Category Archives: K-5

The Young Editors Project

Dave Eggers, award-winning author, founder of McSweeney’s, and co-founder of 826 National, recently invited students in grades K-5 to participate in The Young Editors Project.  This is a great example of how students can get involved with authentic learning.  Teachers can e-mail the person noted in Eggers’ article to be paired up with a real manuscript that is in progress and matched to their age group.  Students can then give comments and suggestions for improvement.  Once the manuscripts go to final print, the children who gave feedback will have their names mentioned in the book.  This is an opportunity for students to learn about revision, the value of soliciting different perspectives about your work, and what a book looks like before it gets placed on the shelves.  Making the editing process relevant and real-world will have a huge impact on your students.  Click on the above link to learn more about this unique project!

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Image by VIVIANE MONCONDUIT from Pixabay

Cat in the Hat Builds That

Cat in the Hat Builds That is a mobile app that is based on the PBS series, “The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That.”  With a target audience of younger children (Pre-K and up), this free app (available on Android, iPhone, iPad, and Kindle Fire devices)  is an entertaining introduction to STEM principles, such as the engineering design process, problem-solving, inquiry, and creativity.  By solving different puzzles and demonstrating skills such as perseverance, players can unlock more features in the game – opening up more opportunities to explore and create.  They can decorate the tree house that serves as the home base in the app as they collect new objects during their adventures.

For those parents and educators concerned about too much screen time, Cat in the Hat Builds That also gives suggestions for STEM activities that can be done at home with parental supervision.  In addition, there is a section for “Grownups” within the app that summarizes the games included, and the STEM concepts being taught within each one.

Although children could certainly play this game independently, I would recommend some parental involvement in order to maximize the learning.  Recognizing and verbalizing the vocabulary and concepts will help students to develop habits of thinking that they can apply outside of the game for a long time to come.

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screen shot from “Cat in the Hat Builds That” app

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.