Saturday, 23 February 2013

Scratch & Other Things

Here are some of the things that we did, This Week In Gifted!


Scratch Logo
Last week the Thursday afternoon class got a start on the programming language Scratch.  This week the Tuesday classes and the Thursday morning class got their introduction to it as well.  The Tuesday morning class and the Thursday morning class had a few students who were already familiar with Scratch.  These students did a great job showing the potential of Scratch and providing tips for their peers.  A big shout out to Kehler in the Thursday afternoon class who volunteered part of his time helping out his peers.  He also gave a wonderful intro to Scratch for those students who were away last week!

Warm Up Games

Almost every class we play a warm-up game.  The general purpose of the games is get everyone participating and having fun.  This week some of the classes played Improv Bingo; a drama game that focuses on collaboration, creativity, and presentation skills.  Other classes were introduced to the game Password.  It is based on the old gameshow of the same name and it focuses on creative and critical thinking.  The Thursday morning class played a mean game of Concentration where the focus is on staying sharp and concentrating on the quick play.

MaKey MaKey and Pivot

The Wednesday afternoon class continued to work on the MaKey MaKey's and Pivot Stickfigure.  They are becoming quite adept at setting up the MaKey MaKey.  We also have quite a number of short, fun Pivot animations that students have created.

More Presentations

The Tuesday and Thursday morning classes had some more Inventor Project presentations.

On Tuesday the class got to play Joaquin's Smart Board Jeopardy game.  Joaquin's peers thought that he did a good job formatting the game and that the difficulty level of the questions was just right.  I loved how he set up the Final Jeopardy question.

There were a number of presenters in the Thursday morning class.  Paul presented his comic strip about a fictitious inventor.  Paul's comic told a good story and his peers like the effects that he used.  He conveyed his enthusiasm for the project in his presentation.

Braiden and Carson presented their radio interview of Thomas Edison.  It was full of lots of great facts and it was clear that the boys enjoyed performing the interview.  Braiden and Carson's peers thought that they had put together a good script and they appreciated the fact that they took a risk in working with a format that was new to them. 

Danica and Ronesca presented their diorama on the life of Thomas Edison.  They gave a great presentation highlighting a lot of interesting and perhaps not well known facts about Edison.  Their peers appreciated Ronesca and Danica's attention to detail including the chalk dust to make it look dusty and the way the facts were displayed.

Front shot of Danica and Ronesca's diorama

Close up shot.

Workshop Update

All of the classes have been contributing ideas to the Inventors' workshop and gradually working on it.  This week both Thursday classes had some time to work on the Inventors' Workshop.  Chloe selected some great fonts and printed them up for our sign.  Connor and Fynn took Paul's idea to use gears to represent the letter 'o' in the sign and found and printed up some good images.  Harry and Olivia K helped to start arranging and taping together the letters for the sign.  Gina, Koen, Carson, Olivia K, and Olivia L all printed up photos of inventors and their inventions to go on our timeline.  We've also added a side door to the tunnel.  

Saturday, 16 February 2013

A Better Mousetrap

Here is some of what we worked on, This Week In Gifted!

Building a Better Mousetrap

In the Tuesday classes and the Thursday morning classes we imagined that we worked for the company Pest-B-Gone.  Our task was to try to come up with a better mouse trap than the traditional snap trap.  In small groups students went through the process of brainstorming ideas.  We've been working on brainstorming the past few weeks and the students are really getting to be pros!  Then each group went through the difficult process of narrowing down the choices until they were left with their top choice.  We discussed different ways to narrow the choices and the problems that can arise (eg feeling like not everyone's voice is being heard, everyone choosing their own ideas).  In general the groups did a great job of compromising, discussing and trying to come up with good solutions.  Oh, and some of their mouse trap ideas sounded like real winners!

Inventor Projects

This week Eli shared his Inventor and Invention themed Jeopardy game with the Tuesday morning class.  He did a great job of following the Jeopardy format and he was able to involve all of the class in playing the game. 

In the Thursday morning class we were treated to comic strips from Zach, Tyler and Jordan.  All three boys demonstrated that they can spin a good story in comic book form!  Zach had some fun hiding a chicken in almost every frame, Jordan included a classmate as a character in his strip and used some neat special effects and Tyler broke out of the mold and had a not so happy ending. 

Also in the Thursday morning class, Gina shared her diorama with us.  She created a scene with the inventor of the light sphere, Gary Fong, at home with his family and his invention.  Her peers liked her attention to detail; she crafted miniature teddy bears for Gary Fong's twin babies and she also had little milk bottles with spilled milk.

More MaKey MaKey

The Wednesday afternoon class got another opportunity to work with the MaKey MaKeys.  These grade K - 2 students continue to impress me with their independence and ability to deal with challenging tasks!  


Scratch logo
Students in the Thursday afternoon class got the opportunity to try out Scratch.  Here is how Scratch is described on the Scratch website:
"Scratch is a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art. "
Students quickly figured out how to:
  • import characters and backgrounds
  • record sounds and include them in their program
  • make characters move around, change colours and even dance to music
It was an afternoon of exploration and I am looking forward to seeing what students create in the classes to come.  And as one of the students pointed out, Scratch integrates well with the MaKey MaKey.  Hmm, it appears that my master plan is no longer a secret ;-)

Monday, 11 February 2013


Here are some of the things we worked on, This Week In Gifted.

Brainstorming and SCAMPER

Last week the Tuesday pm class learned the SCAMPER technique for brainstorming (described here) and this week it was the Tues am and Thurs pm classes turn.  All three classes also reviewed the DOVE technique for brainstorming:

D efer judgement
O ddball and Original ideas are encourage
V ast number -- the more ideas the merrier
E xpand and elaborate on other ideas

They were then challenged to brainstorm as many uses as possible for a brick.  I don't know if it was because the Tues pm class had a week to fully absorb the SCAMPER technique, but they got almost double the number of uses, at 81, than the other two classes.  We will put these brainstorming techniques to use as we start to design our own inventions in the weeks ahead.  

Being Good Listeners

In the elementary gifted class it is usually not hard to get students talking.  Being good listeners though, that's where we need some work!  This week we discussed how to let a person know, with your body and with what you say, that you are listening to them.  Some of the things students suggested were:
  • turn your body towards the person who is talking to you
  • nod occasionally to indicate that you agree with what the person is saying
  • keep your body still
  • ask questions
  • think about what the person is saying 
We then partnered up and put these ideas into practice.  The students did a great job!  Apparently Hemingway once said; "I like to listen.  I have learned a great deal from listening carefully.  Most people never listen."

Inventor Projects

Brody and Evan from the Tuesday class presented their Pivot Stickfigure animation.  Their animation depicted what it would be like if an evil scientist from today went back in time and kidnapped Leonardo da Vinci.  The boys included some neat effects in their animation and they also added audio.

A number of students from the Thursday morning class presented their projects.  Tristan created a comic strip.  He also chose to have an evil scientist go back in time to kidnap a fictitious inventor.  Tristan did a great job incorporating realistic comic strip effects.  Brandon shared his comic strip on what Leonardo da Vinci may have invented as a child.  Chloe and Nicola showed the class the diorama that they created depicting Albert Einstein's home.  They also acted out an interview with Einstein in which they shared a number of facts about the inventor's life.

Chloe and Nicola's diorama
Over the next few weeks the rest of the students will be presenting their projects.

MaKey MaKey and the Wednesday Class

The Wednesday class gave the MaKey MaKeys a try for the first time.  It can be challenging at first to get the MaKey MaKeys set up correctly, but these grade K, 1, and 2s did an excellent job!  We only have 5 MaKey MaKeys so not everyone got a chance to work with them, but we will rectify that situation next week!   

Sunday, 3 February 2013

SCAMPER, the Tunnel and More

Here are a few of the things that students did... This Week In Gifted!

More Brainstorming

All of the classes spent time brainstorming on how to finish up the tunnel for our Inventors' Workshop.  Lots of great ideas were generated and the classes worked on:
  • adding small coloured skylights at one end
  • putting coloured paper on the outside so that it looks less like a bunch of boxes
  • making a new cover for the porthole  
The tunnel is really starting to look good as cosmetic touches are being added to the outside!

Tuesday Morning Class

We had more inventor project presentations and almost all of the students are done their projects.  Angel and Melina created movie posters for each of their inventors.  Angel shared what she learned about Marco Polo and his discovery of paper money, also known rather whimsically as Flying Money.  Melina gathered quite a bit of information about Steve Jobs which she shared with the class.  Nathan created a matching card game about Tim Horton and was able to answer many questions from his classmates about this Canadian icon.  The entire class got to try out Marcus' interactive SmartBoard game 'Who Wants To Be An Inventor?' covering a variety of inventors and inventions.

Tuesday Afternoon Class

We worked on using the SCAMPER technique to develop our lateral thinking skills.  SCAMPER stands for:
Modify / Minify / Magnify
Put to other uses
Rearrange / Reverse
The lesson we did was based on Lesson 2 posted here.  The students did an amazing job using the SCAMPER tool.  We talked about how this tool can help us problem solve and how this type of thinking is one way that inventors can come up with new inventions.  We were looking at different ways a chair could be SCAMPERed.  Ricki thought about a chair made of globes, Liam turned the chair into a table and Joycey a frame for a tent.  And these are just a small selection of the great ideas this group came up with!

Wednesday Afternoon Class

Students continued to work on their Pivot Stickfigure animations.  Many students have completed one or two components of their Pivot certificate:
Pivot Certificate


Thursday Morning Class

We played the drama game, Improv Bingo.  This class is known for producing funny and creative skits and they didn't disappoint!  Much of the rest of the class was spent working on their Inventor Projects.  We're looking forward to more presentations next week.

Thursday Afternoon Class

This group made a lot of progress on the tunnel.  Students here are also working on the Pivot Certificates pictured above.  Those students using the MaKey MaKeys investigated some of the following:

MaKey MaKey certificate


To inspire classes with their Pivot Stickfigure animations, some of the classes watched the following videos:

And that was our week, This Week In Gifted.