Last Thursday, Richard Byrne shared an absolute treasure trove of Google Drive templates created and shared by Darren Maltais. You can click the link above to read Richard’s post. One of the templates that you may want to consider using in the near future is “ELA 12 Days of Christmas,” which offers 12 different creative writing ideas, along with examples. Whether you plan to use some or all of these, you should definitely make a copy of this to help you and your students make it through this occasionally overwhelming time of year! (I particularly like the Facebook example with comments from Buddy the Elf and Rudolph!) By the way, if you would like math activities for the 12 Days of Christmas, you can try this.
If you teach older students who have their own phones, this might be a fun idea for an impromptu writing prompt. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has decided to make more of its artwork available to the public by digitizing it and allowing us to text requests. Only 5% of its entire collection can be viewed in the SFMOMA’s physical building, but thousands more pieces are accessible through this new feature. You can text the number 57251, and type, “Send me” followed by a keyword or color. There’s something suspenseful about the whole endeavor that makes it a bit addictive.
I tried it out by texting, “Send me kindness, ” and received the following, somewhat depressing, reply.
Maybe kindness was too abstract? So I tried, “Love.”
Now remember, this is the Museum of Modern Art, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by the answer to my next request.
Not really sure what the museum bot was trying to tell me there…
Anyway, I soon discovered that trying to use this activity as a “pick-me-up” was a bit too unpredictable, especially after I received a sad portrait of the war in Iraq after I asked for “home.” However, my daughter and I did have fun using emojis and asking for pictures of bread and dogs. (It does work with emojis, by the way.)
Not to be outdone by artifical intelligence, I decided to end our texting communication by asking for something that couldn’t possibly be mis-interpreted in a bleak way by a computer. “Send me a rainbow,” I asked.
One of the reasons I keep a blog is because I have a horrible memory. It’s nice to go back in time every once in awhile and look at the posts I wrote so I can rediscover some great resources. Luke Neff’s Writing Prompts site is one of those tools. I originally mentioned the site in 2011. Neff takes interesting images or quotes, and creates unusual, thought-provoking prompts for older students. I revisited the site yesterday, and found a prompt that really resonated. I want so much for my students to question and to use critical thinking skills. This prompt may activate some lively discussion in my class – which is what I am aiming for!
For my list of my favorite online writing tools in 2011 (before Google Docs existed!), click here.
Mother’s Day is right around the corner, and I have been looking for some writing activities to do with my gifted Kinders and Firsts. I found several great ideas, and thought I should share them with you in case you are looking, too!
Two of the lessons are from one of my favorite gifted teacher bloggers, Joelle Trayers. She teaches gifted Kinders this year, and always has incredible examples of ways to draw out the creativity of her students. One of her past Mother’s Day projects was to have the students do GT Frames about their moms. Using 4 of the icons from Kaplan’s Depth and Complexity, Joelle has her students write about their moms using: Unanswered Questions, Rules, Multiple Perspectives, and Big Idea. You can see some great student products here. For a second (and just as adorable) project suggestion, check out the Top 10 Lists Joelle’s students made about their moms. Construction paper mother portraits make this completely frame-able!
A brief Google search turned up April Walker’s Mother’s Day lesson based on the book, I Love You the Purplest. After reading the book, where a mom uses colors to describe her children when they demand to know who she loves best, students write color poems about their moms. You can see some student examples here. I’m thinking it would be fun to have the students use some unusual color words like “chartreuse” or “vermilion” just to add a bit of extra challenge.
While searching my own blog I found an activity I recommended to myself to do – 4 years ago. Apparently, I found a cute printable celebrating how moms “wear many hats,” and suggested it would be fun to have students think of how their moms do many different jobs. Their mom could wear a fireman’s hat, a chef’s hat, an artist’s hat, etc… This is one reason I blog, so I can record ideas for the following year. Of course, it would probably help if I actually looked at my previous posts a little bit more frequently than every four years.
Now I have a plethora of ideas for Mother’s Day. It’s good that I teach more than one grade level because I’m inspired to try out each one!
Randall Munroe was first brought to my attention when a parent directed to me to his fun website, xkcd.com. One of my favorite Randall Munroe comics is “Up Goer Five,” a diagram of the Saturn V explained in simple language. The best part, in my opinion, is at the bottom where it says, “This end should point toward the ground if you want to go to space. If it starts pointing toward space, you are having a bad problem and you will not go to space today.” I feel like this is the perfect metaphor for some of my lessons 😉
To my delight, I noticed on one of my “Lists That Can’t Be Missed,” that the author of The Kid Should See This, has recommended Munroe’s new book, Thing Explainer, as a great gift. I’m one of those geeky teachers who asks for things for her classroom as gifts, and my husband kindly indulged me by putting it under the tree.
The book’s Table of Contents is called, “Things in this Book by Page.” Munroe is kind enough to put the more formal names of each explained thing underneath the titles, which you may find more necessary in some cases than others. For example, “Boat that goes under the sea,” is a submarine.
Of course. What do you think “The pieces everything is made of,” refers to?
Periodic table. Maybe you got that one, but I have a feeling that, “Shape checker” won’t come so easily to you.
You’ll have to buy the book to find the answer to that one 😉
I see a lot of uses for this book in the classroom. Have students pick a page and do research to find the actual names for each part on the diagram, for example. Or, don’t show them a picture at first, and have them try to guess what it is as you read the descriptions. Another idea is to, once the students see some examples, have them create their own “Thing Explainer” diagram for something that is not in the book. (Challenge them to use only the words on Munroe’s list of the “Ten Hundred Words People Use the Most.” They can check sentences with his simplewriter tool online.)
Included in the book is a nice poster of a “Sky Toucher” which I intend to laminate for my classroom. If you’re interested in other xkcd merchandise, here is a link to the store (which includes a poster of the Up Goer Five).
First, I want to go back to a suggestion in my Cornucopia post, which was, “What are you Thankful For? Ask it Better.” I’ve been using different prompts from this article with each grade level. For example, my 5th graders brainstormed what they are thankful for that they cannot see. My 2nd graders brainstormed what teachers might be thankful for, as you can see below. I really like this twist on giving thanks.
Make a Turkey is a nearly 10-minute tutorial from Hopscotch, one of my favorite programming apps, that might get your students prepared for December’s Hour of Code extravaganza.
What are teachers thankful for? You might not see it in the picture above, but one of the students wrote, “Other teachers.” And that is very true. Thank goodness for all of the awesome educators who are kind enough to share their resources on the web for those of us who aren’t quite as creative!