Stanford’s d.school is one of my go-to resources for anything creative, so I was a bit surprised when I found this particular one completely by accident. I was looking for unique team-building tools, and “Stoke Deck” popped up. This free printable has 28 different activities that will help students to “Boost Energy, Create Focus, Get Personal, Nurture Camaraderie, and Communicate Mindsets.” They are each short exercises that can be used before starting a lesson – or even as a quick break during instruction. Some of them, like “Blind Disco,” may require some an established history of trust before you try them. Others, like “Long Lost Friends,” might be good for introductions. Almost all of them were new to me, so I can’t wait to try them!
If you read last year’s “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, then you may remember that one of my suggestions was Circuit Playground Express. After publishing the post, I found out that there was an e-book published by Rob Merrill with some fun ideas for different ways to use this product, which is an awesome introduction to development boards. I added the update to that post, but I found out this week that the Cartoon Network has developed seven new projects to try out with the Circuit Playground Express. Whether you have a child who received one of these as a gift or you are a teacher who wants to offer more options for ways to learn how to use this product, these tutorials might appeal to you. In addition, there is a link to a Flipgrid where students can share their own versions of each project.
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.
This year, I have decided to do my annual “Gifts for the Gifted” posts all in one week. This should give anyone who likes to shop ahead of time a good start! For this year’s suggestions so far, click here.
No gift list is ever complete without one or two suggestions from ThinkFun! If you search my blog for “ThinkFun” you will see that I have done many reviews of their games. Periodically, ThinkFun sends me free games to review, but the only ones that appear on this blog are the ones I really, really like!
Laser Chess is a two-player game recommended for ages 8 and up. If someone teaches them the game, precocious 5 year olds can probably play – though they may be more interested in enticing their cats to chase after the laser beams. Knowledge of chess is not a prerequisite. (For a good game to teach chess moves to beginners, I recommend Tic-Tac-Chec or Solitaire Chess.) Although Laser Chess does require similar strategic thinking as chess, the King is the only piece that they have in common.
Players can choose from a variety of game board set-ups in the instruction booklet to begin. The object of the game is to capture your opponent’s King by directing the laser beam to it. Each person has several pieces that have mirrors on them as well as some that don’t (to block the laser). Pieces “struck” by the laser are eliminated.
For a more detailed description of Laser Chess game play, I recommend this blog post. The only suggestion that I would add is to let the recipient play with the pieces for awhile before playing a formal game. If you give him or her the opportunity to explore how the laser reflecting works, more time can be spent on strategy during the game.
Oh, and by the way – batteries are included!
Whether you call it STEM, STEAM, or STREAM, engineering is part of each of those acronyms. In an incredible leap that still surprises me, I found myself teaching Principle of Engineering to students in 8th-10th grades this year. (I taught elementary school for 27 years before this, for those of you new to the blog.)
After nearly falling asleep reading the course curriculum, I started to hunt for ideas. There is no textbook; this is all project-based learning. And just because the subject was new to me didn’t mean that I had to read from boring PowerPoints all year.
During my quest for ideas I discovered a UK site for STEM Learning. Even more helpful for my specific interests, is the “Year of Engineering” portion of the site, which offers an incredible number of free resources for all grade levels.
Of course, I immediately dove into the secondary resources. From the initial page, you can narrow down your engineering interest to a particular subject by clicking on a “Choose Your Inspiration” button – which perfectly describes the effect the enormous number of ideas had on me. My favorite rabbit hole to leap into is the “Engineering in Design and Technology” one, which offers subcategories like “Sports Engineering” and “Humanitarian Engineering.”
You will need to register for a free account if you are interested in downloading any of the lesson plans or activities on the site. Just give yourself plenty of time to explore each time you visit…
Colleen Graves (@gravescolleen) shared some pictures on Twitter a few days ago that showed prototypes she was making of a library data tracker and a classroom exit ticket tracker. Both use the Makey Makey along with some minimal Scratch programming. I begged for some more details, and she has released the instructions here. (That sentence makes it sound like she only published the directions because I asked, but I’m pretty sure the two events just happened in chronological order because Colleen planned it that way – not because I have the power to demand anyone to explain things in detail just so I can copy their ideas.)
Colleen, by the way, is now the Content Creator/Director of Community and Creative Content at Makey Makey. She has already authored a few books, one of which is 20 Makey Makey Projects for the Evil Genius. For one of my posts that curated links of creative ways to use the Makey Makey, click here. You also might enjoy this one about interactive onomatopeia.
The Global Student Voice Film Festival is a competition for students ages 5-18. Hosted by the Student Voice Organization, of which Jennie Magiera is president, this contest is in its second year. Last year’s theme was, “In Another’s Shoes,” and I highly encourage you to view the winners. For the 2018-2019 contest, students will create 60 second films with the theme of, “Activating Change.” You can access the rules here. Of particular note is the optional Dec. 17th deadline. Entries received by that date will receive feedback from the judges, and be given the opportunity to revise their films to be turned by April 9th. Participants who don’t meet the December deadline have a hard deadline of February 18th.
The goal of this contest is to amplify student voices, but it is also to reinforce respect for intellectual properties, so any use of images, video, or music in the film that are not created by the contestants are subject to strict copyright guidelines.
If you have students who are passionate about film production and/or making a difference, the Global Student Voice Film Festival would be a great project for them.
One of the funniest writing professional developments I ever attended included a live demonstration of the teacher following written instructions for making a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich. By following only the instructions on the paper, the teacher ended up making a huge mess. The point was to show that we often forget some important specifics when writing a “How To” paper. YouTube’s Josh Darnit has a video you can show your students to get the point across without having to stick your own hand in a jar of Jiffy. He assigns his children the task of creating “exact instructions” for making a PB&J sandwich, and chaos ensues.
I showed the video to my students in Robot Camp, and they immediately understood the connection – that programmers can’t assume the robot or computer knows what they are thinking, and if something goes wrong you need to go back and fix your mistake instead of blaming it on the device.
You should note that this particular video is labeled, “Classroom Friendly,” and I can attest that it is appropriate. I can’t vouch for any other Josh Darnit videos or “Exact Instructions” on YouTube.