My 5th graders spend the last semester examining their own beliefs, developing manifestos, and researching a Dream Team of people who exemplify what they stand for. We use some of the “This I Believe” curriculum to help them identify their values. Yesterday, my students and I listened to one of the short radio essays archived on the website for the podcast. It is called, “30 Things I Believe.” In this particular episode, a first grader, Tarak McLain, reflects on his Kindergarten 100th Day Project. While most students bring collections of 100 objects, Tarak brought in 100 things he believes. For the podcast, Tarak shares 30 of those beliefs. My students and I enjoyed listening to his earnestly read list, and talked about what they agreed/disagreed with. We also discussed which of Tarak’s beliefs might change as he grows up.
Tarak would be about 16 years old now. I wonder what his thoughts are on the manifesto created by his 7-year-old self.
As my 5th grade students wind up the school year, I begin to worry that they will go to middle school next year and forget everything they learned in our GT classroom. Some of them have been with me for 6 years, so I’m hopeful that a few things will “stick.” Nevertheless, a visual reminder can be helpful. Rather than make them all stick pictures of me on their walls at home, I started this project with last year’s 5th graders. It seemed to make an impact so I decided to repeat it this year.
You can read a little more about the process I used to jump start this year’s manifestos here. Once the students did quite a bit of brainstorming, I let them jump on to Canva to design their manifestos. Things were going merrily along until I noticed that many of them were using famous Pinterest quotes on their documents instead of their own words. There was a bit of groaning when I insisted the manifestos needed to be in their own voice – not someone else’s. I’m still not sure if that was the right thing to do, but I just felt like it would be more meaningful. One of my students was quite satisfied with one her rewrites, “Life’s a llama with a neck full of opportunities.”
Another mistake I made was to let them design to the edges. Last year, the students downloaded their manifestos as images, and we printed them on t-shirts. The quality was not very predictable, though. This year, I went to the dollar store and bought each of my 11 students a frame. When we tried to put some of the manifestos into the frames, though, words got cut off. (That’s why you won’t see 11 in the picture below; I’m still re-printing some.)
For an investment of $11, I got more than my money’s worth when the students framed their manifestos. The students were proud of their work and I got the impression that at least some of them might display those manifestos in a place of honor when it goes home. I also really like having them in the classroom for all of my students to see. (We can’t hang them up because I am in a borrowed room at the moment.)
The next part of the project is for the students to design their “Dream Teams.” They are using the “Find My Role Model” tool from The Academy of Achievement to find 5 people they admire who embody the statements on their manifestos. You can see some ideas for how to publish your Dream Team here,
You may recognize Brad Montague (@thebradmontague) as the creator of the outstanding Kid President videos. But his creativity and compassionate work with kids does not stop there. He and his wife have begun a “Joyful Rebellion” with the Montague Workshop. What began as a series of videos has evolved into 8 resources for teachers that include the Montague Workshop videos, lesson plans, and activities written by teachers. As the website declares, “Our aim is to be the Alfred to your Batman.”
I don’t know about you, but I feel like a Joyful Rebellion is exactly what we need right now!
One of the presentations I gave at TCEA was called, “Global ‘Heart’ Warming,” – a title that one of my friends later told me should be changed because it didn’t really describe the presentation very well. (I’ll take new name suggestions in the comments below.) However, I thought I would share the presentation here for those of you unable to attend. There are tons of links (especially in the “Project-ing” section) to different ways that you can collaborate globally.
Of course, some slides would make more sense during an oral presentation. If you are ever interested in having me present to your school or at an event, please contact me at email@example.com. You can see other available presentations on the top right side-bar of this site.
My first post about Thrively was in 2015. Since then, the platform has changed a bit. There is still a free option that includes a Strengths Assessment and links to resources and local activities connected to student interests. However, there are now journals and online courses, such as, “Find Your Passion” and “Grit.” There are even more options in Classroom Pro and School Pro that you can see on this pricing comparison page.
I am using Thrively with my 5th grade gifted students. They completed the Strengths Assessment today and began the “Find Your Passion” course. With the free version, I have a Teacher Dashboard, so I am able to see their Strength Profiles, Interests, and Aspirations. I can also read the responses to the journal prompts. Using the “Class Insights” menu, I can access summaries of class interests and click on each interest to see exactly which students chose each category. You can also involve parents by inviting them to view their child’s profile.
After discussing the assessment today, one student thanked me for giving him the opportunity to do it. The entire class was enthusiastic about completing the assessment and continuing with the courses, which are a great tie-in to working on Genius Hour.
Thrively is a great tool to help you learn more about your students – and for them to learn more about themselves. One student ironically commented that she was pretty certain that she was not assertive like her assessment claimed – until we discussed the meaning of assertive and she realized that it can be a great strength.
Due to the vocabulary and the amount of reading involved, I would not recommend using Thrively with students younger than 5th grade.
The Class Dojo “Big Ideas” series is growing. Up until now you could find videos on: Perseverance, Growth Mindset, Empathy, and Gratitude. The latest theme is, “Mindfulness.” So far, only the first video has been released. In the past, the schedule has been to publish one per week. As with the other videos, there are discussion questions to use after viewing the short video. There is an also an option to share the video through “Class Story” with parents. The first video is a timely one for me as my students are currently practicing presentations of their Genius Hour research. I’m kind of curious to find out how Mojo solves his problem of “The Beast,” one that I grapple with quite a bit!
By the way, you can find more Growth Mindset videos and resources here.
It has been about 4 years since I first wrote about Spaceteam, and there have been a few changes since then. The app is now available on both Google Play and iOS, and there can now be up to 8 people involved in a single game. What hasn’t changed is that it is still fun!
When you play Spaceteam, everyone playing must be on the same wi-fi network. Once all of the players get past the “Waiting Room” in the app, each person gets a different dashboard with gadgets that usually have gibberish labels. In order to get to the next level, instructions must be followed. However, the instructions on your screen are usually for other players – so you must call them out. This means you will be shouting out ridiculous sounding directions such as, “Turn off the novacrit!” with the hope that the player who has a “novacrit” will hear you and turn it off. Not all of the commands are gibberish, however. It’s funny listening to someone impatiently yelling, “Darn the socks! Someone needs to darn the socks!”
Due to the unusual vocabulary, this game is best suited for 4th grade and up. The app has a 9+ rating, but I have not seen anything inappropriate pop up on the screens. The biggest danger seems to be that people might inadvertently pronounce something incorrectly.
Why play this app in your classroom? Well, it’s a great brain break. It’s also fun for team building. In addition, it can be the introduction to a great conversation about listening. One of the things my students learned was that, when you expect to hear one thing and someone says something else, you may miss it. (This happens a lot in Spaceteam due to differences in perceived word pronunciations.) They also learned that little can be accomplished when a lot of people are yelling, and that communication is definitely more difficult in high-pressure situations.
Spaceteam also has a Spaceteam ESL app designed specifically to help English language learners work on vocabulary. Again, there is a lot of shouting involved, but it beats memorizing word lists.
For many of us, the end of the school year is drawing near. If you are looking for novel ways to keep student interest, you may want to try Spaceteam.