Category Archives: Education

Reflecting with Hexagons

I think that the deepest discussions I ever hear in my classroom happen when we do Hexagonal Thinking.  If you haven’t heard of this strategy, I explain how I use it with my 4th graders in this blog post.  Last year, I did a post on using Hexagonal Thinking to reflect on the school year.  In the past, my 3rd-5th graders have used Hexagonal Thinking.  This year, on a whim, I decided to try it with my 2nd graders.

My 2nd graders have never done an activity like this before.  It was our last day of class together, and I wanted to help them sum up the things they have learned in our Gifted and Talented class this year.  Because they were new to Hexagonal Thinking, I conducted the activity in a slightly different way.

First, I went to this awesome Hexagon Generator, and asked the class to help me brainstorm words that represented things they have learned in GT.  Here is what they came up with:

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I did this right before their recess time, so I could make some quick copies for everyone while they played.

When we got back to the classroom, I paired up the students and gave them the paper.  Now this is where I really departed from my traditional lesson.  Instead of asking them to cut up the hexagons and place them where they wanted on a new sheet of paper, I asked them to make connections between words that were already sharing sides.  We went over a couple of examples so they could understand that I didn’t want them to say things that used the words in the explanation, (such as creativity goes with problem solving because you need to be creative to problem solve) but to think about the qualities that each word shared.

You know how you sometimes come up with an idea right before class and you start executing the idea and realize about 3/4 of the way through explaining it that it was the dumbest idea ever and now you need to figure out how to get through the next 45-minutes without anyone crying – including you?

That’s how I felt as I started monitoring the partner discussions.  Expecting 2nd graders to “go deep” on the last day of class was not a brilliant decision on my part.  There were comments like, “Well, bridges goes with stability because they need to stay up or they will fall down.”  True, but not what I was going for.

And then something kind of magical happened.  I heard partners saying, “No, no, that’s not what she wants.”  And I started reading some of their notes.  And I realized that these kids can think deeper than I can when given the opportunity.

A few of their comments:

  • Stability and Support – “You have to be strong and stand up for your friends.”
  • Creativity and Perspective – “You have to think the way others think to make them happy.”
  • Perseverance and Adaptations – “They both don’t give up trying to survive.”
  • Perseverance and Adaptations – “Sometimes you need to change to work together.”
  • Ethics and Perspectives – “When you don’t look at different points of view, sometimes you get in a fight.”

You can see the working drafts one pair used below.

The great thing about this activity was hearing the students use the vocabulary, like “ethics” and “perspectives” correctly, and being able to tell from their comments if they really understood these topics.

If you still have some time with your students before closing out the year, I definitely recommend this activity!

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Creativity Land

For her Genius Hour project, one of my 5th grade students questioned what the world would be like without creativity.  Since she used Scratch for last year’s project (on Sleepwalking), I told her that she needed to present her information in a different way, but that she could still use Scratch for part of her project.  Whereas she used Scratch to give her information about her topic last year, she decided to use Animaker this year.  However, she chose to use Scratch for the “interactive” portion of her presentation (I always insist that there be a part that involves the audience), and blew me away with the complexity of her game.  She designed “Creativity Land,” which includes five interactive games that help students learn the information she gave in her videos.  This. Was. Not. For. A. Grade.  She did this purely out of her love for learning and creating.  English is her second language – maybe third, because imagination is certainly her first.

If you don’t do Genius Hour with your students, you are missing out on something amazing.  And so are your students.

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Click here to play this game by Olivia T.

Nothing VENNtured…

Venn Diagrams are pretty ubiquitous in school.  Most students have seen and used the common form of a Venn Diagram that you see below in order to compare/contrast two things.

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image from Wikipedia

To be honest, after a bazillion years of teaching, I’ve gotten quite bored with using this graphic organizer.  However, there are a few people who have thought up some interesting variations on this theme, and I thought I would share some with you.

First up, Venn Perplexors are a series of workbooks that have levels suitable for Kinder and up.  Level A sticks with the concept of students grouping pictures and words into diagrams, but the other levels challenge students to use Venn Diagrams to solve math problems.  It’s an unusual way to do algebraic thinking that is great for students who need some math enrichment.

I’ve posted about “Logic Zoo”, a PBS Cyberchase game here.  It’s fun to play on the interactive board with students in Kinder and 1st.

Another interactive board possibility (for a bit older children) is this one.

Anaxi is a unique game that I included in my Gifts for the Gifted Series in 2016.  Players use translucent cards to create Venn Diagram categories that require some creativity to fill.  It’s challenging, so I would use it with 2nd grade and up.

Today, I had an interesting discussion with my 3rd graders with this puzzler from Math Pickle.  I think this has been my favorite Venn Diagram activity so far.  The free printable has 13 different blank diagrams and a list of 13 groups of 3.  Problem solvers must find which diagram matches which group.  For example, what would the diagram for “reptile, crocodile, and female” look like?  The great thing is that the answers are NOT provided, so we were all trying to figure out the answers and debating our solutions.  I loved the critical thinking that was used for this activity, though it might be better suited for 4th grade and up.  I could definitely see making some of these up for other subjects, too, like geography or social studies.  Also, Math Pickle has some other Venn Puzzlers which look wickedly fun here. (I want to try the polygon ones!)

Lastly, here are some fun and creative Venn Diagrams that are probably best for middle and high school students – or even your adult friends.  Along the same lines are these humorous ones from Math with Bad Drawings.

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image from XKCD

25 Challenging Riddles

My students have a love/hate relationship with riddles.  They groan and complain that I’m asking them to do the impossible, but as soon as they solve one they beg for more.  This is a good time of year for these fun puzzlers from Reader’s Digest.  There are more than a few that are new to me and I plan to add to my repertoire.  The one below, from Cydcor on Flickr, is a variation of a student favorite in my classroom.

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image from Cydcor on Flickr

Tooth Traditions Around the World

Silvia Tolisano of the Langwitches Blog shared in this post how a teacher from Argentina is trying to help her first graders learn about the “tooth” traditions of other countries.  Students are invited to add to this Flipgrid their own stories about what happens when they hit that favorite milestone of losing a tooth. Similar to the other lessons that I’ve shared that help students to learn about commonalities and differences throughout the world, this is a wonderful idea for crowd-sourcing knowledge from our young people about a topic that means quite a bit to them!  Unfortunately, there is a disadvantage for those of us who are mono-lingual, as several of the videos that have already been shared may be in a language you do not know.  (I tried using Google Translate on my phone with some interesting results…)   Maybe including some hand-drawn pics like the one below might help.

I enjoyed hearing Maggie H.’s comparison of England and India (I think my students will be horrified to hear that some children plant their teeth!).  Considering the wide variety in monetary value that teeth seem to bring just within my tiny class, it might also be fun to research the currency exchanges mentioned and do some math along with your geography lesson.

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image from Cathy Meier on Flickr

826 Digital

Dave Eggers, award-winning author of books such as A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, explains in his 2008 TED Talk, “Once Upon a School,” how he conceived the idea of a tutoring and creative writing center that would be part of the community, a place that would offer one-on-one help to the students in the area with writers who would volunteer their time.

 The center, with its pirate storefront and ever-increasing list of dedicated tutors, was a success.  It grew into more centers around the United States, providing “under-resourced communities access to high-quality, engaging, and free writing, tutoring, and publishing programs.”  As quickly as it has grown, however, 826 National has an even more ambitious goal – to provide its inspirational creative-writing resources to teachers everywhere.  To that end, the company launched “826 Digital” in November of 2017, a website that offers innovative “sparks” and lessons ready to be used in classrooms to galvanize generations of writers of all ages.  Aligned with the Common Core, the unique activities include field-tested resources from Dave Eggers, educators, and volunteers at 826 National sites.

826 Digital is a “pay-as-you-wish” site, which means that teachers can become members for free or whatever they choose to donate.  With lesson titles like, “MIRACLE ELIXIR: INVENTING POTIONS TO CURE BALDNESS AND OTHER THINGS THE WORLD NEEDS RIGHT NOW,” students cannot help but be intrigued and motivated to write.  Sparks like, “CHEESY POP SONG POETRY,” and “MONSTER SCATTERGORIES” will contribute to a classroom environment of humor and creativity.

Your students may not be able to go to the original 826 Valencia pirate store, or the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company, but you can make your own classroom into a writer’s room that encourages imagination by accessing the great resources available at 826 Digital.826digital

 

Doodle 4 Google 2018

You have less than 2 days to vote for this year’s Doodle 4 Google contest winners.  This year’s theme is , “What inspires me.”  This is a great opportunity to show your students the incredible creativity that is exemplified by the chosen finalists from K-12. And, even though the deadline to enter has passed, you can take advantage of the free educator materials to guide your students as they create their own Google doodles.  Are you done with standardized testing for the year?  Looking for ways to engage your students as the school year comes to a close?  This is definitely one way to do it!

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