I have previously posted about Mensa for Kids’ game site and lesson plans resources. Recently, I discovered their Pinterest Boards, which offer a ton of resources for teachers, parents, and students that range from apps to ideas for teaching technology. There are book recommendations from kids, inspirational videos, and even classroom design ideas. Here is a link to a fun “Brain Breaks” idea from Liz at “The Happy Teacher”, which I found on Mensa’s Teaching Resources board. Or, if you are a parent, you might want to check out these Rainbow Sock Bubble Snakes from Tammy at “Housing the Forest” that was pinned to the Kids and Activities board. Whether you are looking for teaching or parenting inspiration, the Mensa Education and Research Foundation has a great Pinterest selection for you!
Last week,in my post about my intention to use more online learning with my students, I mentioned a pilot summer camp my district is doing with Edmodo. You may not have access to something like this, but if you are interested in offering something similar to your own students or children this summer, you might want to point them to Camp What-A-Wonder.
Camp What-A-Wonder is being offered by Wonderopolis from today (Monday, June 17th) through Friday, July 26th. You can sign up for updates here, or you can just visit the site each day to enjoy the new resources being offered for each week’s theme. This weeks’ theme: “Ant Farms, Spider Webs and Underwater Coves.”
You will receive a “Wonder” prompt, a suggested Family Activity, Recommended Reading, and Related Wonder article links – which often include videos and even more suggested activities.
If you want to do some virtual exploration without all of the headaches of packing and spraying on bug spray, then Camp What-A-Wonder might be just the right place for you! The kids can even send postcards to keep you updated on their adventures!
For many of us, at least in the United States, another school year is over. Even as we eagerly embark on our rejuvenation journeys for the summer, you might be thinking, as I am, of new ideas for the next school year. This week, I would like to share some of the improvements I hope to make in my classroom for the 2013-2014 school year. Since today is “Fun Friday”, here is an element of fun I want to emphasize more next year – doodling!
I need to encourage more doodling in my class – maybe even model it more for my students. I’m not talking about the distracted kind of eyes-staring-out-the-window-while-you-scribble type of doodling. I’m talking about doodling with purpose and panache. The Vi Hart kind of doodling:
Sunni Brown can give tell you all of the myths about doodling in a fun, doodly way:
For more examples of doodling, you can see “10 Brilliant Examples of Sketch Notes: Notetaking for the 21st Century.”
Below, you can see one of the 10 pieces, based on Seth Grodin’s talk, “Stop Stealing Dreams.” (I had to look up “one-buttock playing”, which I assure you is completely appropriate in context!)
For many of us, at least in the United States, another school year is over. Even as we eagerly embark on our rejuvenation journeys for the summer, you might be thinking, as I am, of new ideas for the next school year. This week, I would like to share some of the improvements I hope to make in my classroom for the 2013-2014 school year. Today’s post is about using Skype in the classroom.
I say that I am going to do it every year, and I never do. I tried it once a few years ago, and it was a bit of a disaster – completely disorganized, kids who were bored watching other kids doing it, kids who were doing it with nothing to day.
I love that the site deals with the logistics, like assigned roles for the students, and possible questions. I really could have used both of those things during our first experience!
I definitely plan to try this with my first graders next year. Our theme is “Folktales” and we read stories from around the world. At that age, even gifted first graders are still trying to figure out the differences between cities, countries, and continents – and they are absolutely fascinated with looking up locations on the globe and on Google Earth.
I also found Skype in the Classroom, which gives even more resources.
I’m trying to think of other ways to use Skype besides the typical ones (interviewing an author or learning about an international classroom). One way that I am considering is to bring it in to our Systems Thinking unit by having the students from different countries respond to a global issue and the way they see it effecting them. Along the same lines, they could discuss their reactions to an event in history. It might be fun to take some common idioms from different cultures and have the students complete or interpret them. I’d also like to get some people to speak to my students about their passions, and Skype could open this up to more than local leaders.
Here are some more Skype resources in case you are interested. However, I would love to hear any ideas you may have that are NOT on this list!
For many of us, at least in the United States, another school year is over. Even as we eagerly embark on our rejuvenation journeys for the summer, you might be thinking, as I am, of new ideas for the next school year. This week, I would like to share some of the improvements I hope to make in my classroom for the 2013-2014 school year. Today’s post is about the benefits of teaching programming to our students.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you have probably noticed that I am a huge advocate for teaching programming to kids. You can see this trend building in a lot of the education blogs and professional publications. Like all trends, it needs to be done right so that it will not be a colossal failure or a “flash in the pan.” Here is why it should be done, and how I plan on doing it next year in my classroom.
Why We Should Teach Programming to Kids
I think that there is a misconception that this is all about teaching kids a new “language” that is useful in the career market. While that is, perhaps, one of the benefits, I think that it should not be the main purpose. Programming languages evolve quickly, and teaching a specific one might be likened to teaching Latin. It can help you to decode other languages, but it is unlikely you will use it daily.
I learned Basic when I was in high school. I haven’t used it since. But I still remember some very important lessons that I learned in that class that can be extrapolated for real life.
The most important lesson was that, if you are not getting the results you want, you can’t keep doing the same thing. I remember the first couple of times a program did not work the way I wanted it to, and I kept saying to the computer, “That’s not what you’re supposed to be doing.”
Once I realized that I only had myself to blame, I would set about finding out what I had done wrong. This led to the next life lesson – find the real source of the problem or your “fix” will make things worse. Sometimes I had to dig deep into the code to figure it out, but would not realize that until I had tried one or two simple revisions that would end in disaster.
When programming, you also advance through the Scientific Process, and learn to change one variable at a time if your conclusion is not what you expected.
And finally, programming is not all about logic. Once you understand the code, you can use your imagination to create unusual, unique, and even beautiful programs.
What I Plan to Do Next Year
As some of my colleagues pointed out this year, Programming falls very easily into something that we already have in our curriculum for elementary gifted students – Systems Thinking. Now that I am becoming familiar with Tynker through the online summer class I’m offering, I plan to use Tynker with my 3rd graders during our Systems Thinking unit. If you want to start anywhere with programming (from about 7 or 8 years old and up), I would highly recommend Tynker as you can create classes and monitor student progress very easily. Plus, it has an engaging curriculum of projects.
I want to weave programming throughout my K-5 gifted classes, so I will begin my Kinders with the iPad app Daisy the Dinosaur. For 1st, we will move on to Kodable, and for second, Hopscotch. (I may switch these last 2 around – I need to play with them more to determine difficulty levels.)
If you have any suggestions, please feel free to comment. Also, for even more links for Programming for Kids, feel free to visit my Pinterest board on this topic.
For many of us, at least in the United States, another school year is over. Even as we eagerly embark on our rejuvenation journeys for the summer, you might be thinking, as I am, of new ideas for the next school year. This week, I would like to share some of the improvements I hope to make in my classroom for the 2013-2014 school year. Today’s post is about offering more opportunities to my students using online tools.
I am so excited about a pilot project that we are doing in my school district this year. A group of us (elementary gifted and talented teachers) got together, and decided to offer some online classes to our students for the summer. The classes are FREE, and anyone in our 3rd-5th gifted classes throughout our district was allowed to sign up for one. We had 320 students sign up for this first summer. We would have had more if we had not cut off the registration date or if we had opened it up to more grade levels. This tells me that there is a thirst for knowledge that motivates our students to learn even when they are not in school.
You can visit a sample of our course catalog here. I removed the links and the teacher names to ensure privacy, but I want to give a huge shout-out to all of the teachers involved, as they are doing this on a completely voluntary basis during their summer.
We are using Edmodo as the vehicle for delivering our courses, and I am just in the process of realizing the potential of this web application (also available as an app). As I mentioned in yesterday’s Genius Hour post, there are so many students out there who want to learn more than what is being offered in their regular classrooms. Edmodo gives us the opportunity to give them more options, allowing us to schedule assignments and posts that they can access on their own time. There are certainly other online class sites out there, but this is what our district happens to be using at the moment, and it serves our purposes very well.
Thrilled as I am about our summer program, I would like to see it expand. I would also like to implement a similar program throughout the school year. So, my goal for this following school year is to try offering some courses for my own students that can be done on their own time – or, if a classroom teacher agrees, in place of work that they have already mastered in the regular classroom.
Please understand that I am not envisioning these courses to be MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Course), or to replace the physical teaching environment. I want to keep the courses small and personalized. I want the courses to enhance what my students are already learning, and to fuel their desire for finding out more on topics that interest them.
I plan to write a reflection about our summer experience in a couple of months (most of the classes began yesterday), after I get feedback from the students and teachers. In the meantime, if you think you might like to try something like this, feel free to contact me at email@example.com if you have any questions.
This is a neat poster (created with Smore) from Huffman ISD that gives some ideas for shaking things up a bit in the classroom. Though the poster was designed to help teachers to prepare their students for the STAAR test (Texas’ statewide assessment), the activities can really be used with any topic, and to support any learning goal. Some of these may not be new to you, but you might find one or two suggestions that you haven’t used in awhile. If you are still in school for a couple of weeks (as is our district), then you may want to refer to this for some last-minute ideas. ”Carouseling” is one of my personal favorites – although I have never used that title for it before!
I am embedding this below, but it may not show up. So, here is the link:
I know this is a topic that is getting a bit repetitious on my blog, but I really can’t emphasize enough how important I think it is that we offer programming to our students at an early age. This article from MindShift, explains how learning programming has far-reaching effects, and should not be reserved for only those who aspire to careers in technology. ”Why Programming Teaches So Much More Than Technical Skills”, by Ian Quillen, explains 4 specific benefits of receiving an education in this area: Subject Mastery, Systems Thinking, Collaboration, and Passion.
Robotics clubs are a good start in the elementary schools, but we need to think about adding more. Here is my Pinterest board of resources for “Programming for Kids” with links to app, websites, and other articles of interest in this area.
When I saw this idea on “Learning to the Core“, I thought it would make a great activity for the end of the school year. Basically, your students create a Wordle, and then it is made into an online jigsaw puzzle for them to solve. Depending on the ability of your students, the Wordles could: describe their school year, summarize a particular unit, give clues about a student in the class, use Word Wall words, be a famous quote, etc…
Once the Wordles are created, a screenshot can be taken and saved or e-mailed to the teacher, who can load them into a class account on Jigsaw Planet for all students to solve.
My wheels are already turning on how I might use this during the summer to keep my gifted students thinking.