Tag Archives: education

Why Don’t Ants Get Stuck in Traffic?

My students are always fascinated when I have an ant farm in the classroom, and there is a lot to be learned from these insects as we observe their organized frenzy.  Joe Hanson of “It’s Okay to Be Smart” recently published a YouTube video that answers the question, “Why don’t ants get stuck in traffic?”  After watching the video you may second guess your feelings on self-driving cars…

Bring on the Dementors!

So, apparently the thing that I’ve been missing in my life is a patronus.  Without one, it takes no time at all for the ever-increasing numbers of Dementors (otherwise known as “standardized testing companies”) to gorge on all of your happiness – leaving you in complete despair.  A patronus can save you from this misery.

Not being a fictional wizard in a Harry Potter novel, I had no inkling I even have a patronus.  But the lack of one pretty much explains the last forty years of my life.

Thanks to the newest quiz on Pottermore, however, I have identified my patronus, a white stallion, who I intend to summon the next time the Dementors threaten to sabotage my incredibly joyful personality and/or the next time I get stuck in traffic which, come to think of it, would be a particularly efficient use of my patronus as both a warder-offer and a better method of transportation…

See what your patronus is and share in the comments below!

white stallion

Ada Twist, Scientist

Andrea Beaty and David Roberts have outdone themselves with their latest book, Ada Twist, Scientist.  Beaty (author) and Roberts (illustrator) made their mark in children’s literature with their two previous books, Iggy Peck, Architect, and Rosie Revere, Engineer. Demonstrating the sometimes exasperating, but always creative, personalities of inquisitive and innovative children, these books have become favorites for those who champion maker education and S.T.E.M.  They are also great examples of growth mindset and passion based learning.

Ada Twist, Scientist tells the story of an adorable young girl whose curiosity knows absolutely no bounds.  Her parents fondly support Ada’s intellectual investigations until she decides to throw the family cat into the washing machine in an attempt to find the origin of a terrible smell, at which point Ada is exiled to the “Thinking Chair.”

You will have to read the book yourself to find out how Ada handles her isolation and whether or not she solves her stinky mystery. Suffice it to say that the book has a happy ending and will inspire parents and children to see questions as exciting learning opportunities rather than as time-wasting obstacles.

For a teaching guide and links to other related activities, visit the Ada Twist website.

You can’t resist Ada Twist, Scientist!

image from Ada Twist, Scientist
image from Ada Twist, Scientist

Genius Hour Digital Resources

In my never-ending quest to refine Genius Hour for my students and make it meaningful, I have created a few new digital resources that I intend to use this year with my 3rd-5th grade students.  We will be using Google Classroom, so I decided to design some Google Slides presentations that the students can use for collecting research and keeping track of what needs to be completed.  Here is the link to the folder of resources, which you can copy and edit to suit your needs.

My plan:

  • Assign the Research Planner as a copy to each student.  Reflections 1 and 2 are to be done at certain points as students progress through the Research Planner. The Research Planner also has links to some other helpful resources, and a great activity from Ian Byrd to help write good research questions. This slideshow is not their presentation – just a collection of notes.
  • Assign the Exit Tickets presentation as one copy to be edited by the students in the classroom at the end of each Genius Hour.
  • Include the Skype Interview and E-mail templates as assignments for students to complete when appropriate.
  • Once students finish the Research Planner to my satisfaction, they will be allowed to continue to the Presentation Planner.  This includes links to “What Would Steve Jobs Do?” and “The Worst Preso Ever,” both of which are great to show students before they design their presentations.  It also includes links to two TED Talks given by students.
  • After students successfully complete the Presentation Planner, they will be allowed to make their presentations, create interactive portions to follow up on the information given, and rehearse.
  • Finally, they will present!

If you’ve followed my Genius Hour adventures at all, you know that this plan will not work as hoped.  I am pretty sure that it will be an improvement over what I’ve done in the past, though.

Maybe…

Genius Hour Digital Resources
Genius Hour Digital Resources

Choose Kind

Today I want to give a shout-out to a teacher.  I’m not going to give his name because I don’t want to inadvertently embarrass the student involved.

Yesterday, my daughter told me about a girl in one of her classes who realized, too late, that she studied for the wrong quiz. Apparently, the teacher alternates Type A quiz and Type B quiz, and she had studied valiantly for Type B on a Type A day.

When the student realized her mistake, she was genuinely horrified and upset.

Before my daughter told me the outcome of the story, I thought about how I would have handled the situation as this student’s teacher.

I’m sorry to say that, as a 5th grade teacher many years ago, I probably would have told the student that she should have checked her agenda and I hope she learned from her mistake.

Inwardly I hoped that my daughter’s teacher was better than the rookie teacher I was 20 years ago.

My daughter told me that the teacher didn’t say anything.  However, as the teacher passed out the quizzes to the students, a Type A to each, he silently gave that one girl a Type B quiz instead.  

What an awesome teacher.  He realized what took me too long to realize – that you never discourage a child’s effort to learn!

Plus, way to be organized and have the other quiz ahead of time😉

 

choose-kind

 

Classroom Design

My latest post for Fusion, “The 7 E’s of Classroom Design,” has just been posted.  I was really inspired while I researched that particular article, and knew I needed to step it up in my own classroom. I’m still working on it, but I thought I would show you a few changes I’ve made this year.

Right now I’m working on 2 of the E’s, “Equable and Empathetic Classroom Design.”  With the trend toward flexible seating options for students, I started hunting for some alternatives to the hard plastic chairs in my classroom.  I also aimed for a 3rd E, “Economical,” because, well, I’m a teacher…

I found a $19 rug at Walmart, as well as some $10 end tables and a $20 coffee table.  The coffee table and rug serve as a sit-on-the-floor area for the kids.

Some of my favorite scores were storage ottomans.  Big Lots had some ottoman benches for $30 that I purchased, and I found a set of 3 cube ottomans on Wayfair for $50.

I visited Goodwill 3 times, and have been scouring Craigslist every night for some other wish list items (like a faux leather futon).  So far, that hasn’t been successful, but I’m not giving up.

I went way out of budget (okay, I’m lying – I didn’t really give myself a budget) with the bar stools, but the pair was on sale for $120.  I tried to make up for that splurge by making my  own “bistro” table.  I used a tall set of plastic storage drawers and a piece of drywall we used last year for Sphero painting.  I taped duct tape on the drywall to class it up (maybe that’s not your definition of classy, but it looks better than the drywall ), and then taped a laminated mandala on the top for the kids to decorate.  To make the front look more “table-y” I velcroed two of my $10 end tables together.  We can still access the drawers on the back when needed, but I put stuff-we-don’t-use-too-often in there.

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In the corner, I put the huge executive desk I inherited when I first moved into the classroom, which has a pretty handy glass overlay that was perfect for the new world map I placed underneath.

photo-sep-08-3-43-35-pm

Since I teach pull-out gifted and talented classes, most of my groups are not very large.  But I was teaching a 5th grade enrichment class last week to a full crowd, and let them test out the new seating area after we went over some expectations (such as, “don’t twirl around in the bar stools even though that’s a very fun thing to do and we all know that it’s extremely tempting).

5th graders using our new seating area

The students did great.  No one fought over seating and they immediately got to work on their projects.  It was pretty amazing to watch.

As I mentioned, the makeover is not finished.  I still have a few more E’s to cover.  The students will be helping me with some of those, so I’ll post those pics as we complete more of the project.

Don’t Try this With a Car

Thanks to my friend, Suzanne, for sharing this awesome video with me!

In this video from Smarter Every Day, the host, Destin, demonstrates what really happens when you actually try to change your mind.  I don’t mean when you switch to pizza instead of a hamburger.  I mean when you try to change something your mind has done the same way for decades, like riding a bike.  You will see the neuroplasticity of the brain in action, and realize that it takes a lot more work when you’re an adult than a child to create new paths in the brain.

Of course, you will immediately want to take the challenge of riding a backwards bike as soon as you watch the video.  If you are so inclined, you can buy your own for $500 at the Smarter Every Day shop.  There is a disclaimer, of course, that you will basically be paying a lot of money for a bike you won’t be able to ride…

Brain Bike Disclaimer from Smarter Every Day
Brain Bike Disclaimer from Smarter Every Day

I’m adding this video to my Growth Mindset Pinterest Board, and I’m going to use my left hand to click on the mouse. Baby steps…