I finally got around to trying this Mother’s Day idea this year – with a bit of green screen magic mixed in. My GT first graders have been researching different countries, so they each made a Mother’s Day video for their moms incorporating some of their research. After talking about perspective, and what they thought their moms would like to see in each country, they selected some highlights from their library books. Then they made short videos “congratulating” their moms on winning trips to their respective countries. We used some Creative Commons images and videos from Pixabay and Discovery Ed to create their final “Winning” montages. You can click on the link below to see an example. (Note: The video quality is a bit off because the young lady was wearing a bluish-green shirt that day – a little difficult to balance with our green screen program without making her a talking head!)
Most of my 2nd graders finished up their Mother’s Day Cards yesterday. You may remember that I posted the idea of asking the students to design floorplans for Dream Homes for their moms. I wasn’t sure exactly how they would be presented when I wrote that post, so this is the design we ended up with. It is basically two pieces of cardstock folded “hamburger” style. For the inside one, we cut a tab to make a pop-up card. The pop-up was the design for the outside of the home. The top flap of this card was glued to the inside of the top flap of the other card. Then we glued the floor plans to the back of the inside card and the inside of the back card.
Okay, that sounds confusing. Maybe pics will help? Here are examples of 2 different student cards (Student 1 chose to make up her own haiku after learning about them earlier this year!):
I’ve been lately trying to use more Integrative Thinking in class. It bring about really deep discussions, and I like to see the students make visual models of their thoughts. In the past few weeks, I have been working on “Causal Modelling” with my 3rd-5th graders with varying degrees of success.
You can see a short video of Causal Modelling in action here. Basically, students try to consider all of the possible reasons for a particular situation or problem. In the video, the topic is, “People Struggling to Afford Food.” With student input, the teacher makes a web with this topic in the center and several nodes that name possible causes. It quickly develops in complexity as the students volunteer causes for the causes and begin to see connections among causes.
This blog post by Heidi Siwak shows several examples of causal models diagrammed by her 7th graders for issues varying from gun violence (very topical!) to unfinished homework.
To start causal modelling with my own students, we worked on creating a class causal model about why Nemo gets lost in Finding Nemo. Then I put students in groups to generate causal models about the fiction we were reading in each grade. For my 5th graders, this meant they explained an event from The Giver.
After doing group causal modelling about fiction, I asked each grade level to apply it to “real life.” My 3rd graders brainstormed recurring problems, such as a sibling interrupting them when they are playing with friends, and came up with multiple causes. After breaking it down this way, they could see potential ways to avoid some of the precipitating events (sibling needing attention, for example), and potential solutions.
With my 5th graders, I had a different idea. After reading this post from Heidi, I realized that the personal manifesto activity they were working on was the perfect opportunity for them to get a picture of why they believe what they believe. Since we were about to have a 3-day weekend when many would be visiting with extended family, I sent them home with a rare homework assignment: pick one of your belief statements and do a causal model for why you believe it. Think about your own experiences, what your parents believe, and even ask your grandparents and parents why they believe it (if that’s where it came from).
One student said to me, “What if it’s not from your parent? What if it’s from you?” I asked, “What’s the belief?” She said, “Taking risks.” So I explained how, when I was young, I had volunteered to do a monkey bar race at an amusement park. Sneakily, the proprietors had greased the bars, so I fell off when I reached for the 2nd bar, landing in a pool of water. I was humiliated. Afterward, my mother bought me a coveted stuffed animal in the souvenir shop – not to make up for the embarrassment, but to reward me for trying. That’s when I learned that it’s more important to try and fail than to do nothing at all.
The students came back from their weekend, nearly all having done the assignment in one form or another. Some wanted to share it publicly, and some wanted to have a private audience with me to speak about the personal reasons for their beliefs. I would definitely say that I learned a lot about each of them, and I hope that they learned more about themselves.
Overall, causal modelling helps students to grasp that “wicked problems” (as Heidi calls them) cannot be solved with sweeping generalizations. “Why don’t they just…” rarely addresses all of the causes, or all of the deeply held beliefs that led to those causes. It might help a few of our current leaders to keep this in mind. 😉
Thanks to some inspiration on Twitter from Jessica Hirsch (@jhirschcusd), I thought it would be a neat idea to have my 4th grade gifted students try to create Makey Makey Operation games with shapes. (They are on a Geometry unit in their regular classrooms, so this seemed like a good time to try it.) As my classroom once again became a
Disaster Zone Lab of Innovative Thinkers, I realized that I pretty much go through the same thought process every time we embark on these adventures. I tried to make a visual of it, which you can see below. I ran out of space at the end, so don’t assume that these things always end on a high note…
We will hopefully complete the project next week, and I will blog more specifics about it. If you aren’t familiar with Makey Makey, you can see my post from earlier this year about the Onomatopeia Poetry the students created with Scratch and Makey Makey. And yes, my brain went through the same steps for that one, too!
Sometimes random themes show up in the various social networks that I follow. Today, I came across two completely different posts that appealed to my appreciation for creative ways for students to show their learning.
First, I saw this tweet:
— Paul W. Hankins (@PaulWHankins) December 19, 2017
I like the idea of making poetry 3-dimensional, and I could see lots of ways to go with this idea.
Then, I saw a tweet from Russel Tarr about “Tubular Timeline Towers,” an idea one of his students designed for an open-ended homework assignment. What a great way to represent something chronologically!
The wheels are turning in my brain as I try to think of variations on this theme!
In addition to doing Genius Hour with my 3rd-5th grade gifted students, I have been guiding 5th grade students through what I like to call, “Genius Camp” during our school’s weekly enrichment time for the past year and a half. For my first post on this, which explains the logistics of the time, you can read here. Basically, I work with one 5th grade homeroom for 45 minutes per week for about 6-8 weeks. (It was 6 weeks last year, but we changed the timeframe this year.) During the last session, the students teach lessons to the rest of the students in 5th grade. It’s kind of a Genius Hour/EdCamp hybrid because there are students choosing what they want to present and other students get to vote on which session they would like to attend. (You can go to this folder to make copies of all of the templates listed below.)
- Week 1 – Intro. to Genius Camp, brainstorming ideas for sessions
- Week 2 – Going over “what makes a good session” and brainstorming more ideas
- Week 3 – Signing up for sessions (in groups of 1-3 students), Planning the session, including step-by-step instructions
- Week 4 – Completing planning sheets, giving peer feedback and revising
- Week 5 –Going over reflection sheets, and practicing sessions. Send out reminder letter.
- Week 6 –Practicing and critiquing each other’s sessions (all materials due this day or students cannot present the next week)
- Week 7 – Other homerooms fill out Google Form selecting 1st, 2nd, 3rd choice for sessions. Sessions are presented during enrichment time that week. Each participating student receives a label with name, session name, and location. There is an adult supervisor at every location.
As you can see from this post that I did toward the end of last school year, Genius Camp has not been perfect. But I have seen many, many successes that have outweighed the obstacles. My favorite part has been witnessing students shine who often don’t get the opportunity to demonstrate their interests or their strengths during the school day. Every 5th grader gets to participate in Genius Camp, and I enjoy discovering their passions. Many times I hear comments from the adult supervisors like, “I had no idea so and so has such a natural talent for teaching!” or, “I never knew so and so knew so much about World War II!”
If you can find a way to bring Genius Camp to your school, whether through enrichment time, an after-school club, or by carving out time in a regular class, you and your students will find that it is time well spent.
Although it’s great to allow students to use their imaginations, they will generally feel overwhelmed if you give them infinite choices. For example, if you say, “Build something out of Legos,” many students will either spend most of their time figuring out what to build or attempt to build something they have already done in the past. So, a couple of years ago I thought I would randomize some Makerspace Building Challenges for my students by using a tool called Flippity. Instead of building “something,” they might be urged to build an amusement park ride or a shelter for a natural disaster, for example. You can find my post on using the tool here.
In this recent post from Laura Fleming, you can find even better Makerspace Challenges using Flippity. Her first version randomly selects building techniques and materials to spark the imagination. Her second version uses S.C.A.M.P.E.R., which is a great innovation tool that I describe a bit more in detail in this blog post. Laura gives full instructions for how to use her Flippity challenges and how to modify them for your own use in her post.
I have a post on 5 Resources for Design Thinking Challenges here. For my list of Makerspace Essentials, including Laura’s book, Worlds of Making, click here. (Laura also has a new book, called The Kickstart Guide to Making Great Makerspaces.)