11.  I love educational technology – but I love my students and my daughter even more.  I only endorse products that I think will benefit children and are of good value.

Screen Shot from PlayOsmo.com video
Screen Shot from PlayOsmo.com video

It seems like a simple thing. Set up an iPad vertically on a sturdy base.  Place a small mirror over the iPad camera, and pieces that are on the table in front of it are instantly recognized by special apps designed for this purpose. Suddenly, the tangible and the digital interact in a way that few have imagined.  And, just like that, you have Tangible Play’s Osmo – an educational learning tool that will transform the use of mobile technology in the classroom.

Instead of students working in isolation, they gather around Osmo to collaborate. Instead of silently concentrating on trying not to slam a bird into a pipe, students discuss strategies and brainstorm ideas. Instead of mindlessly consuming images and information, students creatively interact with each other and this set of iPad games that require problem-solving and higher order thinking.

The evolution of this game is a testimony to how developers and educators can work together to create a product that is a valuable learning tool.  From the beginning (and I was fortunate enough to get in on the early stages), the Tangible Play developers sought out educators to beta test their project.  They created a Google account where teachers could give feedback and suggestions.  This interaction, and subsequent changes made to the games, showed that those of us in the classroom have an important voice and our experience can be a great asset to developers of educational technology.

Some examples of changes that I’ve seen:

  • The Tangrams game originally had a “Cheat” button. Due to teacher recommendations, this was changed to a “Hint” button.
  • The Words game began as a Red Team vs. Blue Team game.  Now, there is an option for a cooperative game

Numerous other revisions have occurred in the games – and they have all been for the better.

Osmo currently has 3 apps that can be used with the set: Words, Tangrams, and Newton.  The Words game is the hands-down favorite for my students.  I am partial to it, as well, because it allows you to create your own sets of pictures.  As any teacher can imagine, this opens up a world of possibilities for content reviews and teaching new concepts or vocabulary.  It also makes Osmo an asset to a teacher for any age group or subject, as you don’t have to rely on the Words game provided (though it’s awfully fun, too).

I love how the Tangrams game scaffolds for students.  It allows them to start with simple puzzles, and then choose more difficult ones as they work through it.  They also have to earn points in order to use any hints.

Newton is pure fun and has great potential for creativity as students try to think of tangible ways to keep the digital ball on track.

I am recommending Tangible Play’s Osmo for 2 reasons.  Number 1 is that it is good for children.  I can personally attest that it fosters collaboration, problem-solving, and creativity. The second reason is that the company behind this product is genuinely interested in getting it right.  When I first received the kit, the developers did a Google Hangout with my students and me to help us set it up and answer any questions we might have.  (Of course, once the game was set up, the students were no longer as interested in chatting as I was!)  Since then, they have been in regular contact through e-mail and Google Plus.

Osmo officially launches today.  They are currently accepting preorders at a 50% discount until June 22, 2014 – to be shipped in the fall. Discount price will be $49 for the base + Tangram, Words and Newton.

For teachers – even if you only have 1 iPad, this is FABULOUS for centers or even for projecting on the big screen.  For parents – my 11 year old daughter and I love playing this together.  It’s easy to make it into a fun family game!

I cannot recommend this product highly enough.  I have been using the free beta test version, and I am still purchasing more, if that tells you anything!  Watch the video below to see this amazing educational set in action.

If you choose to purchase an Osmo, please use this referral link.

App-Smashed Character Strength Floor Plans

Scan with the Aurasma app to see a video explanation. (You must be following the Hidden Forest Elementary channel.)
Scan with the Aurasma app to see a video explanation. (You must be following the Hidden Forest Elementary channel.)

Several years ago, I got a fabulous idea from a book called What’s On Your Mind? by Joel Anderson and Joan Brinkman.  One of the lessons recommends that gifted students create an “Eight Trait Floor Plan.”  The students are asked to think metaphorically about what a blueprint of their attributes might look like.  Which “rooms” would be the largest?  How many doors would each room have – and where would they lead?  The book gives many excellent questions to help students visualize this “House of Traits.”

I’ve used variations of this lesson with my GT 5th graders over the years.  Sometimes the students created the floorplans in MS Excel, sometimes on graph paper.  Generally a description accompanied it, whether typed or written. It’s been so interesting to see the creative ways students visualize their own attributes – from hidden rooms to indoor pools to closets with no doors.  The project is always insightful for me and for them. Last year, it was an excellent introduction to their Dream Team projects.

We were kind of cutting it close on time this year, so I gave the students graph paper instead of asking them to complete the floor plans on computers.  I directed them to the Periodic Table of Character Strengths to choose their traits.  Instead of adding paragraphs to the bottom that explained their floor plans, they were told they could use one of the creation apps on the iPad, such as: Tellagami, Puppet Pals, or ThingLink.  I promised the students who created videos that we could add some “Aurasma-tazz” by linking them with the Aurasma app.

One of the projects is pictured at the top of this post.  If you have the free Aurasma app, you can follow our channel (Hidden Forest Elementary), and view the Puppet Pals video that accompanies the floor plan by scanning the image above.  Or, you can view the video that I’ve embedded below.

The advantage of using the Aurasma app is that my student can take this project home, and her parents don’t have to go to a website to look for her video explanation.  All they have to do is scan the picture with Aurasma.

If you are not familiar with Aurasma, which is one of several augmented reality apps, here is a link to my page of Augmented Reality Resources.  This page includes links to tutorials, as well as other activities.