Category Archives: Education

Grit Pie

In a few past posts, I have mentioned that I am making a determined effort to incorporate a growth mindset into our classroom environment.  One of the attributes that is key to a growth mindset is to have “grit.”  While reading this article on Edutopia, I came across a link for a great Prezi by Kristin Goulet, “Grit Pie,” that would be great to help illustrate this for students.  I love this idea of helping students to realize that blaming others for their problems relinquishes control, and that owning up to their mistakes can actually make them happier with the thought that they have the power to fix them.

Click here to view the "Grit Pie" Prezi by Kristin Goulet
Click here to view the “Grit Pie” Prezi by Kristin Goulet

For more resources about developing a Growth Mindset, you might want to check out my new Pinterest Board for this topic.

Let’s Move It, Move It!

It may seem a bit paradoxical to be staring at a screen while you are trying to get fit, but there are more and more tools available out there to allow you to do just that.  As you begin planning for the new school year, you might want to check out some of these tech resources for encouraging kids (and adults) to take brain breaks.  Multiple studies have shown that these are valuable for both the mind and body.

  • I’ve mentioned GoNoodle on this blog before.  I highly recommend this free online tool for an awesome way to motivate your students as well as track how many minutes they are spending on “moving it.” Erin Klein just did a great post on GoNoodle on her blog, and is offering a t-shirt giveaway, so head on over there if you want more details!
  • This summer, I found out about an extension for the Chrome browser called, appropriately, “Move-It.”  You can set it to remind you at certain intervals to take a little exercise break.  To use the extension, you need to be in the Chrome browser.  Click on this link, the “free” button, and “add.”  A small icon will appear in the top right of your browser.  You can click on that icon to set the time periods for intervals.  At the set time, your browser will open a new tab, and give you instructions for a short exercise.  It’s a nice little reminder – though some teachers may find it annoying to have the pop-ups. (You can easily disable it by getting rid of the checkmark in the window or right-clicking on the icon to manage your extensions.)  I did notice a couple of grammar errors in the pop-ups that might make for a fun editing lesson while you are “moving it.”

Move It

  • Finally, Collin Brooks has come up with a fun way for students to get moving at home by creating augmented reality fitness task cards using the free Daqri app.  I love this idea, and hope you will take a look at the short video on this post where he explains how it works.

You Don’t Have to Be a Genius

Since many people are returning to school during the next couple of weeks, I thought I would re-visit and share some of last year’s more successful projects in case you want to try one.  Monday’s post was on the surprise “You Matter” videos that I asked parents to make for their children last year. On Tuesday, I wrote about the Global Cardboard Challenge. Wednesday’s post was about bringing a Maker Studio to your students.

Before I get deep into this post, I want to emphasize that I am not, by any means, an expert on this topic.  If you look at the bottom of my Genius Hour Resources page, you will find many other far more qualified people to give advice.

Let’s start with the name.  You don’t have to call it Genius Hour. Some call it Passion Time, Wonder Time, or 20% Time.  Don’t get hung up on what it’s called – although you may find more resources on the web by searching for those titles.

image from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrsdkrebs/8485655331/
image from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrsdkrebs/8485655331/

Also, don’t obsess over the time; it doesn’t have to be an hour or 20% of your total time with your students.  It can be more.  It can be less.

Some teachers worry about the freedom or the departure from the curriculum.  It doesn’t have to be a free-for-all.  You can have guidelines, even particular generalized topics.  For example, if you are studying landforms in science, one student might choose to investigate Pompeii and another might try to design a new vehicle for exploring the interior of volcanoes.

Other teachers are concerned that their students will choose topics that the teacher doesn’t know very much about.  From personal experience, I can tell you that this is actually a gift.  It’s in our nature to help kids too much, but when we can’t, they learn the value of struggling.

The point is to give your students time to pursue something that is of deep interest to them.  It’s about choice and flexibility.  It’s about voice and creativity.  And, it’s about making things relevant for your students so they want to learn and find it meaningful.  Along the way, students learn valuable lessons about research and problem-solving. They learn about grit and the importance of communication.

You can see from the entries in this LiveBinder maintained by Joy Kirr that Genius Hour can happen in any grade level from Kinder-12th, and that there are many ways to do it.

My best advice is to model it and scaffold it.  You will tear your hair out if you just open up by saying, “I want you to pick something you want to learn about and come up with a presentation for the class.” Students usually have no experience with this kind of freedom, and some will have meltdowns just trying to select a topic.  Take a look at my resources and see what would work best for your situation.

It’s What You Make of It

Since many people are returning to school during the next couple of weeks, I thought I would re-visit and share some of last year’s more successful projects in case you want to try one.  Monday’s post was on the surprise “You Matter” videos that I asked parents to make for their children last year. On Tuesday, I wrote about the Global Cardboard Challenge.

Almost exactly a year ago, I predicted the trends in education for the 2013-2014 school year.  I was re-reading that post today, and laughed at my addition of maker studios almost as an afterthought at the end of my post.  Anyone who has been reading education blogs and magazines will know that maker studios are becoming a huge trend, and that they are not limited to schools.

The-Maker-Movement

The truth is that many people are recognizing that there is a hunger in our youth to create and that the process of making is a deeper learning experience than regurgitating facts from a lecture.

There is not one right way to bring a maker studio into your school. Many schools are integrating them into their libraries or obsolete computer labs.  Some are incorporating the design process into their entire curriculum.  But, just like the Global Cardboard Challenge, you can still make a huge difference by starting small.

Last year, I realized that an empty classroom next door could be transformed into a maker studio.  I applied for a grant from our school’s PTA.  My GT classes named the room B.O.S.S. HQ (Building of Super Stuff Headquarters) and it basically became a testing ground for all of the new materials we purchased.  You may not have the luxury of an empty room, but a station in your classroom would work just as well.

Some of the items we purchased for our space were:

We also had a green screen that had been given to the school.

I didn’t know how to use any of the above until my students helped me figure them out.  Last year was really just time for us all to explore.

This year, I am starting an after-school Maker Club to involve more students than the ones in GT.  One thing I learned from last year is that I need to narrow my focus.  So, the Maker Club will have 4 main themes this year: Cardboard Challenge, Video Creation, Programming, and Electric Circuits.

In addition, the GT students who were exposed to materials last year will be challenged to find ways to incorporate them in our Cardboard Challenge and other projects throughout this year.

Eventually, I want B.O.S.S. HQ to be accessed by all students in the school, but I’m still working out the kinks on that.

My advice to a teacher just beginning would be the following:

  • Read Invent to Learn by Gary Stager and Sylvia Libow Martinez
  • Try the Global Cardboard Challenge
  • Add a station to your classroom that involves creating.  Little Bits are great, and the company offers educator discounts. Chibitronics and MaKey MaKey are also relatively inexpensive ways to start.
  • Make the mantra, “Think, Make, Improve” (from Invent to Learn) part of your classroom theme.
  • Celebrate the “growth mindset” so that students understand they will learn even when things don’t go as planned.  Rosie Revere, Engineer is a great book to reinforce this.
  • When you are ready to “go bigger”, enlist the help of the community.  You can find experts who can teach your students different skills, people who are willing to donate supplies (Donors Choose is great for this), and you might want to visit maker spaces and maker faires in your area for ideas on the type of inventory and organization you need.

If you search for “maker” on my blog, you will find many other posts I’ve done regarding this topic.  You can also visit my Pinterest board of Maker Resources here.  Two of my favorite online resources are Make magazine and Design Squad.  The online Maker Camp from Google and Make also has lots of ideas.

Global Cardboard Challenge 2014

Since many people are returning to school during the next couple of weeks, I thought I would re-visit and share some of last year’s more successful projects in case you want to try one.  Yesterday’s post was on the surprise “You Matter” videos that I asked parents to make for their children last year.

Since most standardized tests used to measure “success” in schools today do not assess creativity, this skill tends to be less emphasized than ones that easily translate into multiple choice questions. However, I haven’t met one person who thinks that creativity is frivolous and many articles I’ve read, such as this one, from various news sources seem to indicate that it is a valuable attribute in the 21st century job market.

That being said, it’s sometimes difficult to fit creative activities into the school day.  The Global Cardboard Challenge is the perfect opportunity to revive the imaginations of your students.  First, show them the fabulous Caine’s Arcade videos.  Then, get your students to brainstorm and sketch their own ideas.  Next, give them time and resources to build.  Then, let them critique and improve.  And, finally have them share their creations.

Cardboard Theater (with a scrolling moving picture) created by one of my 3rd graders
Cardboard Theater (with a scrolling moving picture) created by one of my 3rd graders

There is not one right way to do this.  It can be during school, after school, on a weekend.  You can do it big and invite the community, or you can do it small and just involve your class or grade level.  The official date for the 2014 challenge is October 11th, but you can do it any day you want.

Last year, I just had my GT students participate.  I gave them an hour or two each week for about 4 weeks to work on their projects.  (If you want to see students completely engaged with absolutely no interest in even talking you, I promise this is the activity to try!)  Then they designed their own tickets and invited classmates to see their projects during recess.  This year, we’re going bigger.  I will still have my GT students make projects, but I will also have an after school Maker Club.  The GT students will be researching charities and choosing one.  The school will vote on the best projects, and we are teaming up with Main Event to host a “Pop-Up Arcade” of the student projects in their party rooms, charging $1 for the community to play the games.  All money raised will go to the charity my students select.

For more ideas on how to host your own event, you can check out the Organizer Playbook here.  More information is located here.  But remember, you can “think outside the box” and make the event fit what suits you and your students.

You Matter Parent Videos

Since many people are returning to school during the next couple of weeks, I thought I would re-visit and share some of last year’s more successful projects in case you want to try one.  

Today’s post is about something I tried last year with the goal of impressing upon my students how much they matter to others – in this case, their parents.   What I did not realize was that I would also develop new and deeper connections with my students and their families with this project.

The basic concept was this: ask parents to secretly record videos of themselves telling their children how important they are to them and what they hoped the children would accomplish in school that year. The parents would send me the videos, and I would use Aurasma Studio (here is a link to Aurasma tutorial videos in case you need it) to attach them to still images of the parents.  When my students scanned the images with the Aurasma app on the iPad, they would see and hear their parents’ videos.  They kept the photos in their folders all year so they could scan them whenever they wanted, and as a reminder of their parents’ personal messages.

neverforgetyoumatter

You can read more about the project specifics here.  There were definitely some problems (be sure to click on the links for the project updates so you can avoid some of them, if possible), but the positive results made every bump along the road worth it.

One huge obstacle was getting a video for every child.  I have a GT pull-out program, and had approximately 45 students in 1st-5th on my class rolls at the time I sent out the request for videos.  For obvious reasons, I didn’t want anyone to end up without a video.

I had a hard time tracking down one particular parent.  When I finally reached her, she apologized for not getting a video turned in yet.  Her best friend was dying from cancer and she had been dealing with that for several weeks.

We are often so quick to judge when we don’t get immediate support from parents.  We forget that there are many other reasons for lack of responsiveness – and most of them have nothing to do with neglect of their children.

I had a few conversations with parents during this project that gave me so much more insight on the backgrounds of my students than I had ever known.  So did their videos.  Every single one (and I did end up getting at least one video for each student) told me how precious their children are and that I, indeed, have a huge responsibility as their part-time caretaker.

If you are not comfortable with using Aurasma Studio, you can always do a variation of this project that does not include augmented reality. (You could upload the videos to Google Drive and link them to QR codes, or just share individual links with the students.) The value of this activity is strengthening the bond amongst parents, students, and the teacher.  It is a great way to develop a supportive community in your classroom.

(For more Augmented Reality Resources, check out this page on my site.  Also, I have a brand new packet on Teachers Pay Teachers with suggested Augmented Reality activities.)