Category Archives: Teaching Tools

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.

It Ain’t Rocket Science

“You think that video game is fun to play?  How about inventing one?”  This is a quote on Part 3 of Episode 4 of It Ain’t Rocket Science.  In this segment, you will see a FIRST Robotics competition and the winner of the first “Wouldn’t It Be Cool If…” contest.

It Ain’t Rocket Science is a project from Time Warner Cable as part of its Connect a Million Minds program, which endeavors to get more young people involved in STEM activities and studies.  According to TWC, the series of videos hosted by Adam Balkin,  “introduces parents and kids alike to some of the coolest opportunities, events and careers in STEM.”

So far there are 24 episodes, which you can watch on Time Warner Cable or access on the website for the show.  The 30-minute episodes are divided into bite-size pieces so you can sample them or show them to a class.  This is another great resource for getting students excited about STEM.

Screen Shot from Episode 4 of It Ain't Rocket Science
Screen Shot from Episode 4 of It Ain’t Rocket Science

Phodable Phun

For today’s Phun Phriday post, I bring you three examples of the impact the ancient art of origami continues to have in the modern world.

Check out this story from the New York Times, which includes a video of a robot that starts out flat, then folds itself into a 3-D creature.
Check out this story from the New York Times, which includes a video of a robot that starts out flat, then folds itself into a 3-D creature.  The video is amazing!

 

Or, get yourself a metal origami sculpture that you put together yourself - starting from flat pieces delivered in the mail!
Or, get yourself a metal origami sculpture that you put together yourself – starting from flat pieces delivered in the mail! Back this Kickstarter project, Poligon, if you love this idea! (You’ve got to watch the video to see this awesome concept!)

 

Richard Byrne just published a post about an app and a website that you can use to make your own paper foldable creations.
Richard Byrne just published a post here about an app (Foldify) and a website (Paper Toys) that you can use to make your own paper foldable creations. Read his post for a cool idea for what to do with your finished products!

Program Your Way to a Growth Mindset!

As I established yesterday, I don’t like bulletin boards and I do like stealing ideas from other people.  It’s ironic that I have posted two bulletin board pictures on this blog from my classroom in the last month since it is my least favorite part of setting up my classroom – but it makes more sense when you realize that I’m just building on the ideas of others.

I’m really emphasizing Growth Mindset in a big way this year, so both of my bulletin boards are aimed at that while I wait for my classes to start so I can hang up student work.  (I am currently testing students for the Gifted and Talented program.  Stapling their tests to the board would probably be frowned upon…)  A few weeks ago, I mentioned my “Courage Zone” bulletin board.  Today’s post is about a board I did that integrates a programming theme with thinking about mindsets.

All of my students from last year are familiar with Kodable, a great iPad game for learning the basics of programming.  So, I “stole”  one of Kodable’s beloved characters, Blue Fuzz, as well as a screen shot of the programming blocks and arrows.  I made a little path of blue squares and added some gold coins to make it look more like the game.  My twist was adding words to each path that represent Fixed and Growth Mindsets.  To top it off, I have a list of questions for the students to consider in preparation for a discussion about the board.

I’m not very artistic, so the board isn’t as “pretty” as I would like it. However, I’ve noticed all of the students I’m testing have looked at it with interest, so I’m hoping it is sending the message I intended.

I’m also a terrible photographer (but I keep trying because I have a Growth Mindset!) so forgive me for the low-quality pictures! You might want to click on the top one to get a better view of my blurry photo ;)

For more mindset resources, check out my Growth Mindset Pinterest Board here!

Program Your Way to a Growth Mindset!
Program Your Way to a Growth Mindset!

programgrowthquestions

 

 

LMS Blog Challenge: Interactive Bulletin Boards

So, lesson learned – never beat Laura Moore in a small little Twitter kerfluffle unless you’re ready for a bigger challenge.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Laura and I fought over who would blog about Lisa Johnson’s most recent amazing contribution to teachers everywhere – Customized Padlet backgrounds.  Laura countered with her own post yesterday, and she has thrown down the gauntlet.  Here is her challenge: “What is one idea worth stealing that made you a better educator/blogger? Share your experience through a blog post, tweet, or whatever platform you prefer. Make sure to pass on the challenge so we can all benefit from new knowledge. Use the #LMSchallenge. GO.” (By the way, her blog is “Learn Moore Stuff.”  Hence, the LMS.)

Do I steal stuff?  You bet I do!  I try my best to give credit where it’s due, but sometimes I don’t even know where an idea originated.  If you want to see a list of the people I regularly steal from, check out my Engaging Educators page :)

As I tweeted to Laura, the hard part is choosing just one thing I’ve stolen! As you can see from the title of this post, though, I’m going with the idea of interactive bulletin boards.

I hate doing bulletin boards.  But I love showcasing student work.  When I read this article by Sylvia Tolisano on the Langwitches blog, I got a seed of an idea – to use QR codes with art.  But I feel less guilty about stealing ideas if I kick them up a notch.  So, the result was a bulletin board with poetry, art, QR codes, a quiz, and an opportunity for student feedback.  Students were invited to guess which piece of poetry matched which artwork.  Then they could scan the QR codes and listen to an audio file to see if they were right.  Finally, they could scan a 2nd QR code that took them to a Google Form where they could vote on their favorite one.  You can find more details in this guest post that I did on Richard Byrne’s blog.

Of course, that led me to more interactive exhibitions, like ones that use the augmented reality app, Aurasma (which I stole from Richard Byrne).  In this post, I mention one of my favorite activities, where the students made videos of themselves in snow globes to go with a writing piece. (If you want some more augmented reality ideas, check out my page of resources here.)

Thanks to all of the people who share their ideas, because I would be an awfully boring teacher without them!

And now I must challenge three more people to carry the baton. Joelle Trayers, Brad Gustafson, and Todd Nesloney – consider yourselves tapped!  Follow Laura’s instructions above to share the ill-gotten gains that make you such great educators!