Category Archives: K-5

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.


Picture This Clothing

I typically post something light on Fridays, (often not connected to education) called my Phun Phriday Post.  For today’s edition, I am sharing a cute website I came across called, “Picture This Clothing.” Similar to sites like “Imaginables” and “Doodle Your Toys,” which allow you to upload a drawing that can be turned into a stuffed animal, Picture This Clothing offers dresses that can be made based on your own artwork.  All you need to do is download and print the template, color it, send a picture of the design, and order your custom dress.

Dress sizes on Picture This Clothing are children’s sizes 2-12.  The dress will cost you $49, and you can also add on identical miniature dresses for dolls.  According to the site, it will take 12-15 business days for you to receive your order.

For those of you with budding fashion designers in your household, this could be a fun way to channel their passion before you decide to purchase a sewing machine and let them loose in the fabric store to start creating their own creative wardrobes.

image from Picture This Clothing
image from Picture This Clothing

Undercover Robots Camp – Pageant Edition

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we had our second session of Undercover Robots Camp last week.  The theme was, “Pageant Edition,” with the scenario being that the Dash robots had been sent on their first undercover assignments to the Annual Robot Pageant, where they were to investigate a potential saboteur.

Only a few of the students had attended our first session, Spy School, the week before, meaning that there were various levels of skill.  This is what I love about programming with open-ended challenges, especially with the Dash robots.  The activities allow for the contributions of all abilities.

The week was interspersed with design and logic activities.  Of course, costumes needed to be created since it was a pageant. Puzzles needed to be solved to find the identity of the saboteur.  I even borrowed some ideas from Breakout EDU.

One of the favorite activities was the pageant interview.  The students had to program their robots to respond to my questions – but they didn’t know what the questions would be!  I told them to come up with three responses: a plural noun, a verb ending in -ing, and a name of a place.  I had a set of questions for each robot, who also had to be programmed to come out on stage and then leave the stage.  I embedded an example below (make sure your volume is high so you can hear the robot responses).

The students also had challenges to program their students to do an art project, launch ping-pong balls into cups to gather evidence, and to save the other contestants from the saboteur. The latter is when the students learned that less can be more, as the least elaborate contraption attached the robot actually “saved” the most plastic figures (see the pic with the colored pencils attached to the robot below)!

During the week, we also worked on choreographing a final dance number for the pageant.  It’s good we started early because there were many, many, many flub-ups!  The video embedded below is what we showed the parents.  Unfortunately, it still didn’t go quite as planned; we learned that “tired” robots get a bit rebellious about their programs as their batteries wear down!

I absolutely adored seeing everything the students accomplished last week, and I can’t wait to do Undercover Robots Camp again next summer!

Osmo Coding

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