The PicCollage (or PicKids) app is a versatile tool that my students have used for reflection, creating visuals for a report, and telling stories. Recently, I’ve seen a couple of different articles on the web about students and teachers using PicCollage to make game boards. This can range in educational value from creation for fun all of the way to another way to assess learning. In all cases, creativity can be a part of the activity as students can personalize the boards with photos, stickers, and text. For some examples and specific integration ideas, check out these two blog posts: “Digital Game Boards with PicCollage” and “Creating and Playing Games on PicCollage.”
One of the things I wanted to try this year was to ask my students to do hexagonal thinking as they reflected over what they had learned. Since my 4th graders had already done some hexagonal thinking this year, I thought they might like to experiment with this activity.
First, they visited our class blog where I have been posting pictures from throughout the year. I showed them how to filter the categories to find all of the blog posts from their class. Then they chose pictures that were meaningful to them and saved them to their home drives.
After choosing 4-5 pictures, the students signed in to my account on Canva, and created their own blank “A4” projects. Once the project opened, they were directed to use the search window to find a hexagon frame. In Canva, frames have a cloud and blue sky in them.
What I like about frames is that you can drag pictures into them, and they will take the shape of the frame without overlapping.
After the students added a hexagon frame, they resized it and copied it so several could fit on one page. Once their frames were arranged, they uploaded their pictures and set them in the frames. Then they used text designs to explain the connections between pictures that shared sides.
You can see a couple of examples below. They would probably make more sense if you had been in my class this year, but this gives you the general idea.
This went better than my last visual hexagon activity, but I think I will improve it next year by giving a few more guidelines for the “connector” texts so the students will try to find unique parallels that aren’t readily apparent.
For more ideas for end-of-the-year activities, here is a recent post I published.
About three years ago, we tried out a tool called, “Flipgrid” for a project that my students were doing for Genius Hour. We were using a trial version and I decided against a paid subscription and I didn’t think I was ready to invest in that at the time. However, I am seeing a lot of features that make Flipgrid a potentially exciting classroom tool. Basically, Flipgrid allows you to create a topic, and other people can add videos to respond to the topic. All of the video responses are collected on one page, which makes it easy to access them. This means that people can reply asynchronously, (as opposed to a Skype interview, for example) which allows for participants from all over the world to add videos when it is convenient in their time zones. For global learning, this can be an invaluable tool.
Recently, Flipgrid started offering a free account. Although it obviously offers less features (you are limited to one grid instead of unlimited, for example), it is still something worth trying. One grid still allows unlimited topics. Another way that you can experience Flipgrid for free is to participate in its “Explorer Series.” In the first edition of this series last October, Flipgrid offered weekly videos from an Antarctic marine biologist along with questions to which students could respond. Flipgrid just launched the second edition, which will be two weeks of posts from Mike Billington of the University of Minnesota Raptor Center. The first topic is, “What is a common bird in your community? What can you do to support their environment?” Mike’s first video shows him with a live bald eagle, a site many students don’t get the chance to see. It would be interesting to connect this experience with Beauty and the Beak, and certainly a great way to make the last few weeks of school engaging and educational.
It has been about 4 years since I first wrote about Spaceteam, and there have been a few changes since then. The app is now available on both Google Play and iOS, and there can now be up to 8 people involved in a single game. What hasn’t changed is that it is still fun!
When you play Spaceteam, everyone playing must be on the same wi-fi network. Once all of the players get past the “Waiting Room” in the app, each person gets a different dashboard with gadgets that usually have gibberish labels. In order to get to the next level, instructions must be followed. However, the instructions on your screen are usually for other players – so you must call them out. This means you will be shouting out ridiculous sounding directions such as, “Turn off the novacrit!” with the hope that the player who has a “novacrit” will hear you and turn it off. Not all of the commands are gibberish, however. It’s funny listening to someone impatiently yelling, “Darn the socks! Someone needs to darn the socks!”
Due to the unusual vocabulary, this game is best suited for 4th grade and up. The app has a 9+ rating, but I have not seen anything inappropriate pop up on the screens. The biggest danger seems to be that people might inadvertently pronounce something incorrectly.
Why play this app in your classroom? Well, it’s a great brain break. It’s also fun for team building. In addition, it can be the introduction to a great conversation about listening. One of the things my students learned was that, when you expect to hear one thing and someone says something else, you may miss it. (This happens a lot in Spaceteam due to differences in perceived word pronunciations.) They also learned that little can be accomplished when a lot of people are yelling, and that communication is definitely more difficult in high-pressure situations.
Spaceteam also has a Spaceteam ESL app designed specifically to help English language learners work on vocabulary. Again, there is a lot of shouting involved, but it beats memorizing word lists.
For many of us, the end of the school year is drawing near. If you are looking for novel ways to keep student interest, you may want to try Spaceteam.
I was reading @chucktaft’s recent blog post on Social Studies Out Loud about his recent Breakout Edu experience, and almost missed a list of new-to-me digital tools near the end of the article (click here to see my blog post explaining Breakout Edu). Taft offers a few different ways to leave clues for fun Breakout Edu experiences that I hadn’t seen, and one of them is Snotes.*
Snotes allows you to make short hidden messages. The only way to read them is to turn them certain ways – both horizontally and vertically – which can be done physically or digitally. There is a Snotes app (for both iOS and Android), which allows you to digitally send Snotes secret messages, and there is a Snotes Quotes app, which is a trivia game.
After trying out Snotes, you can register for a free account, which will allow you to make more Snotes. Or, you can pay $1.99 for a bunch of extra features like an “expanded secret decoder.” Not really sure what that means, but it might be worth two bucks to find out.
It’s quite possible that I typed “snots” instead of “Snotes” somewhere in this blog post, although SpellCheck seems to have found enough “Snotes” to make that unlikely.
There are some other great clue suggestions on Chuck Taft’s site that you might want to check out. You could use them outside the classroom, too. My daughter hasn’t had a Christmas or Easter, yet, when she hasn’t had to solve puzzles to find at least some of her treasure… (She’ll probably get her revenge on me when I die by encoding an evil message on my tombstone.)
*Unfortunately, the website may be blocked in your district, but you can always create Snotes at home to use for school, or use the app.
As our school year begins to wind down, my 5th grade gifted students are attempting to synthesize all that they have learned by determining what they “know for sure.” While browsing the examples on Laura Moore’s TCEA Hyperdoc website (click here for my original post about her Hyperdoc presentation), I found this “Manifesto Project.” When I showed it to my students, they were excited about designing their own manifestos. We did a lot of brainstorming and discussion before the students started working on Canva. The examples I am showing you are just rough drafts (including mine), but I think they are off to a great start! Knowing the personalities of these students, I am very impressed by how the students were careful to choose words and designs that really reflect their values and beliefs.
I remarked that it might be fun to make each manifesto into a t-shirt, and the students got super excited about the idea. So, if anyone has done something like that before, please give me suggestions in the comments below!
If you are interested in more ideas for using Canva in the classroom, here is a link to their lesson suggestions.
This year I seem to have a group of students in each of my grade levels who are passionate about math. Every time I pull out a math activity, they devour it with glee. It has been a challenge for me to give these students assignments which maintain their excitement for “hard” math without discouraging them with work that is too difficult. Their classroom teachers are facing the same dilemma.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to see what my 4th and 5th grade gifted students thought about Prodigy. Prodigy is an online math game that is free. (It is also available as an app.) Teachers can add classrooms of students, and can manage the math topics students practice, as well as the levels at which each student plays. I immediately assigned all of my students to topics above their current grade levels. After introducing it in class, I gave them their individual passcodes, letters for their parents, and the caution that playing Prodigy was completely optional. I also notified their homeroom teachers, and made it clear to the students and the teachers that it was completely up to the teachers to decide if the students could play the game in class.
My students say that the graphics are apparently reminiscent of that popular game, Pokemon. The students create avatars and can battle each other by doing math problems. They can also earn different abilities as they progress through the game.
There is a paid option for Prodigy, where parents can buy memberships. This allows the students to access a few more features than the free version. I have one student who asked his parent for permission to get the membership so far; everyone else seems satisfied with the free game.
I like that I can see individual student reports with Prodigy and that I can differentiate for each child in my class. I am also pleasantly surprised to see how excited the students are about playing the game. In addition, the privacy aspect seems fairly good, as the avatars do not give away any student information.
Prodigy does not teach. It is not a substitute for engaging classroom lessons that include higher order thinking skills. I enjoy using it as a formative assessment as it gives me reports on the strengths and weaknesses of each of my students in the skills they are assigned, but I would be appalled by any teacher who used Prodigy as their only method of assessment or differentiation.
As long as my students continue to be excited about math, I will view Prodigy as one of the many tools at our disposal that supports their learning. But I will also continue to provide them with real-life opportunities to use math in relevant ways.