Tag Archives: education

You Have Failed Me for the Last Time!

Two librarians in our district had me laughing so hard this week that grumpy cat would have spontaneously combusted if he was within hearing distance.

The librarians assigned their students to create memes for the library.  The results were so clever that I asked to share them for this week’s Phun Phriday post.

Student Created Library Meme courtesy of Sara Romine
Student Created Library Meme courtesy of Sara Romine

Sara Romine, otherwise known as @laffinglibrary, did a fabulous job explaining the whole process and giving examples in her most recent blog post.  My favorite library meme from her school is the last one; I’m pretty sure I look like that whenever I enjoy a good book!

Wendy Howk, @whowk, had her students add their memes to a Google Slides presentation.  Here is a link to the “highlights.” This is one of my favorites:

Student Created Library Meme via Wendy Howk

For more ideas on using memes, check out this post.


I should probably say that I have mixed feelings about Thrively.  I really like the concept but, for reasons I will explain later in this post, I can’t recommend it for public school classrooms.  As a parent, however, I think it offers great resources.

Thrively is a website where students can take a free strengths assessment.  Based on the results, you will receive suggestions for ways to maximize those strengths: inspirational videos, local clubs and events that would appeal to the student’s special interests,  apps, and activities to try at home.

The service is free, but there is a more detailed Strengths Roadmap that is offered for $19.99.

My 12-year-old daughter took the assessment.  It was pretty long, but not tedious.  There were some multimedia questions and definitely some that required thought before responding.

The results of my daughter’s assessment were enlightening for both of us, and it was exciting to see all of the suggested resources that we could use to help her to pursue her passions, several of which were new to me.

Thrively Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 5.09.55 PM Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 5.09.41 PM

There is an EDU version of Thrively, and a teacher can get details on an entire class of students.  However, some districts and parents might not want that kind of information gathered on children.  Also, some of the suggested activities include religious ones, which is one reason that I wouldn’t recommend Thrively for a public school setting.

The way I see using this is to share it with the parents of my students as a tool that they might want to use to learn more about their children and opportunities to enrich them in areas of interest.

You can view a brief informational video about Thrively below (or at this link)

Random Generator Add-On

I’m sure you never do this – spend hours looking for a digital solution for something that would take about 15 minutes manually ;)

But on the off, off, off-chance you have, maybe I can save you some time.

You see, I use a lot of Google Forms.  We are using them for a few club applications this year.  Both clubs are extremely popular, so we have to choose participants with a random drawing.

My need is simple – a tool that will automatically “draw” names from my Google Response sheet without me physically writing them down and putting them in a hat.

There are actually many tools for doing this.  Richard Byrne, for example, recently posted about how to make a random name selector with Google Sheets and Flippity.net.  Alice Keeler has got a great Random Student Chooser Template.

But I don’t really need anything that looks good for the drawings I’m doing; no one will be watching except the club sponsors.

I hit the jackpot when I looked in the “Add-Ons” on my spreadsheet. For those of you who don’t know, some of the Google products offer “Add-Ons” that automate all kinds of things, like making a sudoku puzzle for you.  (Yes, I know it’s sad that Sudoku was my first Add-On for this account.)

Sudoku Add-On

You will find Add-Ons in the menu on the top of Google Sheets next to Tools.  Once you click on it, you can choose, “Get Add-ons,” which will take you to the ones that are offered for Sheets.

Random Generator

Random Generator is free.  At first I didn’t think it would suit my purpose but figured I would try it anyway.  When I realized it would do what I needed, I nearly hugged my computer.

Here are the steps:

Open the Sheet that has information.  (In my case, it was the Responses to my club application.)  After you get the Random Generator Add-On, select a blank column.  Then, go back to Add-Ons and choose Random Generator and start it.  Random Generator will appear on the side.  In the Integer windows, put “1” to “whatever number of applicants you have.”  Then click on “Generate.”  Random numbers will appear in the column and you will instantly know where each person falls in the draw.  You can even select all the columns and sort your spreadsheet by the numbers.


Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 8.56.33 PM





Maybe you find the numbers confusing or you don’t even want to bother with sorting them afterward.  Instead, you can use “Custom List” in the Random Generator.  Choose “New List” and select the cells that have the first names in them.  After you’ve got your list, select a new blank column and click on “Generate.” You will have the first names randomly ordered in your column.  And boom, there’s your drawing!


Random Generator from List

The potential applications of this are enormous – random job assignments, random dates for bringing a class snack, etc…

Yes, I’m well aware that I could have written the names on pieces of paper and pulled them out one by one in less time than it took me to write this post.

But, what’s the fun in that? ;)

A Growth Mindset Alphabet

I saw this set of posters on Twitter the other day and really liked it.  “Dear Teacher” (@DearTeacherLT) has created the “Motivational ABC’s – Success Mindset Posters,” and sells them for $1.99 on Teachers Pay Teachers.  If you prefer to keep your money in your pocket, there are some free Growth Mindset resources on TPT as well.  Also, check out my Growth Mindset Pinterest Board for even more resources!

Alphabetical Mindset Posters from "Dear Teacher" available on TPT
Alphabetical Mindset Posters from “Dear Teacher” available on TPT

This American Life Educator Resources

“This American Life” is one of my absolute favorite radio programs. Hosted by Ira Flatow, each show is based on a theme.  The productions are amazing, top quality collections of real-life stories that will make you laugh, gasp, and cry.

I just found out “This American Life” has a page of Educator Resources.  You can look up shows by theme or school level. Educators from all over have contributed ways that they have connected different episodes to their curriculum, and there is a direct link to the episodes to which they refer.

If you’ve never listened to this show, I highly recommend you reward yourself with the “Squirrel Cop” episode on a day when you really need a laugh.  You can see what Greg Carsten, a middle school teacher, has to say about a great way to use “Squirrel Cop” in class.

Squirrel Cop
From: This American Life Educator Resources

As always, please preview any episode before playing it for your class!


A few months ago I gushed about a Kickstarter campaign that promised to bring one of my favorite computer games ever, Zoombinis, to the 21st century.  Due to the success of that campaign, the Zoombinis app is now available on iTunes and Google Play. Windows, Mac, and Kindle Fire versions will be available later this year.

I was excited to download the app a few weeks ago when it finally became available to Kickstarter supporters. Back when we were allowed to download our own software, I had the game in my classroom for my students to play.  I highly respected the logic skills the game promoted, so when my daughter was younger, I bought a version for her to try at home.

My daughter is now 12, and vaguely remembers playing the original game.  I guessed that she would like the app, but I did not predict the high level of engagement that I’ve observed the last few weeks.

The Zoombinis game is all about logic.  Your goal is to get the Zoombinis to their new home, navigating through perilous puzzles along the way.  Each Zoombini has the following attributes that can be mixed and matched: hair, eyes, feet, and noses.  The challenges are based on those attributes.

For example, the Allergy Cliffs have 2 bridges.  If you place a Zoombini on the correct bridge, the little guy will quickly cross.  If it’s the wrong bridge, the cliff sneezes him or her off.  You have to figure out the “rule” for each bridge.  Only blue noses?  Only the ones with glasses?  Carefully test your theories before too many sneezes make you lose some Zoombinis.


There are several different types of puzzles along the journey. If you aren’t good at one, that’s okay; the puzzle remains on that level until you’ve mastered it. Each puzzle is tailored to your skills, so after a few trips to the end you may end up with different puzzles on different levels of difficulty.

mapOne particular favorite is the pizza puzzle.  You must figure out exactly what toppings Arno wants on his pizza.  Children quickly learn that you need to be methodical because random guesses will end up with a Zoombini or two getting booted off the screen.

Playing Zoombinis together is a fun way for my daughter and I to bond.  It’s also a great opportunity to model problem-solving skills. One of the most frustrating qualities of the game is also one of the best qualities – very few instructions are given.  Watching a child struggle is never easy, but the way his or her face lights up when solving a Zoombinis problem makes it all worthwhile.

The Zoombinis app is $4.99.  This may seem like an enormous amount for an app, but I guarantee that it’s worth it.  It teaches so many thinking skills and sustains interest for a very long time.  If you are a teacher or a parent of multiple children, you will be happy to know that different students can save games on the same iPad so their progress won’t be lost.

This game is cute, fun, and educational.  What are you waiting for? Download it today!


The Serious Business of Play

At the intersection of art and science, you will find 3M’s recent Rube Goldberg Machine video.

It is a masterpiece that proves that logic and creativity are not mutually exclusive.