Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, K-5, Math

Valentine’s Day: Some “Heartfelt” Resources for Teachers

If you’re looking for some “heartfelt” Valentine’s Day resources for teachers, this post has got you covered!

In the process of trying to update and collect my downloadable resources from over 11 years of writing this blog, I decided to start a “store” (located under “Downloads for Teachers” in my top menu) hosted on my website. The purpose of this store is not for me to make money, but to make it easier for teachers to search and filter through my resources. It has been a slow process, and I haven’t worked out some of the kinks. But I think it will be worthwhile eventually.

You do need to create a free login in order download items from the store. The majority of the items are free. However, I’ve decided to sell bundles of items for a low fee, donating $1 out of every $5 earned to teacher projects on Donors Choose. I am slowly removing my items from Teachers Pay Teachers and will eventually host everything I create on my store with the multiple goals of giving teachers easy access to free resources that are good for students and hopefully earning money to give back to teachers who have amazing ideas for which they need funding. Currently, all of my S.C.A.M.P.E.R. resources are available in the store and I am now working on getting my Visible Thinking Routine resources added.

Would You Rather Valentine’s Day Math for Elementary

While working on my store, I recently updated my “Would You Rather Math?” for Valentine’s Day using a cute Canva template. You can download the new PDF here. For the old versions (including Google Slides and PowerPoint), as well as a more detailed explanation, here is the post I originally wrote when I made this resource based on the work of John Stevens and his WYRM website. Want the free Canva template link so you can edit it and make your own? I’ll be posting it in this week’s newsletter, so be sure to sign up if you haven’t already!

I haven’t had a chance to update and upload this next Valentine’s Day resource to the store, but if you like to give out something other than candy for Valentine’s Day (or any time of the year), these QR Code Coupons that I made way back in 20212 are a cute option to insert into an old chocolate box or into Valentine’s Day cards for your students.

If you are looking for more Valentine’s Day Resources, you can check out my Valentine’s Day Wakelet here.

serious girl in protective mask holding plush toy in mask and showing palm against steps
3-12

3d Toy Shop

I’m home sick today, and of course that leads to me mindlessly scrolling through TikTok videos. Between my interests in education and DIY projects, I supposed that it was inevitable that TikTok would eventually recommend a video from 3d Toy Shop (@3dToyShop) owner Nick Hardman. Using his 3d printers, Hardman makes customized stuffed animals for children who have medical conditions. Outfitted with the same urine bags, PEG feeding tubes and dialysis machines, or other lifesaving accessories their young owners themselves wear, these toys are each one-of-a-kind, and give the patients comfort as well as understanding about the care they are receiving.

@3dtoyshop

♬ original sound – 3dtoyshop

I had that instant adrenaline rush that I often get when I see an idea I could use in my classroom (although I no longer have a classroom) because I frequently preach about engaging students with authentic projects, and I can totally see posing this scenario to them to see if they would like to do something similar. This would be an amazing PBL unit or Genius Hour project.

You can find Nick’s website here. He also has a GoFundMe page because this incredible man is not trying to make money from his specialized toys so he formed a nonprofit instead.

image from BBC video about Nick Hardman’s 3d Toy Shop
photo of stonehenge london
3-12, Books, Careers, Science

Dig It! Archaeology for Kids

I was recently given the opportunity to review a nonfiction book by Caitlin Sockin, Dig It! Archaeology for Kids. The title is scheduled for release on April 25, 2023, but you can pre-order it now. The recommended reading age window is 10-16, and I feel like that’s absolutely on target. If you teach or parent children in grades 4 and up who have shown the slightest interest in archaeology, this 100 page book will become an indispensable resource for them. Of course, history, geology, and art play big roles in the study of archaeology, so devotees to those topics will also find many rewards when reading this book.

Dig It! Archaeology for Kids, by Caitlin Sockin
image credits: SS/SCStock (background); SS/AD Hunter (mag glass)

Writing nonfiction for kids is an especially challenging task as the author needs to develop a format that will deliver facts while maintaining the reader’s engagement throughout the book. Sockin achieves this by perfectly blending photographs and illustrations with fascinating information that will intrigue even well-read amateur archaeologists. Thoughtfully broken into bite-sized pieces, the material in Dig It! combines details of the work of archaeologists with tantalizing examples of some of the most famous archaeological sites discovered around the world. Readers can digest the book in small sections, or devour it from cover to cover in one session. Unlike a dry textbook, Dig It! is equally rich with both information and entertainment.

Although 10-16 year olds may be the ideal readers of Dig It!, I think adults will also find the book absorbing. Though I’m not an expert on archaeology by any means, I approached reading the sample with the idea that a children’s book about the subject would not teach me many new things — and was delighted to find out that I was wrong. For example, I had no idea that there is a Woodhenge in England in addition to Stonehenge, or that the clues that archaeologists look for include artifacts, features, and ecofacts. (By the way, Dig It! does a good job of explaining new terms in layman’s language on the pages the words first appear, and also has an excellent glossary at the end.)

Throughout the book you will find questions that prompt curiosity and QR codes that can be scanned to visit interactive websites related to archaeology. In addition, there are recommended additional resources that can be done in school or at home, such as science experiments, models, and games. I like the sections that suggest career options for people interested in archaeology and outline why archaeology is important so that readers can envision how something they might currently view as a hobby can actually transform into a meaningful career for them.

image from Dig It! Archaeology for Kids by Caitlin Sockin
image credits: SS/ABCDstock; SS/mehmet.ozer (top L); SS/Everett Collection (top R); @user:VasuVR/WC/CC BY-SA 4.0 /https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en/No changes made (bottom L); @user:Nomu420/WC/CC BY-SA 3.0/https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en/No changes made (bottom R)

How do you get children to enthusiastically read nonfiction books about dusty relics of the past? Ask Caitlin Sockin, because in Dig It! she has cracked the code.

Teachers: Get the free educational guide, created by Deborah Lee Rose, for Dig It! here!

Computer Science, Creative Thinking, K-12, Problem Solving

Let it Snow During Hour of Code!

It’s Computer Science Education Week (12/5-12/11), which means it’s time to do an Hour of Code with your students. I still remember when I first tried it with mine, and I was super worried it would be a complete disaster. I did not know how to code, so how could I facilitate a session of it? However, the Hour of Code tutorials are so helpful that I found myself just as engaged as the students — and we all celebrated whenever we figured out how to solve glitches in our coding.

Since then I’ve dabbled more in coding, and the Hour of Code website has become even better with searchable tutorials that you can filter by grade level, device, and ability level. Of course, there are also “unplugged” coding activities that require no device.

I think every student should get introduced to coding. Just like music or art, it could become their “thing” and they would never know if they don’t get the opportunity to try it out. My students and I also found many lessons in coding that we could apply to our own lives through Systems Thinking (some of which I outlined here).

One of my favorite HOC lessons was one I did with a first grade general education class. I had volunteered to help facilitate HOC on my campus, and it snowed the night before — a very unusual event in San Antonio. So, I switched gears and decided to help the students learn how to code snow in Scratch Jr. on the iPads. Now, there are several ways that you can do this, but I decided that the snow would be a character (or sprite, as Scratch likes to call them) so they could actually code how it behaved. You can learn more about the lesson, and see examples here. Keep in mind that this was a lesson from 2017, so some of the features may have been updated in Scratch Jr.

My Scratch Jr. lesson is one of many that I’ve collected and share on my December Wakelet, which has columns for: Computer Science Education Week, General, Kwanza/Hannukah/Other Winter Holidays, Creative Activities, Puzzles and Games, and STEM. Another popular post on there is my snow globe one, though it isn’t a coding lesson — If I Lived in a Snow Globe, I’d Wear a Bike Helmet to Bed. I’ll keep updating the Wakelet as I find more!

3-12, Books, Games, Math

Gifts for the Gifted — Math Games with Bad Drawings

Several 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 (except for 2019) every 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, including my ongoing 2022 list, you can visit this page. I also have a Pinterest Board of Games and Toys for Gifted Students and one for Books for Gifted Children or Anyone who Loves to Learn.

I envision today’s recommendation being given to: teachers who like to engage their students with different games, families who are looking for ways to have fun together away from screens, kids who have a somewhat adversarial relationship with math (as I once did), and geeky people like me who appreciate humor, logic, puzzles, and the surprising elegance of math.

Find Math Games with Bad Drawings here or your favorite local bookstore.

Math Games with Bad Drawings is the third book from Ben Orlin, who is also the genius behind the Math with Bad Drawings website. The book was released in April of 2022 and, frankly, I wish it had been published ten years ago. There are so many ways I would have used Math Games with Bad Drawings in my classroom, particularly when my students did their unit on mathematical masterpieces. It’s not only the games that would be a hit with the students, but the actual commentary throughout.

And, of course, the bad drawings.

As a teacher or a parent, I would set aside time to read this book with children as well as to play the games. Don’t skip the introduction because it’s also quite amusing. (I’m also pretty sure that a lot of the gifted teachers who I’ve worked with will appreciate some of the references to games we’ve played in class with our students. Escher, Fibonacci, and Set all make appearance at the beginning. And wait until you see Quantum Tic-Tac-Toe!) The rest of the book is divided into: Spatial Games, Number Games, Combination Games, Games of Risk and Reward, and Information Games. In addition to the rules for each game and illustrations, Orlin also describes, in many cases: where each game originated, why it matters, and any known variations.

This book is large (in both its length of 368 pages and its physical size), hardcover, and heavy. In the “Conclusion,” you’ll find tables that display the games listed in the book as well as the materials required (mostly pencil/paper), and the recommended number of players. (Most are 2 or 3 player games, though “Con Game” could be played with the seemingly arbitrary limit of 500 people.) The “Bibliography’ at the end is the most intriguing and entertaining bibliography I have ever read in my life. Not that I ever have read any bibliographies in the past, which just goes to show you how good it must be.

Math Games with Bad Drawings is going to have a prized spot on my bookshelf, and I’m pretty sure my family and descendants will never have cause to be bored again. I’m certain all will agree with me that there are infinite possibilities for fun with this book. Otherwise, this once-upon-a-time-despiser-of-math-turned-math-nerd will feel compelled to declare to all,


“I’ll just put on my Star Wars pajamas and sit in my mom’s basement and pore over some spreadsheets.”

Ben Wyatt, Parks and Recreation
jellyfish floating
3-12, Independent Study, Math, Research, Science, Websites

The Deep Sea

The Deep Sea is a fascinating website designed by Neal Agarwal (@NealAgarwal). Neal has placed the creatures of the ocean at their typical depths, and you can scroll down from 18 meters at which you find Atlantic salmon and manatees all the way to the deepest part of the ocean at 10,901 meters deep. Little pieces of trivia are interspersed here and there, such as when you reach the point that is equal to the distance to the height of Mount Everest.

Students who are intrigued by the ocean and/or unique animals would love this site, and you can also integrate math with comparisons to other distances. For example the world’s current highest building, the Burj Khalifa, is 828 meters high. When you get to around that depth, you can find Giant Oarfish, which can grow to 11 meters long. Have students brainstorm ocean creatures they know and estimate where they might be found in “The Deep Sea.” To learn more about deep sea creatures that may or may not be on The Deep Sea site, check out this slideshow from the Smithsonian Institute that includes the frightening-but-cute yeti crab.

exotic reef manta ray swimming undersea in sunlight
Photo by Svetlana Obysova on Pexels.com

By the way, Neal Agarwal has a variety of other interactive sites that might interest you here. There’s a 3d “Design the Next iPhone” where you can not only drag and drop components that you want to had, but you can also create a video where your phone is “announced.” If you like the philosophical discussions generated by the classic “Trolley Problem,” try “Absurd Trolley Problems” for some macabre humor. And there’s more! I’m definitely adding his site to my “Fun Stuff” Wakelet. Although I must admit, comparing my hourly wage to other on the “Printing Money” site was not quite as fun…