This week, I am focusing on providing resources to “Squash the Summer Slide” as ReadWriteThink puts it. Parents often ask me at this time of year for ideas to keep my students challenged over the summer, and here is one that would be great for students who enjoy writing.
Summer Superheroes is a “Parent & After School Resource” on ReadWriteThink. It offers an interesting twist to the concept of creating your own superhero by challenging the author to invent a superhero whose powers are somehow dependent on the warmest season of the year. The detailed instructions for motivating the child and for helping him or her to develop the story include interactive resources on the ReadWriteThink site. This would be a fun idea to share with parents, or to use in the last month of school – when everyone’s mind is on summer anyway!
I found out about the Video Writing Prompts site from one of my new, favorite blogs, Technology Tailgate. Video Writing Prompts is part of teachhub.com. What’s nice about this resource is that it has done all of the work for teachers by collecting the videos and offering thought-provoking questions for different sets of grade levels. Many of the videos are movie trailers, and not all of them would work with elementary kids. But if you click on the link, you will see the appropriate grade levels and questions. (As always with videos, however, please preview before you show your class.) I can think of some higher level questions to go with some of the videos, but the fact that they are already curated and have some suggestions gives me a great jumping off point.
I recently saw this article on Boing Boing that shares a tweet from Emma Coates, Pixar’s Story Artist, in which she relates the 22 Rules of Storytelling. I am regularly trying to encourage my students to do #12: ”Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.” That rule could apply to many enterprises, not just storytelling. Perhaps if my students see that it is advice from the studio that produced Up, they will find it more trustworthy!
One of my favorite bloggers, Sonya Terborg, also posted about this list. The following day, she produced her own, modified, version, called “16 Rules for Sharing Your Story”. She made an excellent graphic to accompany it. You can download the PDF here. I think it would be an excellent poster to put in your classroom, or to print for students to use as a binder or notebook cover.
I have posted before about the iPad app, Puppet Pals, here and here. Yesterday, I was reading a post by Lisa Johnson at techchef4u.com, and saw that there is a brand new Puppet Pals 2 app that was just released in January. So, of course, I had to try it out. Just like the original version, there is a free app, and you can also buy an “All Access Pass” for $4.99. Because I downloaded it to a school iPad, I stuck with the free version. Here are the new features as described in the iTunes store:
• Characters walk and talk!
• Use your own photos for heads!
• Fully pose-able limbs!
• Ride a wide variety of vehicles (camels, giraffes, planes, cars and more)
• Tons of musical soundtracks to set the mood
• Explore different terrains and settings
• Experience low gravity on the moon
So far, I have found that the free version does not allow you to add your own photos (you can add that feature for $1.99, which might be well worth it – allowing you to create as many of your own puppets from photos as you like), and the characters (the set of 3 “Pure Genius” characters – Einstein, Van Gogh, and Twain – costs .99), rides, and locations are limited. The Puppet Shop is fun to look through, though…
One of the best new features is that, if you touch a character while recording, his or her mouth will move along with your words. The movement of limbs is a vast improvement, too.
Be forewarned – your students will want to fully explore this before actually doing an assignment with it. They will need at least 15 minutes to giggle over combining different character heads with different bodies, such as Shakespeare’s head on a ballerina’s body. And they will probably want to play every music sample, too.
Another thing I like about Puppet Pals 2 is the section that is included for Parents and Teachers with suggestions, tips and tricks.
Of course I wish the free version offered all of the bells and whistles, but I have to admit that there is a lot that can be done even with the limited resources on this version. If your students produce any great samples, I would love to see them! E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are familiar with Sandra Kaplan’s icons for Depth and Complexity, and try to use them in your classroom, you may like this treasure trove of resources from Mrs. Lee in Cajon Valley School District. It includes Powerpoints that explain the icons, PDF’s of frames and task cards, and posters. I really like the packet of Literature Circle Frames, created by David Chung, which has great roles for students, a rubric, and wonderful tasks using frames for each roles. These really take the students’ comprehension to a higher level.
Also, you can see Depth and Complexity in action at Not Just Child’s Play.
I originally found this list at KB Connected, along with several other lists of books on different themes. Some of the other themes that might be of interest to readers of this blog are: Books About Fine Art, Books About Math, Books About Strong Girls, and Books for Field Trips. All of these lists are archived on the site, “No Time for Flashcards.” It looks like most of them are picture books, but don’t forget that picture books can often generate excellent discussions in the later grades.
Along with the mainstream books on the list of “Books About Being Different“, such as Todd Parr’s It’s Okay to Be Different, there were quite a few that I have never seen. I am looking forward to exploring some of them – particularly Moosetache, as mustaches are all the rage with the tweens right now (according to my daughter and her friends)!
For a very small smattering of other suggestions of books for gifted kids, you can check out my Pinterest board here. I plan to add many more to it soon!
“Painted Pie” is a video you will probably want to view more than once. The post-Impressionist artwork alone is stunning. But, even better, is the sweet story of a homeless boy who is searching for a human being to connect with him. The moral of the story, that you never know how many lives you can touch with small kindnesses, reminds me of another couple of videos I have featured on here, “The Kindness Boomerang” and “Monsterbox“. The film was created by Havish Thota, Kudzai Gumbo, Mehdi Farrokhtala, and Abdulrahman Alansari. It has already won several awards. The accompanying soundtrack, “Little Person” by Jon Brion is a masterpiece, as well.
In the classroom, I would, of course, ask the students to verbalize the moral of the story. You could ask them to retell this silent movie in their own words. Before even showing the movie, you could play the soundtrack, and ask the students to come up with stories that would go with the music. If you are studying art, you might see if they could write a similar story based on another work of art. Random Acts of Kindness Week is fast approaching (February 11th), and this would be a good way to introduce it.
I found this video on the “Kuriositas” blog. Though the “Kuriositas” blog is not meant for a young audience, I encourage adults to check it out, as it features many interesting videos, pictures, and stories.
Here is the link to the video in case the embedded version does not show below: http://vimeo.com/57146618