Category Archives: Creative Thinking

Gifts for the Gifted 2017 – Extraordinaires

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.

If you have a child who enjoys drawing, Extraordinaires may be just the gift for him or her.  This unique kit encourages Design Thinking by providing Character cards (Extraordinaires), Project Cards, Think Cards, and Idea Pad, and a case. (Included supplies vary, depending on the set.)  Children can choose an Extraordinaire and a Project to design for that character.  Empathy is encouraged by suggesting the designer should first study the Extraordinaires card closely to learn anything that might be helpful in creating a personalized design for the character.  Think Cards can be used to help the designer consider improvements or tweak that can be made to the design.  Inventing a “backstory” for the character is also recommended.

We have used the Buildings Set and the Design Studio in my 2nd and 4th grade classes.  The students really enjoy choosing from the unusual cartoon-like Extraordinaires, and quickly become close to the fictional characters they’ve selected.  These sets definitely spark the imagination – especially for children who love to invent, draw, and/or write.

There are currently three Extraordinaires sets available at different price points.  There is also a free app available that allows designers to see and share projects.  If you scroll to the bottom of this page, you can download a sample project for children to try.

If you want your child to spend more time “unplugged” and creating, Extraordinaires is definitely a worthwhile gift option.

 

extraordinaires.jpg
image from Extraordinaires.com
Advertisements

ELA 12 Days of Christmas

Last Thursday, Richard Byrne shared an absolute treasure trove of Google Drive templates created and shared by Darren Maltais.  You can click the link above to read Richard’s post.  One of the templates that you may want to consider using in the near future is “ELA 12 Days of Christmas,” which offers 12 different creative writing ideas, along with examples. Whether you plan to use some or all of these, you should definitely make a copy of this to help you and your students make it through this occasionally overwhelming time of year!  (I particularly like the Facebook example with comments from Buddy the Elf and Rudolph!) By the way, if you would like math activities for the 12 Days of Christmas, you can try this.

12_days_melody.png
image from Wikimedia

 

Interactive Onomatopoeia

When my students were working on their cardboard mini golf courses, I casually suggested using a Makey Makey to make things interesting – and realized that I hadn’t yet introduced this group of kids to the wonders of this invention tool.  When I saw a post from Colleen Graves about making interactive stories and poems using Makey Makey and Scratch, I knew this would be the perfect project for my 4th graders.  They are studying literary masterpieces right now, and learning about figurative language.  It seemed to be a natural transition from discussing onomatopoeia to designing simple Scratch programs that would allow us to add sounds using the Makey Makey.

After teaching some of the basics of Scratch, I showed the students an onomatopoeia poem to which I had added some heavily penciled symbols (the graphite will conduct if you lay it on pretty thick).  I attached the Makey Makey to the symbols and my computer, and started my Scratch program, reading the poem and pressing the symbols at the appropriate moments.  Then the students got to choose their own poems from some I had printed out to program in pairs.  They got to share their creations on Seesaw, and were pretty excited about the way their projects turned out.

This was just the beginning.  Now that the students know the concept, they will be able to apply it to poetry they will be writing in the next couple of weeks.  I’m hoping to also guide them toward creating more complex artwork using copper tape or conductive paint for the Makey Makey triggers.

The Makey Makey was on “Gifts for the Gifted” list in 2014.  Since then, I have seen many more uses for it.  In fact, I just ordered Graves’ book, 20 Makey Makey Projects for the Evil Genius, which may keep my 4th graders busy for the rest of this year!

16497682417_ec6aea91c0_k.jpg
image from Josh Burker on Flickr

17 Free Printables for Thanksgiving

To justify the hours that I spend looking for “just right” activities for my gifted students, I try to share as much as I can on this blog.  Yesterday I hunted for critical and creative thinking activities with a Thanksgiving theme, and found quite a few that you can print for free.

From Minds in Bloom (Rachel Lynette) on Teachers Pay Teachers:

From Growing Gifted Minds on Teachers Pay Teachers:

From various other authors on Teacher Pay Teachers:

From other sources:

Some of my past Thanksgiving posts:

thanksgiving-dinner-illustration.jpg
image from PublicDomain.net

Adapt Your Classroom for a New “Pet”

My 2nd graders have been learning about physical and structural adaptations in nature.  To exercise their creativity, I asked them to brainstorm wild animals that would make unusual class pets.  Then they were asked to draw our classroom with adaptations for the pet.  The twist was that they could not actually draw the animal in the classroom.  The rest of us tried to guess the “pets” by using clues in their pictures and the descriptions that they wrote.  I was proud of their varied ideas and some of the incredible details they added to the drawings.  I’ve included some examples below.  (I love how the first student decided the most unusual animal he could think of would be an alien from outer space!) . Usually, my students have a difficult time with the “Adapt” part of S.C.A.M.P.E.R., but this activity proved to be really fun and they couldn’t wait to share their work.  I’m definitely putting this in the file, “Do Again Next Year!”

Photo Oct 30, 1 26 02 PMPhoto Oct 30, 1 25 56 PMPhoto Oct 30, 1 24 26 PMPhoto Oct 30, 1 24 15 PMPhoto Oct 30, 1 23 48 PMPhoto Oct 30, 1 23 40 PMPhoto Oct 30, 1 22 55 PMPhoto Oct 30, 1 22 45 PMPhoto Oct 30, 1 21 54 PMPhoto Oct 30, 1 21 40 PM

Cardboard Mini Golf

I am a recovering control freak/perfectionist.  So, when my students work on projects for #cardboardchallenge, it takes every ounce of restraint to not turn into a raving lunatic.  Nothing goes as planned; in fact plans are pretty much a waste of time.  My classroom looks like an episode of “Hoarders,” and I find duct tape hanging off of my clothes for months afterwards.

I constantly tell my students that empathy and mistakes are part of the design process, but it turns out I should be lecturing myself more than them.  While I watched over the mass production of cardboard miniature golf courses this year, I had to keep reminding myself that I shouldn’t be disappointed that my students’ visions were completely different than mine and that it’s not very encouraging to have a teacher keep telling you, “That’s not going to work!”

During the entire week leading up to our first project “reveal” at a school festival, I worried that it would rain.  On the day of the festival, bright sunshine greeted us – along with hurricane-worthy gusts of winds intent on adding the extra challenge of giving us moving targets as we ran around the basketball court chasing our golf courses.

The tech enhancements we had made for a few courses disappointed because they kept getting disconnected or weren’t loud enough to make people “ooh” and “ahh.”  Some students abandoned supervisory shifts of their courses to go play elsewhere, and one group took an hour to get their course working because one of the students had a picture in his mind of what it should like that none of the rest of us could understand, and he wouldn’t compromise.

I am not telling you this to complain or to discourage you from attempting a similar project.  I like to be honest on my posts, so people don’t get blindsided by obstacles when they decide to try out a “good idea.”  The question is, was this a good idea?

After we put some weights on the courses to keep them in one place, and students began to stream over to try out swinging the putters, I saw a lot of smiles.  I heard a few students talk about how proud they were of their work, a few who mentioned some adjustments they wanted to make, and a few who already had ideas for next year.  Some students took extra shifts to make sure their courses could stay open, and there were many kids who would try a course and then get back in line to try it again.  In other words, kids were having fun.

I had told the students this was our first big “test” of the courses, because we are hoping to take some to a S.T.E.A.M. Festival in December.  To be honest, though, it’s tempting to forget about that – just clean everything up and move on to other projects.  I am desperate to get back to some semblance of order and leave the chaos behind for awhile.  Fun was had, lessons were learned, so let’s call it a day, right?

But Design Thinking isn’t about giving up.  So, next week we are going to reflect on peer feedback, discuss improvements that can be made, and continue to make messes that will create knots in my stomach, but that I will accept as part of the process. We are going to move those projects from good enough to great.

But first I need to buy a lot more duct tape…

Halloween Paper Circuit Projects

I think these Halloween Paper Circuit templates from Makerspaces.com look like a lot of fun.  You can download the templates for free, but will need to purchase the other supplies.  The instructions are excellent.  I plan to try this with my 3rd graders.  Once they learn the concept, I am going to challenge them to light up a picture of their choice to encourage some creativity and give them the opportunity to apply what they have learned about circuits.  By the way, if you are looking for some other paper circuit projects, here is a post I did on ones that our Maker Club did.

Simple_paper_circuit.jpeg.jpeg
image from Wikimedia Commons
halloween-2844044_1920.jpg
image from Pixabay