Category Archives: Critical Thinking

Bot or Not?

Since tomorrow is “Super Tuesday”, secondary teachers may want to take advantage of the resource from PBS Learning Media called, “Bot or Not? How Fake Social Media Accounts Could Influence Voting.”  This lesson plan includes a link to a 6-minute PBS News Hour video that explains how bots have been used in the past in social media – from making someone appear more popular to generating fake accounts that spread particular political agendas.  Students are directed to a website that will analyze Twitter accounts to determine the likeliness of whether or not a user and/or their followers are bots. (I checked my own account, and discovered that I score a 0.3 out of 5 in bot-potential.)  For their final project, students research issues that are meaningful to them, and invent their own “helper bot” to advocate for their selected issues.

The majority of your students are probably not current voter, but they most likely use social media.  They may find it eye-opening to see how easy it is to purchase followers to mislead people about your popularity, and the extent to which bots are being used for propaganda.  As Artificial Intelligence becomes more ubiquitous, it will become harder and harder to distinguish between real and fake accounts.  If nothing else, this lesson will hopefully inspire your students to approach social media with a dose of cynicism.

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Slow Reveal Graphs

If you are a fan of helping students learn how to be critical thinkers, then you will appreciate the Slow Reveal Graphs site.   Rather than presenting a full graph to students and asking them to interpret it, teachers use Slow Reveal Graphs to allow the students to discuss, think, wonder, and predict as each stage of the graph is shown – hopefully resulting in deeper learning.  (This technique is similar to the one used in the New York Times’ “What’s Going on in this Graph?” feature.) Courtesy of Jenna Laib (@jennalaib) and other contributors, The Slow Reveal Graphs website has examples of different types of graphs (Circle, Bar,  Line, etc…), many of which have links to slide decks that have already been created for the slow reveal.  “How Long Can Animals Hold Their Breath Underwater?“, for example, begins with a bar graph that has no title or labels and incrementally adds them as you advance each slide.  The slides also have suggested discussion questions in the notes.

In case you are thinking this site will only appeal to math teachers, I should note that there are three special categories of Slow Reveal Graphs: Social Justice, Save the Planet, and Incarceration in the U.S.  Of course, any of the graphs on the site can be used in multiple subjects, including ELA.

To read more about how Slow Reveal Graphs are used in classrooms, from primary to high school, visit this list of bloggers who have written about SRG’s in the past.

If you like SRG’s, consider trying Clothesline Math and Would You Rather? Math.  One of my most popular posts, 15 Math Sites that Won’t Make You Fall Asleep, has examples of these and more. Also, follow the #mtbos hashtag on Twitter for more great math teaching strategies!

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Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

 

Chess Resources

A friend of mine asked for some chess resources to use with her after-school chess club (elementary-aged), and I thought I would share the ones that I was able to curate.  If you have any other suggestions (other than sites where you can play chess online), please comment below.

The game that I like to use to introduce how the chess pieces move is Tic Tac Chec.  I just did a search on my blog, and I can’t believe that I’ve never posted about this game before.  I used to use it with my Kinder and 1st graders all of the time, and they quickly picked it up.  The game board is a wooden 4×4 grid, and the two players each get 4 different chess pieces, one of which they can place or move during their turns.  The object is to get 4 of your pieces in a row.  If you are captured, you can use your next move to put your piece back on the board.  It’s fun to watch the students keep capturing each other, and finally realizing no one can win if that’s all you do!

Solitaire Chess is another game for practicing chess movements without playing the actual game.  This one-player game offers scaffolded challenges that show pictures of a 4×4 chess board set up with some pieces.  Your goal is to figure out how to move the pieces so that only one is left.  Each move must be a “legal” capture.  You can also play Solitaire Chess online (make sure you have Flash enabled on your computer), and there is a video tutorial.

Here are some other online chess challenges:

UIL Texas has this printable packet of mini-games for teaching chess.

For videos, don’t forget the inspirational one, The Magic of Chess, that I shared a couple of weeks ago.  Also, Kids Academy has a series of animated videos on YouTube, beginning with Getting to Know the Game.

Want to use chess for an integrated lesson, where students design their own chess pieces and/or boards?  This is a great lesson plan from Scopes-DF.

If you aren’t convinced of the educational benefits of teaching chess to young children, this article may help you to learn more!

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Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

STEM Cookbook

Who says that Robotics can’t be tasty?  If you believe that, then the L’Essor Secondary School Robotics Team, Team 6331 SaBOTage, would disagree with you.  The team has produced a downloadable STEM book of recipes titled, appropriately, How to SaBOTage Your Kitchen. The students researched and published this guide to preparing delicious dishes. It includes scientific health tips and explanations, and has recipes that will appeal to a variety of taste buds, ranging from “Big Bang Caramel Popcorn” to “Exploding Bacon Pulled Pork.”  To learn more about this FIRST Robotics team, located in Canada, you can visit their Robotics website.  This unusual perspective on how STEM can even enhance our cooking is a great resource for families and students who may have a more narrow view when it comes to the usefulness of math and science in their everyday lives.

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Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

Daily STEM

Chris Woods (@DailyStem) tweets STEM challenges each day.  Even if you are not a Twitter advocate you can go to his website and download his weekly STEM newsletters for free.  There is an archive of at least 30 newsletters on this page.  Each one-pager has a puzzle, a mystery photo, and other short STEM articles that often have links to learn more about the topics.  The articles are perfectly bite-sized previews about different ways that we see STEM all around us, and are often timely (such as this one that shares how candy can be looked at through a STEM perspective – right in time for Valentine’s Day).  They would be great to post in your classroom, send home to families, or to comb through for awesome lesson ideas.

While you are visiting the Daily Stem website, go to the Resources Page for STEM movies along with project suggestions for each movie, as well as the Podcast Page for dozens of interviews with educators and other STEM experts.

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Image by LisaBMarshall from Pixabay

 

Puzzlesnacks

A few years ago, I wrote a post about a site called, “Puzzle Your Kids.”  Hosted by the author of the Puzzling World of Winston Breen series, Eric Berlin (@puzzlereric), “Puzzle Your Kids” provided a free puzzle each week, as well as a $5 monthly subscription for more puzzles.  It looks like there have been a few changes, and the site has a new name and new home, along with a new price.  It is now called, “Puzzlesnacks.”  You can still get a subscription, but it is at the bargain price of $3 per month.  Weekly puzzles continue to be free downloads, and there are other puzzle packs you can purchase in the online shop.  This page describes the approximate independence level of puzzle solvers, from the age of 8 and up.  I highly recommend adults working on these with children, as that type of modeling from my own parents is how I grew up to love logic and problem solving as well as develop a certain amount of perseverance.  In fact, my dad and I still semi-compete in solving a weekly mega-Sudoku puzzle that keeps my skills sharpened and my ego humble.

And no, I’m not exactly sure what language the crossword puzzle in the image below is (Greek, maybe?), but I thank the person on Pixabay who shared it.

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Image by Thanasis Papazacharias from Pixabay