Category Archives: Teaching Tools

Some Rational Ways to Celebrate an Irrational Number

Pi Day (3/14) always falls during our district’s Spring Break, so I try to celebrate it with my students the week before, if possible.  After looking back at my Pi Day posts from past years, I see that I can add a few updates, so here are some of the ways we honored it in my classroom this year:

Some other resources you may want to try that I haven’t mentioned before are:

The number of ways to celebrate the number seem to be almost as infinite as the number itself!

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image from: Amit Patel on Flickr

Your Logical Fallacy Is…

After jumping into a rabbit hole in the form of this article about a recent study showing positive effects related to teaching philosophy to children, I found a website that I wish I’d discovered at least 6 months ago.  Your Logical Fallacy Is… details the erroneous but persuasive arguments that many propagandists use, from politicians to advertisers.  The site makes it quite easy to “call someone out” by offering the tools to identify and share specific logical fallacies through social networks.  Just click on the icon for a particular logical fallacy on the home page, and it will take you to a page describing the fallacy along with an example.  Teachers might also be interested in the free, downloadable poster, which gives short summaries of each of the twenty-four fallacies defined on the site.

In this era of “false news” and an overabundance of information to sift through, teaching our students to think critically is vital.  It’s nice to see studies that suggest that teaching philosophy might improve student performance in areas such as reading and math, but neither of those skills are of much use to students who don’t know how to determine what is valid and what is a smokescreen.

(For more resources on using philosophy in the classroom, you can also read this post and this one.

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Gosh – I feel like I’ve heard this one recently… image from: Mark Klotz on Flickr

 

Begin at the End of the Rainbow

With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, I have been doing a few leprechaun activities with my students.  One that my 1st graders enjoy is to use the “Substitute” tool from S.C.A.M.P.E.R. to imagine what they would like to find at the end of the rainbow instead of a pot of gold.  This year, one student drew a puppy that solves Rubix Cubes.  That was definitely “out of the pot” thinking!  My 2nd graders “Adapted” a classroom to leprechauns, and included posters that instructed the leprechaun students, “How to Talk to Humans.”

The hands-down favorite St. Patrick’s Day activity for my students has always been the Leprechaun Traps.  I usually do this with my Kindergartners.  The other day, my 2nd graders were recalling the excitement of making the traps and speculating that “probably Mrs. Eichholz was the one who left the notes – not a leprechaun.”  🙂  I’m looking forward to introducing my newest group of Kinders to the Design Process and STEM as they invent their own leprechaun traps.

Breakout Edu has a couple of Leprechaun games on their Seasonal page. (Remember that you need to register for free in order to get the password that opens the full set of instructions.)

Technology Rocks. Seriously. has a grand collection of leprechaun activities that include digital and paper links.

And, as if that is not enough, the MilkandCookies blog offers a free download of St. Patrick’s Day logic and sudoku puzzles here.

I wish everyone the Luck of the Irish this March, and I hope you discover your own pot of gold in the near future.  (If it’s a puppy who can solve Rubix Cubes, please send him to my house because I’ve never been able to complete one without cheating.)

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image from: echaroo on Flickr

Schoogle Your Content with Hyperdocs – #TCEA17

“Schoogle Your Content with Hyperdocs” was a TCEA presentation given this year by my illustrious NEISD colleague, Laura Moore.  Laura, who is also the author of, “Rock the Lab” and “Learn Moore Stuff,” is a guru of technology integration.  She is also an excellent presenter, so I knew that attending her session at TCEA would reap many benefits. I was right.

Laura will be the first to tell you that she did not create the concept of Hyperdocs.  For that, we can thank the Hyperdoc Girls – Lisa Highfill (@lhighfill), Kelly Hilton (@kellyihilton), and Sarah Landis (@SarahLandis).  You can find out more about them here.

On Laura’s site, you will find a fantastic step-by-step introduction to Hyperdocs that leads teachers from the definition through pedagogical best practices, examples of Hyperdocs, templates, and steps for creating your own.  It’s a great way to scaffold a staff development on Hyperdocs.

Teachers looking for a simple definition of Hyperdocs might settle for, “Google Docs with links.”  But those teachers would be wrong.  There really is no one-line definition for Hyperdocs.  To learn what they are, and what they aren’t, you need to see this page.

Plenty of Hyperdocs have already been created by many talented people, so chances are that you can dive right into using them by looking at the examples provided here. There are even Hyperdocs to learn about Hyperdocs available.

I definitely can’t do Laura’s presentation justice in a quick blog post, so I hope that you will take a look at her presentation site to find out more about this interactive method for digital learning that will engage your students on many levels.

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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 

Visit Me at TCEA 2017!

This week, I will be at TCEA in Austin with my fabulous colleague, Angelique Lackey.  We will be presenting together on Tuesday.  Our session is called, “10 Sure-Fire Ways to Light Up Your Curriculum.”  The hour-long session starts at 1:15 in Room 19B.  It is about using the Project Ignite website to introduce your students to 3d modeling with Tinkercad.

On Wednesday, I’ll be solo.  I’ll be presenting, “Code Dread” at 2:30 in Room 13AB.  This session is for anyone who has been intrigued by the thought of using coding in the classroom, but has little experience with programming.

FYI – despite having done numerous presentations I always sound nervous.  Weirdly, the only thing that makes me nervous is knowing that I will sound nervous which, as you can imagine, develops into a nice little self-fulfilling prophecy.  Fortunately, the size of the audience doesn’t seem to impact this, as I am equally as nervous with 2 people or 50.  Unfortunately, medication either makes it worse or makes me slur my words so I’ve learned to just tune out my own voice and never listen to recordings.  Of course, if you attend either session you won’t have those choices – but I promise not to be offended if you walk out 😉

You may not want to walk out, though, because we just found out that we get to use the Qball (wireless, throwable microphone) during our sessions.  So, walking out would mean you not only lose the opportunity of listening to my unique voice, but you would also lose the opportunity to see how horrible I am at throwing microphone balls – a feat I have never attempted, but I am quite certain will bring back flashbacks of the one time I tried to play softball when I was in 5th grade and managed to bonk myself in the forehead.  I will try not to bonk you in the forehead, but there is no guarantee.

In conclusion, you may or may not want to attend my two sessions at TCEA and you may or may not want to take out extra insurance before volunteering to be in the audience.  If you do decide to brave all of these potential hazards I have mentioned, then please come up and say, “Hi!  I am one of the courageous people who read your TCEA post and still decided to come to your session.”  That way I will know not to aim for you when I throw the Qball 😉

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Full Disclosure – I don’t look anything like my Bitmoji. Except for the brown eyes and hair. And I do sometimes smile. Oh, and my hair is usually parted on the side. Angelique looks exactly like her Bitmoji. (Don’t tell her she looks like a cartoon, though. She finds that offensive for some strange reason.)
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I forget where that QR code takes you, so don’t be upset if it’s a dead end. I should probably check that before I present, but I have plenty of time – right?

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!