Category Archives: K-5

Gifts for the Gifted 2016 – Osmo Coding

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.

gifts

Osmo first made the “Gifts for the Gifted” list in 2014.  Since then, the company has continued to push the envelope as it produces more interactive, educational games for children that combine physical pieces with the digital interface of an iPad.  Here is what I wrote about Osmo’s “Coding” game this summer:

It seems like just yesterday when our class was asked to beta test a new product from a company called Tangible Play.  It was a tangram game that integrated physical pieces with an app on your iPad using a special base and mirror.  Our students even got to teleconference with the developers to give feedback on their experience.

Since then, the un-named set we tested has become Osmo, and there have been many evolutions of the tangram game as well as new additions to the suite of games available.  It has been gratifying to see a company that is so interested in education to grow and continue to contribute to educational technology in such a positive way.

The latest Osmo set is, “Coding.”  My students have been trying it out this summer during our robot camp, and I have been watching their play with interest.  The set includes magnetics blocks that look similar to the coding blocks you might see in Scratch or Blockly.  You can move them around and snap them together.  My students particularly like the “play” block with an arrow button to press whenever they are ready to start the program.

On the iPad screen, players have a friendly looking creature named Awbie, who they can direct to move toward different objects in the app while using the physical blocks on the table.

One thing I love about all of the Osmo apps is that they include practically no instructions.  There are some on-screen gestures showing where to move blocks at the beginning, but that’s about it.  The students figure out on their own where Awbie needs to go, and quickly deduce which blocks to use as the game slowly becomes more challenging.

Students from 6-11 have enjoyed the Coding game from Osmo and there is often a crowd gathered around it as the students encourage players to try certain blocks.  It has been a great warm-up activity as kids arrive for our camp each day.

Like all Tangible Play apps for Osmo, Coding is free.  However, you do need to purchase the physical pieces and the set that includes the base and mirror piece if you don’t already have it.  Coding is another great resource to introduce programming to young students.

Osmo Coding
Osmo Coding

GoNoodle Has an App!

My students, particularly those in the K-3 grade levels, have really enjoyed using GoNoodle for brain breaks in our classroom.  The kids enjoy the music, the great variety of videos, and the movement.

Now students can log in to their own iOS devices at home to jump, dance, and sing with their favorite GoNoodle tunes. The iOS app is free, but students will need a parent to sign up and log them in the first time.  Make sure the child has a good place to set up his or her device for viewing while participating (an Apple TV is great for this!) so he or she can have hands-free fun!

GoNoodle is a great way to get the family moving before or after a heavy holiday meal, or after a long car trip to grandma’s house🙂

Download the free GoNoodle app now!
Download the free GoNoodle app for iOS now!

Making Tough Choices

Decisions, decisions.  Some are certainly easier to make than others, as many people are discovering on this 2016 Election Day in the United States…

Kid President just released a timely video for the occasion.  Happily, it doesn’t just apply to election decisions. In fact, my 2nd graders have been discussing “Thinking Hats,” and “Making Tough Choices with Kid President,”  was the perfect supplement to a lesson on the importance of thinking about your thinking.  “Be thoughtful,” Kid President advises, after warning against impulsivity, doing nothing, and following along with everyone else.  Pretty sage advice from someone who isn’t even old enough to vote yet.

screen shot from, "Making Tough Choices with Kid President"
screen shot from, “Making Tough Choices with Kid President”

I will be adding this video to my “Inspirational Videos for Students” collection.  Here is a free printable of my Thanksgiving Thinking Hats Review if you are interested!

Also, if you haven’t seen the campaign projects from Joelle Trayers’ Kindergarten class, and need an election day smile, you must click on this link!

Oh, and by the way, looking for gift suggestions?  Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome is one of the many recommendations you will find on my “Gifts for the Gifted” page!

Halloween Activities from Minds in Bloom

Rachel Lynette, over at the “Minds in Bloom” blog, offers some fun Halloween activities for critical thinking.  One of them is a Halloween-themed list of “Would You Rather?” questions.  For these, I would recommend that you encourage your students to justify their answers, and possibly have a contest for who can give the most unusual reason for his or her response.  (For another way to use “Would You Rather?” questions, check out this post.)

Rachel also has a free “GHOST” Scattergories-type game that you can print.  As an extension, you could have the students make their own spooky versions by changing the letters on top and the categories.

And, finally, incorporate some disgusting math into your Halloween plans by giving your students some “Witches’ Brew Math.” Boiled eyeballs, anyone?

Eyeball Punch - image from Flickr
Eyeball Punch – image from Flickr

Empathy Series

Last year, Class Dojo produced a series of short animated videos that taught about what it means to have a Growth Mindset. Yesterday,  they released the first video in their new “Empathy” series, with two more expected during October.  Each video is around 4 minutes long and includes a discussion guide that also has suggestions for carrying on the conversation at home.

My elementary students enjoyed the mindset videos from Class Dojo last year, and even ask to watch them again.  Since empathy is part of the Design Thinking process, and something we regularly discuss in our GT classes, I definitely plan to show this series as well.

If you want to delve more into teaching empathy, Joelle Trayers has a plethora of posts that include picture book suggestions and activities on the topic.

Screen shot from Class Dojo video, Empathy #1
Screen shot from Class Dojo video, Empathy #1

Ada Twist, Scientist

Andrea Beaty and David Roberts have outdone themselves with their latest book, Ada Twist, Scientist.  Beaty (author) and Roberts (illustrator) made their mark in children’s literature with their two previous books, Iggy Peck, Architect, and Rosie Revere, Engineer. Demonstrating the sometimes exasperating, but always creative, personalities of inquisitive and innovative children, these books have become favorites for those who champion maker education and S.T.E.M.  They are also great examples of growth mindset and passion based learning.

Ada Twist, Scientist tells the story of an adorable young girl whose curiosity knows absolutely no bounds.  Her parents fondly support Ada’s intellectual investigations until she decides to throw the family cat into the washing machine in an attempt to find the origin of a terrible smell, at which point Ada is exiled to the “Thinking Chair.”

You will have to read the book yourself to find out how Ada handles her isolation and whether or not she solves her stinky mystery. Suffice it to say that the book has a happy ending and will inspire parents and children to see questions as exciting learning opportunities rather than as time-wasting obstacles.

For a teaching guide and links to other related activities, visit the Ada Twist website.

You can’t resist Ada Twist, Scientist!

image from Ada Twist, Scientist
image from Ada Twist, Scientist

Teach STEM with Stuffed Animals

I recently read a post on We are Teachers by Erin Bittman (@ErinEBittman) about how to use stuffed animals to teach STEM concepts.  In the article, Bittman gives several examples of how students can practice measuring, weighing, and using other mathematical skills as they compare their stuffed animals.  In addition, lessons can be learned about animal adaptations and habitats.

One reason I love these ideas is because I have seen the devotion that younger students have to their stuffed animals.  With that kind of interest, students will definitely be engaged.  The lesson give multiple opportunities for cross-curricular connections that will make the learning memorable and relevant to the students.  Check out Bittman’s article for specific activities, and feel free to add more in the Comment section!

I have a “Stemspirational” Pinterest Board here if you are looking for even more resources.

teddybear