It’s almost September 15th-ish, which means that Dot Day is quickly approaching! For those of you who have not encountered Dot Day before, it is an international event inspired by the Peter Reynolds book, The Dot. It’s all about celebrating creativity and “making your mark”! In last year’s post about Dot Day, I shared a few “new to me” Dot Day ideas for the celebration. This year, Breakout Edu has announced a brand new breakout adventure for elementary and middle school students based on The Dot. Students must solve the clues to set creativity and inspiration free. I recommend doing the breakout activity and then giving your students the opportunity to unleash their own inner artists as a follow-up!
myRebus is a fun tool that teachers can use to create picture sentences for students to solve. For example, I made the one below for the students who signed up for my summer Google Classroom. Can you tell what it says? The site allows you to type in any sentences and it will generate the rebus for you. It does ask for you to input your e-mail to have the rebus sent to you, but I just take a screenshot. This could be a fun alternative for spelling practice or even a strategy to get students to pay attention to directions on an assignment. Another great use is for Breakout Edu clues! For students who want to create rebus puzzles, they can use this site, or you might want to take a look at this lesson plan I wrote for Canva.
I don’t take as much advantage of Newsela as I should. This service, which provides articles about current events that can be adjusted to reading levels, just keeps getting better and better. As with many edtech tools these days, there are different features for different price points. I currently have the free version, which allows me to add students to a dashboard and to assign particular articles to read. Students can also take quizzes after they read.
Newsela offers free summer reading clubs. Students can choose which set of articles they would like to receive for the summer from a menu of 12 different topics that range from Animals to the Strange but True News Club. Once they sign up (instructions are given at this link), they will receive 10 articles on that subject that they can read and take quizzes on throughout the summer.
We are always trying to get our students to read more non-fiction, and this seems to be a great way to keep them interested and informed over the break!
Note: As I was looking up resources for this post, I realized that yesterday, the day that I introduced Guernica to my current 4th graders, was the 80th anniversary of its bombing. I’m sure I probably knew that somewhere in my subconscious, but it still sent a chill down my spine when I saw the date.
Every year my 4th grade gifted students study masterpieces of all types – literary, mathematical, and artistic. “Guernica,” by Picasso is one of the artistic masterpieces that we examine as we discuss the empathy that the visual arts often reflect on the part of the artist. It is a difficult piece to confront, particularly once you know the history behind it, but I think that it is important to study for many reasons. Picasso’s internal struggle as a man who disdained using art for political reasons but also a man who felt compelled to convey his emotions with every brushstroke make this painting into an engaging topic of conversation with my students.
Gavin Than recently created another one of his fabulous Zen Pencils comics dedicated to Picasso’s “Guernica,” illustrating a famous quote from Picasso about the piece. It would be a great way to start a debate in your classroom about whether or not the students agree with Picasso’s stance. Another philosophical discussion that stems from the painting is the love/hate relationship we have with technology, as symbolized by the light bulb in the center of the painting. The same technology that allows many people from all over the world travel to see this work of art by air also doomed the Spanish town to being blanket-bombed by the Germans.
For more on teaching with Guernica, here is a Pulitzer Center lesson on interpreting global issues through the lens of the painting.
Older students might also want to take a look at this video, which gives a 3d perspective of the painting.
And, here is a current event news article from Newsela that makes the connection between Guernica and recent tragedies in Syria. (You must log in to view this – registration is free.)
You might also want to try one of these lessons from Read, Write, Think, which also includes links to other Guernica-related sites.
One of the reasons I keep a blog is because I have a horrible memory. It’s nice to go back in time every once in awhile and look at the posts I wrote so I can rediscover some great resources. Luke Neff’s Writing Prompts site is one of those tools. I originally mentioned the site in 2011. Neff takes interesting images or quotes, and creates unusual, thought-provoking prompts for older students. I revisited the site yesterday, and found a prompt that really resonated. I want so much for my students to question and to use critical thinking skills. This prompt may activate some lively discussion in my class – which is what I am aiming for!
For my list of my favorite online writing tools in 2011 (before Google Docs existed!), click here.
I know that the readers of this blog live in many countries, so I try to write posts that might be applicable no matter where you are. I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, to learn that many nations celebrate Mother’s Day in May, as does the United States. Here are some lesson ideas to consider that will simultaneously honor mothers as students learn something new.
- GT Frames for Mothers (original idea from @jtrayers)
- She Wears Many Hats (advanced students can use multiple meanings and think metaphorically)
- Mother’s Day Trip (I am considering doing this with my 1st graders, who just researched different countries. It would be funny to make the video sound like the mom just won a roundtrip vacation to the country on a game show or in a sweepstakes!)
- Mother’s Day Shopping Spree – Speaking of winning things, a fun math/writing lesson could be to have students “shop” for their mothers online with a budget. They would have to make sure they stay within budget as well as justify each gift they would purchase. I would use one store site (such as Target.com) that offers many types of items, or curate some ahead of time for younger students. Mothers may enjoy seeing what their children would buy for them if money were no (or, almost no) object!
- Paper Circuit Greeting Cards (more examples here)
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!