Category Archives: 6-12

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!

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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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Student Crosswords from the NY Times

Did you know that the New York Times has an archive of student crosswords listed by subjects on this page?  From American History to Technology, you can find puzzles created by Frank Longo as well as the answers and suggested curriculum links.  I found this link when I discovered this page that provides a printable crossword puzzle on how people say thank you around the world.  A couple of other timely suggestions are, “Thanksgiving,” “Giving,” and “Holidays Around the World.”  These seem to be targeted at the teenage age range, though some upper elementary and middle school students can probably work on them in groups, given the proper resources.

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image from Pixabay

#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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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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Original Thinkers

“Original Thinkers” is a fascinating TED Talk by Adam Grant, author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.  “The greatest originals are the ones who fail the most – because they are the ones who try the most,” according to Grant.  Using the story of his own failure to invest in a new company that would later become incredibly successful, Adam Grant describes the misconceptions we have about original thinkers, how procrastination can lead to great ideas, and even how the web browsers we use can reveal the inherent creativity in our personalities.

I discovered “Original Thinkers” when I was browsing through the “TED Collections”  section of the Mensa for Kids website.  This page includes 21 links to TED Talk videos and excellent discussion questions and extensions for each one.  I highly recommend you take a look at these fascinating options, as I am sure you will find something that will be of interest to you and your students.  As always, preview the videos before showing them to your class.  (“Original Thinkers” does have the word, “crap” in it – which may or may not be inappropriate for your particular audience.) . I will be adding this to my Inspirational Videos for Kids Pinterest Board, where you can also find many great video resources.

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Screen Shot from Original Thinkers TED Talk by Adam Grant, showing how different amounts of procrastination affect creativity