Category Archives: Student Products

Global Day of Design 2017

Mark your calendar for May 2, 2017, this year’s Global Day of Design.  This project, spearheaded by educators A.J. Juliani and John Spencer, encourages classrooms all around the globe to participate in innovative thinking and creating during one 24-hour period.  According to Juliani, over 40,000 students participated in last year’s Global Day of Design, an impressive number that we could surely double this year.

Ideally, every day should be one that includes innovation for our students.  However, the reality is far from this.  Hopefully, just as Hour of Code has promoted awareness of the need for more computer science education, the Global Day of Design will encourage more educators to integrate Design Thinking into the curriculum.

Juliani’s post gives a link to register for the Global Day of Design, as well as many resources.  The official website for the project also has a registration link and the bonus of at least 12 free design challenges with the promise of more to come.

In a related post, my colleague Sony Terborg recently wrote about the concept of “The Producer Mindset,” and also linked to the Global Day of Design.  Like Terborg, many forward-thinking educators agree that it is imperative that we move away from the factory-based system of education to instead provide students with opportunities to create and think for themselves.  Design Thinking is a great framework for educators to refer to when embarking on introducing innovation in the classroom, and I would recommend the Global Day of Design as just the beginning that will hopefully eventually lead to a new generation that is comfortable designing 365 days a year.

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image from: Dean Meyers on Flickr

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 

Happy Valentine’s Day from San Antonio!

A couple of weeks ago I posted a link to the Virtual Valentines Project.  Since my 1st graders are studying different continents and countries, I thought they would be the perfect group to match with a Virtual Valentine.  We were matched with a class in Canada, and will be Skyping with them today.

I wanted the Valentines my students made to reflect a little of our San Antonio uniqueness, so I asked the students to brainstorm some special things about San Antonio that our Canadian friends might not have.  This turned out to be harder than I expected.

“Games?” one student suggested.

“Toys?” another student ventured.

After I assured them that Canada is not an isolated planet in outer space without any stores or internet connections, we narrowed things down a bit.

“Barbecue!”

“The Riverwalk!”

“The Alamo!”

We ended up with a fairly long list, and the students could choose one San Antonio feature to include in their Valentines.  It wasn’t until yesterday, though, that I got a chance to look at them closely.  I thought I’d share a few with you 🙂

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It took me a moment to figure out that this is one of our Riverwalk barges.
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This barge appears to be about to devour all of the ducks.  Since the ducks are larger than the people, that might be just as well.

 

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Unlike most of us who live in San Antonio, I think this student actually visited the Alamo.
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I’m not absolutely sure what’s happening at the top of the ladder inside the Alamo. It could either be someone writing at a desk with a candle or lighting a cow on fire.  I guess I need to brush up on my Texas history. (My daughter just informed me that it’s a cannon.  Oops.)

 

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Yes, we definitely love our tacos in San Antonio!
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It’s rodeo season in San Antonio right now.  As you can see, that isn’t a picture of a cow or a horse.  Apparently, this student’s favorite rodeo experience was the school’s Bike Rodeo.
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This picture pretty much says it all…

Overall, I think their pictures definitely showcase some of our San Antonio flair.  I hope this post makes you smile as much as I did writing it, and Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you!

Formative Assessment with Music Lyrics

Even though I really enjoy hearing the conversations that go on when my students do a Hexagonal Learning activity, my students will tell you that the playlist assessment is actually their favorite when it comes to demonstrating their understanding of a novel.  According to them, they enjoy being able to work independently on this assignment, and to really “dig deep” (their words) into the meaning of lyrics as well as the novels we are analyzing.  

Here’s how our playlist assignments work:  I give the students 5 songs to listen to, in addition to the lyrics from each of the songs.  The students are told to choose one song that they think represents the book the best – in other words, if the book were turned into a movie, this song would be a great theme song.  Then they must justify their answers using at least three different lyrics with at least three different examples from the book.  

A couple of notes: 1.) I like to give students choice, so the first couple of years I did this activity, I asked them to bring in their own ideas for songs.  They never did.  I still offer the option to request a song be added, but the students rarely suggest one.  They seem happier with the ones I recommend.  2.) If you choose to do this activity, you will need to “vet” the best way for the students to access the songs.  Podsnack is a nice site for creating playlists, but won’t play when my students log in.  YouTube lyrics videos work for us, using SafeShare, as long as I have approved the videos beforehand.  Another option is to create a station where students can listen to the songs downloaded on an iPad or iPod.

I’ve done this activity with groups of different sizes, and the silence is eerie when everyone puts  on their headphones and get started.  The students are intensely focused on the assignment.  Some take notes on scratch paper before choosing a song.  Others page through their novels as they listen.  I almost feel useless as the students work because they are so incredibly engaged that there is no need for redirection.  Instead, I periodically give them feedback in Google Classroom to encourage them or remark on their interesting ideas.

My 4th graders do this activity with Tuck Everlasting.  My 5th graders do it with The Giver.  I asked my 5th graders this time if I could share a couple of their responses with you, and they agreed.

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If you are interested in using The Giver Playlist Assignment, here is a link to make a copy.  Within that document is a link to the Exemplars that I used with my students to show them the different levels of responses.

I should probably warn you that, once the students do this assignment, they may request to listen to the music while doing other assignments as well.  Some of them get very attached to the songs!

Formative Assessment with Hexagonal Learning

Even though I’ve already mentioned Hexagonal Learning a couple of other times on this blog, it definitely bears repeating.  If you want to listen to your students having rich conversations about a topic and to discover how well they understand something they have read or that you have taught, this activity will deliver.  And, although I can’t make any guarantees, I have always seen complete engagement with Hexagonal Learning – even from introverts and students who have attention difficulties.

You can find details in last year’s post (linked above).  I just completed another round of Hexagonal Learning for Tuck Everlasting with a new class, and was once again blown away by the intensity of the discussions and deliberate care that went into each group’s connections.  My 5th graders, who were last year’s Tuck Everlasting class, also just completed the same assignment with hexagons from The Giver.

Of course, Hexagonal Learning can be used in ways other than analyzing literature.  Russel Tarr has a great post on how he used this idea in history class.  Tarr also gives a link to a post by John Mitchell on Visual Hexagons, which is an interesting twist I would like to try!

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One group’s interpretation of how to connect the themes, symbols, and characters from Tuck Everlasting

Anything But Jeopardy

Many of my 4th graders embarked on the “Presentation Planning” stage of their Genius Hour projects this week.  I require their presentations include an interactive portion for the audience.  When they saw “game show” as one of the choices, that became an instant favorite.  The problem with this is that the default game show format for my students always seems to be “Jeopardy.”  There is nothing wrong with Jeopardy, but I’ve been guiding Genius Hour projects for several years, and would like to see a little more variety in this area.

Thankfully, I obsessively save websites to look at later with my Pocket app, and recalled there was a blog post about game shows.  Although the post was written with teachers in mind as the hosts, many of the suggestions in “30 Activities Inspired by Game Shows” are ones that could be used by students.

Another possibility would be to encourage the students to create their own game show format.  You never know who in your class might be the next Merv Griffin!

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image from Steve Jurvetson on Flickr