Yes, my friends, it is Computer Science Education Week 2017. Time to celebrate Hour of Code. In honor of this year’s HOC, Flocabulary has chosen to offer some of its STEM videos for free. The videos are appropriate for 3rd grade and up, and cover topics from “What is the Internet?” to “Coding: Conditionals.” If you’ve never tried out Flocabulary, you are in for a treat. With its catchy raps and fun graphics, Flocabulary can entertain and educate at the same time. Be sure to take advantage of this great resource between now and December 10th when the videos will once again become subscription-only offerings.
When my students do a Hexagonal Learning activity, one of the groups of hexagons I usually use includes the themes of the story we are discussing. However, I have always struggled with how to help students identify the themes. It is difficult for them to discern the difference between theme and main idea. Yesterday, I found this great free video from BrainPop (no subscription needed to watch this one) that explains “Theme” using Star Wars. My 4th graders really enjoyed it. When we finished watching it, they were immediately ready to call out the many themes they observe in Tuck Everlasting. It was surprisingly easy, resulting in my lesson time being half what I had planned. Later, I found this great free printable from Minds in Bloom to help reinforce what they have learned about themes for next week’s class. Next topic to tackle: symbolism!
By the way, a great resource for themes, though the book selection is limited, is LitCharts‘ Theme Tracker tool.
As I continue to seek out ways to battle sexism, racism, and all of the other intolerant -isms and phobias, it is nice to find videos that support this quest. Though they may be commercials (isn’t anything that is supposed to persuade you a commercial?), the message in each of these videos is powerful and, most of all, kind. For more inspirational videos, you can check here and here.
I landed in a new Twitter chat this weekend (#ecet2 – Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers). The moderator was @AngelaAbend, and the topic was gifted students. Here is one of the threads from the discussion when we were asked to describe gifted children:
I don’t like to over-generalize gifted students. Some can be hard on themselves and do their best in school. But there are others who do so well at the beginning of their school careers that they receive more compliments than challenges. Without sufficient problem-solving practice during these formative years, these students may never learn what to do when answers do not immediately appear in their heads. By assuming young, successful students will “be fine,” we inadvertently cripple them later in life. It’s essential that we target every child’s Zone of Proximal Development regularly so they can be equipped with tools and strategies for dealing with difficulties.
During the chat, Angela Abend tweeted the video, “James and Susie,” which illustrates the need for all children to be challenged.
When my gifted students say, “This is hard!” I tell them, “Good! That’s my job! If it was too easy, I’d be worried.” Of course, there are students like my 5th grader from last year who would say, “This isn’t in my ZPD!” with a sly grin on his face. “Keep trying! You’ll figure it out,” I always responded. And he would.
My 4th grade class studies mathematical masterpieces each year. They are always fascinated by Pi and Fibonacci numbers. Even now, this year’s 5th grade class makes connections related to those favorite topics. I’m surprised that I have just now found this TED Talk from 2013, where Arthur Benjamin speaks about the “Magic of Fibonacci Numbers.” This link features Benjamin’s video on TEDEd, so there are multiple choice questions and other resources provided as well.
For some of the other blog posts that I’ve done about the Fibonacci sequence, click here. And for some of my favorite engaging mathematical websites, check out this post. (Currently the most popular post on this site!)
In light of recent news events, it seems that sexist stereotypes and misogynistic behaviors continue to be supported and trivialized in our society. The “boys will be boys” attitude persists in all age groups, socioeconomic classes, and cultures despite attempts that have been made in the last few decades to eradicate it. What can we, as parents and teachers, do to combat the many chauvinistic messages that bombard our children every day?
Inspiring Girls, an international organization based in the UK, has an idea. Noting that many of our children are exposed at an early age to a multitude of animated characters, the organization also found that only 29% of these potential role models are female. In a revealing video included on the resources page, a classroom teachers asks her students to draw people in several different professions such as a firefighter and a surgeon. 61 pictures were drawn as men. 5 were women.
The #redrawthebalance campaign from Inspiring Girls wants us to bring awareness to this disturbing example of gender stereotypes, and to help our students see that women can be strong, intelligent, and hard-working as well. You can find a workbook on the resources page that can be printed with pages that prompt students to draw their own characters, who will hopefully be more representative of themselves. There are also downloadable posters of characters such as “Carla the Coder,” who are female.
We’ve come a long way since we had to fight for the right for women to vote. But all we have to do is take a look at the headlines to see that it hasn’t been far enough.
Engage is a two minute video from “Let it Ripple” Film Studio (also the producers of The Science of Character). It’s a good reminder that we only have a short time on this planet, so it’s important to make that time meaningful by helping others. Accompanied by the soundtrack of, “Give a Little Bit,” by Rodger Hodgson, Engage might be the little nudge of inspiration that your students need to become more involved in the world around them. A similar video, which you can also find on my “Inspirational Videos for Students” Pinterest Board, is “The Time You Have (in Jellybeans).”
H/T to @ibceendy for sharing this link on Twitter!