Category Archives: K-12

Team Shake and Other Ways to Group Partners

I love hearing about the clever ways teachers group students in their classes.  My daughter, who is in middle school, told me about using “clock buddies” in one of her classes.  A different teacher gave them each a sheet with pictures on it, and they put a person’s name next to each one.  When the teacher called out a picture, such as, “Eagle!” they would have to find the partner who corresponded to that picture.

I have been using Class Dojo to randomly make teams or select partners, but it isn’t exactly the fastest way to do it.  Last week, I heard about an app called, “Team Shake,” which is so much faster!  It does cost .99, so I just downloaded it to my phone rather than a school iPad.  Once I input the names of the students for a class (or a club), all I have to do is choose the number of groups I want and shake to sort everyone immediately.  Since I have multiple classes and clubs, I am able to save each one separately and load them whenever I need them.

screen shots from Team Shake app

Knowing I would be doing this post today, I did a little research to find some other ideas for grouping students.  I ran across this gem by Genia Connell that has two of the ideas I already listed – plus eleven more!  (And free downloads!)  If you’re getting bored with always using the same method, you should definitely check out her suggestions! (I love the “Synonym Rolls” and the “iPartners”!)

Goldieblox and the Movie Machine App

You may already be familiar with Goldieblox toys.  I’ve featured a couple of them on this blog.  I recently visited their site, and they’ve added quite a few more products to their selection – all with the aim of getting children, especially girls, interested in engineering.  One of the kits available for purchase is “Goldieblox and the Movie Machine“, which includes pieces and directions for creating a zoetrope.  The company has released a free app to complement this product, but you don’t need to purchase the kit to get a lot of fun out of the app.

screen shot from GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine app
screen shot from GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine app

Our Maker Club has transitioned from making cardboard games to making movies, and one of the apps the students explored last week was Goldieblox and the Movie Machine.  They quickly figured out what they needed to do to create their own short animations, and they were too busy having fun to ask for help from me.  The club is still testing out different options for movie creation, so we haven’t worked our way up to making final products, but I think this app will definitely be a contender for most popular movie-making tool (along with the Lego Movie Maker app).

If you do happen to have the actual kit, then you can use the app to print out your drawings to put in the zoetrope.  However, this is certainly not mandatory, as you can watch your video play on the iPad just as easily.

I definitely recommend that you add this to the list of apps from which students can select for sharing their learning.  They could, for example, make a video of the life cycle of a butterfly or portray how a character changed in a novel.  I’m sure you can think of many more ways to integrate it with academics!

Desire to Fly

This week’s Phun Phriday post comes from an article I read on laughingsquid.com by Rebecca Escamilla.  She wrote about the short video, “Desire to Fly,” which features artist Samantha Bryan as she demonstrates and explains her process for creating fairies and the important machines they need to do their work.  Bryan’s creations are exquisite and delightful, and it’s fascinating to watch as she stitches and solder pieces together to create these one-of-a-kind fairy sculptures.  One of my favorite quotes from the artist is, “Being an inventor in this sense is a little like being a storyteller.” When you look at her work, you can probably imagine all sorts of stories about the fairies and their adventures. Surely a picture book and full-length movie are in these fairies’ future…

from the video, "Desire to Fly," featuring artist Samantha
from the video, “Desire to Fly,” featuring artist Samantha Bryan

Kids Philosophy Slam 2015

The new topic for the Kids Philosophy Slam has been announced: Violence or Compassion: Which has a greater impact on society?

You can find out more information about the topic on their website, including rules and guidelines.  The contest is open to students in Kindergarten through 12th grade, so you really should consider giving your students the opportunity no matter what their age.  Here is a great post by Joelle Trayers about how she incorporated philosophy into her lessons with Kinder and 1st graders.

You can see an example from a Kindergartener below from the 2013 contest.

Kids Philosophy Slam

Whether you choose to formally enter the contest, or just discuss the topic, it could certainly make for an interesting debate in your classroom! Here is another post I’ve done on the Teaching Children Philosophy website.  Also, if you might want to check out Richard Byrne’s great review of Socratic Smackdown, a fantastic tool guaranteed to liven up any deep discussions!

 

3 Google App Hacks for the not so 1:1 iPad Classroom

I love the collaborative aspect of Google Drive, but with a classroom of varying numbers and age levels of students and 10 iPads I’ve had to learn to be a bit creative when it comes to using Google activities with my students.  The release of specific apps for iOS such as Slides and Sheets is still problematic when you are not in a 1:1 environment since a login is required to access the files.  And some of the features that look great on other devices won’t work on iPads in a browser – even in Chrome.  Here are a few “workarounds” I’ve developed that some of you might also find useful:

  • Docs are an easy way to share website links with classes. For example, I created a Google Doc called, “Websites for Class.”  I made it public, opened it on each iPad, and sent the shortcut to the iPad home screen.  Now I can change the links any time, and the students can click on them without needing to type in URL’s.  (Sure, you can use a bookmarking site, Google Classroom, or even apps like Chirp to share links, but this simple solution has streamlined the process immensely.)  If you think you are going to want to keep those links for future use, make a copy before you change to new links and save the copy with the title of whatever theme the old links shared (“Optical Illusion Sites,” for example).
  • Create a “generic” G-mail account to use Sheets.  The new Sheets are currently not editable on an iPad browser.  I learned this the hard way.  My students use Sheets for checking in at centers (using the above method, but with a spreadsheet) but that suddenly stopped working.  The files work great in the Sheets app, but I didn’t want to have each student log in since multiple students share iPads – or have my own account permanently on the iPads. So, I made a “generic” account. This G-mail account is used for the sole purpose of sharing documents on my iPads.  All of the iPads are already logged into that account, so the students do not have to do anything but open the app and find the appropriate Sheet.
  • Make a Google Site to share Forms that you change frequently.  This is a bit more advanced.  You can also use a Google Site to share links that you change frequently (but the Doc method described above takes a lot less steps!).  Once you make a free Google Site, you can just click on the html button and embed the code for your form.  Be sure to click inside the Google Gadget area to get the settings button at the bottom and add a scroll bar.  Otherwise, your students may only be able to see part of the form on the iPad.  Add your Google Site to the Home Screen of every iPad and you can then share whatever you want the students to access with a tap on the icon.

Do any of you have Google App iPad hacks?  Please share!

image from speedofcreativity.org
image from speedofcreativity.org

 

Can You Solve This?

There was a link to this lesson in the most recent TED Ed newsletter, and I immediately jumped at the challenge. I’m a bit competitive sometimes;)

I will say that I did solve it before the solution was revealed on the video, but it probably would have taken me as long as anyone else if I wasn’t able to view the clips of people guessing incorrectly.

This is an excellent lesson on how we often make assumptions, and then look only for the evidence that appears to support them.  Lots of classroom discussion could definitely branch off from this one short video.

You can find more Veritasium videos here, although I always recommend that you watch videos prior to showing them to your students to determine if they are appropriate for your audience.

Note: There is an “inappropriate” word said extremely quickly at about 2 minutes in.

from the Veritasium Video Blog
from the Veritasium Video Blog

Life After the Cardboard Arcade

This is the 2nd year that I’ve participated in the annual Global Cardboard Challenge, inspired by Caine’s Arcade.  After last year, I had three goals in mind for this year’s event:

  • increase the number of students making games
  • increase the number of students who play the games
  • find a way to integrate the project with raising money for a charity

Last year, my GT students at the school were the only ones who participated.  This year, we started a school Maker Club.  With the help of two other amazing sponsors, we were able to add 24 more students to the roster of game designers.

To increase the number of players, we changed venues.  We moved the arcade from our school to the party rooms at a place called Main Event.  Main Event is an entertainment complex near us that offers bowling, laser tag, a ropes course, and video arcade as well as food and drink.  So, families could enjoy our games and make a night of it.

There were some amazing games included in our arcade.  Two of the more notable ones were a huge Sphero obstacle course created by a group of 6 students and a human fortune-telling machine! (Check these projects out in the slide show and videos below.)

For our charity, the students selected Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, a local organization that helps wildlife that have been injured to recover and return to their habitats as well as offering “forever” homes to wild animals that will never be able to survive on their own.

Our event went really well.  We raised over $700 for our charity and everyone seemed to have a fabulous time.  As an added bonus, sponsors from WRR came to our arcade and selected some of the games to be donated to the organization.  They will be sending us pictures and videos of the games being used for primate enrichment!

And that leads me to wonder how many other ways our games could have a second life next year.  Many of the students dedicated hours to creating their masterpieces.  It would be nice to give those games more than one day in the spotlight.  Monkeys aren’t the only ones that might appreciate them once the Big Event ends.  How about donating them to a Children’s Shelter, a hospital, or possibly a local library?  Admittedly, none of those is quite as exciting as watching a monkey play your game, but there are definitely many ways these creative projects can keep on giving…

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