Tag Archives: writing

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!

Disney’s Create Tomorrowland XPrize Challenge

Okay. Full Disclosure – George Clooney is one of my favorite actors. But I promise that is not the reason I chose to mention the “Create Tomorrowland XPrize Challenge” on this blog even though George Clooney happens to be the star of the movie this contest is promoting.

I haven’t seen the movie, and I don’t know a lot about the contest, other than what can be read on the website.  However, if you know a child between 8 and 17 years of age who has an inventive imagination, you may want to investigate this opportunity.  The contest asks for videos, images, or stories that envision a beneficial invention that might exist in our future.

You can see specific entry guidelines here.  Don’t forget to visit the “Idea Portal” for some real-world examples of people who are working to shape a better future for all of us.

Submissions are due by 5/17/15 – so don’t procrastinate!  Who knows what life-saving ideas might be hibernating in the mind of a student, just waiting for the right circumstances to be revealed?

excellence

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.

dashworldmap

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!

CommonLit

I was so thrilled to see this post by Richard Byrne (who is one of my favorite Engaging Educators!) about CommonLit.

This is going to be an awesome resource for me to use with my 4th and 5th grade GT students.  I will let Richard tell you the details, but suffice it to say that it is a great way to encourage deep discussion in your class, and offers downloadable texts that you can use to tantalize your students with philosophical questions.

image from CommonLit.org
image from CommonLit.org

I plan to use this with Socratic Smackdown (which I also found out about from Richard).  Socratic Smackdown has been a great success in my classroom and CommonLit will augment it even more.

You might also want to consider using some of the CommonLit themes to enrich your students’ writing if they are participating in this year’s Philosophy Slam (deadline is 3/6/15). The “Social Change and Revolution” theme on CommonLit could definitely help students determine if violence or compassion has a greater impact on society.

 

Outside My Snow Globe…

One of the more popular posts on this blog (particularly during the winter months) is, “If I Lived in a Snow Globe, I Would Wear my Bike Helmet to Bed.”  This is a follow-up post for anyone who might want more details about the lesson I teach my gifted 1st graders.  For this project, it’s helpful to have at least one iPad and a video editing program.

First, I show my first graders the “Bumbleville” video referenced in the Bike Helmet post, and we discuss the perspective questions I listed.  We also read Snow Globe Family and compared the book to “Bumbleville.”

Next, the students brainstorm a list of interesting locations.  They can range anywhere from the jungle to Mount Rushmore.

I ask the students to choose one location and pretend they are in a snow globe at that location.  They write a rough draft of a short story describing what they see outside the snow globe.

As students finish at different times, they take each other’s picture using the iSnowdome app, which is free.  The app places you inside a snow globe, and makes a short video with the snow blowing around you.  My students sometimes like to ham it up and pose as though they are freezing cold – even though we live in San Antonio and it’s usually about 85 degrees outside.

I also take screen shots in the app of each student so I can print those out and add them to their final drafts.  The screen shots can be used for augmented reality purposes, as well.

When the students complete their final drafts, they meet with me separately and we record their stories over the iSnowdome videos in iMovie on the iPads.  (Wow, that was a lot of “i”s in one sentence!)

In iMovie the students get to choose which music will accompany their video, and that’s always interesting!

I display the stories with their pictures.  At this point, you can either send the videos home, link them on your blog, or do what I did – use Aurasma.

I link each child’s picture to his narrated video.  Now, when they take their projects home, all the parents have to do is scan the picture with the free Aurasma app and the video will play.

If you haven’t used Aurasma, here is a link to their tutorial videos. Also, I have a quite a few augmented reality resources gathered on this page.

Want to see an example?  Make sure you have Aurasma downloaded on your mobile device.  Subscribe to the Hidden Forest Elementary channel.  Then scan one of the pictures below to see the videos!

Photo Jan 05, 1 57 35 PM

 

Photo Jan 05, 1 58 06 PM

 

The Other Part of the Story

It’s the last day of the year.  Like many of you, I am reflecting on the past year, and wondering what the new one will bring.  During this reflection, I opened an e-mail from WordPress (who hosts this blog) which gave me my stats from the last twelve months.  Amongst the surprising information that 8 people in Nicaragua found the time to visit my blog this year, I ran across this list of my most popular posts of the year:

Most Popular PostsNotice anything?  Don’t worry if you don’t.  I didn’t, either, until I read this observation from WordPress:

Writing Has Staying Power

 

My writing has staying power!  Wow, is that a compliment – or is that just a nice way to say, “Hey, your most popular post was written three years ago!  What happened?!!!”

Self-doubt ensued.

Temptations to investigate further flooded my brain.

So did the urge to quit.

I thought about the time I would save not blogging, the periodic twinges of guilt I could avoid by telling my family, “Just a minute while I finish up this post,” the frequent escalations of panic when I realize I have no idea what I’m going to write.

And I realized that I can’t give it up.  I love blogging, and I love thinking that someone in Nicaragua might be interested in something I have to say.  The connections I’ve made and the education I’ve gained from fellow bloggers and social networkers have energized me and inspired me.  There is nothing in the statistics that measures the growth I’ve experienced as an educator since I first started blogging.

Statistics can be informative, but they don’t give the whole picture.  According to Ron De Legge II,  “99 percent of all statistics only tell 49 percent of the story.”

Something that might need to be emphasized to the people in charge of education legislation in 2015…

Statistics

 

Tried and True – Parallel Poetry

an example of Parallel Poetry done by one of my 4th grade students
an example of Parallel Poetry done by one of my 4th grade students

On this blog, I tend to post about a lot of ideas that I find, and some readers don’t always get a chance to know if I ever tried them – or if they were complete flops.  This week, I want to feature a few past ideas that I did try and that were successful – and that I definitely want to do again.

If you teach a poetry unit, I strongly urge you to check out this post that I did on Parallel Poetry.  It has definitely been one of my “Tried and True” lessons throughout the years for me, and I am always delighted by the results from my students.  I felt so strongly about the power of this activity that I submitted it to Ian Byrd for his Byrdseed TV.  (You need a subscription to view the full lesson.)

While we are talking about poetry, I would also direct you to Newspaper Blackout Poetry if you have never tried it.  This past year was our first attempt, and I definitely plan to do it again.