Category Archives: Education

Leprechaun Traps and Other Shenanigans

A couple of years ago I posted about the cute idea that I’d found on several websites of having students build leprechaun traps.   Since my Kinders were learning about Inventor Thinking around that time, we tried it out.  They were very earnest about creating efficient traps, and I’m pretty sure at least one of the students was disappointed that he didn’t catch his prey.  You can see our class blog posts from that year here and here.

Here is an updated list of St. Patrick’s Day links in case you want to try to capture your own leprechaun this year – or, better yet, his pot of gold:

If you’re looking for additional resources, I also have a St. Patrick’s Day Sudoku Packet ($1) and a S.C.A.M.P.E.R. Packet ($2) available for download on Teachers Pay Teachers.

image from: Sunflower Lily on Flickr
Leprechaun Trap image from: Sunflower Lily on Flickr

Pi Day

Pi Day sneaks up on me every year.  But not this time.  Even though the official date (3/14/15) this year lands on a Saturday during our Spring Break, I am prepared.  My 4th graders are studying “mathematical masterpieces” and Pi Day fits right into that topic. Plus, this is a super special year because the first 5 digits of Pi are 3.1415.  Look familiar?

Looking for ways to celebrate Pi Day?  There’s a website for that, of course – actually a few. PiDay.org has got you covered.  So does the Exploratorium. And there is also MathMovesU.

Personally, I plan to show my students this Mile of Pi video on TEDEd.  They are also going to learn about Pilish and write some Pilish poetry after reading this awesome Pilish translation of The Raven (H/T to Martha at A Way with Words for that idea!). If there is time, they are going to look for their birthdays and phone numbers in Pi using this website.  Knowing my 4th graders, they will probably also get a kick out of these Pi Day e-cards.

Will pie be served?  Maybe if they can solve this Pi Day Sudoku Puzzle

image from PiDay.org
image from PiDay.org

i’m sorry

So, I saw this tweet the other day:

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And I was like, “No, that’s not possible.  A game that’s better than the Chrome dinosaur?!!!”

So, I clicked on the link, which took me here. There were quite a few links in the story and I, of course, clicked on every single one except the one that actually took me to the “game.”

But then I found it.  And I think Chris Rogers might be right. Watching a shark swim through my address bar is pretty fun.  I enjoyed the plane, too.  But I have to say that my favorite is the “diy” option. 

Developer Glen Chiacchieri prominently displays, “i’m sorry” on the tab for this site.  

i'm sorry

And well he should be.  Because of him, millions of tasks will never be completed as people attempt to play the “pewpew” game in their address bar.

Which means that, once again, I’ve stumbled upon another perfect Phun Phriday time-waster that I can happily pass on to the readers of this blog.

I’m sorry!

National Engineers Week

What does it say about my priorities that I started handing out Valentine’s Day resources in January, but I wait until National Engineers Week is practically over before I even mention it?

Not good.

Anyway, for those of you who didn’t know, National Engineers Week is February 22nd-February 28th.  If you don’t live in the United States, perhaps your Engineering Week is yet to come and this resource might prove to be helpful.

Of course, you shouldn’t leave the celebration of engineering to just one week a year.  And I’m pretty sure you won’t get in any kind of major legal trouble if you throw caution to the wind and try out some of these activities on an unofficial day.

Today happens to be Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.  As you know, our nation has a very high deficit of females in STEM careers. Part of this is due to stereotypes which lead to little encouragement for girls to pursue these professions.  Educating young women about their potential in STEM could go a long way to eradicating the blatant inequality we see today.

You can find all sorts of lesson plans and activities for Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day here.  Be sure to check out the playlist of short videos as well.

If you have a young daughter, Rosie Revere, Engineer, is a great way to celebrate this day.  And, if you have a child in middle or high school that shows even the slightest interest in STEM, then I would recommend How to Be a Rocket Scientist.

image from DiscoverE.org
image from DiscoverE.org

 

 

Fairytale Ads

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a GT teacher named Pedro Delgado.  Mr. Delgado was a finalist for TCEA’s Classroom Teacher of the Year.  He shared a link to his class blog, and I stumbled upon a cute photo gallery of a project that his 4th graders did using real company logos in ads with fairytale characters.  The posters made by the students cracked me up!  I asked if he would mind if I shared his idea, and he gave me permission.  This is a fun idea for using the “Multiple Perspectives” icon from Kaplan’s Depth and Complexity.  You could really use the activity with any characters from history or fiction – not just fairytales.  A couple of the pictures by Mr. Delgado’s 4th graders are below, but please check out the rest by visiting his class blog here.

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Twister

Just to be clear from the outset, this post is not about the game that prepares you for a career in Cirque de Soleil – or, in my case, a long stay in the hospital.

Twister, basically a fake Tweet generator, is one of the many fun tools available from ClassTools.net.  (Check out this post from Richard Byrne about Connect Fours, another really cool ClassTools resource.)

ClassTools is the site that also brings you Fakebook. (You can probably easily deduce the purpose of that tool!)  I’ve used Fakebook, and included it as one of the challenges on Brad Gustafson’s ConnectED Bingo Board.  Joelle Trayers has a great post about using Fakebook with Junie B. Jones, and reading her post reminded me that I had been wanting to explore some of the other Classtools resources.

Twister is very simple to use.  You can see the required fields in the picture below.

from ClassTools.net

 

The tool actually pulls images from the internet to use for a background, so I tried a fictional character, Harry Potter, to see what would happen.  Here is what I got when I submitted:

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 8.09.29 PM

Then I thought I should try something more historical.

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 8.18.09 PM

This tool is easy to use and probably works for any famous person, fictional or historical, on the internet.

If you want something a bit more complex, you can try out this downloadable fake Twitter template.  Or, for a simulated Twitter experience, try Tammy Tang’s awesome Google Class Tweeter Template.

Genius Hour Interviews

Last year, one of my fabulous Twitter connections, Andi McNair (@mcnairan3, http://ameaningfulmess.blogspot.com/), mentioned that she required all of her students to interview an expert for their Genius Hour projects.  Previously, this was one of the mystery challenges on my Genius Hour Challenge Cards, but not a requirement.  The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of building this into all of their projects.

My biggest class is my 5th grade GT class – 18 students.  They rocked Genius Hour in 4th grade last year, so I thought they would be the best class to “pilot” this idea.  Since many of the students are working in pairs, this meant we would need at least 9 experts.

We discovered that finding an expert to interview isn’t easy.  We learned pretty quickly that calling the names on websites wasn’t going to work very well.  As soon as the person on the other end heard a child’s voice, my students weren’t taken very seriously.  So, we decided to try e-mailing people to ask if they would Skype with us.  That has elicited a better response, but still requires persistence. (The students typed e-mails from my account requesting help with their projects and for the expert to please contact their teacher if interested.)

Our first expert helped a group of students with a project they were doing on wild animals in captivity.  We found them through a contact I had made when we did our Cardboard Box Arcade earlier this year.

Then, through a comment made by a teacher in a Twitter chat about her students’ Genius Hour projects, I was able to connect another group who is studying the impact of divorce with two students who have experienced it first-hand.

Last week was one of my favorite Skypes.  Some students who are studying global warming talked with an expert who was not only very knowledgeable but also extremely good at explaining his topic to young people.  The students were glued to the screen for almost 45 minutes, covering pages of paper with notes.  However, I couldn’t tell if the students were just being polite or really engrossed in the conversation.

Afterward, I tentatively asked them their impressions of the interview.

“It was great!” “We learned so much!”  “He really explained well!”

Whew.

They had graciously thanked him at the end of the interview, but I ended up sending my own e-mail of profuse gratitude for him taking the time to explain such a complicated issue to my students.

Not all “experts” are great at speaking to students.  However, the process of taking their research out of the classroom and getting a professional perspective gives the students an idea of the relevance of their work, making it much more meaningful to them.

You can learn more about using outside experts in the classroom from Andi’s post – which gives great, specific advice and links to other posts on this topic.

To find out more about Genius Hour, check out my page of resources here.

My students Skype with an expert on global warming.
My students Skype with an expert on global warming.