Category Archives: Teaching Tools

Or You Could Organize a Flash Mob

“I don’t know why they even make the kids go to school during the last 2 weeks.  The textbooks have been picked up, grades turned in, and all the teachers do is show movies.” Okay, first of all – NOT TRUE! Okay, maybe some of it is sometimes true.  Possibly.

But think about it. Let’s say school ended in March instead of June. Wouldn’t we still have the same problems? As far as I can see, the only solutions are:

A.) Make the end date of school a surprise every year by having a groundhog predict it with his shadow:

“Hooray! He saw his shadow.  That means six more weeks until we can ask him to come out again and repeat this process.”

“Oh darn! He didn’t see his shadow! That means today is your last day of school!”

OR

2.) Schedule all standardized for the last 2 days of school.  Because, let’s face it, that’s the only thing that gives school meaning. Otherwise, it’s just about learning for the sake of learning.

Granted, neither of those solutions would be very popular.  So, I think we have to go with Door #3 and make the last two weeks as meaningful as possible – maybe even more meaningful. What can we do to make ourselves, as teachers, feel less like babysitters?

Give our students some physical activity by teaching them how to pack up a classroom. Give our students some physical activity with GoNoodle or Deskercises.

Stretch their brains by showing them Monsters Inc for the 70th time. Stretch their brains by showing them Word Picture Brainteasers or stumping them with 50 Riddles.

Let them play Heads Up Seven Up. Let them play Creativity Games or one of the bazillion quizzes on Kahoot.

Reminisce by showing them a slide show of pictures from the year. Reminisce by creating a Thinglink of a class picture with links to a video from each student or allowing them to each make their own Pic Collage that represents their year. (Check out the new Pic Collage for Kids app here!)

Assign them to draw whatever they want, which usually results in Minecraft, Pokemon, or My Little Pony posters they all want to gift you with. Assign them to draw something that challenges them to think, like a S.C.A.M.P.E.R. picture or a Sketch Note that summarizes their year.

Have your students start moving your supplies to your new classroom for next year. Have your students design a Rube Goldberg Machine to move your supplies or try out one of the many engineering challenges supplied by the F.L.I. girls in their Challenge Boxes.

Speaking of boxes, you probably need to pack some – so get those young, energetic kids to load them up for you. Speaking of boxes, you can always have the students bring in their own, and design games to play the last day of school (on which they will be sure to bring those games home).  Even better, put all the stuff you don’t need anymore into a pile and challenge them to make something new using only those supplies (with the understanding that their new invention will definitely go home with them on the last day).

I think I’ve suggested enough ideas to last one or two days.  How about we crowdsource activities for the other 7 or 8 days?  Put your favorite end-of-year lessons in the comments below!

image from:
image from: Irvine Unified School District

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.

 

Give the Green Light with a Green Screen

“You mean they didn’t really go there?” a student asked me.

She was pointing to a bulletin board of Photo Mapo projects by my 1st graders.  Each student had chosen a Google Street View image of a landmark in the country they were studying.  Using the Green Screen app by DoInk, the students inserted pictures of themselves in front of the landmarks.  They also took video of themselves explaining the landmarks.  The pictures were inserted into Photo Mapo, linked to their videos on Aurasma, and presto – interactive postcards.

Photo Apr 14, 8 52 49 AM

Several of my grade levels have taken advantage of the Green Screen app we purchased this year.  My 2nd graders used it to portray themselves in front of famous bridges around the world, and one chose to use it to make a video about her biomimetic invention.

Biomimicry

In yesterday’s post, I showed how word clouds can be fun with the Green Screen app (thanks to Tricia Fuglestad for the idea).

Tricia also gave me the idea for the Time Magazine covers my 5th graders worked on last week.  Here is a link to her post about this project.  For our own versions, my students used Green Screen by DoInk and Canva.

Time Magazine (Some of my students have become so familiar with using the screen that they automatically turn it around to the blue side if a student is wearing green so he or she won’t appear as a disembodied head.

If you want some more green screen ideas, I highly recommend you do a search on Tricia’s Fugleblog.  Don’t have the ability to buy apps? Touchcast is free, though not quite as user friendly for younger students.  No green screen in your classroom?  There are tons of instructions for makeshift screens on the web, including pizza boxes, science boards, sheets, and paint.

Let your students travel to any continent, planet, or even the future with a green screen.

 

Word Cloud App Smashing

I think we’ve already established that I have very little imagination.  I admire creativity, but I am much better at borrowing other people’s ideas than I am at generating my own.

When I first learned about Word Clouds, for example, I thought they were fun but really couldn’t think of too many applications for their use.  Fortunately, I network with many other people who can think outside the cloud.

For example, someone tweeted the other day about using Word Clouds with Thinglink.  I wish I remember who.  Great idea!  If you are using iOS, you can use the ABCya Word Cloud app along with the Thinglink app.  On the web, there are plenty of word cloud generators such as Tagxedo and Wordle, and Thinglink has a web application as well.

In April, Tricia Fugelstad blogged about using word clouds with self-portraits.  Since we were using iPads in my class, my students had a bit different workflow than Tricia’s students.  Again, we used the ABCya app.  We also used Green Screen by DoInk.  (Unfortunately, the latter one isn’t free – but well worth every penny!)

wordcloudselfportrait

Last week, Susan Prabulos blogged about using word clouds to reminisce about the year.  I realized her idea would work perfectly with the Pic Collage and/or Canva project I planned for my students. Since we were using iPads, we couldn’t use Tagxedo to create a special shape (great idea, Susan!) but the students enjoyed it anyway.

My 2nd graders were short on time (and somewhat keyboard challenged) so we brainstormed a word cloud to represent our year in GT together.  Then they added it to Pic Collages they created using self-selected pictures from our blog.

Some inserted the word cloud into the layout,

wordcloudpiccollage1

while others chose to use the word cloud as their background image.

wordcloudpiccollage2

Of course, you could take this activity even farther by creating a Thinglink from the collage and having students reflect on how the photos relate to the words in the cloud.

For more word cloud ideas, check out this post from awhile back.

Makey Makey Go

I really wish Kickstarter would offer gift cards.

I have a huge obsession with creativity – and browsing Kickstarter fuels that craving.  I am awed by the imagination of the inventors, and constantly berating myself for not coming up with any of these ideas.

So I do the next best thing.

I back them.

Because it takes imagination to recognize imagination, right? By throwing in my ten or twenty dollars I’m saying, “Well, I may not have dreamed up this awesome product, but at least I’m innovative enough to realize its cutting edge potential.”

Right?

Anyway, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see that Makey Makey Go is going to “go” far.  Its predecessor, Makey Makey, was one of the 50 top-funded Kickstarter projects ever. I’ve mentioned Makey Makey on this blog several times, including recommending it as a great holiday gift. Jay Silver, the inventor of the original, is behind the new, portable version.  You absolutely must see his suggestions for the many uses of Makey Makey Go, including several taking-selfies-in-odd-situations solutions.

I, of course, went with the $39 Pledge because:

1. You get a Bonus Tin

and

B. You get two Makey Makey Go Sticks – which means I can wear them as earrings.

image from: Makey Makey Go Kickstarter
image from: Makey Makey Go Kickstarter

Totally worth it.

 

 

7 Books That Make Great Graduation Gifts

After doing yesterday’s post about videos to inspire graduates, I realized that I could easily  list a few books that I would recommend as graduation gifts.  Oh, The Places You’ll Go is a regular favorite, but here are some lesser known choices that might work:

For Kindergarten or Primary Students:

Pete the Cat’s Groovy Guide to Life by Kimberly and James Dean (I just ordered this, so I can’t whole-heartedly recommend it, yet.  However, I will update this with a blog post as soon as I get a chance to review it.)

image from: Pete the Cat's Groovy Guide to Life by
image from: Pete the Cat’s Groovy Guide to Life by Kimberly and James Dean

For Elementary (5th or 6th Grades) or Middle School Graduates:

Heroes for my Daughter (or Heroes for my Son) by Brad Meltzer

365 Days of Wonder by RJ Palacios

Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome by Brad Montague and Robbie Novak

For High School or College Graduates:

Whatever You Are Be a Good One by Lisa Congdon

Zen Pencils Book by Gavin Than

Things Don’t Have to Be Complicated edited by Larry Smith

Of course, you don’t have to restrict your gift-giving to graduates. Teachers and administrators might appreciate these, too ;)

You can check out more general gift ideas on this Pinterest Board, and I have some other recommended books here.

Graduation Inspiration

As graduation season rolls around once again, I thought I would compile a list of videos that I’ve found over the years that eloquently describe the hopes and dreams I have for my students in the future. I’ve placed the length of each video beside it.  Not all of these are graduation speeches, but they all give one or more of the following messages: Be Kind, Work Hard, and Make the Most of Your Time and Abilities.  Most of these videos (and many more) can be found on my “Inspirational Videos for Students” Pinterest Board.  As always, please preview any video before you show it to your students.

graduation

Thoughts on Kindness from George Saunders (2:12)

Making It from StoryCorps (2:43)

If You’ve Never Failed, You’ve Never Lived (1:16)

Ashton Kutcher’s Teen Choice Award Speech (4:40), Ashton Kutcher on his Teen Choice Speech (3:15) – better for older students

The Time You Have in Jellybeans (2:44)

212: The Extra Degree Inspirational Movie (2:59)

Kid President Graduation Speech (4:12)

The Real Purpose of Your Life (2:18)

These last two are my all-time favorite videos to show departing students:

Jeff Bezos at Princeton (18:44 – his part starts around 6:27)

Mark Bezos: A Life Lesson from a Volunteer Firefighter (4:40)

For more resources, Amy Borovoy curated a wonderful list last May for Edutopia. You can find it here.