Category Archives: K-12

Happy Valentine’s Day from San Antonio!

A couple of weeks ago I posted a link to the Virtual Valentines Project.  Since my 1st graders are studying different continents and countries, I thought they would be the perfect group to match with a Virtual Valentine.  We were matched with a class in Canada, and will be Skyping with them today.

I wanted the Valentines my students made to reflect a little of our San Antonio uniqueness, so I asked the students to brainstorm some special things about San Antonio that our Canadian friends might not have.  This turned out to be harder than I expected.

“Games?” one student suggested.

“Toys?” another student ventured.

After I assured them that Canada is not an isolated planet in outer space without any stores or internet connections, we narrowed things down a bit.

“Barbecue!”

“The Riverwalk!”

“The Alamo!”

We ended up with a fairly long list, and the students could choose one San Antonio feature to include in their Valentines.  It wasn’t until yesterday, though, that I got a chance to look at them closely.  I thought I’d share a few with you 🙂

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It took me a moment to figure out that this is one of our Riverwalk barges.
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This barge appears to be about to devour all of the ducks.  Since the ducks are larger than the people, that might be just as well.

 

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Unlike most of us who live in San Antonio, I think this student actually visited the Alamo.
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I’m not absolutely sure what’s happening at the top of the ladder inside the Alamo. It could either be someone writing at a desk with a candle or lighting a cow on fire.  I guess I need to brush up on my Texas history. (My daughter just informed me that it’s a cannon.  Oops.)

 

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Yes, we definitely love our tacos in San Antonio!
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It’s rodeo season in San Antonio right now.  As you can see, that isn’t a picture of a cow or a horse.  Apparently, this student’s favorite rodeo experience was the school’s Bike Rodeo.
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This picture pretty much says it all…

Overall, I think their pictures definitely showcase some of our San Antonio flair.  I hope this post makes you smile as much as I did writing it, and Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you!

Valentine’s Day Breakout EDU

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.  If you teach in any country that annually celebrates this day, then you know that getting your students to focus will probably be somewhat of a challenge.  You might as well join in the fun – in an educational way, of course.  I’ve already posted this year’s list of Valentine’s Day resources, but wanted to let you know that I will be adding these seasonal Breakout Edu games to the list.  “Anti-Love Potion #9” is designed for elementary students, and, “Where in the World is Valentino/Cupid?” targets middle and high schools.  “Holiday Hijinks” connects to a few different holidays, including Valentine’s Day, and can be used with 2nd-6th grades.

If you haven’t registered with Breakout EDU yet, you can go to this page.  Registering is free, and you need to do so in order to get the password that will give you full access to the games.  And, just in case you haven’t read my original post on Breakout EDU, here you go 🙂

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image from: Wikimedia

Visit Me at TCEA 2017!

This week, I will be at TCEA in Austin with my fabulous colleague, Angelique Lackey.  We will be presenting together on Tuesday.  Our session is called, “10 Sure-Fire Ways to Light Up Your Curriculum.”  The hour-long session starts at 1:15 in Room 19B.  It is about using the Project Ignite website to introduce your students to 3d modeling with Tinkercad.

On Wednesday, I’ll be solo.  I’ll be presenting, “Code Dread” at 2:30 in Room 13AB.  This session is for anyone who has been intrigued by the thought of using coding in the classroom, but has little experience with programming.

FYI – despite having done numerous presentations I always sound nervous.  Weirdly, the only thing that makes me nervous is knowing that I will sound nervous which, as you can imagine, develops into a nice little self-fulfilling prophecy.  Fortunately, the size of the audience doesn’t seem to impact this, as I am equally as nervous with 2 people or 50.  Unfortunately, medication either makes it worse or makes me slur my words so I’ve learned to just tune out my own voice and never listen to recordings.  Of course, if you attend either session you won’t have those choices – but I promise not to be offended if you walk out 😉

You may not want to walk out, though, because we just found out that we get to use the Qball (wireless, throwable microphone) during our sessions.  So, walking out would mean you not only lose the opportunity of listening to my unique voice, but you would also lose the opportunity to see how horrible I am at throwing microphone balls – a feat I have never attempted, but I am quite certain will bring back flashbacks of the one time I tried to play softball when I was in 5th grade and managed to bonk myself in the forehead.  I will try not to bonk you in the forehead, but there is no guarantee.

In conclusion, you may or may not want to attend my two sessions at TCEA and you may or may not want to take out extra insurance before volunteering to be in the audience.  If you do decide to brave all of these potential hazards I have mentioned, then please come up and say, “Hi!  I am one of the courageous people who read your TCEA post and still decided to come to your session.”  That way I will know not to aim for you when I throw the Qball 😉

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Full Disclosure – I don’t look anything like my Bitmoji. Except for the brown eyes and hair. And I do sometimes smile. Oh, and my hair is usually parted on the side. Angelique looks exactly like her Bitmoji. (Don’t tell her she looks like a cartoon, though. She finds that offensive for some strange reason.)
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I forget where that QR code takes you, so don’t be upset if it’s a dead end. I should probably check that before I present, but I have plenty of time – right?

Spatial Reasoning

Some of the tests that students can take in their quest to qualify for gifted services require spatial reasoning.  I am frequently astounded by the performance of some students on these tests as they whip through the pages at lightning speed, ending up with nearly perfect scores.  Spatial reasoning has never been my strong suit, and even the questions on tests for 6 year olds can make me go cross-eyed.

When you think about it, however, we don’t usually practice a lot of spatial reasoning during a typical school day. After all, aside from geometry and map skills, it’s not generally a part of state standardized tests.  According to this article from MindShift, though, we should consider integrating more spatial reasoning into our curriculum.

What kinds of activities can we do to build spatial reasoning skills in school?  Here are some suggestions in an article directed to parents from Parenting Science.

Programming and 3d design also require spatial reasoning.  Creative building projects like you can find on PBS or on DIY.org are also great ways to practice this type of thinking.

Here are some of the blog posts that I’ve done in the past, recommending games and apps to develop spatial reasoning.

I tried some of these Zukei puzzles, and learned that I really need to work on this skill myself.  If you think those are easy, then try the angle puzzles here.

Considering I have to use the Waze app to find my way out of a parking lot, I think I probably should spend a few hours a week sharpening my brain on these types of challenges (or just resort to online shopping for the rest of my life).

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Camelot Jr. – one of my favorite games for pre-schoolers to practice spatial reasoning – can be found along with many others on my Games & Toys Pinterest Board

Valentine Resources for the Young at Heart

I’m not actually a huge fan of Valentine’s Day, believe it or not.  If you search “Valentine” on this blog, though, you would suspect otherwise.  I’ve collected quite a few resources to use in class based on this holiday – mostly because my students seem to love it so much.  In fact, I’m pretty sure kids get a lot more of enjoyment out of it than adults!

In case you missed it, here was my 2016 Valentine blog post – which pretty much linked to everything I had curated so far.  Since then, I’ve added:

Some new ones that I’ve just discovered:

I imagine a few more will pop up in the next couple of weeks.  If so, I will be sure to share them with you!

UPDATE 2/13/17 – Here are a couple Valentine’s Day Breakout EDU activities!

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image from Pixabay

Virtual Valentines

I asked my 1st grade gifted students today to try to think from their parents’ perspectives of what they would like for Valentine’s Day besides food or flowers.  The first student said that her parents would want, “my sister and I to stop fighting,” which seemed like a pretty good response.  Then the next student said, “Yeah, my mom would want to rest in peace.” I think I know what he meant, but you can never be sure.  Then another student said, “Beer!” which brought up an interesting discussion as to whether or not that could count –  because “it’s a food!” as some of the students declared…

Sometimes my job just makes me smile 🙂

Anyway, this all started because we are studying different countries, and learning about the Depth and Complexity icon, “Multiple Perspectives.”  I signed our class up to participate in a Virtual Valentines project, and we will hopefully be exchanging Valentines with a class in another country.  It occurred to me that are probably very few countries that actually celebrate this holiday, but I did some research and found out that several places around the world either have Valentine’s Day traditions or other similar variations. (I’m still trying to figure out why “Love Spoons” haven’t caught on yet in the USA.)

I signed us up for Level 2 of the Virtual Valentines Project, which means that we will not only make virtual Valentines, but try to exchange them with another class.  If that is too much pressure, you can also choose Level 1, which just legally binds you to having your class create virtual Valentines.  Which I read to mean, “I am putting my name down, but my life is crazy and it’s quite possible that by ‘virtual’ Valentines I mean that my students will just create some in their imagination, so I refuse to commit myself to them doing anything that isn’t somehow tied in to standardized testing.”

The Virtual Valentines Project has a resource page, which gives suggestions for tools to use to create your digital cards.  I would add to this list the Quiver App’s free augmented reality Valentine’s Day page, which you can find here.

For more Valentine’s Day ideas, you can look at last year’s blog post.  I’ll probably update and re-blog it in the near future.

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Google Expeditions

Like many people, the first time I experienced the Virtual Reality of Google Expeditions, I thought it was pretty cool.  Like many teachers, however, I wondered about the practicality of using it in my classroom.  Getting VR viewers, like Google Cardboard, doesn’t seem to be a big deal.  But getting devices that fit in them (in other words, smartphones) and also that work with our district network turns out to be a bit more of a challenge.  This is especially so for elementary school, where smartphones are not quite as ubiquitous has in many secondary schools.

I was so focused on solving the problem of getting devices that I didn’t realize that we could still use Expeditions in our class without the VR feature.  We have plenty of iPads in our class, and you can actually get some decent 360 degree footage without being immersed in the scene.  It’s not quite as awe-inspiring, but certainly more engaging than still photos in a textbook.

This Smore from Karly Moura has several great links for beginners in case you are planning to embark on a journey of your own.  My favorite link leads to a list of available Expeditions that has incredible details on each tour.  After searching the internet up and down for something like this, I am thankful to Jennifer Holland and Lauren Carroll for creating and updating the document, as well as Karly for sharing the link!

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image from Pixabay