Tag Archives: Inspiration

Math Stories or “There’s More Than One Way to Solve a Problem”

Maybe I have been watching a little too much TV with G,  my 4 year old, but I am absolutely LOVING Peg + Cat on PBS. It is the perfect mix of math concepts, problem solving strategies, songs, stories, and all around silliness. All of this stuffed into a cute little girl named Peg and her “AMAZZZINNNNGGG”, talking pet cat. One of the best parts of the show is when they finish every challenge with this song…

I am so inspired by all that G is learning from Peg and Cat that I thought I might share some Math inspiration for your kiddos in your classrooms. The Three Acts Of A Mathematical Story from Dan Myer is very similar to Peg+Cat in that teachers create a story built around real-life math.

Here’s the idea :

  • Act 1 – “Introduce the central conflict of your story/task clearly, visually, viscerally, using as few words as possible.” (check his site for examples)
  • Act 2 – “The protagonist/student overcomes obstacles, looks for resources, and develops new tools.”
  • Act 3 – “Resolve the conflict and set up a sequel/extension.”

Here is an Example – The Slow Forty

(eMINTS teachers….seeing any connections to the Instructional Procedures unit expectation?)

Check out Dan’s Three Act Math Tasks Spreadsheet and his 3-part blog series with videos and instructions.

This blog post is from 2011, but Dan is not a one hit wonder. I encourage you to explore his recent blog posts and see what he’s been up to….hint hint – he is quite an active presenter and does so much more than Three-Act Math Stories.

Brooke Higgins, occasional blogger, is an eIS for the eMINTS National Center working with eMINTS teachers, trainers, and administrators. All of her posts, including this one, can be found at The Higgins Helps blog.

Coding in the Classroom

Not every child will grow up to be a historian, yet there is value in teaching history. Not every child will be a mathematician, yet there is importance in teaching math. What about teaching computational thinking? Computational thinking is a way of describing and solving problems that applies higher level critical thinking. How can programming be a productive addition to an already overloaded curriculum? Consider this quote from Steve Jobs.

“I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.”

— STEVE JOBS, THE LOST INTERVIEW

AgentSheets Logo
AgentSheets is a software program that lets you create your own agent-based games and simulations using drag and drop, rule-based programming. For more information on AgentSheets and Scalable Game Design, visit scalablegamedesign.org.

Programming encourages children to use technology to solve problems, first by designing games, then by transitioning to STEM-oriented simulations. Learning to program with Scalable Game Design and AgentSheets software introduces computational thinking patterns using motivational and interesting methods tied to the core subjects. The benefits include enriching learning, elevating critical thinking and expanding 21st century and STEM skills.

eMINTS is offering a course in Scalable Game Design. The pilot begins in August and the course will be offered again in the spring. If you are interested in coding in the classroom, please fill out our eLearning interest form.

Carla Chaffin is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Join Us in Celebrating Digital Learning Day on February 5th!

Can you imagine education without technology?  In order to prepare the next generation for college and for their place in the workforce, it is very important that students and teachers embrace the benefits that modern instructional tools can provide.

This is why thousands of educators answer the “call to action” and join the celebration of Digital Learning Day each February.  A national event designed to allow educators to gather virtually to share and discuss the successes and challenges that they are experiencing with integrating digital tools in their classrooms.

To help build this awareness and to promote enhanced instruction with modern technology tools, join us by participating in national Digital Learning Day which is scheduled for February 5, 2014!  The online event will feature demonstrations, interactive lessons, presentations, resource sharing, tips, and even tricks designed for classroom educators that possess a passion for incorporating powerful digital tools into their lessons.

Here are some ways you can participate…

I hope to see you participating and making a difference with digital learning on Digital Learning Day!

-Doug Caldwell, EdS, is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.

Comedians and Life Lesson’s

Life lessons and aha moments come at unexpected times. Yesterday, as I ate lunch, I watched the first episode in Jerry Seinfeld’s newest project called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. I loved the Seinfeld show and continue to try and see Jerry Seinfeld in action.

Click image for source.
Click image for source.

The gist of this new show is that Jerry selects a car based on his “guest”, picks them up, they travel around catching up, and eventually stop for coffee. In this episode, he was catching up with his Seinfeld show friend, Michael Richards. As I listened, they began talking about the success of the show and their craft. At that point in the conversation Michael started to cut himself down saying he studied too hard and should have been more relaxed about preparing. He implied that others had fun and he didn’t because he felt that preparing took so much practice. Immediately, Jerry stopped him and said, “I don’t accept the judging of process.” He continued by stating, “we are all trying to get to the same island.” He then finished with, “what matters is when the red light comes on” … “our job is to make sure they enjoy it”. Jerry and Michael go on to talk about how it’s about working selflessly not selfishly and the importance in remembering that.

That is teaching in a nutshell…selfless not selfish. Our goal, as teachers, is to leave kids in a better place than when we get them. Each teacher has to prepare in the way that makes him or her feel ready to “perform”, to put on the best show possible. As I have reflected back on what I heard them say, I have wondered…in what ways might we support our-self and others in doing just that? And more importantly, how can we build each other up and not tear each other down with judgment as we all work to achieve that same goal? How can we be a positive influence and not a negative influence?

What I choose to take from this conversation is this: we each have to do what we feel we have to do to prepare, we must respect that in ourselves and others, and we must presume positive intentions of others, because we all have the same audience and the same goal. That audience, those kids, deserve our very best. Parents, communities, and the world are depending on us. We are all here for the same reason doing what we can. As Maya Angelou said, “When we know better we do better.” We are all doing best we know how.

So as many of you, my friends, go back to begin a new year with students, my hope is that you take care of yourself, you take care of each other, and give the kids the best experience possible. Make sure they enjoy the journey you get to share with them.

*Coincidentally, I heard about Comedians in Cars Having Coffee on NPR as I drove home from some class visits last spring, and yes, it took me this long to get back to it. I will be watching the rest of the episodes. Who knows what else I might learn.

Brooke Higgins, occasional blogger, is an eIS for the eMINTS National Center working with eMINTS teachers. All of her posts, including this one, can be found at The Higgins Helps blog.

Caine’s Arcade

The following video made the rounds this week. It’s the inspiring story of young Caine who builds his own arcade out of cardboard and other spare parts as a way to pass the time. A filmmaker discovers Caine’s arcade and decides to organize a flash mob, filming the whole thing as they go.

What’s interesting is the amount of ingenuity this boy demonstrates in building his arcade. Creativity, problem-solving, persistence, attention to detail, among other skills were developed as Caine realized his vision.

Caine didn’t learn how to build his own arcade in school. He used tools he already had within him to think outside the box, so to speak. We can only hope that his teachers also see the potential in Caine by encouraging and supporting his creativity.

Let this video be an inspiration as you try to find ways to support your own students’ creativity. Maybe they won’t create an arcade, but they may build a model of a city, write a song, or take on some other creative endeavor that allows them to realize their potential and opens the possibility for their dreams to come true.

What message do you pull from this video? How have you allowed your students’ creativity to shine through? When have you had to make due with the materials around you in order to make something great?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

Creativity Is the Future of Education

(Via ISTE)

While this video is primarily for the Ghetto Film School in New York City, the point is still a valid one. Our greatest resource is our creativity. If we don’t develop students’ creativity, with what are we left?

Innovation and creativity are the areas in which we can turn around the US’s standing in the world. Building on these strengths, we can not only improve test scores and send more children to college (as evidenced in the video), but we can begin to solve many of the world’s social and economical problems.

How do you build creativity in your students? Where does film-making fit into your curriculum? How can your schools emulate the  efforts of a school like the Ghetto Film School?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

Friday 4ALL: Pay a Teacher Like a Babysitter

We’ve all received some form of the “pay a teacher like a babysitter” piece in our email inboxes at some point. For those of you who have not read the short essay, it goes something like this:

Teachers Get Paid TOO Much!

Teachers get paid TOO much…I’m fed up with teachers and their hefty salary schedules. What we need here is a little perspective.

If I had my way, I’d pay these teachers myself-I’d pay them babysitting wages. That’s right-instead of paying these outragous taxes, I’d give them $3 an hour out of my own pocket. And I’m only going to pay them for five hours, not coffee breaks. That would be $15 a day. Each parent should pay
$15 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their child. Even if they have more than one child, it’s still a lot cheaper than private day care.

Now, how many children do they teach every day-maybe 20? That’s $15 x 20 = $300 a day. But remember, they only work 180 days a year! I am not going to pay them for all those vacations! $300 x 180 = $54,000. (Just a minute, I think my claculator needs new batteries.)

I know now you teachers will say-what about those who have 10 years experience and a mster’s degree? Well, maybe (to be fair) they could get the minimum wage, and instead of just baby-sitting, they could read the kids a story. We could round that off to aobut $5 an hour, times five hours, times 20 children. That’s $500 a day times 180 days. Thaht’s $90,000…HUH?!?

I am not sure where it originated from, but some sources suggest it was originally published in an NEA magazine. There are variations with adjustments for inflation or more realistic class sizes, but the math usually tells the same story: Teachers are actually underpaid.

This is not meant to be a political rant. It should just be pointed out that the work teachers do is more than babysitting. I think people of all political backgrounds can agree on that. Even if it was “just babysitting” (a valuable service in its own right – usually worth more than $3 an hour), teachers are relatively underpaid and under-appreciated.

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center where he enjoys his work with teachers. He also taught for ten years in public schools and is the son of a teacher.

HD_Links: Five Websites to Inspire Your Students

I’m sharing five of my favorite tools for the classroom to inspire kids to get creative. Check them out!

1. Aviary: This site can really do it all!  Photos can be edited instantly online and saved right back to your hard drive!  You can create music with it.  There is even a design option that allows you to draw!  I think this is one of those sites that could come in handy in almost any project.  Imagine if students are making a digital story and one member of the group is the “Musician” and gets to design the music?  Or, if they are working on a poster for an Earth Day project and they take their own photos outside of your school and edit them in the classroom.  I love Aviary most because it’s one of those sites that is ready to use.  There is not much to read or figure it… it’s just click and get creative! Perfect for the classroom. :)

2.  Wonderopolis This site gives kids LOTS to think about.  There is a brand new “Wonder” posted everyday.  You will learn things here you didn’t even realize you wanted to know.  It’s a great site for kids with writer’s block or kids who just love to learn…and really…what kid doesn’t love to learn?  I would bookmark this one on your classroom website and let kids visit whenever they’d like.  It can inspire them to learn about new things and think more creatively about everything they study!

3.  Cartoonster & Fluxtime:   Cartoonster has several tutorials that take kids step by step through the artistic process of creating a cartoon.  It will teach them about the simple act of making a flip book, adding perspective to drawings, and how to spruce up a cartoon.  Fluxtime is another site that they can use to draw and create their own animation!   Making an animation could be a wonderful way to summarize a book, demonstrate cause and effect, make a public service announcement for a cause that students have researched, or just to create a story!

4. Incredible Art Department: I spent just a few minutes at this site, and with a couple of clicks, there are tons of links to explore.  Beware of Google Ads cleverly placed around the pages, but the content here is wonderful.  I visited a site to make a Jackson Pollock of my own.  When the Pollock page loads, it’s white, click around to throw paint – okay, it’s EVEN fun for the teachers. :) .  I also discovered a Van Gogh project I think I know a few students would love.  There are lots of project ideas organized and I  found a list of tons of creative art sites for kids.

5. Glogster.edu: Glogster is a great tool for getting students in the creative mode. It has tons of fun, flashy moving graphics, colorful designs, and the ability to put music, video, and voice audio right onto your page.  You can create a digital poster that can be published for the world to see or kept private for your classroom only.  Text and links can also be added.  It would be a fun way to make a ‘book report’ or use as a place for gathering research for a collaborative project.

Hope one of these fits right into your classroom…. now I’m going to go finish my Jackson Pollock painting…   Afterall, it is summer.     If you have any favorite tools, please leave a comment, I’d love to hear about them! :)

Post by guest contributor Krissy Venosdale of TeachFactory.com. Veteran eMINTS teacher, gifted education teacher, Tweeter, photographer….. and that’s just her day job. Original post August 2, 2011 on TeachFactory.com.

Friday 4ALL: Speaking with Conviction

This has been making the rounds, but it’s worth posting here. Poet Taylor Mali’s “Totally like whatever you know?” has been animated by Ronnie Bruce, a film student. The resulting video has been a hit throughout social media outlets over the last week+.

What follows is Mali’s lament over language that speaks with little to no authority through the use of discourse particles such as “y’know”, “whatever”, and “like.” Watch and listen…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kdrsPRZnK8

Like, that was so powerful…just kidding.

Mali’s poem (brought to life through Bruce’s animation) declares the importance of speaking with authority and power. This is an important lesson for young writers and speakers to learn. A thesis or declaration in a speech is so much more meaningful without the discourse particles.

How might you use this video with your students? How might you students create a product with the same impactful imagery of our words driving the point home? What message do you take away from Mali’s poem?

Zac Early is like an instructional specialist or whatever with the eMINTS National Center, y’know?