Storytime + Tinkering

Visit this collaboration between the Exploratorium and Mr. Limata’s Storytime to access a wealth of ideas joining literature with making. Mr. Limata is an elementary school teacher who shares read-alouds which have been paired with creative activities he has used with his second grade class. From balancing sculptures to imaginative ideas for creating with shadows, this page offers concrete activities that teachers, librarians, and parents can use to involve their students in S.T.R.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art, and Math)

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

A Tip of the Hat to Hattie

I am currently attending the TCEA Virtual Convention, so I plan to share a little about what I’ve learned in each post this week.

Professor John Hattie has become a well-known name in educational research circles, and I have been learning bits and pieces about his work for the past few years. His extremely thorough studies on “what works” in education are changing the landscape of pre-service and in-service training for teachers. You can find out more about his background here. Though his information is not without controversy, much of it makes good common sense. As Hattie himself says, “We focus too much on the data and not on the interpretations.”

I was excited to be able to attend a session at TCEA last night presented by Dr. Hattie. He spoke about the delineation between surface and deep thinking, which he labels, “Knowing That and Knowing How.” One message that he seemed to feel people misunderstand is that we need both kinds of thinking in our schools, and that “Knowing How” is not nearly as effective when “Knowing That” has been skipped. He recommends that we spend time overtly teaching students the difference, and how to recognize when each type of thinking is required. “Are you snorkeling or are you scuba diving?” is a good question to pose to the students.

As a teacher of gifted students for 19 years, I agree with Dr. Hattie that there is still not nearly enough challenge in classrooms. We have got to work more effectively to design for the “Goldilocks Effect” in learning experiences so that students are not being given assignments that are too easy or too hard. This is tricky. In my opinion, until teachers are given better tools, smaller class sizes, and better professional development it is difficult to achieve on a consistent basis.

My hand was flying as I took notes throughout Dr. Hattie’s presentation, and I don’t want to inadvertently misinterpret his comments as I type this, so I will skip to a few comments he made toward the end regarding how the pandemic might impact students. His opinion is that the pandemic might be “The Golden Ticket” for when it comes to the effect of technology in our schools. Though technology has not made a huge impression overall on student learning for a long time, he thinks that it will help with a couple of things: teachers speaking less and students talking more. Teachers, through necessity, have learned to “triage” their teaching to make direct lectures more streamlined. Students are more willing to ask for help or clarification if they can do it privately, such as in discussion boards and with student response tools. Of course, this remains to be seen.

The newest Visible Learning tool for analyzing how specific strategies influence learning is located here. It can help you determine some areas on which you’d like to focus in order to make the biggest impact, or ones that you may be spending too much time on based on how little influence it may ultimately wield.

Photo by Amina Filkins on Pexels.com

What’s the Big Idea?

I first mentioned Donna Lasher’s website, Big Ideas for Little Scholars, last January. Since that post, she has added so much more to this incredible resource, so I thought it would be good to revisit it. If you teach gifted and talented and/or advanced elementary or middle school students, Donna’s site should be your number one bookmarked page in your browser. It is incredibly thorough and very well-organized. For example, she has a page of academic and creative contests organized by categories, as well as a link to a page where they are grouped by months they begin. If you are looking for seasonal and holiday lessons, Donna (@bdlasher) has another page for these in chronological order.

With lesson ideas, teaching materials, books, and websites all organized by grade level bands, Big Ideas for Little Scholars makes it simple for teachers and parents to access innumerable resources for children who are craving more challenges in any subject area. In addition, you can visit Donna’s “About” page to learn how you can get invited to access and contribute to a Google Team Drive for teachers of gifted students.

I love to read Donna’s blog posts, and I always look forward to receiving her newsletter in my Inbox. If you feel like you’re in a rut (okay – I realize many of you wish you could get in a rut right now), want to find a fresh way to teach something, or desire ideas to make a topic more engaging, Big Ideas for Little Scholars should be the first place you look.

Through deeper learning experiences students master core academic content and build skills in problem solving and critical thinking. **THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN DIGITALLY ALTERED TO REMOVE OR OBSCURE STUDENT IDENTITIES.**
Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

Do Kids Voices Matter?

Kid Correspondent is a new series of videos brought to you by Soul Pancake. Hosted by the delightful Riah and numerous other amazing children, the show has the energy and charm of the Kid President videos (also produced by Soul Pancake) and John Krasinski’s Some Good News. Episode 3 of Kid Correspondent asks, “Do Kids Voices Matter?” In a brief interview with Mandy Moore, viewers will learn why we have elections, while other segments of the show look at a child’s perspective for getting his or her voice heard. Although the episode is nine and a half minutes long, young children will likely stay engaged throughout as they watch peers present, act silly, and inspire. Like Kid President, Riah gives a short Pep Talk during the video, and ends it with a Dance Party.

Let young people know that we value what they have to say by showing them this episode of Kid Correspondent. Voting is important, but there are many other ways they can make their voices count before they reach the age of 18.

The amazing Kid Correspondent, Riah

PBS KIDS Talk About: Race and Racism

In this week’s anti-racist post, I want to share with you a new 28 minute video from PBS kids called, PBS KIDS Talk About: Race and Racism. There are several ways to view the video, as you will see in the link to the press release. This program is definitely aimed at families and younger viewers, using clips from the PBS animated shows, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum, and Arthur. It also includes short discussions between real young children and their parents as they navigate conversations about skin color, being different, and making “good trouble” to stand up for what is unfair. These are not easy topics to cover with any age, but the video shows that discussion is needed and can be done. The children are delightful, exuding wisdom far beyond their years.

This is part of a series of Kids Talk About from PBS. You can find videos from past episodes on their YouTube channel.

Image by Hatice EROL from Pixabay

Here is a list of my previous anti-racist posts:

Also, for more amazing anti-racism resources, check out the Live Binder curated by Joy Kirr.

Step Inside with Monster Box

As I’ve been going through some of my “Halloween-ish” posts from previous years, I’ve recognized some updating that needs to be done. (Hard to believe I’ve been doing this for nine years now, and wow, have things changed!) For example, I used to do “Misunderstood Monsters” with my younger students, and many of the resources I mentioned in that post from 2012 are no longer available. Fortunately, the adorable short video, Monster Box, (also on YouTube) is still free and easy to access. When I pondered the changes I might make in a current lesson using this, my mind immediately went to the Visible Thinking Routines from Project Zero. One routine that I think would be powerful to use with Monster Box would be the “Step Inside” routine. There are three questions students can consider from the perspective of different characters in the video:

What can the person or thing perceive?

What might the person or thing know about or believe?

What might the person or thing care about?

I would have each student choose a character from the video (shopkeeper, young girl, one of the monsters…), and answer those questions with evidence from the story. Another facet that could deepen the discussion would be if the answers to these questions change throughout the story.

You can see some examples of how to use “Step Inside”, and access some templates, from Alice Vigors here.

My previous post included some templates to use if you were discussing Ethics (from Kaplan’s Depth and Complexity), and those are still available. I also went ahead and made this new Google Slides activity for the “Step Inside” Thinking Routine with a template from SlidesMania that is free to copy and use. There’s even a slide with monster parts, so students can build their own monster!

Of course, you can extend this activity by creating your own monster paper circuits.

For other posts on Visible Thinking Routines, with links to more templates, check out this Peel the Fruit activity for Google Slides.