Computer Science, Creative Thinking, Education, Games, K-12, Student Products, Videos

Shopping and Coding – Practically the Same Thing

Since I have different grade levels each day, I have been doing Hour of Code all week.  With my students I’ve done Hopscotch, Kodable, Robot Turtles, and several of the lessons on Code Studio.  It has been an absolute blast!  Yesterday, I asked my 4th graders to describe their feelings about their programming experience using figurative language, which we have been studying.  Here are some of my favorite comments:

“Hour of Code was a football game with teammates patting you on the back when you worked your way to success.”

“When we did Hour of Code, I felt like a genius.”

“Hopscotch is a spark, ready to ignite with creativity, dreams, imagination, and fun!”

“Programming is as fun as playing with a bottlenose dolphin.”

And one that I can really relate to from one of my female students –

Black Friday


Many people think of boring strings of commands or structured logic when they hear “computer science” or “programming.”  But I have witnessed incredible examples of creativity throughout the week.  I know I already shared a Hopscotch video earlier this week, but I have to share this one, too:

If you haven’t tried Hour of Code with your students, please consider it! You and your students will find it to be a rewarding experience.

Here is a link to more Programming Resources if you are interested.

3-12, Education, Language Arts, Reading, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Websites, Writing

Parallel Poetry

Update 4/11/2022: This poetry lesson, along with many others, appears in my Poetry Wakelet collection. Click here to find more free ideas!

I don’t often repeat lessons from one year to the next.  But this has been one of my favorites to use with my 4th grade GT students during my career.  The only change I made this year was to integrate it with some technology lessons on using Google Drive – specifically the Presentations.

In 4th grade, we read Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt, which is rich with wonderful examples of figurative language.  It’s truly one of the most poetic pieces of prose that I have ever read, and I delight in the author’s descriptive phrases each year – though I’ve read it over 14 times.

I’m not sure if it’s the age or the GT-ness of my students, but I always have a high percentage of reluctant writers in 4th grade.  The Found/Parallel Poetry lesson on ReadWriteThink, however, seems to bring out the most amazing ideas from nearly every one.

After going over the figurative language in the story (here is one Haiku Deck lesson we did at the beginning to practice), I ask the students to pick one of their favorite paragraphs from the novel.  They write the paragraph, and then I tell them to take it apart – get rid of extraneous words and punctuation.  Then they “move the words” to create lines that have a rhythm.  The result is their “Found” poem.  You can see an example here from the ReadWriteThink site.

Then, it’s time to create a “Parallel” poem.  Mimicking the rhythm of the “Found” poem, but writing about a completely different topic that is relevant to them, the students compose something in their own words.

Here are some of this year’s examples (Click on each slide to enlarge.):

Plane Ride



3-12, Apps, Education, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Writing

Haiku Deck

figurative language slide created with Haiku Deck, quote from Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt

Many of you are probably familiar with the iPad app, Haiku Deck (options for editing on the web are coming soon).  It can be used to create presentations (similar to Powerpoint, but more graphically appealing, in my opinion), and is very user-friendly.

One of the things that I like about Haiku Deck is that it does not allow you to add huge blocks of text to your slides.  This is good because too much text makes for a very boring presentation. (Take a look at “What Would Steve Do”, #3 as supporting evidence for this.)  I also like the ease with which you can find images to punctuate your text.

My 4th graders are reading Tuck Everlasting, and discussing the figurative language in the book.  Usually, when I first introduce figurative language, I ask them to find examples for each type (simile, metaphor, hyperbole, and personification), and share with the class to show their understanding so I can quickly gauge if there is a need for more instruction.

Yesterday, I thought, “Why don’t I let them type their examples in Haiku Deck?  Then they can learn the app, and show what they know about figurative language at the same time.”  And, yes, I was in the middle of the lesson when I thought of that.  To be honest, I’ve done the lesson for so many years, I was boring myself – which does not usually bode well for keeping the student’s attention.

In 5 minutes, I was able to show the students how to create a slide, add text, select an image, and share the product.  Once all of the products were in, we played a quick game to identify the type of figurative language as I showed each example on the big screen.

While they were working with their partners, I heard one student say, “I love doing this!”

I love that they were engaged and learning, and all it cost me was about 10 minutes more than the previous times I’ve taught that lesson. Now, they have a new digital tool in their belt that they can choose from when they write their own examples of figurative language.

slide created with Haiku Deck
slide created with Haiku Deck, quote from Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt
6-12, Education, Language Arts, Teaching Tools, Videos, Writing

“Wordplay” by Flocabulary

image from:

Flocabulary is a site that bills itself as “Hip-Hop in the Classroom”.  I used to access it regularly for their wonderful “The Week in Rap”, which, basically, was a summary of the week’s current events with interesting visuals and a catchy rap to accompany it.  Unfortunately, this became part of Flocabulary’s subscription program, and I sadly had to discontinue my students’ weekly viewing (sometimes the only exposure that they had to what was in the news).  However, Flocabulary does offer some free videos, and I caught a new one this week about figurative language called, “Wordplay“.  It’s a fun video to show your students if you are in the midst of teaching them about personification, metaphors, similes, etc…