Spring S.C.A.M.P.E.R.

Ms. Trayers (@jtrayers) at Not Just Child’s Play and I are always on the same wavelength!  I tried a new S.C.A.M.P.E.R.  activity for spring this week, and she posted about an Easter one that she did with her students.  I absolutely love that she had her students write their justification for the partners they chose for the Easter Bunny.  They are fabulous!

I need to add more writing to my curriculum and I am going to definitely use it more with these S.C.A.M.P.E.R. activities.  Usually, I just have the students do an illustration as a fun warm-up activity, but I like her idea to add a little more “depth” to their drawings.

The one I chose to do this week was from my Spring S.C.A.M.P.E.R. Packet, which you can find on my TPT site.  I asked my 1st grade GT students to imagine that a mother bird’s eggs hatch, but the last one is a huge surprise.  What is it?

There were a couple of Easter Bunnies, but then there were two that were opposite extremes of each other.  One student drew a baby hippopotamus, and another student drew a tiny little fly!  I asked them to identify what other S.C.A.M.P.E.R. piece they used to come up with these ideas, and they correctly named the “Magnify/Minimize” one.  And then there was the very cute, upside-down, walking baby cactus.  Talk about imagination!

Here is a free copy of the page that I used if you are interested.  You can find the rest of the packet, and other themed S.C.A.M.P.E.R. packs in my TPT store.

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Photo Mapo

Sample image created with Photo Mapo app

Sample image created with Photo Mapo app

I have a bad habit of downloading apps that look interesting and then forgetting to try them.  Photo Mapo is a free iOS app that should not be overlooked.

Photo Mapo allows you to integrate any photo with a map and short description.  It offers 13 different styles, and you can determine what shows on your “postcard”, such as the zoom level of the map, the date, or the latitude and longitude.  To choose the map to go with your picture from your camera roll, you can have Photo Mapo determine the actual location where the picture was taken, or you can type in your own address.

To create the sample above, I used a Creative Commons image that I saved to my camera roll from Wikipedia, then I typed in “Rome, Italy” for the address, and wrote a short description.

How can this be used in the classroom?

  • students can add these to research reports on countries, people, or famous landmarks, including “travel guides” or “scrapbooks” (Use the Scrap It app or Pic Collage for a great app-smash!)
  • use these to create a visual representation of classrooms you have virtually visited through Twitter or Skype connections
  • use it to record a field trip (map zoom level can go down to street view)
  • create geography quizzes or mystery questions
  • have students use it to show how a particular location has changed over time
  • combine with Aurasma and Tellagami to make your postcard tell a story when scanned

I’m sure my creative readers can think of even more ideas!  Please add them to the comments below!

 

Using Origami to Foster a Growth Mindset

origami

Have you ever tried to teach origami to a large group of first graders?  It can be a challenge, to say the least.

Every year, when my 1st graders study Japan, I attempt an origami project.  Every year, I do it differently.  And every year I berate myself for doing it wrong.  No matter how slowly I give instructions or how many times I demonstrate under a document camera, there are several students who end up frustrated while other students grow increasingly bored with the repetitive instructions and having to wait while I help others make a valley fold.

Last year was a little better when I let the students use iPads and sites that showed videos of origami folding so they could work at their own pace.  But many of them immediately chose projects that were too difficult and gave up after finding themselves overwhelmed.

You’re probably shouting all kinds of helpful teacher advice at the computer right now, including, “Give up the origami project, you fool!  It’s not like they need to know that as a real-world skill!”

That is very true.  But perseverance can be a good skill (until it becomes stubbornness).  And learning from mistakes is a good skill.  Being aware of your own ability level and how far you should push yourself is a pretty good skill, too.

As I’ve been learning about the advantages of a growth mindset this year, I’ve been trying to share this with my students.  It’s become part of our daily vocabulary in some of the grade levels, but I haven’t approached it that way with my younger students, yet.  I decided to use the origami lesson to help me do that with my 1st graders. (Here is a great growth mindset chart that you might like to include in your classroom.)

Last week, I asked the 1st graders to think of an activity that was easy, medium, and hard for them.  For each activity, they drew a picture to represent it.  For example, if reading is easy for a student, she might draw a book.  If math is hard, he might draw a multiplication sign.

Then we all made a simple origami rabbit.  I asked them to think about how the activity compared to the ones on their “Levels of Difficulty” sheet.  We talked about how it was easy for one student because he has a lot of experience with origami, and that it was perfectly fine that it was hard for another student because this was her very first time doing origami.  We stapled their projects to their sheets.

This week, I read Your Fantastic Elastic Brain to them (which they loved – perfect level for them!).  We related it to the origami experience and discussed how important it is to stretch your brain, and not just stick to the things that are easy for us.

Then I gave them some origami sites, and they worked in partners to do whatever project they chose.  I reminded them that if they should choose a project based on their experience.

“If you’ve done lots of origami before, should you pick an easy one?”

“NO!”

“If you’ve never done it before last week, should you pick a hard one?”

“NO!”

I told them that I was not going to help them, that they would need to figure it out on their own, unless they needed help with a word.

I let them go, and held my breath.

“This one is too hard,” one of the students said after a few minutes.

“Let’s keep trying,” his partner said.  “I think we can do this.”  They unfolded and re-folded several times.  After 10 minutes, they did it.  They were so proud!

A student working by himself nearly did cartwheels around the room once he figured out his project.

Similar stories played out all around the room.  There were some sighs of frustration, but no giving up and no tears.  I was able to walk from table to table, giving encouragement, praising perseverance instead of frantically trying to get everyone to the same place.

At the end of class, the students couldn’t believe time had passed so quickly.  There was a unanimous vote to continue working on origami next class.

In a way, I felt like I’d just completed my own origami project. It only took me about 5 years to finally get it right.

Origami Elephant created by Sipho Mabona, picture from My Modern Met

Origami Elephant created by Sipho Mabona, picture from My Modern Met

 

Some Genius Tweaks to our Genius Hour

321snap

(If you are unfamiliar with Genius Hour, be sure to visit my Genius Hour Resources Page.)

One of my many goals for rebooting Genius Hour this year was to help the students to create more engaging presentations.  Their passion just wasn’t coming through when it came time for them to share it with their peers.  It intrigued me how, during a reflective discussion about a presentation, many students would suggest making it more interactive or entertaining.  But a few weeks later, when it became their turn to share their own learning, their presentations would follow the same already-determined-to-be-unexciting formula.

This school year, I was determined to change this.  I believe that it was because of some of the change that I made that last week, I was rewarded with some of the best Genius Hour presentations I’ve seen since I started doing GH several years ago.

Change 1: My 4th grade GT students, who had never done Genius Hour before, created proposals for their projects – and then the class voted on them.  I was a little hesitant to try this idea at first, but pleased with the results.  Several proposals were voted down the first time based on the criteria we came up with (will the researcher learn anything new? will the class learn anything new from the presentation? will the class be able to use this new information in a practical way? is it interesting?)  Then the students went back to the drawing board and came up with better ideas, which were approved.  No feelings were visibly hurt, and the topics that seemed weak to me were also the same ones that didn’t receive enough votes from the class.

Change 2: To give my students ideas for alternative methods for presenting, I pointed out that I pretty much never use Powerpoint to give them new information – nor do I talk at them for 20 minutes or longer spouting facts.  Then, I gave them the Show What You Know paper to spark some new ideas for sharing their learning.  When they realized there were so many other options, suddenly Powerpoint lost its popularity.

Change 3: I gave them some tips from the SlideShare presentation, “What Would Steve Do?”  (“Steve” is Steve Jobs.) Specifically, I told them to work more on creating a visual story than on a slide show with bullet points.  And – now this is the big one – I emphasized the importance of rehearsing.  After looking at the SlideShare myself, I realized that this was a major weak spot in my classroom.  Students would spend several days on research, several days on creating the presentation, then – boom! – they would inform me they were ready for an audience.  “From now on, we are giving equal time to all three,” I told the students.  “As much time as you spend on research, you will spend on production and then on rehearsal.”

The first 2 groups were ready to present last week – and, wow!  They blew me away with their creativity and polished performances.

Group 1 presented on “How to Take Better Pictures.”  They first shared a poster with information using examples of pictures and a timeline about the history of the camera.  Then they involved the audience by having a game show to review what they had learned from the poster. They performed like real game show hosts, and used an iPad with the Game Show Sound Board app to make it sound realistic.  They had a name for the show (3,2,1 Snap!), a catchy intro, and even a commercial and poster advertising their show!

Group 2 presented what they had learned about Mars.  They did a well-scripted, well-rehearsed play that involved scenery and props, included a salt-dough representation of Mars, and invited the class to fill out a Venn Diagram comparing it to Earth!

After the two groups were finished, we reflected on both presentations as a class, and the students took notes on what they thought did or did not work.  I told them that I would hold them accountable for those notes.  Whatever they felt needed work in the first two presentations, they needed to be sure to improve in their own.

This was the first time that I saw the entire class engaged in someone else’s projects.  I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings!

rocket

MaKey MaKey

screen shot from Makey Makey video

screen shot from Makey Makey video

If you want to spend the best $50 ever on a classroom supply or birthday gift, then I would highly recommend Makey Makey – touted as “the invention kit for everyone.”

For today’s Phun Phriday post, I bring to you the most versatile piece of computer hardware that I’ve ever used.  I’ve seen MaKey MaKey demonstrated at several conferences and STEM events, but yesterday was the first time I set one up out of the box.  The good news for anyone who doesn’t think that you are technologically gifted is that setting it up is astoundingly simple.  Don’t be fooled by the complicated looking circuit-board thingy and ten thousand wires.  Seriously.

To get going with MaKey MaKey, hook up the included USB cord to the board, and the other end to your computer.  There are no drivers or software installations.  Hook alligator clips (ato the board and to whatever you want to use to conduct electricity to the board.  When I say, “whatever,” I mean it.  As long as it conducts electricity, you’re good.  Bananas, Play-Do, people, pencil drawings on a piece of paper, and stairs have all been demonstrated on various videos to be good crowd-pleasers.

The MaKey MaKey instructions give you a few websites that you can go to, but you don’t have to use them.  Basically, you can do anything with the board, that you can do with a computer keyboard.  Just attach the alligator clips (and be sure to hold one that’s attached to the “Earth” section) to whatever commands you want to give the computer.  There are different spaces on the MaKey MaKey board for the arrow keys, space bar, etc…  You could even attach a clip (assuming you have that many) to each letter in the alphabet.

Of course, you can type your name with a set of bananas.  But my students were immediately fascinated with the piano on our first try.  I’ve embedded a video below of one of my students using Play-Doh as the piano keys.

I’ve learned with these types of things that the best thing to do is just stand back and let the students explore.  They tend to do the same thing at first, but once they get comfortable the magic happens. That’s when they start getting creative, and popping out crazy ideas that might just work. We just got the MaKey MaKey, so I’m really looking forward to next week when they come back to class after mulling over the possibilities in their heads.

I am very thankful to the parent who donated our Makey Makey, and urge all of you to find a way to get at least one for your classroom.  You might want to invest in some extra alligator clip wires ( I know that’s not what they’re called, but that’s what I call them) so you can hook up as many parts of the MaKey MaKey as you like. The kit comes with 6.

MaKey MaKey was developed by the M.I.T. Media Lab, the same group who created Scratch.  M.I.T. Media Lab is currently running a free online course that I posted about a couple of weeks ago called Learning Creative Learning.  They also currently have a Kickstarter project for Scratch Jr., an iPad app.

MaKey MaKey Links:

MaKey MaKey Website

THE MaKey MaKey Video

21 Everyday Objects You Can Hack, from a Bacon Sandwich to a Pencil to Your Cat

MaKey MaKey Lesson Plan from Educade

You Might Be a Geeky Teacher if You Introduce MaKey MaKey to Your Students

If You Are an Administrator, We Would Like Your Help!

Cafeteria Flipgrid

My 3rd grade GT students are currently working on a project that involves improving behavior in the cafeteria.  They are focusing on two separate things: noise in the cafeteria and messiness in the cafeteria. From one of their systems thinking books, they learned that it can help to solve a problem by looking at others who don’t have that problem.  They would like to hear from administrators from schools around the world to learn what works.

The students came up with some questions.  We are using a tool called Flipgrid to collect video responses to the questions.  (If this works, I will publish a post about this unique tool next week!)  The reason we are asking administrators to respond rather than other students is partly due to the privacy concerns with video and also because we would like a different perspective.

Here’s how you can help:

Easiest way – Send the link to this post to any elementary school administrator you know.

Even better – If you are an administrator, click on one or both of the links below, and submit your video answers to all of the questions on that grid.  The links should also work on mobile devices, so if you want to actually show your cafeteria (without students) that would be awesome.  And send this post to any other administrators you think may be willing to give us a hand.

Best – If you are an administrator, click on both links below, and and submit your video answers to all of the questions on both grids.  The links should also work on mobile devices, so if you want to actually show your cafeteria (without students) that would be awesome.  And send this post to any other administrators you think may be willing to give us a hand.

Cafeteria Messiness

Cafeteria Noisiness

If you could help us out as soon as possible, we would greatly appreciate it.  And if you would like me to share your Twitter handle on my follow-up post, please feel free to include it in your video!