I am in the process of revising my TPT resources and providing them on this site for free – but it’s taking awhile. In the meantime, since it is Teacher Appreciation Week, I am offering my Summer Pool Party Packet for free. It includes a list of suggested “Brainshines” (instead of brainstorms), a writing page for thinking about life from the perspective of a pair of sunglasses, and a page each of S.C.A.M.P.E.R. ideas. (See this post if you are not familiar with S.C.A.M.P.E.R.) These are fun creative thinking activities to do, especially after state-wide testing or the last week of school!
Pool Noodle Projects – Reblog
I was at a dollar store this weekend, and saw a plethora of pool noodles.
It reminded me of this post I did a few years ago, and I thought it would be the perfect time for a repeat!
After coming across one article on ways to use pool noodles, I did an internet search, and found a lot more creative ideas than I dreamed could exist for using these long pieces of foam!
My students use every spare moment they can get in my classroom to build elaborate marble runs, so the above picture caught my eye immediately. You can find it, along with 19 other ideas for pool noodles here.
You can find the idea for pool noodle flash cards here. To kick it up a notch for gifted thinkers, why not call out a word in a foreign language, or a definition, and have them find the noodle pieces that spell its counterpart?
Along with the Pool Noodle Super Sprinkler, you can find 29 other ideas here.
Of course, with all of these innovative suggestions I did not find any that matched the one drawn by one of my students!
Free Online Summer Courses 2017
First of all, I should tell you that I firmly believe that children should have “unstructured” time to play. This is when creativity bursts onto the scene, right at the brink of boredom. However, I also think children should get the opportunity to learn more about things that interest them, and camps can fulfill this need. Camps of all kinds are often offered during school breaks, from horseback riding to surfing. But some can be expensive or inconveniently far. So, here are some free, online camps designed for kids that you may want to try instead.
Camp Wonderopolis 2017 – Wonderopolis, the fabulous resource that provides kid-friendly answers to all kinds of questions, offers an annual online summer camp. This year’s theme is, “Build Your Own Wonderocity!” and it begins on June 12, 2017. You can register for the camp here.
Camp GoNoodle – When you create a free account with GoNoodle, you can access their free camp during the month of July, which will offer 5 new adventures every Monday of that month. Get more information here.
Summer Math Challenge – Register for this free service to get weekly e-mails from 6/19/17 – 7/28/17 that will give parents ideas for math activities to maintain or improve skills over the summer based on grade level standards. Find out more here
Newsela Summer Reading Club
I don’t take as much advantage of Newsela as I should. This service, which provides articles about current events that can be adjusted to reading levels, just keeps getting better and better. As with many edtech tools these days, there are different features for different price points. I currently have the free version, which allows me to add students to a dashboard and to assign particular articles to read. Students can also take quizzes after they read.
Newsela offers free summer reading clubs. Students can choose which set of articles they would like to receive for the summer from a menu of 12 different topics that range from Animals to the Strange but True News Club. Once they sign up (instructions are given at this link), they will receive 10 articles on that subject that they can read and take quizzes on throughout the summer.
We are always trying to get our students to read more non-fiction, and this seems to be a great way to keep them interested and informed over the break!
Undercover Robots Camp 2017
Do you live in the San Antonio, TX area? Do you have a child aged 7-11? Then this is the camp for you! I am offering an Undercover Robots Camp this June, 2017. We will be using the fabulous Dash robots from Wonder Workshop. (Robot purchase is not required, but bringing your own can result in a camp discount.) Here is the link to the registration page.
You can see highlights from last year’s camp sessions here and here. We will be doing the “Spy School” session again this year (with modifications for students who previously participated) as well as a brand new “Circus” edition during our second week.
For more information, click here. It’s going to be great fun!!!
Lessons Learned When Offering Summer Learning
Regular readers may have noticed a few blog posts I have done this summer regarding an online class that I offered my students through Edmodo. This is the second year that some colleagues and I have gotten together to do this, and I thought I should share a little bit more about the project in case any of you might consider doing it for your own students.
The group of teachers involved in this particular enterprise are all elementary Gifted and Talented teachers in my district. We chose to create this program for free for our students, and are not paid to participate. Last year, 9 teachers volunteered their time. This year, there are 6 of us.
Each of us chose our own topics and length of the courses. We created a catalog, and sent it out to our students (3rd-5th graders) in April, giving them plenty of time to choose a course. Because there were fewer classes this year, we decided we would only be able to offer the program to our own students, rather than all 3rd-5th grade gifted students in the district as we did last year. Fewer students than expected signed up, so we extended the deadline and allowed them to sign up for a 2nd course if they were interested. We used a Google Form for registration.
By far, the “Programming with Scratch” class was the most requested. If you have read any of my posts about teaching students to code, then you know I am a huge proponent of introducing programming to elementary students. My belief that there is a desire to learn this amongst our young people was certainly reinforced by the number of people who signed up for this course, taught by my colleague, Kacie Germadnik.
Last year, I also taught a programming course – using Tynker. But I decided to go a different direction this year. After jumping into the Maker Revolution during the past school year, I saw many students enjoyed the opportunity to create in a variety of ways. So, I came up with “Make a Theme Park” as my class.
The premise was that the students would create imaginary theme parks, and would focus on one portion per week for four weeks. To motivate them, and because I am probably one of the least creative people I know, I thought I would invite some other talented people to give them some ideas each week and “judge” their creations.
I debated the judging part, I must admit. Just to be clear, the only prize was an Edmodo badge and a mention on this blog. However, I still struggle with the idea of external vs. internal motivation. I’ve asked for feedback from the participants now that the class is over, and I’m still getting responses. So far, though, they seem to like the judging aspect.
Our judge/mentors were: Joey Hudy (Theme Park Ride), Braeden (Theme Park Mascot), Michael Medvinsky (Theme Park Song), and Sylvia Todd (Theme Park Game). I want to thank them one more time for their awesome contributions. They, too, donated their time to this project – and they all have precious little time to donate! You can see specifics about each of their weeks by going to my most recent post about the course and following the appropriate links.
From past experience with Science Fairs and other huge home projects, I thought I would have two categories for each week – Family and Individual. My daughter and I posted projects in the Family category each week. No one else did. So, I guess 2 categories was a bit much…
The students posted their entries on a Padlet each week. This worked fairly well. They could post pictures and/or video. One recommendation I would make for videos is a little trick I learned after the first week. If you are using an iPhone to make your video, record in landscape with the home button on the right. Then your video won’t post upside-down or sideways on the Padlet. We did have problems with longer videos being posted on the Padlet, so you might want give students other options such as uploading to Google Drive or Dropbox just in case. The advantage of the Padlet was that the judges were able to see all of the projects in the same place.
Things that Went Well:
- amazing creative ideas and use of many types of materials and media (from using Scratch to compose a theme song to muffin pans and wrenches)
- great input and feedback from our guest judges
- a purpose and outlet for students that hopefully showed them ways to be producers rather than mindless consumers over the summer
- I was able to monitor and post to the class even when I was, myself, away on vacation!
Things that Didn’t Go Well:
- a lot less students ended up participating than who had signed up for the course
- there were a few issues with the mentors/judges using Edmodo as 3 of them had never used it before
- uploading large videos to Padlet caused a bit of stress to some of the students
- having a Family category
The feedback I’ve received so far from students who participated has been excellent. Of course, the number who signed up compared to the number who actually completed the course is not very encouraging. Is this a result of disinterest – or students who found it too difficult to fit it in with summer camps and family vacations? Should I open the course up to even more students next year, or give it up all together? Should I offer more interaction between our guest judges/mentors – such as Google Hangout – or is that asking too much?
I would certainly welcome suggestions for improving the program. We will be getting feedback from the students and their parents as well. Knowing me, I won’t do the exact same thing next summer – but I think that I would definitely like to modify this course in a way that would encourage more participation. Please feel free to offer advice or ideas in the comments below!
By the way, if you like the idea of an online Maker course, don’t forget that the Google/Make free online course started this week!