This week in Y5 and T1 we read the story, "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves" and then got busy building! At the end of the story, the old lady sneezes up a scarecrow, so I thought it would be perfect to bring out the scarecrow rubber duckies. I asked students to build (in partners) the tallest freestanding tower possible with the wooden planks they had in their containers. Once they had built their tower, they had to see if they could balance a scarecrow rubber duck on top. This definitely tested their building skills - there was a lot of building, rebuilding, and then even some more rebuilding. Even before they began building, we discussed some of the different ways that you can build with the planks (standing up on the short side, standing up on the long side, laying down on the flat side). I told them it was important to build with their partner to come up with one idea (as they are getting good with sharing a container of materials, but we are still working on building together) and then build it together. They worked through it though and some groups had some successful builds!
Coding is one of those things about technology that I just love. I think it is for the same reason I love math - it challenges me and is different every time you try a problem. The process may be the same or similar, but the outcome will be different. Even though the Hour of Code is not until the week of December 9-15 this year, I thought I would get a head start on introducing it to my 4th grade STEAM students. You can never have enough exposure to coding if you ask me!
As I was gathering websites for the kids to work through today, I came across the image shown here. It shares some great points for why kids should have opportunities to code. I love that coding promotes computational thinking (decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction, algorithms). Computational thinking is not something that just lives in the coding or even math worlds, but we use aspects of it daily, whether we recognize it or not. A kid-friendly graphic I found that explains computational thinking is below. These are things we do everyday, even as adults!
As students were working through the Symbaloo linked below, I was honestly astounded at the academic vocabulary I heard that originated naturally through exploration. I heard students talking to their table partners using directional words, "if then, then that", "it is only doing what you are telling it to do", and many others. As I was observing from the front of the class, often times I would see a student use their hands or even stand up and walk through the directional code to double check their work on the computer. For most students, this was their first introduction to coding, so I intentionally did not go too deep with instruction, but just enough to hook them. Based on their responses on their exit slip, they definitely were hooked!
We have been working really hard the past couple of weeks in Y5 and T1 building, engineering, and using some serious critical thinking skills. This week I wanted to focus on the "A" of STEAM (I use "aesthetics" instead of "art"), and see what they would come up with for the story, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Turkey. This activity allowed them to focus on some fine motor skills such as coloring, cutting, and gluing. We read the story, they colored one of the circles, and then they cut out the circle. We hot glued it on a popsicle stick (for the instant hold and dry), and ta-da! They had a craftivity that they could take home and share about the story we read in class.
After building our Story Sticks, we then used Creation Cubes to build stands to display our new works of art. This was definitely challenging for them and I am so glad that I decided to add this at the last minute. They struggled with how do they build something to hold up their stick and make it look different from everyone else's. There was such great conversation and kids naturally gravitated towards helping each other.
I have been wanting to do a Breakout EDU game with my 4th grade STEAM class, but was nervous about introducing the box and locks as I know the class time would not be productive as it could be if the locks were not involved. I tried a "Crack the Code" game a couple of weeks ago for International Sloth Day, and let's just say, I did not blog about it, so you can probably piece together how it went. It was a good learning experience for me though, as I learned a lot about my students, how they learn with minimal direction, their problem solving skills, and their need to scaffold their confidence level with each clue. Sooo, attempt number two for Thanksgiving!
As I was not implementing this game with a physical Breakout EDU box and locks, I used a recording sheet for groups to record their answers as they worked through clues. My intention was to provide them with guidance in what type of answer they will be looking for in their solution. I learned from Crack the Code attempt number one that this was a whole new type of learning, problem solving, and collaboration, so I wanted to provide some indirect guidance in getting them going in clue solving. That way the next time we do a Crack the Code (or a Breakout EDU game), they will have a better understanding of expectations and how it is necessary to solve the clues to be successful.
For this game, I intentionally started with Clue 1 being an easy clue and each clue getting progressively more difficult. My goal with this clue was really to get them warmed up, talking with each other, and working together to solve a problem.
For this clue, I was really looking for students to use their reasoning skills to find the answer. The text excerpt is not really of importance in solving the puzzle, other than the words in bold. I wanted them to learn how to connect different kinds of information to solve a problem.
When designing clues, I like to work in some clue types that incorporate some different content areas other than the theme of the game. In this case, it was binary language as a bit of an introduction to coding. I knew this would be a bit more challenging than the other clues, but hey, it is a good brain workout. So, why not a few "dad jokes" to make it a bit fun?
This was the only clue that I designed that incorporated another element other than a pencil or dry erase marker. As it used the blacklight flashlight, I intentionally placed this clue last (as it can often be a distraction). In my experience, as students realize they have almost solved all of the clues, they tend to really focus and work hard on the last one so that they can say they completed all of the clues. The Magic Square type of puzzle is often challenging for students as well, so I wanted them to have a sense of accomplishment prior to reaching this puzzle.
I always try and include a math puzzle in my games as it helps them see that math can be used in a variety of ways. As some of the clues in this game were easier, I included a "Loose Feathers" bonus clue in case groups finished the four clues of the game early and needed an early finisher activity.
This week in Y5 and T1 we moved forward into our fall/Thanksgiving theme. We read How to Catch a Monster for Thanksgiving, so why not How to Catch a Turkey for Thanksgiving? The kids really enjoy these books so far and I enjoy their rhyming.
After reading our story, we dove in to building some turkey traps of our own with Brain Flakes. I have found the kids have a hard time working with these as it does work their fine motor skills, but am finding the more we use them, the less frustrated they feel. I had little plastic turkeys in which they had to build a trap to capture the turkey. There were quite a variety of traps, and some even held their turkey in so I could not pull it out! The kids had a great time building and it was great how their traps led to some imaginative stories and how they would bait their traps. The number of "gobble gobble gobble"s that I heard was too many to count!
As the end of the first trimester came to a close, I had a chance to work with my 6th grade buddies in doing a Thanksgiving-themed STEAM activity. This is a little twist on the Pumpkin Elevators activity - with a little Thanksgiving flair. Students were asked to design the tallest tower possible that could lift a turkey in a little pot using a pulley system. The materials they could use are straw builders, connectors, 2 pieces of string, and 2 pipe cleaners. One thing I told the students though was although they had 2 pieces of string, they could only pull on 1 piece of string to move their pulley. Also, once they were able to work their pulley system, we started adding marbles (5 at a time) to add additional weight. I think the most we were able to add was 35 - pretty impressive!
What I really enjoyed about doing this activity with 6th graders (compared to the 4th graders with Pumpkin Elevators), was that the Science concepts were understood on a deeper level. The students made connections quicker was that the tallest tower isn't necessarily the most structurally sound. Their designs at first greatly different from their end designs!
Just to point out how much I love students who not only think like me, but take it one step further. Below, the picture on the left with the blue bin shows how I gave the materials to students. The picture on the left shows 2 bins after they had been reset for the next hour. Clearly, the purple bin makes me swoon! The red on the other hand...well..at least they got everything back in the bin. :)
A short week before the holidays will guarantee that kids will be wired...so why not capture their desire to communicate and channel it into a fun activity with Legos?! I had recently come across these Lego Challenge Cards from The Fickle Giraffe and thought it would be a great idea to modify for a Thanksgiving theme. The Pilgrims faced many challenges when they settled in Plymouth Colony after all!
I started off by showing them this video to give them a bit of background knowledge. If they paid attention enough, they could also use some of the ideas in the video for their challenge.
This was a fun challenge for me to watch, as working in pairs creating a solution to a problem was more difficult than I anticipated. I am not sure if it was due to the short week and upcoming break, or if they truly had a difficult time discussing their ideas, coming to a common solution, and then actually building a prototype. Either way, it was a good brain workout for them! They came up with some great visual solutions and were able to explain (either in written or verbal words) why they constructed what they did. If I were to take this idea a step further (time permitting), I would love to take the students outside and ask them to construct actual representations of their ideas using resources from nature. This would give some great hands-on experience (and a little more realism) for what the Pilgrims had to go through.
Student Challenge Solutions
What is a Book Spin?
After completing an activity with your students, we would love to see what you have done! Share your book spin implementation on Twitter using the hashtag #NovBookSpin.
November Book Spin Reading Selection - A Plump and Perky Turkey
Below is the recording of the selected book for November's Book Spin, "A Plump and Perky Turkey" by Teresa Bateman.
If you are unable to view the video below, please click here.
Curriculum "Spins" on A Plump and Perky Turkey
In the presentation below, you will be able to view many different curriculum spins you may use in your classroom that use the book "A Plump and Perky Turkey" as a starting conversation point. Feel free to use one, two, three, or all of them with your students!
If you are unable to view the presentation below, please click here.
Last month, I shared a Halloween-themed QR code listening center resource. Based on popular demand and request, I will be sharing a QR code listening center activity each month. These QR code activities are not limited to just use in a listening center though - it is best used when the materials fit within your classroom needs. For some it may be a listening center, others it might be something that can be sent home for an evening listening activity, while others may even find other ways that they would best complement instruction and student learning.
Based on teacher feedback from the introductory Halloween QR code listening center resource, I have started adding Accelerated Reader (AR) levels as well as Lexile levels (when available for books). This can be especially helpful in listening centers if students are following along with the book so that they can select appropriate books for their reading level.
Below, I have provided a link to download a file I created with approximately 40 "book cards" with QR codes on them (all related around the theme of Thanksgiving). All you need to do is print out the cards and download a free QR Code Reader app on the iPad (I personally use QR Reader on my iPad). Then the students just need to scan the code and they can listen to the story. The cards have the title, author, picture of the book, book level (when available) and the QR code on them.
You may see this image when you try to download the file.
No worries! Just go ahead and click the Download button. It is just a big file and Google Drive cannot provide a preview for the document. There are many book resources after all!
Please leave any comments below on how you use these in your classroom or any other ways you use QR codes in the classroom. I always love hearing new ideas!
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