Manifestos, Dream Teams, And More

Rounding out this week’s collection of suggestions for things to do at the end of the school year, I have some that I did with my 5th graders over the years. In our district, 5th grade was the final year of elementary school, and some of the students in my gifted and talented class had been seeing me weekly since Kindergarten. So, it was always important to me to help them look back on all of those years in GT and think about what they had learned that they could take with them moving forward.

One activity that we did was to form “Dream Teams” of people who inspired them. You can read more about it in this blog post, and download a couple of the planning sheets we used. At the time of that post, the students used Puppet Pals to present their teams to the class, but there are plenty of other apps and free online tools that will work just as well.

Thinking about their values was a central theme with my 5th graders each year. To make these values more concrete and something that they could refer to as they transitioned to middle school, the students designed manifestos. I have a few posts explaining what we did with these. The students designed them using Canva. (You could just as easily use Google Drawing if you don’t have access to Canva.) The first year, I ordered each of them a t-shirt, with their designs. Some turned out well, and some didn’t. That can also be cost-prohibitive. What seemed to work better was to put them in some frames from the dollar store, as you can see in this post. If I was in the classroom this year, I would give them options to choose their final product, depending on the tools we had available (laser cutter, 3d printer, vinyl cutter, etc…), similar to this “One Word Project” that I did with my high school students. For more background on how I introduced manifestos with my students, see this post.

Another project that I’ve done with 5th graders to help them be a bit more introspective was, “Character Strength Floor Plans.” They loved doing these, and their imaginations could really run wild as they used metaphorical thinking to compare their strengths to the rooms of a house. If I were to do it again this year, I would allow students to choose from Tinkercad, Google Sheets, or CoSpaces to create their designs – or even make their own mini models from cardboard or other materials.

I hope these ideas, or the ones from my other posts this week, will help you to enjoy your last few weeks with your students before your well-deserved break!

Student-designed (5th grade) Character Strength Floor Plan

Whatzit Tic-Tac-Toe for Reflection

To continue this week’s theme of year-end activities to use with students, I want to remind you of this blog post from 2016. We used “Whatzit Tic-Tac-Toe” quite a bit in my class to analyze and synthesize learning, and the open-ended prompts work very well for an end-of-year reflection for upper elementary students. The game comes from Critical Squares: Games of Critical Thinking and Understanding, a book written by Shari Tishman and Albert Andrade for Harvard’s Project Zero, but you can see what the Tic-Tac-Toe game looks like if you go to page 24 at this link. I explain how I used it for reflection in my 2016 blog post, but you will probably find that you can modify it for lots of curriculum ideas. It’s one more way you can still learn and have fun once the year begins to wind down.

Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay

Hexagonal Reflection

This week, I am revisiting some of my tried and true favorite end-of-the-school-year activities. For today, I want to refer you to my post on hexagonal reflection. This was one of those ideas that could have completely flopped, but was way more successful than I anticipated. The students (2nd graders!) were so incredibly thoughtful in their responses that I regretted not having done this with every class since the beginning of my career. For one of my more recent posts about hexagonal thinking, which may be helpful if you are still doing online teaching, check out, “Using Hexagonal Thinking Virtually.” I know this is deep, and the end of the year is generally fun and games, but if you want to help your students connect the dots of everything they have learned this past year and really seal in new knowledge and insights, please give this a try!

2nd grade student writing to explain hexagonal connections

Ethics in Bricks

So my daughter taught me that I was behind the times in using the 😂 whenever I found something hilarious. She probably will wish she did not inform me of this because I now want to use her suggested replacement on a regular basis. As someone who suffers from depression I am constantly seeking out things that will make me laugh. My latest obsession is the Ethics in Bricks Twitter feed (@EthicsInBricks, also on Instagram), and its pinned thread, #ArtInBricks has me 💀 (I probably didn’t use that right, but it doesn’t matter because my daughter doesn’t read this blog anyway.)

I love when creative people represent famous art works with different materials (remember this post?) so the #ArtinBricks photos make me smile – especially The Scream, which will always have a special place in my heart.

Don’t stop with that thread, though. Ethics in Bricks produces amazing content about philosophers using Lego Bricks, which is perfect for the GT classroom. Take a look at their most recent thread to celebrate Kant’s birthday:

I have yet to meet a student who doesn’t like building with Legos, and this is an excellent way to integrate some deep philosophical discussion with making while also dealing with constraints. If I was back in the classroom right now, I think I would use a quote and picture from this account every day to start my class.

My students really enjoyed Socratic Dialogues and having deep discussions about philosophical ideas. For some other doors into philosophy for students, you can also try 8-Bit Philosophy (screen videos first for appropriateness), Philosophy for Children, and this list of articles on Ethics lessons Joelle Trayers does with younger students in her classroom. Donna Lasher also has exceptional suggestions for using philosophy in lessons. You can find a few of my favorite past activities linked in this post I wrote. In addition, we used this book when I was in the K-5 GT classroom that is a wonderful resource.

Image from @EthicsInBricks on Twitter

Podcast Pedagogy

In my latest post for NEO, “Podcast Pedagogy: Leveraging Audio Programs for Learning,” I talk all about the power of podcasts in the classroom – listening and responding to them, as well as creating them. This industry has really become popular in the last few years, and there are so many free materials out there that you and your students can take advantage of for learning and creativity. One fun new app that I mention in the article is “That Part,” which I have enjoyed using to save snippets of podcasts that I want to remember. It’s currently in beta, so there is a glitch every now and then, but it has been great to just take a screenshot of a podcast while I’m walking my dog, and using the app later on to share out the moments of inspiration I think family and friends will appreciate. One resource I don’t share in the article (because I discovered it after the article was submitted) is this awesome free podcasting template from SlidesMania.

If you’d like to catch up on my previous articles for NEO, here’s the list: Six Ways to Support Spatial Reasoning Skills Online, Let’s Talk a Good Game: Mining Talk Shows for Classroom Engagement Ideas, How to Do More with Less Screen TimeHow to Facilitate Meaningful Discussions in Hybrid or Virtual ClassroomsTop Ed Tech Tools for DifferentiationFrom Normal to Better: Using What We’ve Learned to Improve EducationApplying Universal Design for Learning in Remote ClassroomsHow Distance Learning Fosters Global CollaborationHow to Use Design Thinking in the Classroom, and How to S.T.E.A.M. Up Distance Learning.

black and blue corded headphones
Photo by Stas Knop on Pexels.com

How Do You Really Feel About Pi Day?

If you’ve never celebrated Pi Day (March 14th) in your classroom, you may be missing an opportunity to get your students really excited about math. There is something quite magical about this number that appeals to curious young minds, inviting those who even believe (wrongly) that they don’t have mathematical minds to join in the fun.

Or, maybe not.

I was looking for new resources to add to my Pi Day Wakelet, and realized that I had somehow missed that Vi Hart, worshipped by my students for her math videos about Fibonacci as well as her awesome sketches of slug cats, has a tiny bit of a problem with Pi celebrations. She eloquently explains her argument in this video from 2014, Anti-Pi Day Rant.

I only discovered Hart’s argument by first unearthing Why Pi is Awesome (Vi Hart Rebuttal) by The Odd 1s Out on YouTube. (FYI – there is the comment that, “This is all bull crap” around 6:42 in the video.) And that, to be honest, is the first time it ever occurred to me that Pi might not be all that.

Side note: The first comment I saw under the rebuttal video was, “When the 2 quietest and smartest kids in class have a heated argument and everyone takes notes and grabs popcorn,” which seemed quite funny to this former GT teacher, who listened to debates like this in her classroom all of the time.

So, I guess what I’m saying is, if you really want to add a bit of a twist to Pi Day in your classroom, maybe you could show the students Hart’s video a few days before March 14th, and ask the students to persuade you as to why this number should be celebrated. And then you can use the ideas in my Pi Day Wakelet.

There are subsequent videos about Pi Day by Vi Hart in which she seems to soften her stance a bit – even one asking Pi to stay home last year to avoid coronavirus – but I haven’t watched all of them. Suffice it to say that my world was rocked hard enough by one anti-Pi video that I need a bit of time before I watch more.

from giphy.com