Category Archives: K-5

Paws in Jobland (Update)

This week, I’ve decided to reblog some of my more popular posts with some updates. This post originally appeared on my blog almost 3 years ago, and remains one of the top viewed posts.

One way to engage students in school is to make their learning relevant to them.  And, one way to do this is to let them start thinking about possible careers and how their learning can be useful in those careers.  Paws in Jobland is a great site for younger students to learn about many of the possibilities that await them once they finish school.  A simple animated dog guides them through the different choices (accompanied by text and the choice of sound, great UDL site!)- from a Job Finder to an Alphabetical Search.  The Job Finder asks brief questions about the student’s interests, and then suggests some possible fields for which he or she might be suited.  Within each field is a list of careers, and the student can click on each one to find out more.

I know that a lot of classrooms work on goal-setting, and this would be a fun activity that would expose the kids to many areas that might not have been considered by their young minds yet.  Paws in Jobland may not encompass every single career, but it is a great introduction to the “real world”.

UPDATE 6/25/15:  When I first wrote about this site, I had no idea that there were downloadable resources for K-5 teachers utilizing it.  Also, for a simple introduction to the site, you might want to use these printable instructions.

For older students you might want to check out Math Apprentice, My Role Model,  or Engineering: Go For It!

“Make” a Father’s Day Card That Lights Up His Day

As this is a “National Week of Making” in the U.S., it seems only appropriate that makers around the country should spend some time on making cool gifts and cards for Fathers’ Day on June 21st.

I saw a tweet earlier today from @Makerspaces_com that shared a link to this Instructables page with gift ideas.  As not all of the projects are appropriate for elementary-aged kids, I  sought out something that would be a bit less labor intensive than building your own barbecue barrel.

I saw these instructions for a Light Up LED Card, which reminded me of the ones our Maker Club did in May.  I didn’t get a chance on that post to show some of the variations that the students did after learning the basics of the “Everything is Awesome” card.  Here are a couple of student originated versions:

Clown Circuit Fathers Day Card Minecraft Fathers Day Card

Hopefully the students remembered to keep the circuits open so their batteries don’t run out before Fathers’ Day!

You can find more fun projects and resources for any time of the year here.

Quiver 3D Coloring App

Before you download this app (available in Google Play or iTunes), please note that it is not “Quiver – The Matchmaking Game.”  Trust me, you don’t want that on your elementary classroom iPads ;)

Quiver-3D Coloring App is the new face of ColAR, an augmented reality app that brought colored pages to life.  In fact, when you go to the Quiver website, you will probably recognize some of the same coloring pages that were offered by ColAR.  One of my favorite free pages, the one they offer for Dot Day, is thankfully still there – although it now has “Quiver” across the top.

Quiver offers a few new free pages of particular interest to educators.  I think the Animal Cell one was part of the ColAR inventory, but I hadn’t seen the Planet Earth or Volcano ones before. I played with the Planet Earth one last night, and wish I had seen it before my last class with my 1st graders.  They were learning about the continents, and would have flipped over the augmented reality – especially the different viewing options of the earth, being able to manipulate it, and the ability to take pictures and video.

Planet Earth Page: You can choose different modes - including one that shows your own coloring and designs
Planet Earth Page: You can choose different modes – including one that shows your own coloring and designs

I decided to check out “Magic Letter” (also free).  I have absolutely no idea what the characters are saying or what the writing is, but the video that shows up when you scan it is very cute.  As you can see, it looks a bit like an award certificate, so I put my name on it to see what it would do.  At the end of the video, the characters hold up the “letter” with your writing and confetti flies.

Magic LetterLike Zookazam, there are free features and paid features in Quiver. Really, though, the free ones are only limited by your students’ creativity.

For more augmented reality fun, check out my resource page here. There are lessons, activities, and app suggestions. For these last few days of school, augmented reality might be just the thing to  engage your students.

 

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. It might even appeal to older graduates; a friend of mine attested that she gave the book as a gift to an appreciative cat-loving niece graduating from college.

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.