Category Archives: K-5

Big Ideas for Little Scholars

So here I am again. You may have noticed the (not so) brief hiatus. Or you may not have noticed it. If you’re a teacher, the latter is probably more likely. Noticing things that don’t directly affect your classroom is understandably low on the priority list during the school year.
In case you don’t follow me on other social networks, I recently posted this announcement, “On January 6th, most of my colleagues will return to work in schools and, for the first time in over 28 years, I will not. I decided to retire in December. There are multiple factors, and I still feel torn in two about my choice. However, with several family members about to have surgeries and a daughter about to interview at a couple of colleges out of town I am going to take advantage of the next couple of months to work on personal relationships before I decide on my second career. As the narrator of one of my favorite podcasts, Hidden Brain, recently said, ‘We often underestimate our ability to reinvent ourselves.’ Hopefully, I’m not OVERestimating it ;)”
I hesitate to call it retirement because, as my husband is quick to point out, I will be returning to work – but the actual job I will choose is a bit hazy at the moment. Here are my thoughts so far:

  • Starting as an intern at an advertising agency like Chandler on Friends,
  • Working as a staff writer for SNL or Stephen Colbert on The Late Show,
  • Training emotional support animals
  • Working at this bookstore if I can convince the owner I’m not a stalker
  • Going to law school
  • Running for office, probably something to do with Parks and Rec since I’ve been binge watching that particular show lately and Leslie Knope is one of my nonprofit heroes

While I sort things out, I figured I’d come back to this blog, which was one of my many hobbies that has fallen by the wayside in the last 18 months. As I was crafting this post, one of my dear friends from the world of Gifted and Talented tweeted a new site that she has begun, and I realized it was the perfect inaugural post for 2020.

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Donna Lasher has put together an amazing resource for parents and educators of advanced students from K-8 on this site, Big Ideas for Little Scholars.  With curriculum links, thinking skills strategies, and project ideas, this website is a dream come true for anyone who is looking for ways to challenge and inspire students.  This site is easy to navigate, and puts everything you need in one spot, including information on how to reach out to other teachers with similar interests.

When I first started teaching gifted children, there was a paucity of information, and I often felt like I was on my own.  Social networking has definitely changed this – to the point that the availability of materials can be overwhelming.  The structure and quality of Donna’s site makes this much more manageable.  It’s definitely worth bookmarking and visiting on a regular basis!

Thanks to Donna for sharing the site!  Like many of us, she has spent the time creating a resource that we hope will help others, especially our students.

You Just Won a Trip to Turkey!

I finally got around to trying this Mother’s Day idea this year – with a bit of green screen magic mixed in.  My GT first graders have been researching different countries, so they each made a Mother’s Day video for their moms incorporating some of their research.  After talking about perspective, and what they thought their moms would like to see in each country, they selected some highlights from their library books.  Then they made short videos “congratulating” their moms on winning trips to their respective countries.  We used some Creative Commons images and videos from Pixabay and Discovery Ed to create their final “Winning” montages.  You can click on the link below to see an example.  (Note: The video quality is a bit off because the young lady was wearing a bluish-green shirt that day – a little difficult to balance with our green screen program without making her a talking head!)

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Click here to see Olivia’s great video!

Mom’s Dream Home Cards

Most of my 2nd graders finished up their Mother’s Day Cards yesterday.  You may remember that I posted the idea of asking the students to design floorplans for Dream Homes for their moms.  I wasn’t sure exactly how they would be presented when I wrote that post, so this is the design we ended up with.  It is basically two pieces of cardstock folded “hamburger” style.  For the inside one, we cut a tab to make a pop-up card.  The pop-up was the design for the outside of the home.  The top flap of this card was glued to the inside of the top flap of the other card.  Then we glued the floor plans to the back of the inside card and the inside of the back card.

Okay, that sounds confusing.  Maybe pics will help?  Here are examples of 2 different student cards (Student 1 chose to make up her own haiku after learning about them earlier this year!):

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Top of Card 1 (I printed out the short poem for everyone to glue to their cards.)
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Pages 1 & 2 inside Card 1
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Pages 3 &4 inside Card 1
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Top of Card 2
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Pages 1 & 2 of Card 2
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Pages 3 & 4 of Card 2

Spy School

As regular readers know, I share a lot of freebies on this blog.  Usually, if I’ve made a lesson or activity, I post it here for anyone to download.  However, I sometimes create collections of my work and sell it on Teachers Pay Teachers.  My “Undercover Robots – Spy School” packet is one of those collections.  I developed it over two summers of doing Undercover Robots Camp using the Dash robots from Wonder Workshop.  This packet is a 38 page PDF that contains activities that can be used in an after-school or summer camp with robots that can be controlled by mobile devices. It is designed for use with a camp that has 6 teams of students (2 or 3 to a team) from ages 8-11. The Dash and Dot robots from Wonder Workshop are perfect for this camp, but other robots could be used instead. There are 10 missions included in this packet with unique puzzles for each team. (Note: Most of the missions depend on using a vinyl map of the world on the floor. I have a link to the one I purchased from Amazon in my packet, but you can also DIY if necessary.)

I’ve found that younger students love to get involved in stories around these robots.  There are ample opportunities for creativity (you should see some of their spy outfits!), and problem-solving as they work on the puzzles I provide as well as the programming.  I give some ideas for differentiation in the packet as well.

I have other curriculum that I am still testing out, but will post as soon as I work out the kinks and get it organized.

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Mom’s Dream Home

Since my 2nd graders are studying structures right now, it seems only right that they should design one of their own.  With Mother’s Day coming up, I thought I could make their designs seem more relevant if they had a “client” in mind.  I keep talking about the importance of empathy in Design Thinking, and they seem to have a difficult time empathizing with fictional characters, so I chose someone they might know a bit more.

We started by brainstorming things that their moms like.  One hand immediately went up.  “Facebook,” the student declared.  LOL, I thought, hoping this wasn’t about to become one of those situations where the students volunteered more information than needed to be shared in a public school setting…  My own daughter would probably respond, “Playing Sudoku on her iPad while she watches ‘Call the Midwife.'”

Fortunately, the rest of the responses were pretty standard.  “Peace and quiet” seemed pretty popular, as did “sleep” and “me.”  Some of the students suggested they also put things that their moms don’t like, such as shoes on the floor, to help them with their later designs.

After the students brainstormed decent lists, I showed them an example of a house floorplan.  We talked about what unique rooms we could add to customize a house for their mom.  “For example, you might like basketball so an indoor basketball court would be in your dream home.  But what would be in your mom’s?”

The floorplans are just rough drafts at the moment, but you can see a couple of examples below.  I’m still debating what the final product will look like.  Draw the outside of the house and do a green screen video?  Make a card with the house facade on the outside and the floorplan on the inside?  I think the moms will get a kick out of what their children think they value no matter what the medium of delivery, but I’d be happy to take any of your suggestions in the comments below!

By the way, if you would like some other ideas for Mother’s Day activities, here is my post from last year.

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This student decided to provide a literal “emergency escape hole”
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Note the Antique (anttek) Room, the giant facebook screen, Hawaii (Hawwi) waters, and the Stress (sress) Room.

SCAMPERing Outside the Rainbow

It has been awhile (2013!) since I posted some St. Patrick’s Day S.C.A.M.P.E.R.  ideas.   S.C.A.M.P.E.R. is an acronym to help people to remember different ways inventive ideas can happen:  Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to Another Use, and Rearrange.  It was originally developed by a man named Roger Eberle.  Here is a link to a post I did about S.C.A.M.P.E.R.

My 2nd graders worked on using “Combine” and “Put to Another Use” this week.  For “Combine,” they invented something new with a clock and a four-leaf-clover. (I love how the clock hands will pinch you if you aren’t wearing green!)  The “Put to Another Use” assignment asked the students to think of another way to use a Leprechaun hat.

You can use these ideas in your own classroom, as well as the ones on my original post, with any drawing paper or even as writing prompts.

For more St. Patrick’s ideas, don’t forget to check out yesterday’s post!

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Dinkee

My daughter (15) and I love to play word games.  A couple of years ago, she received a game called, “Linkee” for Christmas.  “Linkee” has cards that give four trivia questions.  After answering the four questions, players try to figure out what the answers all have in common.  When they figure it out, they shout, “Linkee!”  If they are right, they win the card, which has a letter on the back.  The first person to earn all of the letters that spell “Linkee,” wins.

We love the game (even though no one else will play with us).  However, a lot of the references are a bit too difficult for elementary aged kids.  You can imagine my delight, then, when I discovered there is another version of “Linkee” specifically designed for younger children.  “Dinkee” is for ages 8 and up.  If you want to get a sense of the game, you can visit this site, where there are sample cards as well as a free downloadable version.

I played “Dinkee” with my eighteen 2nd grade students yesterday, and they loved it.  They worked as tables to try to earn the cards, and it seemed the only regret was that we didn’t have time to finish the game.  I’ll definitely be adding this to my list of recommended games for kids.

If you question the value of a game like this in school, then you might want to read this article, which gives a pretty compelling argument about the benefits of making connections.

To challenge your own brain in a similar fashion, you can also try the “Kennections” puzzles by Jeopardy champion, Ken Jennings.

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Dinkee is available on Amazon