Category Archives: K-5

Pete the Cat’s Groovy Guide to Life

In my post about books that make great graduation gifts, I mentioned that this book looked promising but I hadn’t had a chance to read it yet.  Well, I can now say that I have read it, and definitely recommend it as a nice gift for children who might be “graduating” from Kinder or another primary grade.

Pete the Cat’s Groovy Guide to Life (Tips from a Cool Cat for living an AWESOME LIFE) is written by Kimberly and James Dean.  (I’m assuming not the James Dean.)  The book includes many inspirational quotes in their original form with Pete the Cat’s interpretation on the facing page.

For example, Oscar Wilde’s quote, “Be yourself.  Everyone else is already taken,” is translated by Pete as, “If you want to be cool, just be you.”

My favorite quote is from Mark Twain. “A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”

Pete’s take on this? “Dude, don’t even think about it.”

I wouldn’t give this to a child to read on his or her own.  It’s meant to be shared and discussed.  Classroom teachers and parents can use the book to spark dialogues and new artistic interpretations.  I would probably not let the child see Pete’s explanations for each quote until after discussing the original quote.

 

 

image from: Pet the Cat's Groovy Guide to Life
image from: Pete the Cat’s Groovy Guide to Life

Another fun idea, if you are a teacher, would be to read the original quote to the class, have them restate it in their own words (and possibly illustrate it), and then compile them and compare to Pete’s statement.

Paper Circuit Greeting Cards

Our school Maker Club has been working with electric circuits: Squishy Circuits, Makey Makey, Circuit Scribe, and Little Bits.  Since it seems important that a Maker Club actually make something, paper circuit greeting cards became a goal.

As usual, the project was harder than I anticipated.  For some reason, I thought that there would be lots of simple instructions on the web; I knew I hadn’t just dreamed up the idea.  But when it came down to it, most of the instructions looked a bit too complicated for our group of 24 second through fourth graders.  You can judge for yourself:

We don’t have a soldering iron, and I didn’t like the look of binder clips on a greeting card, so I pulled together what I’d learned from the above resources, and came up with a variation that would work for us.  First we made Mother’s Day cards.  Next I came up with a prototype for Father’s Day cards that they can make at home using the supplies we have provided in a baggie.

The main items you need to make this work are:

  • Copper Tape (available on Amazon.com) – about 6-8 inches for each card
  • LED Stickers (available at Maker Shed or Chibitronics) NOTE: You can also use LED’s with resistors instead of the stickers. – 1 for each card
  • Coin Cell 3V batteries (available on Amazon.com) – 1 for each card

Chibitronics has a good Starter Kit that is available at several online stores.  It includes a “Sketchbook” which you can also download for free here.  We introduced the students to what we were going to be doing by having them do the simple circuit on page 20.

The hardest thing for the young ones is keeping the copper tape in one piece around the corners.  Instead of cutting it for your corners, you need to fold it over itself to ensure conductivity continues.

Noticing their difficulty, and worried about time constraints for the Mother’s Day cards, I went ahead and applied the copper tape to the die-cut hearts ahead of time.  The students added the rest.  You can see some of the results below.

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Each student had 2 die-cut hearts – the bottom one with the circuit and a top one that they wrote on and I punched a hole in. To affix the battery to the bottom, they used glue dots (be careful that the dot is not too high or it will keep the battery from connecting with the tape).  To affix the top heart to the bottom we used foam mounting squares similar to these.

I didn’t want to leave fathers out, but we only have one more Maker Club meeting.  So, I made a new prototype and we will be giving the students these instructions along with the pieces for assembly.  The basic circuit construction is the same as the Mother’s Day card.  I plan to encourage the students to make their own design, but I know that many of the younger ones, in particular, will prefer having some guidelines.

If you are interested in the “Everything is Awesome” portion of the card, here is a free printable.

everythingisawesomeYou can find more “Make” ideas on this Pinterest Board.

 

A Graduation Message from Kid President

Kid President has released a new video that addresses graduates everywhere.  Watch the video for some great advice – and to find out if he has a special “announcement” about the upcoming election ;) For more inspirational videos, check out this Pinterest Board.

Oopsigami

Do you notice anything significantly different in the picture below?

origami

My 1st graders are studying different countries.  After talking about Japan, we did an origami lesson.  Last year, I discovered that origami is a great vehicle for teaching about Growth Mindset.  I decided to do the same this year.  I talked to the students about things that are hard and easy for them, and how practice can help.  I also gave them examples of “scaffolding” – not jumping right to the most difficult challenges right away, but working your way up to them.  “It’s important to know when something is too easy for you, but also to know when it’s too hard and that you need more practice.”

After doing a sample origami activity together, I set them loose on some origami websites to try some on their own.  They self-differentiated by choosing the activities that suited their experience levels.  I told them that I would help them with reading directions, but that I wouldn’t do anything for them.

One of my 1st graders kept trying to coax me into helping her.  She grew more and more frantic, and finally dissolved into tears.

I was at a crossroads.  I certainly don’t like to see my students hurting, but I also don’t want them to get in the habit of giving up. This student said she had already tried every “easy” origami lesson, and she just couldn’t do them.

This student also happens to be an excellent artist, and I suddenly realized this was an opportunity for another lesson that I want all of my students to learn.

“Just make up your own,” I said.

She looked at me doubtfully.

“Origami is art.  Art is about being creative – not following directions. If you want to make butterfly, make up your own butterfly.  Who cares if it’s not the same as the one in the picture?”

Everyone in the class was looking at me then.  I had just spent 10 minutes telling them to not give up in the face of a challenge, and here I was announcing that this student could give up and do what she wanted.  Even I was confused by my own mixed messages.

A little later, the little girl proudly presented her creation to me.

“It’s an origami blanket,” she declared.

The rest of the class watched me carefully for my reaction.

“I love that you came up with your own idea.  All origami art had to be thought up by someone originally.  Maybe someday people will try to make your origami blanket.”

She smiled.

Earlier this year, I read a book to my class called, Beautiful Oops.  This was my student’s version.

I still don’t know if I handled this the right way.  But I do know one thing.  We spend far too much time teaching our students to follow directions, and then we are flummoxed when they seem to be at a loss when asked to do something creative.

I refuse to be the person who stifles a young artist just because she would rather draw on a piece of paper than fold it.

Sphero Bridge Building

Every year, my 2nd grade GT students build bridges as part of a unit on Structures.  We have K’nex kits, and they enjoy learning about the different types of bridges as well as making their own versions.

This year I really wanted to have them do more than follow the instructions in a kit. When I saw the Sphero Bridge Building Challenge, I knew immediately what we were going to do.  I modified the lesson plans a bit, borrowing from some other bridge-building lessons I’ve seen, and created yesterday’s challenge.

I gave teams the task of building a bridge that would span a 14-inch gap between two table edges.  It would need to be strong enough to drive a Sphero across, and cost the least amount of “money” possible.

Of course, they didn’t have to spend real money.  I put a bunch of materials on one of my tables and gave them a chart listing the costs:

  • Popsicle Sticks – $100 ea.
  • Straws – $50 ea.
  • String – $20 per foot
  • Paper – $10 per sheet
  • Tape – $5 per 6 in. (the 1st 6 in. are free)

The students had to plan the materials they would use and then figure out the projected cost.  They had to sketch their bridges. Once I approved their plans, they could build.

I was so impressed with their planning!  They weighed the Sphero, used string to measure its circumference, did complicated calculations of the costs of materials, and measured straws and popsicle sticks with great care.  Great discussions ensued about the best designs for their bridges.  A lot of math was done – most of it correctly.

In the end, two groups succeeded in completing and testing their Sphero bridges.  Two did not.  Their reflections afterward were fun to read.  One student wrote, “We got our bridge done in time but we could have gotten it done earlyer if we had not been arguing.”   All of the students thought planning was essential to a successful project – except one, who stated, “planing wast of time.”  Another commented that the time it takes to complete building something can be delayed by things like, “how prodoctove your workers are.”  His teammate was more blunt, “Our bridge did not get finish because some people don’t work.”  They learned another reason for building delays can be when you don’t plan for enough materials and you have to wait for more to be delivered ( i.e. when there is a line of students waiting for Mrs. Eichholz to dole out more pieces of tape).

I will definitely add this to my lesson plans again next year.  It was one of those experiences where you find yourself slightly overwhelmed by the utter chaos but completely awed by the creativity and engagement of your students.  At the end of the activity you feel the contradictory, but welcome, combination of being both drained and energized.

spherobridge2

Please Allow Me to Reiterate

I was feeling pretty clever.

As most of you know, that is never a good sign.

My creative, engaging activity for the day turned out to be one of those lessons that makes a teacher ask the dreaded question, “Should I continue this fiasco or give up and find a video?”

The concept was simple: I wanted to use the idea of Hexagonal Learning with my 3rd graders so they could synthesize what they had learned from our systems thinking book, Billibonk and the Big Itch.  One of the online tools for hexagonal thinking is called Think Link.  This reminded me, of course, of ThingLink.  And I thought, “They can make ThingLinks of their Think Links!”

Technically, the students didn’t use Think Link, though.  Instead I used the Hexagons Generator from ClassTools to print out the hexagons with words that related to the book. The students worked in groups to connect their hexagons in deep and meaningful ways that they could explain in detail using an interactive ThingLink.

Well, that was the plan.

The students quickly arranged their hexagons.  Then they took pictures of the groups and started making their ThingLinks.  They liked the idea of using video to explain each node that connected 2 or 3 hexagons, and started to get creative – using newscaster and professor voices.

Then they started to get a bit silly.

Plus I realized that their connections weren’t exactly deep and meaningful.  And some of them didn’t make any sense at all.

And then 2 groups accidentally lost 45 minutes of work on their iPads.

And the third group finished theirs, but ThingLink stubbornly refused to save it – grimly offering that I could “retry” or “delete” each time I attempted to upload it, but making absolutely no effort to offer the preferred third option, “Start this day over with a little less smugness and a little more planning.”

I looked at my giggly group of grade schoolers and took a deep breath.  Despite having to start their projects over, they were all quite cheerful.  And, the truth was that I had learned a lot from listening to their recordings – a lot that I needed to discuss with them to ensure they understood the text better.

We gathered in a circle and reflected on the day.  We clarified lessons learned.

And we decided to try it all again next week.

Earlier in the day, I had talked about “iterative”  with some of the teachers in the lounge.  We  agreed that it seemed to be quite the education buzzword these days, and I looked it up to make sure I was using it correctly.

This was the first definition I found. (Google’s version)

iterativeNot exactly helpful.

So, without any sense of irony, I looked it up again. (Wikipedia’s verson this time)

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 5.33.55 PM

Next week, we will attempt iteration #2 of the Hexagonal Learning Lesson.

Hopefully, we will get some things right and all of the mistakes we make will be new ones ;)

The Roses of Success

Edutopia’s Amy Erin Borovoy (@VideoAmy) recently curated a collection of videos that she titled, “Freedom to Fail Forward.” Always looking for ways to teach my younger students about developing a Growth Mindset, I was pleased to see that her final suggestion was a clip from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang called, “The Roses of Success.”

Here is a sample of the song lyrics:

“Every bursted bubble has a glory!
Each abysmal failure makes a point!
Every glowing path that goes astray,
Shows you how to find a better way.
So every time you stumble never grumble.
Next time you’ll bumble even less!
For up from the ashes, up from the ashes, grow the roses of success!”

As you can see, the message of the song is to learn from your mistakes and to use those setbacks to help yourself to improve.

image from http://www.idea-sandbox.com/blog/a-flying-car-ashes-dick-van-dyke-and-innovation/
image from http://www.idea-sandbox.com/

Visit Video Amy’s post for this video and other recommendations for learning to “fail forward.”

For more Growth Mindset links, check out this Pinterest Board!