Tag Archives: elementary

Makerspaces in Action: Cardboard Challenge

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When I heard about the Global Cardboard Challenge, I absolutely had to get my school involved!  I felt that this activity would be a wonderful way to get my feet wet with my classes in the makerspace ocean.  The idea is simple but the possibilities are endless–students take recyclable materials (mainly cardboard) and build something from their imagination.  It was a low-cost event that was easy to plan and execute.

I decided to make this a pre-holiday-break event, and about a month before, I began to reach out to the entire school community with a simple flyer and urged students and staff alike to donate cardboard, plastic bottles, egg cartons, tape, glue, etc.  The materials came streaming in and it was amazing to see just how much accumulated in the library media center in the weeks before the Cardboard Challenge.  Everyone from my third graders all the way up to my sixth graders are enjoying sketching out their designs and slowly bringing their creations to life.  As one fifth grade student put it:  “The library class is so much fun!  I have never done anything like this before!”  It is amazing seeing my students tap into their imagination and take ownership of the lesson and their learning.  Watching them testing out different techniques and discussing plans while building is absolutely wonderful.

I have never taken on such a massive makerspace activity, but this will certainly not be the last time!  I urge all of my fellow educators to try this and other makerspace events out.  Let your students take the reins in their own education; you will not be disappointed.

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Computer Science Education Week

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December 5th through the 11th this year is Computer Science Education Week, and I took this opportunity to go through basic coding with some of my 5th and 6th grade classes.  The first couple days have been an absolute success!  My fifth graders created their own emojis (shown in picture above) and coded a basic robot game–both provided by Made By Code (a Google project).  My six graders, who have already been exposed to coding with their classroom teachers, are doing coding for basic games:  Flappy Bird and Star Wars–both provided by Code.org.

It was fun to devote my time with them this week to coding.  I always like to think because of the rapid advance of technology, we are teaching and training our students for careers that don’t even exist yet!  It’s good to get yourself, as an educator, out of your comfort zone, and explore a new facet with your students!  I myself am a complete newbie when it comes to coding, and a couple of my fifth graders were showing me tricks and shortcuts during their robot game coding!  It was amazing to see some of them in their element, and the fact that they were all leaving with a smile on their face, just sweetened the deal!

Hour of Code, in honor of Computer Science Education Week, is and continues to be a success!  When your students do not want to leave your classroom, you know you’re doing something right…

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Banned Books Week is coming to a close…

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am only a month into my first ever position as an ELEMENTARY educator.  And as most educators know, at least in the literacy realm, this week is Banned Books Week.  I really wanted to make sure I included this “holiday” into at least some of my classes’ curriculum, so I decided to test the waters with my fourth and six graders (about 200 students), and it went wonderfully!  We started off using Mentimeter, which is a wonderful online instant survey tool–I highly recommend it!  I laid out various banned books onto the tables, but did not tell them why they were there and that they were banned.  My Mentimeter question was “What do all of these books have in common?”  Of course, all of them at once gave me and each other puzzled looks because they couldn’t see a connection between a picture book like And Tango Makes Three and a very popular series like Harry Potter.  I encouraged them to discuss with their groups and get creative with their answers.  The end product was interesting to see because they stated things such as “fiction,” “hard cover,” and “illustrations.”

Once we did that I told them their answers were great, but unfortunately none of them was the one answer I was looking for.  And once again, I got puzzled looks across the board.  When I explained to them that the one major commonality of all of these books was that they were banned, the students immediately started calling out questions and groaning.  I loved it!  This meant they were questioning that idea, and were curious to learn more.

We then segued into it being Banned Books Week and the celebration of literacy and the First Amendment.  Some may think that free speech may be too complicated of an issue for children that are only no more than eleven or twelve years old, but it most certainly was not.  Some classes sparked debates about the validity of banning a book, while others wanted to learn the reasoning behind each banning.  It was such a spectacular moment as an educator to witness.  And I truly couldn’t have been more pleased by how the lessons played out!

To wrap up the lesson, I allowed my students to take “mugshots” to celebrate Banned Books Week, and I had more than enough volunteers.  As you can see (below), they got very creative and had a fun time producing their own representation of what banning a book means to them.  It has been a wonderful week, and I plan on spreading the wealth to the third and fifth graders next year!

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To GAFE? Or not to GAFE?

GAFE:  Google Apps for Education

Many school districts are jumping onto this bandwagon.  They want to be a part of the technological evolution that is occurring across the world.  Google, as anyone who is even remotely in the know already uses, began as a search engine, but now, is SO much more!  They are Microsoft’s arch nemesis–a competition among suites.

GAFE has so many features:  classroom, sheets, slides, forms…the list goes on for a bit!  But they are also user friendly and compatible with pretty much any electronic device and other popular tools out there, such as YouTube.  And, if you already have a gmail account, you have access!

I, myself, have been a gmail account holder for over a decade, and I’ve never wanted to part.  Gmail is easy to use, never has never issues, and I’ve never been hacked.  It simply makes sense.  And with access to so many of Google’s services, the deal is sweetened up a bit more.  So when my district offered workshops on GAFE, I did not hesitate to sign up.

We spent three long days doing a lightning introduction and review of everything, and today, we are given the opportunity to take the certification exam.  If my experiences and (short) training did its part, then I will be a Google Certified Teacher by the end of today!

Honestly, in terms of tactile rewards, the certification doesn’t give much.  (You can print out the digital certificate they email you.)  But, it does allow you a lot as an educator in this tech-driven world.  As we spent our days practicing, I was brainstorming lesson ideas in my mind.  I feel energized and excited to tackle the school year ahead!

My district is lucky enough go one-to-one with Chromebooks this school year, so we are most definitely supported to infuse as much technology as possible into our lessons.  And slowly, but surely, I am feeling equipped to take on that challenge!

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