Kids Philosophy Slam 2018

The Kids Philosophy Slam folks released the topic for the 2018 contest, which has a deadline of March 9, 2018.  The question is, “Truth or Deceit: Which has a Greater Impact on Society?”  Definitely relevant!

Students from K-12 can participate in the contest, and younger students can submit their entries in a variety of forms (essay, art-work, etc…).  If you have participated in the past, please note that there are some new guidelines for entries.

Although individual students can receive rewards, the contest is also looking for “The Most Philosophical School in America,” which will receive a $200 cash prize.  See the above link for more information.

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Interactive Onomatopoeia

When my students were working on their cardboard mini golf courses, I casually suggested using a Makey Makey to make things interesting – and realized that I hadn’t yet introduced this group of kids to the wonders of this invention tool.  When I saw a post from Colleen Graves about making interactive stories and poems using Makey Makey and Scratch, I knew this would be the perfect project for my 4th graders.  They are studying literary masterpieces right now, and learning about figurative language.  It seemed to be a natural transition from discussing onomatopoeia to designing simple Scratch programs that would allow us to add sounds using the Makey Makey.

After teaching some of the basics of Scratch, I showed the students an onomatopoeia poem to which I had added some heavily penciled symbols (the graphite will conduct if you lay it on pretty thick).  I attached the Makey Makey to the symbols and my computer, and started my Scratch program, reading the poem and pressing the symbols at the appropriate moments.  Then the students got to choose their own poems from some I had printed out to program in pairs.  They got to share their creations on Seesaw, and were pretty excited about the way their projects turned out.

This was just the beginning.  Now that the students know the concept, they will be able to apply it to poetry they will be writing in the next couple of weeks.  I’m hoping to also guide them toward creating more complex artwork using copper tape or conductive paint for the Makey Makey triggers.

The Makey Makey was on “Gifts for the Gifted” list in 2014.  Since then, I have seen many more uses for it.  In fact, I just ordered Graves’ book, 20 Makey Makey Projects for the Evil Genius, which may keep my 4th graders busy for the rest of this year!

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image from Josh Burker on Flickr

James and Susie

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:Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 4.26.27 PM.png

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.

17 Free Printables for Thanksgiving

To justify the hours that I spend looking for “just right” activities for my gifted students, I try to share as much as I can on this blog.  Yesterday I hunted for critical and creative thinking activities with a Thanksgiving theme, and found quite a few that you can print for free.

From Minds in Bloom (Rachel Lynette) on Teachers Pay Teachers:

From Growing Gifted Minds on Teachers Pay Teachers:

From various other authors on Teacher Pay Teachers:

From other sources:

Some of my past Thanksgiving posts:

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image from PublicDomain.net

Gifts for the Gifted 2017 – I’m Just No Good at Rhyming

A few 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 on every Friday in 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, you can visit this page.

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Oh my gosh, I can’t believe we are in November already.  The day after Halloween, my satellite radio station was already touting their Christmas music stations.  I still have cobwebs all over my house.  However, I do have Christmas lights kind of up because we did a Stranger Things themed Halloween party.  So, that worked out well.

Anyway, as you can see from the blurb above, I am back to doing my weekly “Gifts for the Gifted” column, which might seem like I am caving to the commercialism of the season.  I don’t really have a defense for that, so I’m just going to move on to this week’s recommendation.

I wrote a poetic post about this poetry book earlier this month.  (I wouldn’t read it, if I were you – my post, I mean.  It’s a poor excuse for a poem.)  Chris Harris’ poetry is much better than mine.  My students from 1st-5th roll on the floor when I read them, “The Old Woman Who Lived in Achoo.”  They raise their eyebrows at the title poem, “I’m Just No Good at Rhyming.” (How can this person be so daft as to not know simple rhyming words?!!) From the cover jacket to the last page, this book defies the rules of poetry, indexes, dedications, and acknowledgements.

But don’t take my word for how great this book is.  To read more about the book and Chris Harris, check out this article from Publishers Weekly.

If you are looking for a good gift for an elementary school student, I’m Just No Good at Rhyming is a great choice.  And do yourself a favor – don’t let the recipient read it independently the first time.  Sit with him or her, and read it out loud.  Just give yourself ample time because neither one of you is going to want to stop.

If you are reading this in time, and live near Austin, TX, Chris Harris will be at the Texas Book Festival on 11/4/17, reading out loud and signing books.  An even better gift than this book would be this book signed by the author!

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C.S.I.

I should probably explain right at the beginning of this post that I am not going to be talking about crime scene investigation.  Or television shows.  Or the fact that I couldn’t stand C.S.I. Miami because David Caruso is a terrible actor.  Or the fact that watching too many episodes of C.S.I. resulted in me being less worried about being murdered in my home than about the idea of a team of people being so horrified by my lack of housekeeping skills that they wouldn’t be able to concentrate on solving my murder.

No, this is a different C.S.I.  This one is a Visible Thinking Routine from Harvard’s Project Zero.  I am a little upset with myself that it took me 27 years to discover these Visible Thinking Routines.  It’s good I don’t plan to retire any time soon…

In this case, C.S.I. stands for, “Color, Symbol, Image.”  Students can use this to reflect on something they’ve read, a video they’ve watched, or anything else they have learned.  From the student responses, teachers can really get a great idea of each student’s comprehension of the material.  It is also what I like to call a “self-differentiated” activity because students of many abilities can use this tool at their own level.

I decided to use C.S.I. with my 5th graders to find out how they felt about the novel we are reading, The Giver.  We haven’t gotten far in the book, so I plan to have them do this same activity after they have finished the story so we can compare/contrast their feelings about it.  Before giving them the green light to start, I showed them this example (thanks to Kristen Kullberg for sharing this and the Kinder example linked below on her blog) from another dystopian novel, The Hunger Games.  You can see a couple of their completed products below. (The sticky notes were added by other students when we did a gallery walk and they could put stickies on the “wow” ideas.)

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Here is a link to the template that we used.  If you teach younger grades, here is an example of a Kinder C.S.I. product. This template might be more useful for younger students (less wordy).

This was a good formative assessment.  The students seemed to enjoy it, and I was able to see that they had already developed some interesting insights about the fictional community in the book.  I’m looking forward to using some more of the Visible Thinking Routines from Project Zero!

Adapt Your Classroom for a New “Pet”

My 2nd graders have been learning about physical and structural adaptations in nature.  To exercise their creativity, I asked them to brainstorm wild animals that would make unusual class pets.  Then they were asked to draw our classroom with adaptations for the pet.  The twist was that they could not actually draw the animal in the classroom.  The rest of us tried to guess the “pets” by using clues in their pictures and the descriptions that they wrote.  I was proud of their varied ideas and some of the incredible details they added to the drawings.  I’ve included some examples below.  (I love how the first student decided the most unusual animal he could think of would be an alien from outer space!) . Usually, my students have a difficult time with the “Adapt” part of S.C.A.M.P.E.R., but this activity proved to be really fun and they couldn’t wait to share their work.  I’m definitely putting this in the file, “Do Again Next Year!”

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Great Minds Don't Think Alike!

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