Category Archives: Critical Thinking

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

Snack Attack

One thing that I love about using Wakelet is that I can save Twitter threads. Sometimes I will see a Tweet from an educator like the one below asking for resources, and I will bookmark it so I can check later for the responses.

This how I found Snack Attack, an animated short that had me chuckling in empathy, outraged at the audacity of some people, only to find myself chuckling in empathy once again.

screenshot from Snack Attack short film

The video is less than four minutes long, but tells an excellent story with a fun twist at the end. If I were using this with a class, I would stop it at about 3:03 minutes in and ask the students how they think the two characters are feeling at that moment, and to back up their inferences. Ethics would be a fun discussion; who is right, and who is wrong? Then I would let it play to the end, glory in their surprise, have a conversation about stereotyping, and ask if they would revise any of their responses.

I’ll be adding this to my Pinterest Board of Inspirational Video for Students, which you can find here.

Gifts for the Gifted – Sleuth and Solve

 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. I also have a Pinterest Board of Games and Toys for Gifted Students. You may notice that I missed 2019, but I’m making up for it this year with a post every Thursday in November and December up until Christmas Eve.

If you know children who love riddles, like the ones on TED Ed, and are about 8 years and up, you might want to consider getting them one of the Sleuth and Solve books (there are two) by Anna Gallo and Victor Escandell. Each book has more than 20 short riddles with fun illustrations and the answer behind a card you can fold down. I have only previewed the one with the black cover (not the History one), so I can’t describe both, but I imagine their format is similar.

The riddles use icons to communicate to the reader whether or not they can be solved using logic or imagination, and there are stars to indicate their difficulty levels (six stars being the most difficult). Some of the riddles are familiar, such as “Crossing the River,” while others are definitely new to me. One feature that I really like is that the book describes how it can be played as a game, encouraging families (or groups in class) to keep track of the cases they solve and how many points they earn for each solution based on the difficulty level. As I mentioned in last week’s gift post, you can really maximize the impact of any gift if you, the giver, play along with the recipient. And, don’t assume you will have to “play dumb.” Some of these riddles are quite diabolical.

I am giving you a link to these books from one of our new local bookstores, Nowhere Bookshop. The store is owned by one of my favorite authors, Jenny Lawson, also known as “The Bloggess.” Unfortunately, their grand opening coincided with the pandemic, so they have only been able to operate virtually. I’d love for you to support them so they will be able to survive and one day open their doors. If you prefer to support another independent bookstore, you can find some on Bookshop.org.

For those who love mysteries and riddles, here is a link to a past recommendation from this series, Invisible Ink books.

Google Jamboard Templates and Ideas

I’ve recently seen a large uptick in visits to my Google Jamboard post, as well as people sharing Jamboard templates and ideas on social media. One person who is particularly creative and prolific in creating Jamboards is @GiftedTawk, and I’ve been curating as many as I can from her Twitter feed. Whether you are looking for graphic organizers to use with Jamboard (or Padlet, or even Slides) like these from @ergoEDU or mindbending creativity and logic challenges like this pentomino Jamboard from @GiftedTawk, you are sure to find something ready-made for your class in this list. There are also some tips on the list, such as how to embed a Jamboard in Seesaw, and how to “freeze” your background on Jamboard so it doesn’t get moved accidentally. A few Halloween Jamboards are in there, just in case you are looking for some last-minute activities for this week. (I’ve also put them in my “Halloween During a Pandemic” Wakelet.)

For a “live” updated list of Google Jamboard Templates and Ideas, click here. If you have any others that I should add to the list, let me know!

Evaluating Online Information

I recently curated an entire list of sites to help teachers use in the classroom for lessons on evaluation online information – and most of the links on the list came from Facebook. I am not ignorant of the irony in that statement, but I will say that the particular Facebook group that this came from is my favorite and most educational – the Distance Learning Educators group. If you are looking for help or ideas in anything related to distance learning, this group is extremely knowledgeable and supportive. When a teacher recently asked for advice for lessons to use with her 12th graders about fake news, a stream of educators responded, and most of the answers were new to me.

My recent post on Factitious and Spot the Troll was beginning to get a bit unwieldy as I kept updating it, so I decided to move on over to a shareable list on Wakelet. (Here is my post about Wakelet in case you are new to it.)

This is a live document, so I will continue adding resources as I find them. I hope you find at least one useful link for your own classroom in this list!

Image by Sophie Janotta from Pixabay

Peel The Fruit Slides Activity

UPDATE 10/13/2020: Here are links to some more Thinking Routine activities I made on Google Slides: 3-2-1 Bridge and Step Inside Monster Box.

I am a gigantic fan of Harvard’s Project Zero Thinking Routines. As distance learning has become a necessity for many teachers and students, I have been pondering what these routines might look like when conducting virtual discussions. I was in the middle of designing an interactive Google Slides presentations for one of my favorite routines, “Peel the Fruit,” when I saw a tweet from Dr. Catlin Tucker sharing some slides that she had made for Thinking Routines. Fortunately, my work was not a duplicate, as her slides are for 5 other great routines!

For my “Peel the Fruit” presentation, I linked the source I’ve adapted it from in the first slide. You can also see some other important links on this blog post. The 2nd slide in this presentation was actually designed on a Master Slide so that students don’t inadvertently change it. The slide has links to each of the student slides, so that when it is time to discuss, the teacher can click back and forth from each “layer” of the fruit. The home button on each student slide brings you back to the original diagram.

I envision that once a class has begun to study a topic, the teacher can assign students to begin on different slides, typing their comments in the tables. They can move onto a different slide once they have commented. If you need new slides, I would add them to the end, or else your hyperlinks will need to be changed. Once students have added their thoughts, the teacher can discuss with the whole class, and go over the reflection at the end of the slide show.

If you have not used this Thinking Routine before, you can see videos of it in action with a 4th grade class here. (Scroll down.)

To make a copy of my Peel the Fruit presentation for your own use, click here.