Tag Archives: education

I Just Want to Know Why Joel Didn’t Save the Goat

I despise routine, mundane activities.  My daughter inherited this attitude, unfortunately, so we often find ourselves at an impasse when neither one of us feels motivated to do something that needs to be done.

She rides a shuttle bus from her magnet school each day, and her responsibility is to text me when the bus leaves so I can meet her at its destination.  My responsibility is to keep reminding her to text me so the rest of our afternoon doesn’t turn into angry accusations about who forgot who.

The other day, she actually remembered to text me as she left.  Usually, I try to reward this with a response like, “On my way!” or , “Okay!”  Feeling a bit perverse and bored with always giving the same answers, I decided to text, “ocean,” instead.

“?” she texted back.

I don’t know why I texted “ocean.”  Moms aren’t supposed to do random, unexplained things.  Why did I type “ocean” of all words?  Where did that come from?  How was I supposed to follow that?

“Joel,” I texted next, feeling that I might as well make her think I had gone completely insane.

No response.

When I parked at the school to wait for her bus, I sent one more word – “goat.”

Unsurprisingly, my daughter had raised eyebrows when she finally got in the car.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“You’re supposed to figure out what all three have in common,” I said – as though this had been the plan the whole time.

“They all have o’s?” she asked.


After a few more guesses, she resorted to Google on her phone.

“So, apparently, a guy named Joel saw a goat jump into the ocean,” she said.

“Yeah.  That’s not it, either.”

Google finally rewarded her after she sifted out all of the suicidal goat links.

“They’re all Billy’s!” she exclaimed.


“This is fun!  Let’s do it again!  I might actually remember to text you if this is what happens every time.”

Her last statement penetrated my teacher brain, reinforcing something that I’ve known for awhile but never considered applying to our minor daily Battle of the Texts.

We all enjoy challenges that are in our Zone of Proximal Development.  In fact, they can engage and motivate us.  I observe this daily in my students when they make faces about tough math problems or reading passages – yet beg for more after they’ve succeeded.  It’s why activities like Breakout EDU and the Wonder League Robotics Competition missions are so popular.  These problems are novel and require deliberate thought, but are achievable with hard work.

Many of us struggle with how to motivate our children and/or students.  Rewards seem like bribes, and punishment causes resentment – which is never productive. We want our young people to develop intrinsic motivation instead of becoming eternally dependent on a carrot or a stick.  That ZPD contains the secret. Find that activity that makes them think a little harder, but is within their reach, and their eventual success will make them hunger for the next challenge instead of dreading or avoiding it.

By the way, it has been two days since the first random, accidental text.  So far, my daughter has not forgotten to text me and even, much to her delight, was able to solve one of my puzzles without any help from Google.  Of course, you don’t have to think of your own puzzles like this. Tribond is a game with the same purpose, and there are plenty of resources on the internet that are similar.  If you want something a bit harder, check out “Kennections” by Ken Jennings.

Someone please tell these goats not to jump...
Someone please tell these goats not to jump…

Halloween Activities from Minds in Bloom

Rachel Lynette, over at the “Minds in Bloom” blog, offers some fun Halloween activities for critical thinking.  One of them is a Halloween-themed list of “Would You Rather?” questions.  For these, I would recommend that you encourage your students to justify their answers, and possibly have a contest for who can give the most unusual reason for his or her response.  (For another way to use “Would You Rather?” questions, check out this post.)

Rachel also has a free “GHOST” Scattergories-type game that you can print.  As an extension, you could have the students make their own spooky versions by changing the letters on top and the categories.

And, finally, incorporate some disgusting math into your Halloween plans by giving your students some “Witches’ Brew Math.” Boiled eyeballs, anyone?

Eyeball Punch - image from Flickr
Eyeball Punch – image from Flickr

Carve a Pumpkin with Hopscotch

The Hopscotch app (iOS only) has long been a favorite for my student coders.  They have lots of tutorials, and the students who participate in a couple of those often ask if they can code their own projects after learning the basics.  If you have some iPads in your classroom, you may want to let some or all of your class try the “Carve a Pumpkin with Hopscotch” tutorial.

Carve a Pumpkin with the Hopscotch app
Carve a Pumpkin with the Hopscotch app

It’s best if you can allow pairs of students work at their own pace, rather than try to keep the whole class on the same steps at the same time.  Keep in mind that the app has been updated a couple of times since this tutorial was made, so some of the tools may be slightly different.

Halloween Treats That Won’t Give You Cavities

As if American politics aren’t scary enough, the United States celebrates Halloween next Monday, which is all kind of wrong – because spending a day with students who can’t wait to trick-or-treat plus 4 more days after they fill up on sugary candy should not be required of any teacher if you are at all interested in helping him or her maintain a semblance of sanity.

The president I would vote for would resolve to make Halloween on a Saturday for the rest of eternity, but so far I haven’t seen that mentioned in anyone’s campaign.

For those of you who are in the same boat (or should I say, riding the same broom?), here are some resources I’ve collected in the past that might help to briefly engage your students in something other than daydreaming about all of the candy they will need to confess to eating at their next dental appointment:

Check back tomorrow for another virtual pumpkin carving idea!

Click her to get to the free QuiverVision Augmented Reality Pumpkin download
Click here to get to the free QuiverVision Augmented Reality Pumpkin download



Mind-Blowing Maps

For this week’s Phun Phriday, we have a collection of unusual maps that you probably won’t find in any atlas.  Don’t worry; these aren’t election maps (they are far more interesting, in my opinion).

First of all, head on over to this article on Thrillest to find out the favorite television shows in each of the United States.  Some are not so surprising, but others definitely seem a bit incongruous.

Maybe the t.v. shows have some connection to the most distinctive last name in each state?  Or maybe not.  Jensen seems poised to take over the country, so someone should definitely do some research on that particular trend.

I know this blog has readers all over the world, so I apologize that the first two maps are America-centric.  Rest assured that this last resource covers anyone as it speculates what would happen if we put the entire population of the world into one city.

Yes, you read that correctly.

People really think of the most interesting ways to visualize maps…

Lego Micro World Map
Lego Micro World Map

Treat People Right

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about an inspirational video about kindness that is featured in a series produced by StoryCorps and Upworthy called #WhoWeAre.  Today I want to share another video from that series about the unusual way a man handled being robbed at knife-point.  It may not be one that you should show younger students, but is definitely great for 5th grade and up.  The video is a good reminder that empathy can often be much more powerful than anger or fear.


Treat People Right
Treat People Right

Here are some more inspirational videos for students.

The Bus Driver

In this recent story that I heard on NPR, the host stated that a survey conducted by the group behind Sesame Street found that most parents would choose having children who are kind over having children who get good grades.  Of course, teaching children to be kind does not work if it isn’t modeled for them.  Behaving kindly ourselves can go a long way toward cultivating this in our children.  It also helps when they hear and see real-life stories of kindness.

Larry Ferlazzo recently published a post about a StoryCorps/Upworthy collaboration that is producing videos for a campaign called, #WhoWeAre.  There are a couple of videos that really reflect amazing kindness, and I wanted to share one of them today.  I’m going to call it, “The Bus Driver,” since there doesn’t appear to be an actual title for the video other than its description.

image from "The Bus Driver"
image from “The Bus Driver”

We have a tendency to laud the men and women who make headlines with their fame and/or fortune.  But it is people like the bus driver in this short story who are the true heroes of the world.

For more inspirational videos for students, click here.