Category Archives: Motivation

Whatever You Are, Be a Good One

I love inspirational quotes.  When I saw this book at the store, I instantly knew I would need to purchase it.  Each of the quotations is hand-lettered by Lisa Congdon, who began the series when she was doing a blog called, “365 Days of Hand Lettering.”  The title of the book,  Whatever You Are, Be a Good One, refers to the quote by Abraham Lincoln.

whateveryouare

I really hate cutting apart books, but each of these pages is worthy of framing.  There are several that encourage a healthy growth mindset, such as, “Success is never so interesting as struggle,” by Willa Cather, and, “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail my ship,” by Louisa May Alcott.  You will also find encouraging quotes about kindness and being happy.

I haven’t figured out how I will be using the book in my classroom, but my students love to look for quotes.  They enjoy browsing my Pinterest Board of Favorite Quotations, and also like to choose quotes from other books that I have in the classroom.  (I have a picture frame with scrapbook paper on the inside, and they use dry-erase markers to write a “Quote of the Week” on it.  They also use quotes in their Dream Team projects.)

Another idea would be to show the students the style of the book, and have them choose their own quotes to hand-letter.  The Paper by 53 app on the iPad is a nice tool for doing this.

You would probably not want to let younger students (K-4) browse through this book unattended.  There is a quote from Dostoyevsky that uses a word that some might consider questionable.  Many of the quotes are a bit difficult for that age group to understand, anyway.

page from Whatever You Are, Be a Good One by Lisa Congdon
page from Whatever You Are, Be a Good One by Lisa Congdon

Like a Girl

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Two recent ads tackle sexist stereotypes that contribute to a culture in which women are often seen as inferior.  In the Pantene ad below, women are encouraged to stop apologizing for everything.  This is a bad habit that I am guilty of, and I’ve been trying to curb it for years.  Ram me in the supermarket with your cart, and I guarantee that I will automatically say, “I’m sorry.”  I never realized excessive remorse was a vice primarily displayed by women, but being aware of the problem might help us all to think twice about giving the message that anything that goes wrong is our fault.

The second ad, from Always, gives a pretty powerful message about the phrase, “like a girl.”  If you think about it, you will probably realize that those words are usually not uttered as a compliment.  But they should be.  It’s interesting to see in the commercial that the perceptions about “like a girl” seem to vary with age.  I hope my daughter grows up to be as confident and assertive as the young lady in the blue dress near the end of the ad.

I bring these two examples to you because I’ve talked a lot on this blog about the need for more women in STEM fields.  It’s important to recognize how deeply sexism infiltrates our society through the media and under-educated family and friends.  Coincidentally, I saw a list of the 22 Most Powerful Women Engineers this week on Business Insider.  I’m happy to see these women being honored in an article, but I hope that, one day, it won’t be so notable that there are 22 women who are capable of doing the same intellectually demanding job as men.

Lessons Learned When Offering Summer Learning

GOALS

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!

Tried and True – Genius Hour

Students involved in an "Interactive Genius Hour Presentation"
Students involved in an “Interactive Genius Hour Presentation

On this blog, I tend to post about a lot of ideas that I find, and some readers don’t always get a chance to know if I ever tried them – or if they were complete flops.  This week, I want to feature a few past ideas that I did try and that were successful – and that I definitely want to do again.

Some might call it 20% Time.  Others call it Passion Time.  My first encounter with it was as “Genius Hour,” and so I’ve kept that label.  There are many versions, and many recommended ways to do it.  The crux of the matter, however, is that many educators have found that it is important to allow students to pursue studies in topics that interest them and have relevance to their lives.  I began doing Genius Hour several years ago with my GT 5th graders.  This past year, I expanded it to 3rd and 4th grades.  Every year, and with each grade level, I’ve done things a bit differently.  But I continue to do it because I have definitely seen the value.  I can’t imagine my classroom without Genius Hour – and once I introduce it to a group, they will not stand for it to be taken away from them.  If we ever miss it because of scheduling conflicts, I have a near mutiny on my hands.

You can see my Genius Hour Journey by going to the Genius Hour Resources page (there is a tab at the top of this blog).  I also have downloadables (I highly recommend the Challenge Cards – a big hit with my class this year!), as well as links to other fabulous Genius Hour Resources.  Scroll down to the bottom of the page, and you will see some recommended articles for “newbies” to Genius Hour.

Genius Hour is messy.  It’s loud, and there is absolutely no sitting down on the teacher’s part.  Most of the time, your students are learning about topics in which you have no expertise whatsoever.  It can be frustrating and extremely challenging to your sanity.

But, once you see the impact it has on your students, you will find that it changes your philosophy of teaching.  And, even the moments that are not dedicated to Genius Hour in your classroom will slowly become more student-centered and more meaningful.

 

Kid President: Declaration of Awesome

Quote from Kid President: Declaration of Awesome, Episode 1
Quote from Kid President: Declaration of Awesome, Episode 1

What do a llama, Kevin Costner, corn dogs, and Rainn Wilson all have in common?

Kid President, of course!

Many of you are familiar with the Kid President videos.  One of his most famous is his “Pep Talk” video, which is included on my Inspirational Videos for Students Pinterest Board.  You can view more of his videos by going to his site.

Kid President has just launched a television show on The Hub network.  It’s called, “Kid President: Declaration of Awesome.”  (You can see the schedule, and find out which local channel is The Hub here.) One of the show’s producers is Rainn Wilson – yep, this guy.  The first episode premiered last Saturday, June 21, 2014.  Don’t worry if you missed it, though.  You can view the full video here.

In the premier, Kid President investigates the concept of “heroes.” He interviews Kevin Costner for some insight, and then features a pair of girls who are great friends working for a cause.  As the short (about 22 min.) episode progresses, Kid President starts revising his “Wall of Heroes” to include real-life examples, rather than superheroes like corn dogs who accidentally got dipped in radioactive grease.  Kid President asks the viewer, “Who would you put on your Wall of Heroes?”  This reminds me of the Dream Team project my students do.

There are many quotable moments in the episode.  One of my favorite lines, which is simple but true, comes from Kid President himself, “If you want to be awesome, treat people awesome.”  Definitely great words to live by!

Kid President Medal of Awesome

Don’t Leave it to the Goonies

treasuremap

I have been devoting this week to ways to engage young minds over the summer.  Here is the breakdown so far: Camp Wonderopolis, Maker Camp, Making Movies.  Last summer, I also did a series of posts on avoiding the “summer slide”, and you can access all of those links, including a ton of suggestions for using the ubiquitous pool noodle, here.

I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite movies of all time is The Goonies.  I think it appeals to the inner child in all of us – the quest for adventure and the ability to figure out the answers to diabolical clues.  Of course, we don’t want to expose our children to the danger faced by the movie characters.  But we can still give them a taste of the fun – and even join in on it, too.  Here are some various levels of “hunts” that might get the entire family involved:

Make Your Own

  • Klikaklu – You can use this iOS app to create scavenger hunts that are triggered by images you choose.
  • QR Codes – You can use this easy QR Treasure Hunt Generator  to develop a fun mission for any child with access to a mobile device that has a QR code scanning app.
  • GeoSettr - You can create a fun geography challenge using this web-based site that utilizes Google Street View and GeoGssr.

Provided For You

  • Geocaching – If you have not tried this free adventure that is fun for the whole family, I highly encourage you to give it a try.  It will get you outside, and you will often learn more about the area that you are in than you ever realized you didn’t know!  For a great introduction to this sport, I recommend: “How to Have a Family Treasure Hunt: Geocaching with Kids.”
  • Brain Chase – This is not free ($199), but looks quite intriguing.  It’s an innovative concept from some parents based in Austin, Texas, but it is designed to be global.  According to the site, Brain Chase is “a 6-week summer learning challenge disguised as a massive global treasure hunt for 2nd−8th graders. A golden globe has been buried somewhere on earth – and it contains the key to a safe deposit box holding a $10,000 college scholarship fund.”  Because it’s new (and $199), I have no experience with it.  If you participate, I would love to hear your thoughts!

Remember, it doesn’t have to be up to the adults to create the fun.  Older children enjoy creating scavenger hunts just as much as participating in them!  Just make sure you go over internet safety as well as outdoor safety (particularly if you are geocaching – we were attacked by a turkey vulture guarding her eggs one time when we poked around in a hollow tree!) before the exploring commences!