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.
This year, I have decided to do my annual “Gifts for the Gifted” posts all in one week. This should give anyone who likes to shop ahead of time a good start! For this year’s suggestions so far, click here.
I adore the work of Gavin Aung Than. His Zen Pencils site features illustrations of inspiring quotes, and he has published several books. This year, he added Creative Struggle: Illustrated Advice from Masters of Creativity to his long list of accomplishments. I enjoyed seeing lesser know quotes in the collection, and felt particularly moved by the “Creative Pep Talk #1” entry. It illustrates the words of Jiddu Krishnamurti, and supports my philosophy that we should focus more on the process than the product in education. “Our present education is rotten because it teaches us to love success and not what we are doing. The result has become more important than the action.” He criticizes our desire for fame and lauds anyone who “is a creative human being living anonymously.”
This book would be appropriate for teens and up, or for teachers to use in the classroom with any age. As I try to convince my students to venture outside of their comfort zones and get frustrated with my own creative attempts and failures, the words of Brene Brown, so well depicted in Than’s book, keep me going:
“The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born of our creativity.”
My engineering classes have been working on helping to design the new playground at Advanced Learning Academy. On Thursday, the architect, landscape architect, and district Director of Constructor visited the students to explain the process and answer questions.
Sonya Terborg has a great blog post about questioning here, and I love the quadrant example she gives.
My original plan was to use the image in a Padlet. However, as seems to be the case too often recently, our internet has been wonky. So, I went somewhat “old school” and had the students use Post-Its on our whiteboard.
I changed the wording a bit, and flipped the labels on the y axis so that the more they cared about the answer to the question, the higher up it would be on the axis.
Although the concept appeared to be difficult for the class at first, they soon got the idea. As always, some questions were “deeper” than others. “What is the budget?” was asked more than once, but, “What is your idea of a playground of the future?” got high marks from the students.
The guests wanted to project a presentation, so they were able to pull PostIts off the board as they answered each question while their slides were on the screen. It turned out that our primitive method of using the whiteboard was a good call after all!
If you are looking for 3d printing project ideas and curriculum, Stratasys has many free educational resources – you just have to know where to look for them and be willing to give Stratasys your contact info to download the lesson plans and project ideas.
From what I can tell, Stratasys is a company that focuses on providing 3d printing solutions for industrial use. If you download any curriculum from them, you will probably receive an e-mail or two within a few days asking how they can help you with your 3d printing needs. The inquiries are worth it, however, in order to have access to the activities and lessons you can use with your students.
I have downloaded the Lessons and Project Ideas, Semester Curriculum, and 3d Printing Modules. Depending on the experience of your students, most of the resources are good for middle and high school students. You can integrate them into a STEAM curriculum, use them as stand-alone lessons, or make them accessible to students in your Maker Space to jump start some ideas.
Jody Williams, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her work as the founding coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, knows something about activism. You can watch this RSA Animated Short in which she speaks about the importance of trying to make a difference.
Whether you agree with the students who join in the National Walkout today or not, I think that we should take heart that they are moved enough to choose do something rather than nothing. Often accused of being self-centered and apathetic, these young people will be working to make their voices heard.
Thanks to Sonya Terborg (@terSonya) sharing a tweet from @FriedEnglish101 this weekend, I discovered Pickle this weekend. Pickle is an ethics podcast for kids produced by WNYC. The episodes look to be an average of about 20 minutes, and cover topics like, “Would an Elephant Visit a People Zoo?” and “The Friendship Formula.”
Pickle is hosted by two adults – Shumita Basu and Carl Smith – but they consult the “BrainsTrust” of kids during each episode. I would guesstimate the target age group for this podcast would be 8 years old and up based on the topics and episode lengths. It seems ideal for family discussions and enrichment classes, and individual topics could be integrated into curriculum as well.
Pickle currently has only 6 episodes (from December 2017), so I’m not sure what the future holds for this podcast. According to the website, the original series (wouldn’t that be Cucumber?) was an Australian Broadcasting Corporation production, Short and Curly, which has a few more episodes to offer on its website.
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…
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!