Category Archives: Teaching Tools

The Most Magnificent Book Hack

You may have read my fairly recent post about the adorable book, The Most Magnificent Thing, by Ashley Spires.  This is a fantabulous book to read to your students to foster a Growth Mindset.  And, it ties in super well with my students’ current participation in the Global Cardboard Challenge.

I was looking for some other activities to tie in with the book, and came across an interesting slideshow of pictures of an event that was hosted at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum during which participants “hacked” the book.  They were given copies of the book and tons of craft material, and told to make what they wanted!

Despite the part of me that abhors destruction of any book, I love this idea.  If any book was made for a book hack, then this one is!  And I am so impressed by the amazing ideas dreamed up by the children.

Book Hack of The Most Magnificent Thing by Marie @kidscanpress.com
Book Hack by Marie of The Most Magnificent Thing @kidscanpress.com

You should also see the book hack that the famous “Property Brothers” of  HGTV did of the book.  If I can believe my aging eyes, it looks like they used Little Bits to make their very cool hack!  (This link takes you to the Facebook video of their hack, so you may not be able to view it at school.)

And, of course, a book hack would not be complete if the author did not participate!  Ashley Spires did her own amazing hack, and you can watch the embedded video below.

This entire concept combines two of my favorite topics in education right now for which you can find even more resources on my Pinterest Boards – Maker Education and Growth Mindset.  Some other great picture books that I’ve featured that support these themes are Rosie Revere, Engineer and Beautiful Oops.

Pencil Code Gym and Code Studio

I’ve just added two new resources to my Programming for Kids Pinterest Board: Pencil Code Gym and Code Studio.  I haven’t played with either one of them, yet – but they look like they are worth exploring.

The "Draw" interface from Pencil Code Gym
The “Draw” interface from Pencil Code Gym

Pencil Code Gym gives you the opportunity to code your own art, music, or fiction.  It looks fairly elementary, but definitely best used by good readers if they are to work independently.

Code Studio from Code.org
Code Studio from Code.org

Code Studio is a new offering from Code.org, who sponsors the annual Hour of Code.  It allows for teachers to sign up and to monitor classes of students as they work through coding lessons.  You can read more about this new, ambitious project here.

I have many coding resources for students on my blog and Pinterest board.  If you are interested in participating in a Twitter chat about the topic, join in on #kidscancode every Tuesday night, 8 PM EST, hosted by @kodable.  It’s a great group of educators with many fabulous ideas!

 

What Breaks Your Heart?

My GT classes and our after-school Maker Club are participating in this year’s Global Cardboard Challenge.  Select projects will be chosen to bring to a local party/entertainment center, Main Event.  We will be inviting the community to play the games for a $1, as well as selling wristbands to access the other fun activities at the facility. All of the money we raise will be going to a charity that the students choose.

But, how can I get several classes of students – in addition to the 24 students in the Maker Club – to decide on which charity will receive our donation?  I decided to use an idea from Angela Maiers, who is internationally renowned for her motivational speeches about how we should Choose to Matter.  One of my favorite quotes from her is, “You are a genius and the world needs your contribution.”

In a blog post last year, Angela described the process for:

  • helping students to determine what matters the most to them
  • determining what “breaks their hearts” about their passions
  • thinking of possible solutions to those problems.
by @Kara Dziobek
by @Kara Dziobek

So far, I’ve walked two of my classes through the first two phases.  It has been very enlightening.  Similar to the activity that Angela describes from teacher Karen MacMillan, I had students mind-map their passions in the middle of a piece of paper.  Then they drew branches from each of those that identified what breaks their hearts regarding those topics.

As an example, I told them that teaching and learning are both passions for me.  What breaks my heart is that there are still children, particularly girls, who are denied the right to an education.

One boy had brainstormed every single sport he could think of as a passion.  When asked what broke his heart about them, he replied, “When I lose a game.”  I had to question him a bit more to get a deeper, less self-centered answer – “when people get injured.”

After we shared the things that break their hearts, we looked for trends or patterns.  Sports-related injuries was a big one with my 3rd graders, as well as cruelty to animals and pollution.  The latter two were also common themes with my 4th graders.  Today, I will get feedback from 5th grade.  Armed with the information from three grade levels, we can then try to find a charity that many of them will find meaningful.

We will also be holding on to these papers to use as jumping-off points for this year’s Genius Hour projects.

I really loved this process for so many reasons.  It tells me about what is important to my students and gives them a voice.  It shows them that they have responsibilities to be contributors as well as consumers.  And, it helps them to understand themselves a little better.

I’ll keep you posted as we continue on this journey :)

Klever Tools for Kreating – and a Kontest!

We are finally in full swing with gifted classes and the after-school Maker Club.  As I’ve mentioned, we are participating in the Global Cardboard Challenge.  I thought I would share with you some great supplies that you may want to purchase if you have money to invest (particularly grant money).

With a grant we received this year, I bought a huge supply of Classroom Kits from Makedo.  These pieces are great for inspiring imaginative cardboard projects.  My favorite pieces in our sets are the hinges, but the hole puncher tools are invaluable, too.  I do not currently see the Classroom Kit available (it appears to be sold out), but I do see a “Make Anything Kit” that has new, interesting tools like “scrus” and a “scrudriver.”  One caveat if you are planning to buy from this company is to check with your school about rules for purchasing.  The company is in Australia, and does not accept purchase orders (but they do accept checks and credit cards.) There are some products from them on Amazon, but the Classroom Kits are not yet available through that route.

Makedo Classroom Kit
Makedo Classroom Kit

Speaking of Amazon, get thee to their site to get this great deal on a 5-pack of Klever Kutters (you can purchase these other places, but this is the best deal I’ve found).  Last year, my students really enjoyed using the safety saws that came with the Makedo kit.  Even when I offered to use my box cutters to help them, many students turned me away because they loved the independence the saws gave them.  However, they can take an awfully long time to cut a flap off of a box.  So, this year I ordered a bunch of Klever Kutters (thanks to several of my GT co-workers who saw them mentioned at a conference).  I LOVE these tools.  They are super safe (even safer than scissors in my opinion), and give the students a lot more autonomy while creating.  I still use the box cutters for cutting shapes that need to be more exact out of the boxes, but I have to do a lot less running around with the kids supplied with Klever Kutters.

Klever Kutter
Klever Kutter

With our grant money, we are also receiving some Classroom Kits from Little Bits, and I’m hoping some of my students who already have Little Bits experience from last year will find ways to incorporate them into their Cardboard Creations (make things buzz or light up or something even more fantastic!).  By the way, if you buy anything from Little Bits, be sure to sign up for the Educator Discount (and they do take Purchase Orders, so call their Customer Service number for information on how to go about doing that).  Little Bits has added all kinds of new things since the end of last school year, so be sure to check out their site if you haven’t visited for awhile.

Little Bits Premium Kit
Little Bits Premium Kit

Don’t have any money to buy these awesome supplies?  Check out the Global Cardboard Challenge Make-a-Movie-Trailer Contest; the winners will receive either a Makedo Set or a Little Bits set!

Beautiful Oops

Sometimes, like the main character in The Dot, we are paralyzed by the worry that we can’t do something well enough.  And other times, we try to do something well and are devastated when it doesn’t go the way we planned.  Beautiful Oops is a book by Barney Saltzberg that encourages us to make the best of our mistakes.  It is a great book for younger children – full of interactive pages and colorful pictures.

from Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
from Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg

 

While I was looking for resources to accompany the book on the web, I found a great Pinterest Board from @KirstyHornblow that is full of ideas to go with the book.  For example, I am totally going to try the lemon juice/watercolor idea from artprojectsforkids.org.

from artprojectsforkids.org
from artprojectsforkids.org

Beautiful Oops is a nice way to talk about Growth Mindset with young students, and I am definitely going to add it to my Growth Mindset Pinterest Board.

By the way, I added a few extra resources to that board this weekend, including several that I found on Larry Ferlazzo’s site.  The one below, tweeted by @BradHandrich, fits the theme of this post quite well!

How Do You View Your Mistakes?

Rubber Band Contest

Wesley Fryer (@wfryer) tweeted a link to the Rubber Band Contest the other day, and I just now got around to checking it out.  (Someday I will describe my convoluted methods for archiving resources that I don’t have time to explore right away!) The contest is sponsored by The Akron Global Polymer Academy at The University of Akron, and is for students in 5th-8th grades.  Entries are due on March 16, 2015 – but you can see all of the relevant dates here.  The challenge is to make an invention that uses at least one rubber band.  Here is the link to the official rules.  Even if you don’t qualify or don’t want to participate officially, you might want to check out the resources and inspire your students with some of the pictures of past winning inventions.  One of my favorites is a runner-up from 2014, the Oreo Creme Splitter!

Oreo Creme Splitter by Lawson Gray
Oreo Creme Splitter by Lawson Gray

iCivics Drafting Board

It’s been awhile since I’ve visited the iCivics site.  You can see my last post about it here (2012!).  The site, founded by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, offers interactives, games, and lesson plans for learning about civics.  And it’s all free!

There is a lot of curriculum available on the site, and teachers can log in and add students to a class, giving them assignments that the teachers can then monitor.  One of the tools that looks really great for 5th graders and up is the Drafting Board tool.  This is a robust, thought-provoking interactive that leads students through steps that result in crafting a persuasive essay.  I’ve embedded the iCivics  introductory video to Drafting Board below.  This PDF thoroughly explains how to use the tool.

iCivicsDraftingBoard

There are several things that appeal to me about Drafting Board.  It scaffolds the process of writing a persuasive essay based on evidence very well.  The teacher has the capability of differentiating the assignment by choosing different “challenge levels” for students. Though there is a lot of reading involved, all of the passages have accompanying audio for students who need that support.  These features make this a great UDL resource.

One of the lessons is about whether or not 16-year-olds should be given the right to vote - a topic that is frequently brought up by my students. (Actually, they think “all kids” should have the right to vote.)  Another one that would tie in very well with my 5th grade unit on The Giver is the question of whether or not students should be required to do volunteer work in order to graduate.

Even if you don’t have access to 1-to-1 devices for your students, Drafting Board would be a valuable whole-class lesson, or even a center for groups of students, inviting an educated discourse about controversial topics.