Category Archives: K-5

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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A Dash for Treasure

Full disclosure – our class received a Dash and Dot package from Wonder Workshop for review.  

Last month I posted an article about the new additions to our classroom, Dash and Dot (and Fitzgerald).  Since then, the school Maker Club, our Robotics team, and my 1st graders have been learning more about the features of these robots.

My 1st grade GT students are learning about different countries around the world.  Before digging into that research, I wanted to make sure they understood the difference between countries and continents, and had a general understanding of their locations.  We have a giant map of the world on our wall, but I thought Dash and Dot might be able to help us by taking their own virtual trip around the globe.  I ordered this vinyl map for the floor from Amazon.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 6.55.38 PM

My daughter helped me to write an adventure for Dash that took him to every continent. (Yes, she came up with the idea for the Shoe of Honesty in the story – which the students found quite hilarious!) As I read the story out loud, the students took turns programming Dash at each juncture using the Blockly app.

A Dash for Treasure

The synergizing and problem-solving were phenomenal.  They took their task of guiding Dash very seriously.  They learned about angles and programming logic.  And, in the meantime, they learned their continents and compass directions.


My daughter and I deliberately stopped the story before the end. When we got to Dash’s “uh-oh” the students were in complete suspense.  It took practically no prompting from me to get them to write their own endings and to illustrate them.

You can see the endings the students wrote below. (Click on the image to see a larger version.) Don’t be confused if you see “Fitzgerald” in some of their stories.  We have 2 Dashes, so one is named Fitzgerald.  The students are very attached to both, and get upset if all of the robots are not included!

If you are interested in downloading a copy of the slide show with the story and programming prompts, click here.  Here is the PDF of the writing page the students used.  Thank you to Susan Prabulos (@fabprab) for the awesome graphics!

Be Together. Not the Same.

First of all, I should mention that I have never in my life used an Android phone.  So, this post has nothing to do with persuading you to go out and buy one.  I just really like the message in this ad, and the delivery is very cute.

Image from "Friends Furever" video
Image from “Friends Furever” video

I added this video to my Inspirational Videos for Students Pinterest Board last week.  When I showed it to my 5th graders, they cracked up and begged me to show it to them again.  When we discussed the meaning of the slogan, they nailed it.

Still riding high on the laughter of my 5th graders, I showed the video to my 1st graders the next day.  When I pulled up the video, two of the boys started making fun of the orangutan because his stomach “looks like a butt.”  This actually emphasized the reason I wanted to show this video to them in the first place – but more of that in a moment.

Once I played it through, the students agreed with the fifth graders that it was pretty cute.  This time, though, I asked the group to write the message they thought it was trying to convey (besides, “Buy Android phones.”)  You can click on the images below to see some of their ideas.

This leads to why I showed the video: We are researching different countries, and some of the students were critical of the differences they saw in the research books during the previous class.  I tried to explain that just because people may not dress like us or eat the same foods it doesn’t make them “weird.”

I was sure I would need to lead the students to the connection between the video and the lesson I hoped it would teach.  But, after finishing her sentence and drawing, one girl looked up at me and said, “I know why you showed us that video.”


“Because you wanted us to see that you can be different and still be friends – like the people in the countries we are studying.”

Yep.  She nailed it.


Challenge Boxes

This week (except for yesterday when I was feeling a little too imprisoned by my self-imposed commitment) I am going to dedicate my posts to sharing resources I learned about at TCEA in Austin last week.  I think packing too much info into a blog post is overwhelming, so if you are craving more, feel free to check out my notes (which are not finished yet!) here.

There were multiple sessions on Maker Spaces at TCEA this year.  If you go to the notes I linked to above, you can find even more info on Maker Space sessions I attended. (It has a special tab on the spreadsheet.)

One of the sessions was presented by Katie Hollis, Marisa Vickery, and Lindsey Mahany who have seriously The. Best. Job titles. Ever. They are “Facilitators for Learning and Innovation” in Dripping Springs ISD.  Cool, right?

The trio presented several sessions, and you can find the links to all of them here.  In the interest of brevity, I’m going to limit this post to one idea out of the many that I loved: Challenge Boxes.

Not every school has a “space” for making.  Even when a school does have extra room, not every child necessarily has the luxury of time to spend in that space.  So, one way to tackle this is to have Challenge Boxes available for checkout.  These plastic boxes (which Lindsey bought at Ikea, I believe) are each packed with low-cost or recycled materials and contain Challenge Cards with assignments that range from making a door opener to designing a spool racer.

The F.L.I. girls (even cooler, right?!!!) were kind enough to provide a link to a folder with all of the necessary paperwork – labels for the boxes, response cards, and 20 different Challenge Cards.

Teachers could check out these boxes for individuals or small groups in their classroom.  They could be a center – or several different centers.

If you have any questions about Challenge Boxes, head on over to the F.L.I. girls’ site where you can find their contact info and much more!

Also, I have a Pinterest Board about Maker Spaces here.

Challenge Box Card example from the F.L.I. Girls
Challenge Box Card example from the F.L.I. Girls

Love Doesn’t Always Defy Logic

I was going to title this post, “VD is Making me ADD.” Fortunately I realized that was a bad idea – for so many reasons.

Well, I kind of lied.  I have been saying for two days that all of my posts this week would be about the TCEA conference I attended last week.  But then one Valentine resource popped up.  And then another.   And I thought that some of you might actually want to learn about them before Valentine’s Day which, of course, for those of us in the U.S. who follow the Hallmark Holiday Calendar, is this coming Saturday.

Even though it’s not my favorite holiday, Valentine’s Day does lend itself to some fun classroom activities.   I’ve already posted a bunch of resources.  It’s kind of sad, actually, that I have more links to Valentine’s Day resources than Presidents’ Day.  I think it’s a silent rebellion against working  on a day that the students get a holiday…

Anyway, here are a couple more to add to the list of ways to have fun  teach critical thinking and problem solving skills that are vital for standardized testing ;)

Valentine’s Day Sudoku – I have some other links to online and printable sudoku puzzles here, but these free printables are particularly well-suited for Kinder and 1st graders.

Hopscotch Hearts – I thought it would be fun for my students to use Hopscotch (the iPad coding app) to make something Valentine-y, and they have been working on their own ideas on and off for a couple of weeks.  (You can see what a few of my 2nd graders have done so far here – most of them haven’t finished, yet.)  Then I saw a tweet from Hopscotch about a new tutorial they just posted to make a “Pixel Art Heart.”  My 3rd graders tried it out yesterday and really liked it.  A few of them finished the code and then started modifying it to make the heart bigger or smaller as well as different colors.  A couple of other students messed up on the code and I loved watching their peers working with them to try to figure out where they went wrong. (Because I had absolutely no idea!)

So those are my two off-task suggestions for today.  I would promise that I’ll be back to the plan tomorrow, but who knows what will capture my attention between now and then?

Pixel Art Heart