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Posts Tagged ‘student voice

Winter Holiday Display: A Great STREAM Project

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I love celebrating the holidays and calendar events with my gifted students from my bilingual, Title 1 school. I ask them to make artifacts and displays that showcase both their talents and the holiday (see my blog posts about Dia de las Muertos and Pi Day for examples.) Not only are the projects fun, engaging, and exciting, they also provide opportunities for students to gain STEM/STEAM/STREAM knowledge and skills that address interdisciplinary standards. For this year, 2022, they created displays that included components for Christmas, Hanukah, and Kwanzaa. To do so, they . . .

  • researched different components of the holidays, and created posters to go with the displays
  • used art and engineering to make kinaras, gingerbread houses, and dreidels
  • wired and used LEDs to light up their kinaras and gingerbread houses
  • programmed micro:bits and Circuit Playgrounds to go with their displays

Introduction

I live in New Mexico. Knowledge of Hanukah and Kwanzaa is limited by our state population. so I began this project with holiday themed Kahoot quizzes (the kids love Kahoots). I think Kahoot quizzes are a great way to introduce new information to students. Here is a list of the ones I did with students:

During the quizzes, I visited websites to show students more information about the content being covered.

ELA Common Core Standards

  • Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain specific words and phrases, including those that signal precise actions, emotions, or states of being and that are basic to a particular topic.

Researching the Different Winter Holidays

This is is the R in STREAM which translates into reading and writing. “STREAM adds one more layer to STEM and STEAM: reading and wRiting. Advocates of STREAM see literacy as an essential part of a well-rounded curriculum, as it requires critical thinking as well as creativity. STREAM projects are similar to STEM or STEAM, but fold in the components of reading and writing” (STEM vs. STEAM vs. STREAM: What’s the Difference?).

After selecting from a list of holiday-related topics, students researched, selected key points, and found applicable images to create posters for the displays. Here are the posters they created (noting that we are a bilingual Spanish class so some of them are in Spanish):

ELA Common Core Standards

  • Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
  • Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
  • Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain specific words and phrases, including those that signal precise actions, emotions, or states of being and that are basic to a particular topic.

Hanukah Dreidels

Kathy Ceceri developed the Circuit Playground Dreidel – https://learn.adafruit.com/CPX-Mystery-Dreidel/overview. Kathy has them cut out their cardstock dreidels from a PDF. I created a template in Cricut so they could be cut out ahead of time. Here is a link to it https://design.cricut.com/landing/project-detail/6380fecebf31eaf51e587127. Due to the complexity of the code, students were provided with the one developed by Kathy.

Another kind of dreidel was made using CDs – see https://minds-in-bloom.com/make-dreidel-out-of-cd/.

Finally, students get to play the dreidel game (happening this coming week).

Standards Addressed

Next Generation Science Standards – Engineering

  • Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

Social Studies Standard

  • Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of culture and cultural diversity.

National Core Arts Standards

  • Anchor Standard #1. Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
  • Anchor Standard #2. Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
  • Anchor Standard #3. Refine and complete artistic work.

Making Kinaras

“The kinara is a seven-branched candleholder used in Kwanzaa celebrations in the United States. During the week-long celebration of Kwanzaa, seven candles are placed in the kinara—three red on the left, three green on the right, and a single black candle in the center. The word kinara is a Swahili word that means candle holder. The seven candles represent the Seven Principles (or Nguzo Saba) of Kwanzaa. Red, green, and black are the symbolic colors of the holiday” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinara).

Students created the kinara by making tissue paper candle holders to make the kinara candles. See the Lighting section below on how they were lighted.

Standards Addressed

Social Studies Standard

  • Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of culture and cultural diversity.

Making Gingerbread Houses

Making gingerbread houses is typically associated with Christmas time and it is a great activity for students. I purchased kits at deeply discounted websites like Five Below prior to the Christmas session. This means that the kits are quite old but they aren’t for eating, they are for display. To add another element of fun, I cut out the doors and filled them with Isomalt. This permitted students to add lights inside to micmic how a house might look like during Christmas (see next section on lighting).

Standards Addressed

Next Generation Science Standards – Engineering

  • Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

National Core Arts Standards

  • Anchor Standard #1. Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
  • Anchor Standard #2. Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
  • Anchor Standard #3. Refine and complete artistic work.

Lighting Up the Kwanzaa Kinaras and Gingerbread Houses

Students learned some basics of electrical circuits using blinking LEDs. For their Kwanzaa Kinaras, they made simple LED/3V Lithium battery connections – see https://youtu.be/pIDB56RYT5M on how to do this.

To light up the inside of the gingerbread houses, the students combined 3 pre-wired LEDs (resistor built in) and a 9v battery in a series circuit (there wasn’t enough power for more than 3 in the circuit). One of the pre-wired blinking lights was placed in each of the gingerbread houses. The basics of how to do this can be found via this tutorial – https://youtu.be/DcN0Xlw7nko.

During the process of making and testing their circuits, we discussed how circuits worked, polarity, and conductive/insulting materials. The following video can help explain electrical circuits to younger students – https://youtu.be/HOFp8bHTN30

Standards Addressed

Next Generation Science Standards – Energy

  • Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.

Lighting and Signage Using micro:bits

micro:bits were used to create signs wishing happy holidays. They were also used to light up Neopixel rings and strips.Here are some resources for the micro:bit component of the display:

Standards Addressed

Computer Science Standards

  • Create programs that include sequences, events, loops, and conditionals.
  • Modify, remix, or incorporate portions of an existing program into one’s own work, to develop something new or add more advanced features.

Next Generation Science Standards – Energy

  • Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.

Math Connection

Although, I didn’t do so this year, I have included a math component to gingerbread house making in the past whereby students needed to learn about and calculate the perimeter and area of their creations (see Gingerbread House Making: A Fun and Engaging Cross-Curricular Lesson).

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 12, 2022 at 12:38 am

A Chess Class for Elementary Students (with a DIY micro:bit -Driven Chess Clock)

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Each week a master math teacher from Math Amigos comes to my GT classroom for an hour to present conceptual math problems. High ability math students from 4th through 6th grades attend. A few weeks ago he presented a problem that included chess knight moves. One of the students mentioned how much she loves to play chess. I asked her if she’d like to lead a chess class. She agreed. Out principal liked the idea and ordered some chess sets. It is being offered to the 4th to 6th graders as a 45 minute class each week. About a dozen students expressed interest. I was personally excited as this was a true example of my penchant for student voice and choice (for more about this see my blog post, Today’s Education Should Be About Giving Learners Voice and Choice).

Below is a video clip of its soft start where she and another students are teaching some of their classmates how to play.

Some Academic and SEL Benefits of Chess

  • Develops Logic, Critical Thinking, and Creativity. Playing chess requires a lot of “if-then” logical analysis and “what-if” scenarios, all necessary ingredients for developing logical and critical thinking. In addition, studies show that chess boosts creativity, most dramatically in originality. Researchers attribute this boost to the process of imagining all the possible move alternatives which trains the mind to play with possibilities … the cornerstone of original thinking.
  • Increases Concentration & Memory. Studies conducted by the University of Memphis have found that children who play chess significantly improve their visual memory, attention span, and spatial-reasoning ability … all important factors for success in school.
  • Develops Decision Making and Problem-Solving Skills. Chess helps kids learn and practice thinking through and finding solutions to complex problems. The game of chess is a game of problem-solving, planning, and foresight. Being able to think through changing variables and formulate a plan based on various possibilities are invaluable skills necessary for the game, and more importantly, for life!
  • Improves Reading and Math Skills. Research continues to support the intellectual benefits of chess. Playing chess develops problem-solving skills in kids. studies have shown that because chess requires children to use cognitive processes such as decoding, analysis, thinking, and comprehension (all skills required for reading), chess playing kids greatly improve their reading skills over non playing kids. Also, one research study showed that substituting one hour of mathematics lesson a week with a Chess lesson showed an improvement in the mathematics test score of students in the research group.
  • Teaches Strategic Thinking, Planning, and Foresight. To be able to fulfill larger tasks in life, kids need to learn how to create a ‘plan of attack’ and outline plausible, step-by-step ways to achieve goals. During a game, players must strategically map out a plan and then execute it successfully in order to win. 
  • Greater Awareness of the Consequences of Ones Actions. Research suggests that children playing chess are more likely to understand the consequences of their actions.
  • Teaches Flexibility and How to Stay Calm Under Pressure. The game of chess has an inherent quality of calming down its participants as they play – studies show that playing chess makes people feel more relaxed than other games (like checkers). In chess, you have to think on your feet and make a decision about which move is best in any given situation- this teaches children how to stay calm under pressure.
  • Improves Social Skills and Emotional Intelligence. Kids who learn chess improve important abilities like sportsmanship, respect, fairness, patience, leadership, confidence, and a healthy self-perception.

Sources for above and for more information about the benefits of chess, see:

Something Extra – Creating a Chess Clock

Having students learn about and use timed chess games has the potential to increase engagement and the benefits of playing. “The importance of a chess clock is that – it will build urgency for chess players and for beginners I believe this will help you become a stronger chess player and very strategic in playing chess games once you get used to playing with a chess clock” https://chessdelights.com/importance-of-a-chess-clock/).

I love doing physical computing in my classroom and have discussed the benefits in https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2019/03/11/scratch-and-makey-makey-across-the-curriculum/. This along with the price of chess clocks prompted me to learn how to make a chess clock using micro:bits.

Materials for this project:

Directions for setting up the hardware/box can be found at https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/microarcade-kit-experiment-guide/experiment-2-button-reaction-timer except I connected both wires from the button to the same P#, e.g., both wires from the red button to P0, both wires from the blue button to P1. This permits the micro:bit to be reset after each move. It displays the number of seconds for a move, and it is reset following a move by pressing the 1st button. As such, each player needs to keeps track of total amount of time via a paper and pencil. The students are making two clocks – one for each player.

Here is the MakeCode used – https://makecode.microbit.org/_hU4M2ixcYThom

Parting Shot: I have only played chess a half dozen times in my life but several students do. It is the students running the class, and this thrills me to no end.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 27, 2022 at 11:41 pm

Dia de Muertos & Halloween Displays: A Meow Wolf-ish STREAM Lesson

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I have the privilege of teaching gifted education in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Two unique characteristics of living and working here is (1) there is a strong Mexican population who have retained their beautiful culture – language, culture, food, and holiday, and (2) it is the birthplace of Meow Wolf, unique and immersive art installations with multimedia elements and a mysterious narrative throughout; whose mission is to inspire creativity in people’s lives through art, exploration, and play so that imagination will transform our worlds.

Because of these unique elements in my community, each year I ask the students to create Dia de los Muertos and/or Halloween story-driven and technology-enhanced displays which are put in the front foyers of my schools for the students and visitors to enjoy. They are project-based, high engagement (as students can draw on their individual strengths within their teams), and focus on student voice and choice. In other words, these projects become strong STREAM (Science, Technology, wRiting, Engineering, Art, Math)-based lessons which translates into being interdisciplinary. I believe all lessons should be interdisciplinary as I discuss in https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2019/01/13/all-lessons-should-be-interdisciplinary:

Standards Addressed

Due to the project’s cross disciplinary nature, standards were addressed from several disciplines:

Common Core State Standards – ELA

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.3 – Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.6 – With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.10 – Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Science Standard

  • NGSS: 4-PS3-2. Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.

GSS Engineering Standards

  • 3-5-ETS1-1. Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and
  • constraints on materials, time, or cost.
  • 3-5-ETS1-2. Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

ISTE Standards for Students

  • Know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
  • Develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.
  • Exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.
  • Create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.

National Core Arts Standards

  • Anchor Standard #1. Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
  • Anchor Standard #2. Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
  • Anchor Standard #3. Refine and complete artistic work.

National Standards in Gifted and Talented Education

  • 1.1. Self-Understanding. Students with gifts and talents recognize their interests, strengths, and needs in cognitive, creative, social, emotional, and psychological areas.
  • 1.5. Cognitive, Psychosocial, and Affective Growth. Students with gifts and talents demonstrate cognitive growth and psychosocial skills that support their talent development as a result of meaningful and challenging learning activities that address their unique characteristics and needs.

The Lesson

One of the schools where I teach (I teach at two schools) has a large Mexican (self-identifying term) population and as such, each grade has a bilingual class. My students from this school were asked to create stories and displays based on Dia de los Muertos.

The events were as follows:

  • Write a Thematic Story
  • Review Possible Projects for Story
  • Create Artifacts and Display

Write a Story About Dia de los Muertos or Halloween

With the older students, grades 4 through 6, I reviewed the story arc and explained that they needed to include all of those elements within their stories. With the younger kids, grades 2 and 3, I talked about characters, setting, and plot and reinforced including these elements in their stories. There were 2 to 4 students per group, so they collaborated on their stories using Google Docs. What follows is one of the stories written in English and then translated into Spanish:

English Version


Spanish Version


Links to Other Stories

Story as a Storyboard That Comic

One student requested and created his group’s story as a comic as his other two groups members wrote their story out on Google Docs. Here are a few of his cells.

The rest can be view at https://www.storyboardthat.com/portal/storyboards/cdamm/classroom-public/unknown-story3

Review Possible Projects for Story Display

For possible artifacts to create their story-driven displays and as a way to honor voice and choice, students could select from the following projects:

If interested in a specific project, I would either provide the interested student and/or group with a link to a tutorial or give a mini-lesson on it.

Create Artifacts and Display

Individual groups selected a combination of the following artifacts:

  • micro:bit Characters
  • Neopixels – micro:bit driven
  • Servos – micro:bit driven
  • Sugar Skulls
  • Paper Circuits Skulls and Pumpkins
  • Laser Cut Objects Out of Wood
  • Cardboard Construction Kits
  • Jack-O-Lanterns Lit by Circuit Playgrounds 
  • Hummingbird Bits for Servos and Lights

Here is a slideshow of the students’ creation efforts:

Personal Reflection

The joy both my students experience throughout the lesson is palatable. I love listening to their excitement as they develop their stories. I love watching their smiles as they create their elements for their stories. I love seeing their bodies shake with excitement when their displays are complete, and I love witnessing their pride when the other students excitedly approach and comment on their displays.

Because I have students in my gifted program throughout their elementary years, I love seeing their excitement when we begin this project each year. I always try to introduce some new possibilities for their display elements each year. For example, this year I introduced and taught Hummingbird Bits which I learned about during a PD workshop this past summer. In addition, since I blog about this project each year as a means to document both students’ and my learning, I can see my own progress. Here is the blog post from the first two years I did it – Halloween Wars: An Interdisciplinary Lesson with a STEM, STEAM, Maker Education Focus. During the first year, I provided students with cookies, ping pong balls, LED lights, gummy worms, candy skeletons – no physical computing. So, for me, it is great to see my own growth, too.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 31, 2022 at 12:40 am

Beginning the School Year with “Who I Am” Projects

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It’s the start of a new school year. I am often baffled why teachers (all levels including college) jump right into covering content when the students are in a state of disequilibrium . . . wondering about the other students, the teacher, and the classroom climate. As such, I begin my classes with experiential, personal connections activities. During the first days of class, the messages I want to give my students, through these activities, include:

The Activities

Here are some of the activities I am doing with my students during the first weeks of school:

  • Bio-Bags
  • Toss and Talk Balls
  • All About Me Posters
  • Vision Statement
  • Family Picture Book
  • Kahoot Selfie
  • Fake Instagram
  • Mask of Symbols
  • Comic – the Change I’d Like to See in the World

Time is built in for students to do a show and tell of activities completed. They can decide which activities they want to do and in what order. See the following punchcard for more about this.

Punchcards for Accountability

Students receive their own punchcard (see below – printed on cardstock). When they finish an activity (they can be completed in any order), they come to me to show me. I ask them: (1) Did you fully completed the activity? and (2) Do you believe it is of a quality you believe is your best work (to avoid the let’s get it done quickly mentality)? If they say “yes” to both questions, I give them the hole punch so they can punch the two holes related to that activity.

Activity Descriptions

Bio-Bags

To begin, students bring an old but sentimental t-shirt to class. The shirt is made into a tote bag (see https://www.instructables.com/No-Sew-T-Shirt-Tote-Bag-1/).

Students are then given the following directions (taken from BioBags: Linking Literature and Life):

Choose any written works that have been important to you or that you love (you must have at least five written works) and bring them to school. You might bring the first book you could read by yourself, a letter that you like to read over and over, a special recipe, a favorite trading card, etc. Please try to include a variety of written works. You will get to tell the class why each
of the works is special to you and how it has impacted your life. Examples include:

  • A story or a book that you used to love listening to when you were younger
  • First books you were able to read by yourself
  • Hobbies- any written works you could share that fit with those hobbies (e.g., a program from a play, a scorecard, a trading card, a how-to book, directions for a favorite game)
  • Any special letter or e-mail received
  • Favorite song lyrics
  • A diary or a journal
  • Any special certificates or awards you’ve won
  • A favorite dish recipe
  • Any books that you love to read over and over

Toss and Talk Balls

For this activities, pairs of students receive a beach ball and a sharpie. They make Toss and Talk Ball, and then play it with their classmates.

Here is a list from which the students can choose: https://museumhack.com/list-icebreakers-questions/

Vision Statement

For this activity, students create a Vision Statement about themselves using Canva or Adobe Express. Directions for doing this using Canva and examples can be found at: https://our3lilbirds.blogspot.com/2017/05/how-to-make-one-page-profile-ellie-style.html. Note that this activity was designed for parents to create visions statements for their special needs children (as is seen by the poster to the left). I am adapting it for my students so that they create their own Vision Statement/Profile sheet using the same sections as this poster and populating them with their own information.

Vision Statement

The template:

Student Examples


LED Enhanced All About Me Posters

I like using the All About Me posters at the beginning of the school year as it lets me know a lot about the learners in a very short time. I also use them to decorate my classroom walls. Since I have been involved in maker education, I show the kids how to use LED lights creating circuits with copper tape. They use these materials to create LED-enhanced All About me Posters.

Kahoot Selfie

Most teachers and students these days know about Kahoota game-based learning platform that makes it easy to create, share and play learning games or trivia quizzes. For this All About Me activity, learners create their own Kahoot Selfie with 5 or more Kahoot quiz questions about themselves, each question having a four possible answers with only one of them being correct. Here is a template to help them with planning – https://kahoot.com/files/2017/07/kahoot_paper_template-1.pdf and an actual Student Selfie Kahoot that they can duplicate and edit with their own questions and answers (they will need their own account to do so).

Fake Instagram Account

Because my learners are elementary age, they don’t (or shouldn’t) have their own Instagram account. This activity allows them to create their own (fake) one. The blog post, Fake Instagram Template with Google Slides (FREE), describes the process for doing this. This template – https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1_gupBqIZBToioNFgbAb4nFVlsJgbdW5xneccto6pcFk/edit?usp=sharing – can be used by going under file to make a copy.

Here is my example:

Family Picture Book/ Cuadros de familia

This activity fits quite well with the Hispanic (the identifier used by the population with whom I work) heritage of the majority of my students. It begins by showing the students the following video:

They then use the following handout to create their books (taken from https://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/family-traditions-class-book):

A few adaptations that are used within my class are: (1) they can make the book as long as they choose, and (2) they can decide if they want to combine their books with other students in the class.

Mask Making

The full lesson for this activity can be found at Facing History’s What Aspects of Our Identities Do We Show to Others? which students are given access to work through independently:

Students will be making a mask that will be displayed in the classroom. The purpose of the mask is to answer the question, “Who am I?” To make their masks, students first have to decide how they want to present themselves to the class. Which aspects of their identities do they want to emphasize? Which aspects of their identities do they wish to conceal? Completing the Mask-making Preparation Worksheet can help students answer these questions before they begin crafting their masks. Before they begin, show students the materials they can use. In addition to markers and paper plates (or mask DIY which like Colorations® Cardstock Masks), old magazines are especially useful for this activity because students can cut out words and images. Also, inform students that they can decorate both the outside and the inside of the masks. They can use the outside to represent the aspects of their identities they openly show to the outside world and the inside to represent the more private aspects of their identities.

Here is the worksheet that goes along with this activity:

Comic Strip: A Change I’d Like to See in the World

For this activity, learners create a comic strip of at least 6 cells that describes a change they’d like to see in the world. I really like StoryboardThat and have an account for it so this is the platform my students use. Here is an example I found so learners can have an idea what to create:

Reflecting on the Activities

Once they successfully finish an activity, they are asked to reflect on it prior to going to the next activity. I use the blog platform, FanSchool (formally Kidblogs) to have them do so. FanSchool also has a direct connection for Flip (formally FlipGrid) so students who prefer to talk rather than write can do so. They show their project (inserting an image for writing, showing and telling for a Flip recording). During their reflections, they answer at least three of the following questions:

  • What did you enjoy about the activity? What didn’t you enjoy?
  • What did you learn about yourself?
  • What were the most difficult parts of the activity? Why?
  • What were the most satisfying parts of the activity?
  • What positives can you take away from the activity?
  • How have you been challenged during the activity?
  • How do you feel about what you made? What parts of it do you particularly like? Dislike?

Standards Addressed

Common Core State Standards – ELA

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.3
Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.6
With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.10
Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

21st Century Skills

THINK CREATIVELY
• Use a wide range of idea-creation techniques (such as brainstorming)
• Create new and worthwhile ideas (both incremental and radical concepts)

REASON EFFECTIVELY
• Interpret information and draw conclusions based on the best analysis
• Reflect critically on learning experiences and processes

COMMUNICATE CLEARLY
• Articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using oral, written, and nonverbal communication skills in a variety of forms and contexts)
• Utilize multiple media and technologies, and know how to judge their effectiveness a priority as well as assess their impact

MANAGE GOALS AND TIME
• Set goals with tangible and intangible success criteria
• Balance tactical (short-term) and strategic (long-term) goals
• Utilize time and manage workload efficiently

WORK INDEPENDENTLY
• Monitor, define, prioritize, and complete tasks without direct oversight
• Be self-directed learners

NAGC (Gifted Education) Standards

1.1. Self-Understanding. Students with gifts and talents recognize their interests, strengths, and needs in cognitive, creative, social, emotional, and psychological areas.

1.2. Self-Understanding. Students with gifts and talents demonstrate understanding of they learn and recognize the influences of their identities, cultures, beliefs, traditions, and values on their learning and behavior.

1.3. Self-Understanding. Students with gifts and talents demonstrate understanding of and respect for similarities and differences between themselves and their cognitive and chronological peer groups and others in the general population.

1.5. Cognitive, Psychosocial, and Affective Growth. Students with gifts and talents demonstrate cognitive growth and psychosocial skills that support their talent development as a result of meaningful and challenging learning activities that address their unique characteristics and needs.

3.2. Talent Development. Students with gifts and talents demonstrate growth in social and emotional and psychosocial skills necessary for achievement in their domain(s) of talent and/or areas of interest

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 14, 2022 at 7:09 pm

Stop Motion Animations: A Fun and Engaging Language Arts-Educational Technology Integration

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One of my favorite things to do as an educator is to create lessons plans that help students address content standards through authentic learning activities and develop transferrable skills. For the stop motion animations, both English Language Arts Common Core and ISTE Standards were addressed. Plus, students had fun, were fully engaged, and developed a greater tolerance for long term projects. This blog post provides some background information as well as presents a few student examples.

Standards Addressed

English Language Arts Common Core Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.3
Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.3.A
    Orient the reader by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.3.B
    Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, description, and pacing, to develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.3.E
    Provide a conclusion that follows from the narrated experiences or events.

ISTE (Technology) Standards for Students

1.6. Creative Communicator
Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals. Students:

  • 1.6.b. create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
  • 1.6.c. communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations.
  • 1.6.d. publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.

Creating Storyboards

Learners were assigned the following story arc template in Storyboard That.

Link – https://www.storyboardthat.com/create/storytelling-templates

Making the Stop Motion Animations

Learners used the Stop Motion Studio App to create their animations:

Student Examples

The Worm and the Cheese by Andrew

Storyboard Template Using Storyboard That

Stop Motion Animation: The Worm and the Cheese

The Adventure of the Cats by Marisol

Storyboard Template Using Storyboard That

Stop Motion Animation: The Adventures of the Cats

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 22, 2022 at 3:51 pm

Building a Sustainable City

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As I’ve discussed before, I offer electives to my 4th-6th grade GT students (see Offering Electives to Elementary Students). They chose paper engineering. A few started making city structures. They then stated that they should make a city. I suggested that it be a sustainable city (Sustainable Development Goal 11). From there, the innovation, creativity, passion, fun, and final product exploded due to the efforts of the students.

Standards Addressed

Education for Sustainability Standards and Performance Indicators

  • Responsible Local & Global Citizenship. The rights, responsibilities, and actions associated with leadership and participation toward healthy and sustainable communities. Students will know and understand these rights and responsibilities and assume their roles of leadership and participation.
  • Healthy Commons. Healthy Commons are that upon which we all depend and for which we are all responsible (i.e., air, trust, biodiversity, climate regulation, our collective future, water, libraries, public health, heritage sites, top soil, etc.). Students will be able to recognize and value the vital importance of the Commons in our lives and for our future. They will assume the rights, responsibilities, and actions to care for the Commons.
  • Inventing & Affecting The Future. The vital role of vision, imagination, and intention in creating the desired future. Students will design, implement, and assess actions in the service of their individual and collective visions. (https://cloudinstitute.org/cloud-efs-standards)

Common Core English Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7
Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

Next Generation Science Standards (Science and Engineering)

  • Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
  • Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved (https://www.nextgenscience.org/topic-arrangement/msengineering-design).

Resources Shared With Students

Tools and Materials Use

A Snippet of the Student Planning Session

Informational Posters by Students for the Display

Highlights – Making the City

A Map of the Sustainable City – Drawn by a Student

Artist – Valerie M., a 4th Grader

Highlights – Finished City

Teacher Reflection

I have an expression, “Show students the possibilities and then get out of the way.” I did this for the Sustainable City project and the students didn’t disappoint! The project processes and products came out so much better than I expected. This fits into another of my beliefs, “Let go of expectations about about the products students will produce,” which I wrote about in Focusing on the Process: Letting Go of Product Expectations. I let students drive what they want to produce in the context of the processes desired, and they often create products way beyond what I could imagine.

I watched as they worked together as they planned their city, deciding what will be included and where it would go. I watched as they almost spontaneously created new areas and artifacts: gardens, orchards, farmers’ market, stables, and bike racks.

I have the privilege of observing great incidents of creativity, innovation, passion, and joy. I love my job. I love these kids.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

April 22, 2022 at 12:42 pm

Artificial Intelligence: Generative AI

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My gifted students, grades 4th-6th, selected Artificial Intelligence, as their elective during Spring, 2022 semester. (For more about this see Offering Electives to Elementary Students.) The Generative AI learning activities I describe below are part of their larger Artificial Intelligence elective as well as being part of the ISTE AI Explorations course I am taking.

ISTE Standards for Students

  • Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences. Students understand the fundamental concepts of technology operations, demonstrate the ability to choose, use and troubleshoot current technologies and are able to transfer their knowledge to explore emerging technologies.
  • Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions. Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.
  • Students develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions. Students understand how automation works and use algorithmic thinking to develop a sequence of steps to create and test automated solutions.
  • Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals. Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.

The Hook

Students explore the following Generative AI technologies:

Introductory Videos

Students watch the following videos to gain some background knowledge about GANS:

Warm-Up Activity: Create a Mythical Creature

Students create a mythical creature using Google’s Chimera Painter-https://storage.googleapis.com/chimera-painter/index.html. “Chimera Painter is a demo that lets you run wild by drawing out creature shapes that become fully fleshed out by our CreatureGAN machine learning model, which was trained on hundreds of thousands of 2D renders of 3D creature models.” To begin, students watch the following video. It provides a great overview about how GANS work in the context of using the Chimera Painter. Once they create their creatures, they write a short story about them. Students can be instructed that their favorite creation can be used in the next activity – their presentation assignment.

The students loved making these.

Assignment: Create a Generative AI-Enhanced Presentation

For this assignment, students are going to make a presentation out of Generative AI Art that shows the projects they created for our AI unit (see previous blog posts). An alternative can be that the theme for the presentation is decided upon by the student and/or the teacher). It needs to include AI Art, AI sounds or music, and AI Drawing or Painting elements.

To begin students experiment with and create artifacts for the following GANS. They then choose their favorite creation from each of the following for use in their presentations. Students can use Google Slides to upload their creations, and possibly add text to create a GAN-enhanced presentation.

Generative AI Art

Generative AI Music

Generative AI Drawing / AI Painting:

Example Student Project

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

April 4, 2022 at 1:30 pm

Transmedia, Digital Storytelling Project

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As someone who, for years, has been using educational technology, I have \said the often stated quote, Technology won’t replace teachers, but teachers who don’t use technology will be replaced. More recently I heard the quote from my brilliant colleague, George Couros, Technology won’t replace great teachers, but in the hands of great teachers can be transformational. This better fits my sensibilities.

As an educator of 1st-6th grade gifted students, I love asking them to use digital platforms that permit them to be content creators. I believe that learners, in this high tech, highly connected world, should be producing as much or even more content than they are consuming. From Digital Promise:

Schools, libraries, and classrooms have traditionally been a place for the consumption of information and ideas. Empowering students as creators means educators shift their professional thinking, instruction and instructional program to enable authentic opportunities for students to individually and collaboratively tinker, build, inquire, design, create, and iterate.

The research surrounding students as creators recognizes their potential to engage, participate and their potential for developing agency as citizens of the world. As digital-age learners, students are not merely consumers of content and ideas. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) identifies “Empowered Learners,” “Knowledge Constructors,” “Innovative Designers,” and “Computational Thinkers” among seven core standards for students (Empowering Students as Creators).

To support students as content creators, they were asked to create transmedia, digital stories. Digital stories are:

At a basic level digital storytelling means using technology to tell stories. You can tell digital stories in many ways, for example: through text on a website or social media tool, through narration and images in a video, or through narration in a podcast. Digital stories are not just facts presented with accompanying images, they are narratives crafted to take the listener or reader on a journey. Just like a novel or a documentary, digital stories have a plot, characters, and themes (What is Digital Storytelling?).

. . . and similarly, transmedia storytelling is defined as:

Transmedia storytelling uses multiple media platforms tell a coordinated story.  Multiple narratives come together, constructing a larger storyworld. Like a giant puzzle, each piece contributes to a larger narrative. The process is cumulative and each piece adds richness and detail to the story world, such as character backstories and secondary plotlines.  This makes for a richer audience experience and multiple access points (What is Transmedia Storytelling?).

For this project, my gifted students, grades 4-6, were asked to write a fictional story, alone or with a partner (most chose a partner). It was open-ended in that the fictional content was determined by them. They did, though, have to create:

  • Characters with each student creating a Makey-Makey/Scratch bottle character,
  • The Story Setting with each individual or team creating a CoSpace to portray their story setting,
  • A Story Arc using Storyboard That or Google Docs.

Makey Makey/Scratch Bottle Characters

To begin this aspect of the project, students were asked to compose 5 facts about their characters. They then created sculptural versions of their characters using water bottles and craft materials. They used Makey Makeys/Scratch to “speak” those facts – see the video below. Scratch is coding language with a simple visual interface that allows young people to create digital stories, games, and animations. Makey Makey is a simple circuit board you can use to create your own keyboard for a computer. For this project, students used Scratch to work using the Makey Makey. See Biography Bottles With Makey Makey for how to do this.

CoSpaces Story Settings

CoSpaces Edu is a 3D creation web and app-based classroom tool that allows students to create in a 3D augmented and virtual reality environments. It permits for collaborative creation so students were able to work with their partners to create a 3D, VR versions of the settings for their stories.

Since CoSpaces projects are VR enabled, I bought a cheap Bnext™ VR headset from ebay so students could view their spaces in virtual reality. It was so much fun to watch their reactions.

(The above images are royalty-free, but my students looked like this when viewing their sites. I couldn’t take photos as they were using my phone/camera to view CoSpaces.)

Plot – Story Arc: Storyboard That

I really love using Storyboard That, a digital tool aimed at students who want to create a storyboard to communicate. The online-based platform lets anyone easily create a storyboard in order to tell a story in a visually engaging way. For this project, I assigned the Plot Diagram and Narrative Arc template for students to use, a more complex one for older students and a less complex one for younger students.

Benefits/Results

From observing my learners for the multiple hours they were engaged in this project, I found it had the following benefits:

  • Full and total engagement,
  • Increased creativity and use of imagination (more than simple, written work) ,
  • Student voice and choice,
  • Learning how to use new content creation technologies,
  • Learning the mechanics of writing,
  • Project management (due to the long term nature of this project),
  • Joy and pride in learning.

Halloween Displays: A Perfect STREAM (Science, Technology, wRiting, Engineering, Art, Math) Lesson

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Wow, wow, wow! My students finished their displays in time for Halloween after spending many, many hours working on them. Now, they are in display cases in the lobby of our elementary school. I am so proud of them and rightfully, they are very proud of themselves, too. They worked so hard on them.

A little history . . . I love Food Channel’s competitions and Halloween Wars tops my list. This is where I got the idea for this lesson. Each Halloween season, I become enamored with the passion, creativity, talent, and skill of the sugar, cake, and pumpkin artists on this show. This led me into wanting to bring this type of passion into my classrooms; so several years ago I started a yearly Halloween Wars during each Halloween season (none during our COVID shutdown, though); and yes, it’s a team competition which makes it even more exciting for the students. Needless to say, I was thrilled to bring it back this year allowing a new group of students the opportunity to experience it. As mentioned in the title, I believe this to be a perfect STREAM (Science, Technology, wRiting, Engineering, Art, Math) lesson. This post describes the learning activities and standards addressed.

Background Information

The principles that drive my instructional approach. regardless of theme, include:

  • Instructional challenges are hands-on and naturally engaging for learners.
  • There is a game-like atmosphere. There are elements of play, leveling up, and a sense of mastery or achievement during the instructional activities.
  • The challenges are designed to be novel and create excitement and joy for learners.
  • There is a healthy competition where the kids have to compete against one another.
  • Learners don’t need to be graded about their performances as built-in consequences are natural.
  • There is a natural building of social emotional skills – tolerance for frustration, expression of needs, working as a team.
  • Lessons are interdisciplinary (like life) where multiple, cross-curricular content areas are integrated into the instructional activities.

These have been further discussed in A Model of Good Teaching?

The goals included the following:

  • To work in a small group to create a Halloween scene using art work, LEDs, microcontrollers, servos, food items, and miscellaneous materials.
  • To work as a small group to craft a story about their scene.
  • To introduce and reinforce ideas, concepts, and skills associated with maker education, STEM, STEAM, and STREAM.
  • To engage in a friendly team competition whereby collaboration in their small groups would lead to success in the competition.

Descriptions of the Individual Components

Science Related Activities and Standards

Learners did several activities that involved LED circuits (simple LED lights, LED Tea Light Spider Pumpkins, and Paper Circuit Skulls) and circuits with microcontrollers (see Technology section).

Science Standard:

  • NGSS: 4-PS3-2. Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.

Technology Related Activities and Standards

For their displays, learners used servo socks to make parts of their display turn, micro:bits and servos to make milk carton robots, and Circuit Playground to make a flickering light to put inside their carved pumpkins. They needed to code their micro;bits and Circuit Playgrounds.

Computer Science Standards:

  • 1B-CS-02 – Model how computer hardware and software work together as a system to accomplish tasks.
  • 1B-AP-10 – Create programs that include sequences, events, loops, and conditionals
  • 1B-CS-03 – Determine potential solutions to solve simple hardware and software problems using common troubleshooting strategies

wRiting – Language Arts Related Activities and Standards

Learners wrote stories that drove their displays. They did so in Google docs so they could write collaboratively. My “rule” was that they could only use elements in their displays that were part of their stories. This necessitated that they revisit their stories throughout this lesson.

ELA Standard:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.3: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.

Example Stories:

Engineering Related Activities and Standards

Overall, engineering was used throughout this project from creating display artifacts – one student built a cardboard refrigerator with working parts and the milk carton robot to figuring out how to hang and arrange things on their display board.

NGSS Engineering Standards:

  • 3-5-ETS1-1. Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and
  • constraints on materials, time, or cost.
  • 3-5-ETS1-2. Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the
  • criteria and constraints of the problem.

Arts Related Activities and Standards

The entire display was an arts related activity, but I include a specific art activity, the Spooky Halloween 3D Art Project.

National Core Arts Standards:

  • Anchor Standard #1. Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
  • Anchor Standard #2. Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
  • Anchor Standard #3. Refine and complete artistic work.

Math Related Activities and Standards

Learners made their own Sugar Skulls and Gummy Legos (Bears) using recipes I projected on the Smartboard. They were asked to cut the recipes in half or thirds.

Math Standard:

  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.NF.B.7: Apply and extend previous understandings of division to divide unit fractions by whole numbers and whole numbers by unit fractions.

It was so much fun to find and design these activities but it was even more fun watching the learners do them all. I can’t wait until next year!

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 2, 2021 at 1:41 am

Student Choice and Voice Can Equal the Best Day Ever

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As is true for a lot of progressive educators, I have a belief in and attempt to practice the implementation of student voice and choice:

Sometimes this means fully letting go of the reins so learners become completely self-directed. I had the privilege of witnessing this in action one afternoon last week. I use the word, “witness,” as it was totally due to the actions of one student.

As I do every Thursday, I “pulled-out” 4th-6th graders for gifted and talented services. During the morning they built and experimented with Wiggle Bots. One of the students, Sean, also began experimenting with some of the materials in an attempt to build a toy bow (out of skewers) and arrow (out of jumbo straws). I asked him to focus on making his Wiggle Bot but told him he could continue his experimentation during lunch (they voluntarily spend lunch with me on Thursdays). They stay with me after lunch for an hour+. I do math challenges with them during those times. Sean asked if he could continue to work on fine tuning his bow and arrow instead. Then, the other kids asked if they could do so, too. Being a learner-centric educator, who values student choice and voice, I said, “Sure, go for it.”

I am so happy I did! They played with the continual improvement of their straw arrows; iterated through testing, and modifying them; and tried out different materials for their tips and tails in an effort to create increased distance and accuracy . . . again with little intervention from me. They went outside to test their work, and later, to play games with their arrows that they made up – most notably one that mimicked the video game Among Us. Seeing such joy in their social interactions warmed my heart. I know how important allowing for social time is for this age group especially after last year’s isolation due to remote learning – just as important or even more important than content area instruction.

I witnessed their creativity, innovation, flow, positive social interactions, excitement, engagement, and joy during this student-driven activity. Sean was visibly very excited that not only was he successful in making his bow and arrow, but more so that the other students followed his lead to participate in these learning activities that he initiated. The pride I saw in him was what prompted me to write this post. I was so happy with him and for him. One student even said at the end of the day, “This was the best day I ever had at school,” and this came from a student who absolutely loves and excels at school. When I heard the student state this, I jumped with joy. It wasn’t due to anything I did. It was only that I stepped back and let the students take over their learning.

I’ve discussed that one of my goals in my classroom is to create the conditions for having students experience and express that they had the best day ever:

During this particular afternoon, I believe the following occurred:

  • Built on learner interests and passions
  • Used whole body and hands-on learning
  • Allowed learners to work with others if they choose
  • Encouraged and acknowledge a broad range of emotions
  • Celebrated both effort and success
  • Respected the process – let go of the need to create the best day ever

My reflection is that I believe I typically do a good job of giving voice and choice but it is often within a more structured STEM, STEAM, maker education activities (see my book, Learning in the Making, for more information about this). I’d like to figure out more ways to “follow the child” like they do in Montessori environments. I have a lot of craft and STEM materials accessible in my classroom. I need to try out the suggestion made by Sean that day, “We should spend an afternoon just exploring, playing with, and creating things using these materials.”

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 3, 2021 at 9:35 pm

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