Category Archives: K-5

Undercover Robots Camp 2017

Do you live in the San Antonio, TX area?  Do you have a child aged 7-11?  Then this is the camp for you!  I am offering an Undercover Robots Camp this June, 2017.  We will be using the fabulous Dash robots from Wonder Workshop.  (Robot purchase is not required, but bringing your own can result in a camp discount.)  Here is the link to the registration page.

You can see highlights from last year’s camp sessions here and here.  We will be doing the “Spy School” session again this year (with modifications for students who previously participated) as well as a brand new “Circus” edition during our second week.

For more information, click here.  It’s going to be great fun!!!

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Society for the Ethical Treatment of Leprechauns

A favorite project that seems to dwell in the memories of my gifted and talented students from year to year is the time they made Leprechaun Traps in Kindergarten.  It’s how I introduce our “Inventor Thinking” unit and ties in, of course, with St. Patrick’s Day.

As I introduced the project yesterday to my newest group of Kinder students, I was met with the usual enthusiasm. There was lots of excitement generated as they brainstormed ways to entice a leprechaun into their trap, and even more as they thought of ideas for ensnaring him.

And then one girl said,”What if I don’t want to trap the leprechaun?  What if I think that’s mean?”

For a moment I was speechless.  In all of my years of doing this project, none of my students have ever questioned if it was humane or not.

Interestingly, I am the person who carries spiders outdoors rather than smush them – and the person who grabbed a rat snake behind its head when it snuck into our house and flung it outside.  I yelled at my husband in the middle of the night when he grabbed a huge pair of hedge clippers to battle a rat that had snuck into the house.

The ethics of trapping leprechauns never once crossed my mind.

My friend over at Not Just Child’s Play, Joelle Trayers, provides examples like this one of ways to discuss ethics with Kindergarten students.  Yesterday was only my third meeting with my current Kinder class, so ethics had not entered into our class vocabulary yet.  However, I couldn’t miss the opportunity at this point.  After a slight pause, I said, “That’s a very good question.  What do the rest of you think?  Is it okay to trap the leprechauns or is it mean?”

Whether a coincidence or not, the issue was decided by gender.  The girls were firmly in defense of the leprechauns and the boys had no intention of being swayed from dreaming up diabolical ways to trap them.  (I have, several times, reminded the students we are “just pretending,” but that hasn’t deterred their strong feelings on the subject.)

The girls decided they are still making traps, but they are going to give the leprechauns a reward and an escape route instead of imprisoning them, especially since we will be gone for Spring Break.  The boys are more interested in how they can combine Legos with their cardboard boxes than they are about the fate of the leprechauns.

So, a word of warning to any leprechauns in the vicinity of our school in the upcoming weeks: Beware of complex Lego staircases that seem to lead to nowhere.  The boys outnumber the girls in my class, and I’m not really sure what they intend to do if you actually do fall into one of their clever contraptions.

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It’s a Zoo Out There – #TCEA17

Just to clarify, “It’s a Zoo Out There,” was a presentation I saw at TCEA this year; I’m not making any kind of commentary on the people attending the conference 😉  In fact, I was so blown away by the incredible sessions I was able to see over the course of my three days in Austin that I tweeted something about how TCEA reaffirms my belief that there are so many unbelievably passionate, gifted teachers in our world working to improve education each and every day.

“It’s a Zoo Out There,” was a TCEA presentation by Dina Estes and Kerry Woods from Lewisville ISD in Texas.  They teach a multiage K/1 class, and have done this particular project based learning unit for a few years.  The students research animals, draw pictures,  and use digital tools to record information to present. Then, they create a virtual zoo in the hallway to display what they have learned.  Zoo visitors can scan QR codes to watch and listen to the students present. The zoo looks different each year because these awesome teachers allow the students to plan it.  One group wanted to group the animals by habitats, and other groups had their own ideas.  No matter what, the display is open to the rest of the school to visit – giving the students a genuine audience for their hard work.

Anyone who balks at having students this age do research, participate in project based learning, or make use of technology needs to look at this presentation.  The teachers provided tools, including a timeline, that show how all of these things can be done successfully.

Thanks to teachers like these, hopefully even more educators will be inspired to try this project!

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image from: Pixabay 

Greg Tang Math Resources

Don’t tell anyone, but Greg Tang Math penetrated my incredible resistance to e-mail spam and persuaded me to visit the site out of curiosity.  I’m not really sure why the persistent e-mails that I kept trashing finally grabbed my attention, but I obviously wouldn’t be writing this post if they hadn’t eventually been successful.  (If you happen to be a spammer, please don’t think I am encouraging you to try the same strategy;  I can promise you that it was a one-time-thing…)

The good news is that I actually found some unique math materials on the site.  There are plenty of free resources that you can download, and even some interesting online math games.  For gifted students, the Kakooma and Expresso pages are great challenges. (There is also an online version of Kakooma on this page.) In addition, there are some printable math games on the resources page.

Of course, there are plenty of things you can purchase on the site.  Otherwise, what would be the purpose of the e-mail barrage?  But I think that you will agree that there is a generous dose of free materials, which makes some advertising bearable 🙂

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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!