My 2nd graders have been learning about physical and structural adaptations in nature. To exercise their creativity, I asked them to brainstorm wild animals that would make unusual class pets. Then they were asked to draw our classroom with adaptations for the pet. The twist was that they could not actually draw the animal in the classroom. The rest of us tried to guess the “pets” by using clues in their pictures and the descriptions that they wrote. I was proud of their varied ideas and some of the incredible details they added to the drawings. I’ve included some examples below. (I love how the first student decided the most unusual animal he could think of would be an alien from outer space!) . Usually, my students have a difficult time with the “Adapt” part of S.C.A.M.P.E.R., but this activity proved to be really fun and they couldn’t wait to share their work. I’m definitely putting this in the file, “Do Again Next Year!”
In light of recent news events, it seems that sexist stereotypes and misogynistic behaviors continue to be supported and trivialized in our society. The “boys will be boys” attitude persists in all age groups, socioeconomic classes, and cultures despite attempts that have been made in the last few decades to eradicate it. What can we, as parents and teachers, do to combat the many chauvinistic messages that bombard our children every day?
Inspiring Girls, an international organization based in the UK, has an idea. Noting that many of our children are exposed at an early age to a multitude of animated characters, the organization also found that only 29% of these potential role models are female. In a revealing video included on the resources page, a classroom teachers asks her students to draw people in several different professions such as a firefighter and a surgeon. 61 pictures were drawn as men. 5 were women.
The #redrawthebalance campaign from Inspiring Girls wants us to bring awareness to this disturbing example of gender stereotypes, and to help our students see that women can be strong, intelligent, and hard-working as well. You can find a workbook on the resources page that can be printed with pages that prompt students to draw their own characters, who will hopefully be more representative of themselves. There are also downloadable posters of characters such as “Carla the Coder,” who are female.
We’ve come a long way since we had to fight for the right for women to vote. But all we have to do is take a look at the headlines to see that it hasn’t been far enough.
#gmttc is the official hashtag for the Global Math Task Twitter Challenge. Classrooms around the world are invited to participate by solving the problems that are tweeted and/or tweeting out their own. You can formally sign on to be a #gmttc tweeter on this spreadsheet, but this is not a requirement. It is easy enough to find recently tweeted tasks for your grade level by doing a search for #gmttc with your grade level number at the end. For example, #gmttc4 will provide you with recent 4th grade challenges.
I enjoy seeing the variety of images students use to present the math problems, and your students will begin to make connections between what they are learning compared to students in other parts of the world. This is a quick, no fuss way to “flatten the classroom.” As a whole-class, center, or extension activity, #gmttc is a fun idea to help students get excited about math!
It has been amazing to watch Wonder Workshop evolve since the days of Bo and Yana (the original names of the Dash and Dot robots) 4 years ago. The robots are incredibly engaging for elementary students, and the company has been extremely supportive of educators. Dash and Dot appeal to students because it is easy to apply personalities to them. Programming the robots becomes an exercise in imagination as well as logic. The ability to augment the robots with bricks, such as Legos, increases the potential for storytelling and problem-solving. In addition to all of this, there is flexibility in programming (in addition to the free Wonder Workshop apps, 3rd party apps like Tickle and Apple’s Swift Playground can be used), which means students from beginners to advanced can code these robots on pretty much any mobile device.
Wonder Workshop is constantly expanding its offerings. I was excited to visit their booth at ISTE to see some of their new products.
The first thing I got to check out was their idea for using Dash to develop spatial reasoning. Using foam core cut-outs, a course had been laid out for Dash to navigate with a pattern of bricks attached to its head. With careful programming, students can send Dash under each piece of foam core successfully by making sure its head is turned correctly at the right time. Wonder Workshop hopes to provide the instructions for creating this course on its website soon.
Some of the most exciting products that has just been added to the store are the challenge cards and curriculum subscription. The curriculum offers 22 NGSS & Common Core aligned lessons for classroom integration. The challenge cards are colorful, leveled activities that match Code.org’s Computer Science Fundamentals. I personally think the best deal is the Getting Started Curriculum Pack for $99. (By the way, I do not work for Wonder Workshop, but have received some free products for review in the past.)
Wonder Workshop will be sponsoring another Wonder League Robotics Competition this year, but the structure will be different than previous years. You can learn more here.
I’ve been told that Wonder Workshop has more surprises coming up in the fall, so you will definitely want to keep up with their announcements on Facebook or on Twitter (@WonderWorkshop).
As a parent or a teacher you may find yourself in situations when you need to “kill time.” One tool that I like to use is, “Chat Pack for Kids.” You can find versions of this from different companies, but I really like this one because it is reasonably priced, the cards are small, and the topics really seem to appeal to people of all ages. My students who are in robot camp with me this summer enjoy taking out the plastic case that I keep the cards in and asking each other some of the questions, but it’s also a good activity as we wait for parent pick-up. We all have fun thinking about some of the different scenarios posed, such as what animal we would choose to miniaturize to have as a pet or the one thing that we could change about school. I try to model creative thinking by offering off-the-wall answers, and we all learn a bit about each other at the same time. Whether you’re on a long road trip, or just waiting with your class for pictures to be taken, the “Chat Pack for Kids” is a fun way to keep occupied.
The Class Dojo “Big Ideas” series is growing. Up until now you could find videos on: Perseverance, Growth Mindset, Empathy, and Gratitude. The latest theme is, “Mindfulness.” So far, only the first video has been released. In the past, the schedule has been to publish one per week. As with the other videos, there are discussion questions to use after viewing the short video. There is an also an option to share the video through “Class Story” with parents. The first video is a timely one for me as my students are currently practicing presentations of their Genius Hour research. I’m kind of curious to find out how Mojo solves his problem of “The Beast,” one that I grapple with quite a bit!
By the way, you can find more Growth Mindset videos and resources here.
When my Kinder GT class learns about “Scientist Thinking” and classification, I like to use a PBS Cyberchase Game called, “Logic Zoo,” which helps them to understand Venn Diagrams. You can find that game, and other fun math problem solving interactives for elementary and middle school students on this page. (You need Flash to play these games, so they probably don’t work on mobile devices.) In addition to “Logic Zoo,” I love, “Pour to Score,” and, “Cyberchase Squares.”
The games are many different levels, so make sure you test them out before assigning them to your students!