Thursday, April 29, 2021

It's Shark Tank Time!

Every year our 6th graders partake in an incredible PBL (Project Based Learning) experience in Language Arts, Social Studies, and Math.  It's called Shark Tank.

And every year new layers have been added to the unit.  

Year one, they wrote the Shark Tank Times using a variety of Google Slides templates.

Year two, logos became an optional addition.

Year three, logos became a requirement, complete with a pretty cool logo lesson and an introduction to Google Drawings.

Year four, the logo lesson grew deeper, more complex, and included a brand new graphic design component.

Year five, the logo lesson continued to morph, as did the graphic design component, helped along by Tony Vincent's Shapegrams.

And this year, app design became an optional element.  I went to this incredible session on App Design at MACUL.  It happened to right before I was leading a lesson on website and app design with our 6th graders, too (can you say "synchronicity"?)

Because COVID kept us from hosting a big Shark Tank event, where all the families are invited, and community members come in to sit on judges panels, the element of Zoom was also added into the mix.  And thanks to Zoom, we were able to take the presentations and turn them into our very own episodes of Shark Tank.

I just finished editing episode two (fun fact: did you know a Shark Tank pitch for the actual show is 45 minutes long, and then gets edited down to approximately 11 minutes?) and am eager to send that to the teachers.  Tomorrow is the final episode of Shark Tank Week which means I have one final 6+hour editing session ahead of me!  Is it worth it?  I think so!

P.S.  To see these kids present is amazing.  I don't think I could have done this when I was in 6th grade!


Monday, April 26, 2021

Fun with Writing

My students used to say "Ms. Diem, you think everything is fun!  Well, I think this writing prompt tool is a fun way to do quick writes.  (At least I think you could call it a writing prompt tool?  Dunno.)

One of my amazing colleagues found this site and uses it as a random writing prompt.  Only it's technically not a prompt.  It's a picture.

Click the link here to play with it.  You never know what child-friendly image you will get, or what creative thoughts it will invite!

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Stop Motion + Earth Day = Creative Explosion!

This year's mini-unit on Stop Motion culminated not with state tours.  Instead, it culminated with something equally as important.  Earth Day videos.

After watching a few clips on Earth Day, 3rd graders were given 20 minutes to design their own Earth Day clip.  Yes, we're using the somewhat clunky Chrome app.  Yes, 20 minutes is not a lot of time.

And yes, these kids created some pretty adorable clips!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The Evolution of Michigan Video Games

Four years ago, we started a culminating technology project with fourth grade, integrated into their studies of Michigan.  Every year it's evolved further, adding layers of planning, organizing, and elaboration.

This year, we finally hit a bit of a sweet spot.  After learning how to create three different types of games on Scratch, and learning how to design their own backgrounds and sprites, students became video game evaluators.  They evaluated four different Michigan-related video games, looking for both what worked well and what could make the game better.

Next, students created a project planner (version three, as changes have been made every year!) detailing their game plans.  The final step was to create a storyboard for their game plan.  The BrainPop video we watched on Video Games showed how storyboards are used to plan and develop video games.  Students completed their storyboard on pencil/paper, and then posted it on Seesaw.

Several students started on Scratch today, building first their backgrounds and sprites before moving on to coding.  And then testing.  And coding.  And more testing.  And more coding.... you get the idea! 

I have very high hopes that this year's video games will be pretty spectacular!  
Page one: evaluating other games
Page two: game development
Page three: Storyboard Setup

Friday, April 16, 2021

Stop the Motion!

One of my favorite activities to introduce in third grade is Stop Motion.  Every year they do some sort of stop motion animation project and from there, they add the idea of stop motion to their tool belts for future projects in other grades.

We use the free iPad app Stop Motion Studio, the kids work in partners, and we start from the ground up.  Kids first animate their names, then we bring in the clock and they review telling time, before finally heading into their project.

This year, third grade doesn't have iPads.  

But we didn't let that stop us!

Enter Stop Motion Animator for Chromebooks.  It's definitely clunkier.  It doesn't have as many features. And taking pictures with Chromebooks can be a bit tricky.

But it works.

So this week, third grade got to play with Stop Motion. 
They still got the concepts, the ideas, and the exposure to the simplicity of creating animations.  

Was it as fancy?  As easy?  Nope. 
Was it as fun?  Yup. 
Will we revisit it again next year?  Absolutely.

Oh.  One more thing.  There are two version of Stop Motion Animator in the Chrome app store.  I prefer the one that has187+ reviews.


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Wednesday Wit

Made me think of a multiple choice test.... And you could get this as a t-shirt from Shirt Woot.... But it still might not be suitable for work...

"F Off" designed by Parrotworks for Shirt Woot


Sunday, April 11, 2021


I am super excited for this week because I get to work with our 7th graders on a project using CoSpaces!  The CoSpaces platform allows you to create virtual reality spaces and interactive worlds.  

If you're a fan of Minecraft (which I am!) then think of CoSpaces as a more realistic platform that operates in a somewhat similar manner to Minecraft where kids are building and creating limited only by their imagination.  While CoSpaces says it can be adapted for any age, the dexterity of the platform lends itself best (in my opinion) to 4th grade and up whereas Minecraft can go for any age.

The shopping experience was set up as a movie theater.
Earlier this year, I gave myself a crash course in CoSpaces and created a unique shopping experience for the winners of our weekly reading raffles throughout March.  I learned (and connected with) there is a CoSpaces Facebook group that was incredibly helpful when I got stuck, as true to form, I learned the platform by doing!

Kids could click on different book covers to learn more about the book.

CoSpaces integrates coding as well, allowing creators to build just about anything from Rube Goldberg Machines to catapults.  The gallery gives you the ability to explore projects others have created, even if you don't have an account yet.  There is also a Merge Cube add on (that's a whole other post!) that allows you to build for the cube (so. much. fun!)

The possibilities with CoSpaces are endless - from museums to timelines, from volcanoes to the Roman Empire, if you can think it, and you get a CoSpaces account, you can create it and interact with your creation like never before!


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Common Sense

Common Sense.

Some people have it, some people don't.

And whether or not you have Common Sense, you need to know about one of my favorite resources, Common Sense Media.

I've talked about it before, and it is a resource worth mentioning again.  Whether you're a parent, educator, nanny - anyone who interacts with children and young adults, this is a site to bookmark.

And they have a program that allows educators, schools, and districts to become Common Sense Recognized.  This means that the educator, school, or district are committed to providing opportunities for students, staff, and school community members to "harness the power of technology in the classroom and beyond."

Two key takeaways -

1) Parents, teachers, caregivers - anyone working with children and young adults - can go to the Common Sense Media website and find reviews and evaluations on everything from apps to websites, books to movies and TV shows, all that can help determine if they are appropriate for the group.

2) The Digital Citizenship curriculum CSM developed is super friendly for teachers to use, and as a bonus, has a great home connection for parents and guardians.  If you're not using it in your school, it is worth looking at.  If your child's school isn't using it and you're a parent, it's also worth looking at.

It can be so challenging, especially today, to sort through all the chaos and get to the crux of things - use the Common Sense Media site to simplify things a little!  Want to show a movie in class?  Read the CSM reviews first.  Want to check out the latest app the kids are all talking about?  Read the CSM reviews to find out if you should look at ways to integrate it into class. 

I recently completed the requirements to become a Common Sense Educator (and am quite proud of my new badge!) If like me, you find yourself constantly referring to CSM, take a peek at their programs - it will be worth your time!


Friday, April 2, 2021

Autism Awareness and Acceptance

Roughly ten years ago, a friend put out a request on her blog.  She asked friends to wear blue on April 2nd in order to raise and spread awareness for Autism.  Every year after that she put out the same request for pictures of friends and family wearing blue on April 2nd.  And every year for the last decade, I've worn blue on April 2nd to raise awareness for and acceptance of those with autism.

She retired her (amazing) blog a few years back and has moved on to other adventures, and yet, I still wear blue every year on April 2nd.  No matter what is going on, my calendar has a perpetual reminder that wearing blue on April 2nd for Autism Awareness and Acceptance is a priority for me.  Even if it's my favorite, cozy blue hoody.

I am sharing this because as an educator, this is such a great example of internalizing a concept, skill, or lesson.  My friend no longer requests pictures of friends and family in blue, and yet I still wear blue every year.  This is what we hope our students do - they listen to us day after day, year after year, and eventually we hope that they automatically remember to capitalize and punctuate their sentences.  We hope they write with complete sentences, they remember the basic science concepts, the historical events... we hope that they take what they've learned and without teachers whispering reminders, they do it, just because it's the right thing to do.