3-12, Critical Thinking, Games, Teaching Tools, Writing

Gifts for the Gifted — I Dissent

Several years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually (except for 2019) every November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, including my ongoing 2022 list, you can visit this page. I also have a Pinterest Board of Games and Toys for Gifted Students and one for Books for Gifted Children or Anyone who Loves to Learn.

I’ve already referenced this article by @LindsayAnnLearn once in the last few weeks when I posted about her “Bring Your Own Book” game. Let’s just say that I found a lot of gift ideas on her list, and “I Dissent” is one of them. Inspired by the great RBG herself, this game is an entertaining way to give participants practice in the art of arguing, although the stakes are much lower than cases brought before the Supreme Court. In fact, you don’t need to worry about any hot button topics like politics and religion. Instead, be prepared to debate whether it’s okay to wear socks with sandals or if playing video games should be considered a sport.

I Dissent” states that it’s for ages 14+ on the game instructions, but I looked through all of the topic cards and didn’t see any that I wouldn’t use with my elementary students. There might be some vocabulary you will need to explain, such as the word, “irrational,” or something children won’t care about (“the 90’s were better than the 80’s,” for example), but I doubt you’re going to get any parent phone calls for cards like, “dogs would make better drivers than cats.”

The number of players could easily be adjusted to include a whole classroom or a small family of 3. Technically there are enough sets of “Voting Cards” for 9 people, but playing in teams wouldn’t be a problem. Basically, each player/team gets a set of “Voting Cards” with the numbers 1, 2, or 3, and two opinion cards (“Agree” and “Disagree”). A topic card is turned over and whoever is the “Chief Justice” for that round chooses how long players can argue the topic. When that time is up, players choose an opinion card and how many votes they are willing to give up for that opinion. The opinion that wins that round is the one that scores the most votes, NOT the opinion that appears the most. You can only use each of your 8 votes once, so you need to be judicious — pun intended — with your choices. Winners of each round get to keep their “Vote Cards” from the round face up in front of them to count towards the end of the game, while losers of the round return the used “Vote Cards” to the box.

You continue playing 7 more rounds with each person/team getting a chance to be “Chief Justice.” There are also “Dissent Cards” that can be put into the mix, but I’ll let get your own game to learn those slightly complicated rules. At the end, you tally up all of the scores on the “Vote Cards” in front of you to determine the winner.

Once you get the hang of the game, it’s easy enough to make up your own controversial topics to debate, and this could definitely get interesting with a variety of inputs from any age. As Lindsay mentioned, you could also bring in curriculum with home-made topics. And you can add a persuasive writing assignment to tie things together afterward.

I like this game because I really do feel that, as a society we have been regressing in our ability to conduct civilized debates. “I Dissent” can appeal to different age groups and still be hilarious and fun while we guide children toward arguing respectfully. If you want to extend that lesson, try a “Socratic Smackdown” or two once you feel like the conversations are ready for more complexity!

boy in red sweater wring on notebook
K-12, Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Writing

10 Retrieval Activities + 1 Choice Board

You may recall my mention of retrieval practice in my post about the +1 Visible Thinking Routine. To briefly recap, scientific studies show that retrieval practice done in intervals can help learners to retain more information. These activities are like short pop-quizzes in that you are asking students to recall as much as they can without referring to notes or texts. But, while a pop quiz is used for the teacher to assess, the purpose of retrieval practice activities are to help students learn, so they should not be attached to grades. Ideally, they are woven into your teaching day and can take the form of games, classroom warmups, and even exit tickets. The +1 Visible Thinking Routine is one way to do retrieval practice, but I recently discovered some more ideas on Twitter.

It started when I noticed a Tweet from Brendan O’Sullivan (@ImtaBrendan) where he shared a choice board of “settler” activities. Now, I don’t know about you, but the word, “settler” makes me think of dying of dysentery on the Oregon Trail or getting obliterated by my family when we play Catan. Once I found out from Brendan that these are a term for activities used “to get your class settled, to give them focus and moving towards learning,” the board made a lot more sense to me. (This is the fun thing about Twitter. Brendan is from Ireland, so I appreciate him helping us non-Europeans learn a new term!) Brendan’s choice board is a nice way to have students do some retrieval practice when class is getting started.

Settler Choice Board from Brendan O’Sullivan

I then noticed a Tweet from Liesl McConchie (@LieslMcConchie) where she shared a link to her mini-book of “10 Retrieval Activities to Boost Student Learning and Retention.” Although it is math-focused, you can easily do the activities in any classroom. For example, I could see using the “Quiz, Quiz, Switch” activity in any grade level or subject (possibly using pictures for students who are pre-readers).

Retrieval Practice example from Liesl McConchie in her mini-book, “10 Retrieval Activities to Boost Student Learning and Retention

You can download more free mini-books from Liesl on her website.

By guiding students with retrieval practice activities, we will not only help them to retain more important information, but we are teaching them a valuable skill they can continue to use as lifelong learners.

illuminated gratitude quote on board
3-12, Creative Thinking, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Writing

Gratitude Zines

Since this is the month of American Thanksgiving, November classroom activities often revolve around gratitude in the States. Austin Kleon, a Texan author famous for his Blackout Poetry among other things, has the perfect free download for you. He is a proponent of all things creative, and “zines” are excellent gateways to encourage imaginative writing and illustrations. If you have not run into “zines” before, here is a quick introduction from the University of Illinois, who basically describes a “zine” as “a small-scale, self-published publication, similar to a magazine, which can focus on a variety of topics.” Kleon has a page of examples and free downloads here.

I learned about Kleon’s Gratitude Zine on Twitter from Maria Galanis (@mariagalanis), when she shared a video tutorial of how to make the printed page into the tiny book.

You can get the free download by going to Kleon’s newsletter. (I highly recommend subscribing when the popup displays, but you don’t have to.)

Click here to go to the free download on Austin Kleon’s newsletter.

I’ll be adding this idea to my November collection of resources. If you are looking for some more creative and critical thinking activities related to the season, here is another post of free ideas.

positive black woman talking to radio host
history, Independent Study, K-12, Research, Teaching Tools, Writing

International Podcast Day

So, I’m in the middle of curating resources for my September Holidays and Celebrations Wakelet collection (still working on it, but it is public if you want to take a look), and I found out that September 30th is International Podcast Day. Have I mentioned that I love podcasts, and that there are so many ways to leverage them for engagement in the classroom? I even wrote an article about “Podcast Pedagogy” last year for NEO. Whether you want to have students listen to podcasts (see my article for tons of suggestions, including Smash, Boom, Best) or create them, podcasts are a nice way to give students opportunities for more choice and creativity in their learning and assessments.

I discovered a couple of new resources since I wrote that article that I am adding to my September Wakelet, but I’ll also include here. First of all, I saw this nice idea for a podcast listening station from Stacy Brown (@21stStacy) on Twitter:

Also from Twitter, Chris Hitchcock (@CHitch94), shared this spreadsheet of podcasts that relate to history to use with secondary students.

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate International Podcast Day, this page has good suggestions. I realize that it’s over a month away, but these are activities you definitely you want to plan ahead of time rather than the night before.

This page from Building Book Love has excellent recommendations for podcasts for both elementary and secondary. There are also links to some TPT pages the author has created for listening and responding to podcasts.

There are a few other links on my Wakelet if you want to delve deeper. If you haven’t tried using podcasts yet, I hope that you will take the leap because they are definitely a valuable educational resource that I think has been largely untapped so far!

3-12, Creative Thinking, Language Arts, Writing

Golden Shovel Poetry

Gwendolyn Brooks published the poem, “We Real Cool,” in 1963. In 2010, Terrance Hayes published a poem called, “The Golden Shovel.” If I was teaching a poetry unit, I would have my students read both poems and see what they notice before suggesting a direct relationship. Students would probably immediately recognize the title of Hayes’ poem appears in the second line of Brooks’. But it would be fun to see how long it takes them to see that Terrance Hayes actually structured his poem around Brooks’ by making each word in her poem the last word in each line of his poem — in order.

With “The Golden Shovel,” Hayes created a new poetic form, and it’s one of those challenges that compels and delights students with its opportunity for creativity through constraint. Take your favorite poem, favorite sentence from a book, or favorite passage from an article, even a newspaper headline and use each word, in order, as the last word for each line in your new poem. Be sure to credit the original author, but don’t limit yourself to their subject. You can see a perfect video explanation from the North Vancouver City Library for their “Teen Tuesday” series of how to write a Golden Shovel poem here. The Poetry Society offers a good lesson plan here.

Here is another example of a Golden Shovel poem, written by Michelle Kogan, and built from the words of the poem, “I Dream a World,” by Langston Hughes. If you want to see some work from actual students, this page shares some Golden Shovel poetry written by 5th and 6th graders based on poems by Gwendolyn Brooks.

Golden Shovel Poetry reminds me of the Found and Parallel Poetry that I used to do with my students, often resulting in pieces that surprised all of us with their insight. I’ll definitely be adding this link to my Poetry Wakelet Collection, and I would love to see any examples that your students write!

Side note: Wouldn’t it be fun to do a Poetry Out Loud presentation or something similar, and award one or two students these cute little golden shovel utensils?

Creative Thinking, K-12, Language Arts, Writing

Fighting Words Poetry Contest from the Pulitzer Center

With National Poetry Month just around the corner in April, this contest from the Pulitzer Center offers relevance and the opportunity for an authentic audience for student poetry. The contest is open to students in K-12 around the world, though it appears that the judging categories are not separated by age group. Entries must be submitted by May 15, 2022, and can be multilingual, (judges will primarily be fluent in English and/or Spanish). The intriguing part of this contest is the constraint that each poem must include at least one line from a story on the Pulitzer site. Suggested stories for grades 3 and up are linked, and you can also access teaching resources that include slide presentations and activities to guide students through the process of writing their poems.

This would be a great opportunity for your students to try the Parallel Poetry technique that I describe here. This was one of the few lessons that I repeated annually (I usually get bored doing something over and over) because it was so incredible to see the uniquely personal poems my students would produce. I often have a difficult time teaching creative writing, but this particular process seemed far less “bumpy” and far more rewarding to all of us than my typical writing lessons.

I’ll be adding this link to my collection of Poetry lessons, which includes links to: a TED Ed List of animated classic poems, poetry writing ideas for Kindergarten, blackout poetry lessons, and more. I also have an Amanda Gorman Wakelet, and an April Holidays one — both of which you can find here along with my other public collections.

white paper with black text
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