Category Archives: Websites

Radiolab for Kids – Tic Tac Toe

One of the many podcasts that I listen to is Radiolab, a program that makes science easy to understand for non-scientists.  I was happy to find out from one of their Tweets that there is now a “Radiolab for Kids” site, where they have collected programs from their archives that would appeal especially to children.  One of the many episodes is, “Mapping Tic Tac Toedom,” which I’ve embedded below.  In this broadcast, the hosts try to figure out who in the world knows how to play Tic-Tac-Toe – a game that seems ubiquitous to Americans, but do people in other countries play it?

If your child listens to the podcast, and is interested in learning more about Tic-Tac-Toe, I recommend the Wikipedia entry on “Tic-Tac-Toe Variants,” which offers suggestions for different versions such as “Revenge in a Row” and “Random Turn Tic-Tac-Toe.”

My students enjoyed playing Ultimate Tic-Tac-Toe, and you can find directions for that here:  “Ultimate Tic-Tac-Toe” (as explained by “Math with Bad Drawings”)

They also really liked the video, Tic-Tac-Toe Game That Goes Horribly Wrong, which I would use whenever we were about to do a unit on inventing games so they could see what happens when people just assume you know the rules to a game.

Other great listens on Radiolab for Kids? Try learning about animal minds, super cool science, or zombie cockroaches among other things.  Chances are, even the adults will learn something new!

 

Hack Your Window with Scratch

Scratch programming is one of the most versatile tools for creativity that my students have ever used.  I am constantly in awe of the ideas people come up with using this free coding platform that is available to anyone online.  One of the most recent suggestions that is perfect for those of us going a bit stir crazy during the quarantine is to “hack your window.”  Basically, you take a picture of any of the windows in your residence, use the Scratch drawing tools to delete the panes, and add what you would like to imagine seeing outside your window.  This post from Eduard Perich gives specific instructions for creating an animated scene.

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image from “Futbol Per La Finestra” by UrielMR8 on Scratch

If you are not familiar with Scratch, or would like to start by just seeing what others have done along this theme, here is a link to the Scratch studio where creators are sharing their programs.  You will notice that there are submissions in many different languages, which could be fun for translation lessons!

Knowing many of my former students, they would probably enjoy the entry, “Don’t Let the Corona Get In,” which I’ve embedded below.  It’s a game where you have to try to click the images of the coronavirus before they get too large and overcome you.

One way to help students learn quickly in Scratch is to allow them to copy a program and remix it.  You can do this by clicking on any shared program, choosing, “See Inside,” and then making a copy.  You will need to be logged in to Scratch in order to do this.

There are many, many resources out there for getting started with Scratch.  This is one of the basic ones, but keep in mind that the platform has been updated since then so some of the screen shots may look different than the current version.  You can also do a search of this blog for ideas to use with Scratch and/or Scratch Jr.

Project Zero Thinking Routines

UPDATE 3/30/2020:  Here is a link to a video where Smithsonian educators demonstrate use of the Thinking Routines with a piece of artwork.

You would have to drill down a bit into these resources that I posted about from the Smithsonian for “A Woman’s Place” to find this excellent compilation of Thinking Routines from Harvard’s Project Zero, so I thought I would give this page of free downloads its very own post.  Although the routines are specifically aimed toward discussing works of art, you will quickly see that these questions are adaptable to many different situations, and that they will elicit deep thought about any topic.  One of my favorite Visible Thinking Routines is 3-2-1 Bridge (here is a post I did on that, which includes a free template).

I also like the: Artful, Global, and Agency by Design Thinking Routines that are included on this page.  For example, I’ve added one of the Global cards below.  Imagine applying these questions to the current pandemic, and what answers you might receive from your students!  Some might find literal beauty in the microscopic image of the virus, while others may see the beauty of human nature being revealed as people jump in to help their communities.

truth and beauty

If you are preparing curriculum for distance learning, I hope that you will consider adding some of these to get a more detailed understanding of the thoughts your students are having while they learn.

Smithsonian Distance Learning Resources

I recently mentioned the Smithsonian Learning Lab in this post , which features some great lessons for Women’s History Month.  Now, the incredible educators at Smithsonian have a page of links to resources they have specifically curated for distance learning during this time of quarantine.  It includes information on how to use the Learning Lab, links for learning more about COVID-19, and resource collections with a national audience in mind.  In addition, there are D.C. specific lessons (which are separated by grade level, and can certainly be used whenever they fit in any curriculum), lessons for caregivers to use with children, and resources for tweens and teens.  The last two categories also include games and maker activity links.

Thanks to the Smithsonian for providing these well-organized spreadsheets full of links that will appeal to any age group and in any subject!

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Image by Mudassar Iqbal from Pixabay

 

A Woman’s Place

Anne Showalter, who works at the Smithsonian American Art Museum has created this resource for educators, “A Woman’s Place is in the Curriculum: Teaching Women’s History Through American Art and Portraiture,” a wonderful compilation to use for Women’s History Month from the Smithsonian Learning Lab.  There are three Learning Lab Collections that are free to use: “Persisting and Resisting: Exploring Women as Activists,” “Who Tells Your Story: Exploring Women and Identity,” and “Remaking the Rules: Exploring Women Who Broke Barriers.”

(You can find out more about Smithsonian’s Learning Lab here.)

Each collection contains images and artwork for the theme, as well as a webinar for each topic.  The webinars were done live late last year, but you can watch the archived videos to get ideas for discussion and background information about the assets provided in the collection.  “Exploring Women Who Broke Barriers” has a Powerpoint Presentation from the Webinar here.  “Persisting and Resisting’s” Powerpoint can be found here. I might have missed it, but I do not see one for “Who Tells Your Story.”

I like how the presentations give ideas for using Visible Thinking Routines from Project Zero in to develop deep discussions about the artwork.  (You can see some other posts I’ve done about using a couple of these routines here and here.)

Since it’s Women’s History Month in the United States, you may want to consider adding at least portions of these to your curriculum for March.  But I think you will see that there are enough resources to make for enriched learning throughout the year!

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Smithsonian American Art Museum, Smithsonian Institution. “Smithsonian Learning Lab Resource: Sun Mad.” Smithsonian Learning Lab, Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, 2 Nov. 2015. learninglab.si.edu/q/r/166274. Accessed 5 Mar. 2020.

 

Slow Reveal Graphs

If you are a fan of helping students learn how to be critical thinkers, then you will appreciate the Slow Reveal Graphs site.   Rather than presenting a full graph to students and asking them to interpret it, teachers use Slow Reveal Graphs to allow the students to discuss, think, wonder, and predict as each stage of the graph is shown – hopefully resulting in deeper learning.  (This technique is similar to the one used in the New York Times’ “What’s Going on in this Graph?” feature.) Courtesy of Jenna Laib (@jennalaib) and other contributors, The Slow Reveal Graphs website has examples of different types of graphs (Circle, Bar,  Line, etc…), many of which have links to slide decks that have already been created for the slow reveal.  “How Long Can Animals Hold Their Breath Underwater?“, for example, begins with a bar graph that has no title or labels and incrementally adds them as you advance each slide.  The slides also have suggested discussion questions in the notes.

In case you are thinking this site will only appeal to math teachers, I should note that there are three special categories of Slow Reveal Graphs: Social Justice, Save the Planet, and Incarceration in the U.S.  Of course, any of the graphs on the site can be used in multiple subjects, including ELA.

To read more about how Slow Reveal Graphs are used in classrooms, from primary to high school, visit this list of bloggers who have written about SRG’s in the past.

If you like SRG’s, consider trying Clothesline Math and Would You Rather? Math.  One of my most popular posts, 15 Math Sites that Won’t Make You Fall Asleep, has examples of these and more. Also, follow the #mtbos hashtag on Twitter for more great math teaching strategies!

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Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

 

Chess Resources

A friend of mine asked for some chess resources to use with her after-school chess club (elementary-aged), and I thought I would share the ones that I was able to curate.  If you have any other suggestions (other than sites where you can play chess online), please comment below.

The game that I like to use to introduce how the chess pieces move is Tic Tac Chec.  I just did a search on my blog, and I can’t believe that I’ve never posted about this game before.  I used to use it with my Kinder and 1st graders all of the time, and they quickly picked it up.  The game board is a wooden 4×4 grid, and the two players each get 4 different chess pieces, one of which they can place or move during their turns.  The object is to get 4 of your pieces in a row.  If you are captured, you can use your next move to put your piece back on the board.  It’s fun to watch the students keep capturing each other, and finally realizing no one can win if that’s all you do!

Solitaire Chess is another game for practicing chess movements without playing the actual game.  This one-player game offers scaffolded challenges that show pictures of a 4×4 chess board set up with some pieces.  Your goal is to figure out how to move the pieces so that only one is left.  Each move must be a “legal” capture.  You can also play Solitaire Chess online (make sure you have Flash enabled on your computer), and there is a video tutorial.

Here are some other online chess challenges:

UIL Texas has this printable packet of mini-games for teaching chess.

For videos, don’t forget the inspirational one, The Magic of Chess, that I shared a couple of weeks ago.  Also, Kids Academy has a series of animated videos on YouTube, beginning with Getting to Know the Game.

Want to use chess for an integrated lesson, where students design their own chess pieces and/or boards?  This is a great lesson plan from Scopes-DF.

If you aren’t convinced of the educational benefits of teaching chess to young children, this article may help you to learn more!

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Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash