Category Archives: K-5

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!

I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon

I don’t know if you recognize the title of this post as a Sesame Street song (I didn’t), but it is.  The song was written by Jeff Moss, but there is a new cover of it that appears in this Laughing Squid post.

screen shot from Dave Werner's cover of Sesame Street's "I Don't Want to Live on the Moon"
screen shot from Dave Werner’s cover of Sesame Street’s “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon”

Dave Werner is the artist responsible for this delightful version.  I’m embedding his video below.  However, the Laughing Squid post is worth visiting as it includes the original version as well as a beautiful video that explains how Dave Werner made his rendition, which is truly a love letter to family, Sesame Street, and the incredible talent of Jim Henson.

Left Brain Craft Brain

Yesterday’s post about the “Engineering – Go For It!” website left me thinking that I should look for some good sites for younger students related to engineering, too.  Today I have one to share with you.  “Left Brain Craft Brain” is a blog by a mother who happens to be a chemical engineer who loves to craft.  She shares projects that she has done with her young daughter, and the activities are well-suited for PreK through 2nd grade children.

Since St. Patrick’s Day is coming up for some of us, you might want to try the “Light Up St. Patrick’s Day Card.

image from Left Brain Craft Brain
image from Left Brain Craft Brain

There are many other St. Patrick’s Day activities on the site, too. But don’t worry – you don’t need to have the luck of the Irish to benefit from Left Brain Craft Brain.  There are plenty of other topics that will surely interest your young artistic engineer!

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:

Not enough?  Technology Rocks. Seriously has way more St. Patrick’s Day links.

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

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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