Monday, 23 March 2015

Five Alternatives to Powerpoint for Presentations in Education

Death by Powerpoint (a phrase my principal picked up at a recent conference) is a real and dangerous threat in education. In my classroom, it's more like death by Smart Notebook -- but in honesty, if you're using Smart Notebook the same way you use Powerpoint (ie, not taking advantage of its interactive features), it's six of one... you know the rest.

The thing is that Powerpoint and its ilk are useful. There are many times when you want to just get some information across, and Powerpoint provides a quick, easy way to provide a visual backdrop to your lecture. If you want to see why this can be a danger, though, you don't have to look much further than your own classroom (or, failing that, mine). When students have to present something to the class, Powerpoint is their go-to option -- usually involving reading a series of slides to their classmates as everyone slowly sinks into a stupor.

That's why it's important to show the students that there's more than one way to present information. I'm not saying never use Powerpoint again -- only that it's a great idea to explore the options and alternatives. With that in mind, here are five alternatives to powerpoint for using in presentations in education, both for teachers and students.

The one downfall of most of these applications is that, as with many web based programs, you do need an account to use them and save your work. That said, it's not too hard to make a single classroom account if you don't want to sign each student up individually. 

Five Alternatives to Powerpoint

Haiku Deck is a lot of fun and creates visually compelling presentations simply and for free. My favorite thing about it in terms of student use: it simplifies the process. We've all seen student Powerpoint presentations with blocks and blocks of copied and pasted text -- try that in Haiku Deck, and it shrinks the text too small to read. Similarly, there are no animations, eliminating those presentations short on content but long on bells and whistles (seventeen gifs of dogs fading in to the sound of applause). 

Prezi should maybe be number one, as it's the presentation alternative people seem to love the most. And make no mistake, Prezi is cool. Kids love it: it zips and zooms in and out, looking very slick and dynamic. But while Prezi is a fun tool, it can be difficult to master, and younger students (as well as some adults) would definitely find it a frustrating experience, which pushes it to number two on my list. 

Powtoon is a neat app for creating short animated presentations. Free accounts limit you to five minute presentations (which is not such a bad thing given how long student presentations tend to go, anyway), but you can pay to upgrade to a different account. An educator account will mean students don't need an email address to sign in. Once videos are complete, they can be uploaded to YouTube, a functionality students love. This is less of a direct presentation tool and more of a video maker, but serves a very similar purpose. 

Google Slides is basically online Powerpoint with one huge and important difference: it has the ability to be collaborative. You can set up a presentation and have each student contribute their own slide, or work to edit one another's presentations, or work in groups. The multi-user aspect of Google Slides makes it an incredibly powerful presentation tool for modern educators. is another Powerpoint-esque presentation tool. You can create public presentations with a free account and private ones by upgrading to a paid account. It functions very similarly to Powerpoint, but it can be nice to have your presentations stored in the cloud so that students (and teachers!) can access them from home. In addition, there are some nice bells and whistles on that make it useful for educators and older students. 

Question of the Day:
What's your go-to presentation software? Are you still using Powerpoint?

For myself, I do rely on Powerpoint quite often. It's quick, accessible, and easy to use. I'm trying to branch out into other programs, though, and I've used Knowmia quite frequently to create classroom videos, as well as programs like those mentioned above.

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Wednesday, 18 March 2015

10 People You Should Be Following On Twitter

Once again I'm rounding up some of my newest tweeps -- teachers (and other great educational blogs, personalities, and speakers) who are awesome to follow on Twitter. These are the folks who always have interesting articles and resources, and they're too valuable to ignore!

Darcy Moore tweets about education, politics, ed tech, and a variety of other subjects in a helpful and interesting way. 

Chris Smeaton is the superintendent of my own district. He tweets thoughtfully and introspectively about the changing face of education in the 21st century. 

Audrey Watters tweets in a lighthearted and informative way. She talks about Ed tech and always has so something to add to a conversation. 

Even if you can't get to the annual ISTE conference, you can keep up with the latest in Ed tech with information from ISTE!

5. Classic Pics

OK, this isn't about education -- but it is educational! Classic Pics posts historical photographs (such as an angry policewoman chasing skinny dippers, or the shadow of a vaporized person shortly after the atomic bomb fell in Japan). It can be an invaluable resource for story starters and history classes.

6. Vicki Davis (aka Cool Cat Teacher)

Vicki Davis is full of ideas. She has tons of followers and for a good reason: she's always got something interesting and innovative on the go.

7. Alec Couros

Alec Couros tweets about ed tech and more. He retweets a lot of interesting stats and articles, too, making him an all around good follow!

8. Matthew Farber

Matthew Farber tweets mostly about gamification and games based learning. He's a great resource for game ideas and articles about using games in teaching.

9. Jen Deyenberg

Jen Deyenberg is another great teacher who tweets about ed tech and its uses in the classroom. She's a prolific tweeter with a lot of excellent stuff to say.

10. Amy Smith

Amy Smith tweets about teaching, life, and art. She contributes frequently and intelligently to online conversations.

Whether you're just starting out on Twitter or a seasoned user, these are some of the best educators (and educator resources) to follow!

And of course, you can always connect with me (@missrithenay) if you like what I do here!

Question of the Day:
Who were the first people you followed on Twitter?

I use Twitter 90% for professional reasons, so my first follows were almost all coworkers! 

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Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Power of a Story

Have you ever noticed how many professional speakers start their talks with a story? Or, put another way -- how much more interested your students are in watching a movie than an informational video? Either way, it's the same thing that draws us in: the power of story.

The need for this kind of narrative is deeply embedded in humanity. We'll impose it even when there's no narrative to speak of, creating our own stories with lightning speed on an almost subconscious level. This applies even to those who don't think of themselves as creative or natural storytellers: among their own friends and family, they're more than happy to share stories of their lives, and they can create a narrative out of random shapes as easily as anyone else. 

The point is that as human beings, we have deep psychological ties to story. And that makes it an incredibly powerful teaching tool. Here are some ideas for using story in your own classroom to capture students' attention and create optimal situations for learning. 

1. Use literature

There are so many ways to link literature to curriculum! For example, I like to start reading Eric Walters' book Branded to my class in advance of our social studies units on provincial law and global citizenship. It gives us a common frame of reference for both our discussion of how a bill about school uniforms could become a law and a consideration of global issues such as sweatshop labour. Here are some other books with lots of curricular links:

One Grain of Rice
The Dear Canada series
Sir Cumference and the First Round Table
If the World Were A Village
Duck! Rabbit!

2. Use stories to help with memorization

Having trouble with basic multiplication tables, for example? Have students put them into a story. Here's an example:

Two-day, two friends went walking in Twotonium, a town where everything is done in twos. No one dares step outside without their partner. When the two friends rounded a corner, they met another group, which brought them up to four. They raced across the town for the Twotonium double sided canoe race, a sight not to be missed. There they hopped into their double canoe, but their two sisters met them and wanted to race, too. That made six: far too many for the race. What to do? Fortunately a pair of brothers happened along. Now they had four groups of two, so all eight of them hopped into the canoes!

That's just a silly little example, but putting things into the context of a story can help with memorization immensely.

3. Frame your class around a story

I've talked before about Cognosco, the fictional kingdom my classroom is set in. My students follow a loose story throughout the year, one I'm always trying to further develop and link. When they arrive in September, they learn that a local prophet has foreseen a coming disaster, and they have all been invited to enter training in preparation. In October, the disaster strikes when the king is kidnapped by the neighboring kingdom of Ignarus. Much of what we do takes place in this narrative framework as we advance closer to Ignarus in hopes of rescuing the king. This is a work in progress, but it does seem to capture students' attention and make them take notice!

Question of the Day:
How do you use stories in your classroom?

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Wednesday, 4 March 2015

How to Classroom Blog With Students

More and more teachers are creating classroom blogs with students, and it's not hard to see why. Blogging is a great way to engage kids in writing. Here in Alberta, where we are still giving students standardized tests on creative writing, I would much prefer to see my students write a blog entry than the current procedure of writing a newspaper article -- it's far more relevant to their daily experience, and kids of any age enjoy the idea of writing for publication.

That said, blogging with kids does present its own unique challenges. Here are some -- and how to overcome them!

1. What program should I use for blogging?

You really can't go wrong with Kidblog. It has several nice features that make it particularly appealing to a classroom setting, such as the ability to set comments so that the teacher has to approve them, or the ability to limit your classroom privacy settings so that only people who are signed in can access your students' blogs. You can also turn these privacy settings off, leading to a flexible and convenient setup.

If for some reason you don't want to use Kidblog, I also use Blogger to make a classroom blog. This is a whole class blog, and my students all use the same google email address to sign into it. I use this for a whole class journal. If you have Google for education, or your students each have their own gmail address, you could use Blogger for individual blogs as well. Here is a link to our class reflection blog, and if you would like to connect with us, come visit us on Kidblog as well -- students would love to hear from you!

2. How can I justify spending class time blogging when we should be working on creative writing or essay writing?

You can write pretty much anything on a blog that you would write in a notebook -- it's just in a public forum, which can be a very powerful incentive for many students. They can comment on one another's work, giving you an excellent forum for group editing.

3. What if students use blogging as an excuse to write in text talk or the like?

Yup, that happens. It particularly happens in grade 6. I try to circumvent it by spending some time looking at high quality blogs written by other young writers, but I did hit a point where I just had to say, all right: if your blog post is not at least ten sentences, and that means that it contains capitals and periods, I will delete it. I'm not having students publish blogs that simply say "ya i lov hockey its so grate go flames."

On the other hand, if parents are accessing those blogs, it can give them a very quick and ready picture of what their students are writing in class!

4. What is the value of investing time in blogging?

There are a lot of things that make blogging valuable. Just a few include:

  • The opportunity to read one another's writing and comment on it
  • A ready audience for your writing
  • A more engaging form of writing (hand them technology and they're suddenly on board!)
  • A place to collect a writing portfolio readily and easily
  • A way to continue writing throughout their school careers
  • Easy access to student writing for parents and community members
Really, the list goes on and on. And blogging is quite easy: Kidblog takes minutes to set up, and is free. So if you've never tried blogging with your students, why not give it a shot now?

Question of the Day:
What makes you read a teaching blog?

For me, this is all about utility. I love humorous stories and I easily get sucked into jokes and irony, but if I'm going to keep checking a blog regularly, it has to be because it provides me with practical and interesting ideas to use in my classroom.

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Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Three Ways We're Teaching Wrong (As Illustrated by Wasteland 2)

It's been a few weeks for this blog -- mostly because I had a raging sinus infection. But while that wasn't much fun, it did get me playing Wasteland 2, predecessor of my all time favorite games (well, next to Portal): the Fallout series.

And it's hard. I'm assured it gets easier later on, but the Ag Center is KILLING me (literally. Over and over and over again). What I'm telling you is, I kind of suck at this game. But I'm still playing it, and that's the thing -- as I've said over and over, failure doesn't have to be traumatic or terrible. It can be a lure.

It can also just mean you're really bad at video games, but we won't talk about that. Instead, we'll talk about what I've realized through this frustrating experience -- three things that school doesn't do very well. The start of this game might be tricky, but that's nothing compared to what I know some students experience when dealing with math, reading, or writing.

And that, incidentally, is why it's so important for teachers to do things we're bad at: so we don't forget the experience of struggling. At any rate, here are three things this game has reminded me that schools should be doing.

1. Allowing breaks when needed

Yeah, we all know kids need breaks. We give them recess, and if they've been sitting too long we get them up and moving, and if the whole class seems sluggish we find something else to do. But that's not the same as each kid getting a break when they need it. If halfway through math the problem has built up into something insurmountable and frustrating, forcing through it will probably not yield the results we're looking for. This is a tricky situation because there are, of course, some kids who would be happy to NEVER do math, and will take a permanent break. But letting a kid go get a drink or use the washroom -- 15 times, if necessary -- can give them the mental space to adjust.

2. Not forcing breaks when not needed

School is chunked into artificial segments. Often I'll have students just getting absorbed in a game, project, or activity when I have to say, "All right everyone, time to pack up and move on to science." I've often thought that I'd love to have students arrive in the morning, and on the board I have a list of tasks that must be accomplished today (for example: page 161 in math, listen to Ms Swark talk about the Iroquois confederacy, watch this video, work on this project) and have kids take on each as they see fit, in their own time. This is trickier if you teach in a school where students frequently switch classes. But I still may try it one day.

3. There have to be helps available

Games are really good about giving you tutorials and helps, but unfortunately, I have a bizarre mind, and the things I need help with aren't what usually pop up. Action points, I can figure out. Friendly fire? Yeah, I clued into that when I decimated half my team. But sometimes some silly little thing trips me up. It's usually something that would be intuitive to most people and just isn't to me. That's when -- like everyone else -- I hit google, and almost every time, someone else has had the same question, and some helpful person has answered it. I get the answers I need, when I need them. Our students get instruction before they need it, and then help from a teacher when we're able to get to them. BYOD helps with this to some degree -- if they have the skills to use it -- but so does a "cheat sheet," a helper, a partner, or just the freedom to wander around and interact with one another.

There's potential in all of this, of course, for students to abuse it. But there's potential for abuse in giving them a pencil and paper -- they might write notes, or make airplanes, or draw something inappropriate. We need to weigh risks against benefits and see where we stand!

Question of the Day:
What do you do when you're frustrated with something you're learning?

In honesty... I rage quit. But I'm usually back in a couple of hours, because this game/crochet stitch/problem is NOT going to beat me!!!

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Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Is Technology Making us Ruder?

Lately I've had a number of conversations with people about how and when we use technology, and I reached a surprising conclusion. A coworker asked when we should begin teaching kids about cell phone etiquette, and I realized that there's a problem: we don't agree on what that etiquette looks like. Sure, there are a few basic agreed-upon mannerisms -- don't answer your phone at the movie theatre, or blast your iPad when you're out for dinner -- but overall, there's just no agreement. Among my friends, I have people who..

  • think it's incredibly rude to touch an electronic device when you're in any social situation
  • think it's okay to quickly check text messages in social situations, but not to focus on your phone or device to the exclusion of socialization
  • think it's fine to multitask between socializing with people who are physically present and being on your phone
  • think it's fine to use your phone when and how you please, even if that means you sit in a corner at a party texting or surfing the internet
That's just in my small social circle. So given that situation, how on earth are we supposed to teach technology etiquette to kids? We don't agree on it ourselves.

Starting With The Basics

That said, I think there are a few basic rules that everyone (for the most part) can agree on when it comes to manners and technology. Chief among them: 

If what you are doing is disturbing another person, then stop it.

There are obvious examples of this. A coworker mentioned someone who answered his phone in the middle of a funeral. Disturbing to people around you? Check, check, and check. Stop it.

The woman who spends the movie texting her friend while the people around her who paid $20 to see a movie grumble under their breaths. Rude? You bet.

The parent who doesn't believe in headphones and plops an iPad blasting Madagascar in front of her three year old two feet away from me at a restaurant. Annoying? And how. 

The person (illegally) texting while driving who gets into an accident? Buddy, your technology obsession isn't just rude, it's downright dangerous.

So there are at least some basic rules of technology etiquette we can mostly agree on. That's a good place to start. I think we can carry that a step further, too. 

Among my friends, pulling out your cell phone to check a text message mid conversation is generally not considered rude. It's not disturbing anyone, so it's not a big deal. But I have other friends who do think it's rude, and it would disturb them if I did it. Therefore, I make an effort not to do it with those friends. Ideally, those friends would also make an effort to understand that I use technology in a different way than they do -- that to me, it's almost an extension of my person, rather than an external tool. If we both did that, you'd have me trying to be considerate of my friends who find excessive technology use disturbing, and my friends who find excessive technology use disturbing trying to be considerate of the fact that technology is natural to me, and an effective way of managing anxiety. It would be hard for us to not find some kind of middle ground.

In the end, this is what we should be teaching our kids: consideration and courtesy. Don't judge someone because they use technology differently from you. Don't insist that everyone looks at the world the way you do. And try to be respectful of others' opinions and differences. If we're going to teach cell phone and technology etiquette, I think that's as good a place as any to start.

Question of the Day:
Would you attend a party where you were told to leave your technology at the door?

A friend of mine posted a link to this advice column suggesting that it's "a breath of fresh air" to ask your guests to leave their technology at the door. The consensus among my friends was that it was not a breath of fresh air, it was rude and presumptuous, especially if you're blindsiding your guests with this request. I might consider attending a party if a friend did this and told me in advance, but I would be pretty angry if this was an unexpected request at someone's house, and would probably refuse to participate. Devices and cell phones are very personal now -- I'm not okay with leaving mine lying around.

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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The Top Five Articles Making the Games Based Learning Circuit

This week, I'm too busy reading to write -- every time I turn around, I'm swamped by another awesome article, idea, or thought provoking piece. So for this week I'm sharing other people's words: here's a round up of the top five articles making the social media rounds.

1. No Tech Board Games That Teach Coding Skills to Young Children

I love that we've reached the point where even people without access to technology can start teaching coding skills. This article over at Mindshift highlights some amazing games teachers can use to introduce coding concepts without a single piece of tech on hand.

2. Let's Ban Bans in the Classroom

Here, John Jones makes a compelling argument against banning technology in the classroom, pointing out the flaws in studies on multitasking and asking the important question: "Why must we ask the 21st century to wait outside our classrooms?" Definitely worth a read if you've ever questioned the wisdom of tech in your class.

3. Fact or Fiction?: Video Games are the Future of Education

This interesting article from back in September sees Elena Malykhina do a great job of summarizing both the pros and cons of games based education. It explores some of the ways innovative teachers use games, and discusses the need for balance in all things.

4. What Video Games Can Teach Us

This article over at Science News for Students is excellent reading for kids and teachers alike. Emily Sohn carefully explores the benefits of video games after a previous installation considering criticisms of violent video games. This article is clear and intelligent, a great counterpoint to many video game critics.

5. The Assassin's Creed Curriculum: Can Video Games Teach Us History?

This one's not so new either, but Molly Osberg does an amazing job of considering the role actual history plays in historical games, and how much we can learn from playing them. (As a side note -- I love all the women writing about video games in education. So awesome!).

These are the five articles that caught my attention this week.

Question of the Week:
What's the best video game article you read this week?
Click here to tweet this question

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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Five Worst Pieces of Advice We Give New Teachers

As we've had a lot of student teachers come through lately, I've been thinking back to my own start as a beginning teacher, and all the great advice for new teachers people sent my way -- as well as a few duds. It took me years to unlearn some of the things my mentors taught me, and unfortunately, I still hear people giving the same advice to new teachers -- even if it's couched in prettier terms than the blunt ones I've used below. And it's time to stop -- this isn't advice that benefits anyone!

1. You have to cover every learning objective -- thoroughly and in detail!

Obviously, the curriculum and the learner outcomes are essential. They need to direct our teaching. But there are also, literally, thousands of them, and if you try to teach each one with equal depth and breadth, you will lose your mind, your students will hate you, and no one will learn anything.

Look at the big picture. When my students do their unit on ancient Greece, the main things I need them to know are that democracy began in ancient Athens, that it functioned similarly to but different from how we use democracy today, and that there were a lot of factors that made the situation unfair to modern sensibilities. Obviously, we're going to go into more depth than that -- but those are the key outcomes around which I structure the unit.

2. Use the textbook

Everyone tells beginning teachers to start with the textbook. It's there, it has the information you need to cover -- why wouldn't you use it? Well, because it's usually awful, for one thing. And because as a beginning teacher, you're probably brimming over with the kind of energy and enthusiasm only a first year teacher can have, and rigidly sticking to a textbook will destroy your creativity.

Don't be afraid of the textbook. If it's useful to you, use it. But don't be afraid to throw it out the window and encourage kids to get their information from anywhere that makes sense -- and to teach awesome lessons that the textbook could never imagine.

3. Don't reinvent the wheel

Now on the surface of it, this is great advice. If someone has done the exact lesson you were looking for and put it online for free, why on earth would you make your own? That far, I agree with it. But there are times when "don't reinvent the wheel" turns into a mantra, and people are almost afraid to experiment. Because what if you fail?

By all means, check online, check books, look for premade lessons that make you smile. But if you don't find exactly what you're looking for, it really might be worth your time to design the whole thing from the ground up, especially if you're going to use it year after year.

4. No child should ever be on medication

This one's controversial, I know. Most teachers come out of university thinking that no child should ever be on medication for any purpose. And it's definitely true that medication is prescribed quite readily by some doctors, and often overprescribed. Still, it doesn't take too many years of teaching before you realize that some children really do benefit from medication of various types. A child with a chemical depression may really need that medication.

Encourage classroom modifications and leave medication as a last resort. If a parent is concerned, encourage them to speak to their paediatrician -- after all, we aren't doctors.

And then there's the very worst advice I got, the advice that took me ten years to unlearn, that if I'm honest I'm STILL unlearning...

5. Make sure you do everything perfectly, because it's a competition, and everyone is judging you.

Is your bulletin board perfect? Because you know the teacher down the hall is checking it out, and so is every parent who walks by. And that typo you made on your class website is being analyzed on Facebook. Don't ever admit to a student that you don't know something! How can parents trust you if you're not a walking Google with every fact at your disposal? And above all, never, ever forget that teaching is a competition, and that the colleague down the hall is always looking better than you in the eyes of the parents, the school, administration.

Can we please, please leave this behind? Focus on teamwork? On collaboration? The more we turn one another into the enemy, the less we're able to focus on our jobs: working together to help every student learn!

Question of the Day:
What's the worst teaching advice you've ever received?

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Tuesday, 6 January 2015

10 Things Video Games Can Teach Teachers

It's important for teachers to change with the times, and I (obviously) think that video games give us an excellent model of how to teach. Having spent the last two weeks playing Amnesia, Shadowrun, and a bizarre Japanese dating sim called Hatoful Boyfriend involving birds (don't ask), I've been thinking a lot about why students play games instead of studying in their free time. With that in mind, here are ten things video games can teach teachers.

1. Never memorize what you can look up.

If a game gives me the code to a room, I'd be pretty annoyed if it expected me to commit it to memory with no way to check it. It's trivia -- a random detail I would never memorize because the important parts are the process of getting the information and how you use it, not the information itself... which sounds pretty familiar!

2. Repetition is the key to success.

No game expects you to be perfect at something on your first try. You do it over and over and over again until it's second nature, and THEN they add on.

3. You learn better when you're having fun.

You can learn to play a game in the fraction of the time it takes to memorize the periodic table of elements.

4. You'll memorize information when you perceive a need for it.

If a video game repeatedly forces you to look up the same information, you'll memorize it, either by accident or because you're sick of looking it up. You won't do this for fun though -- it has to be information you see as repeatedly required and useful.

5. People don't mind doing hard things if they are enjoying themselves.

Lots of games aren't easy. Some of them use that as their primary selling point. People enjoy a challenge -- they just want one that's entertaining and that they know they have a chance of beating.

6. Failure is easier without consequences.

Failure in video games comes with very minor consequences, if any. That makes people bolder and more willing to think and experiment.

7. The best learning happens when it has a purpose.

People learn video game mechanics, even really complicated ones, because they give them the chance to do something they're invested in. They wouldn't learn them just for their own sake.

8. Creativity goes hand in hand with learning.

Look at the fanfiction surrounding popular games if you doubt me. People love to learn if they can take the information and run with it.

9. Choice creates investment.

Sandbox games are popular for a reason. Even linear games usually give you a choice in how you speak and respond to the people around you. Remember the outcry over the Mass Effect 3 endings? (For those unfamiliar -- the entire series was based around the idea that your choices had a massive impact on the game's outcome, but at the end of the series, the three endings were virtually identical, creating a fan uprising). People like to think they're in control of their own destiny and affecting the outcome, even if the choices are limited to a specific set.

10. Things we learn through play stick around longer.

It takes me about five seconds to remaster the controls of an old, much beloved video game, no matter how complicated those controls seemed at the time. Going back to high school physics, on the other hand, would take a lot longer for me to remember.

Video games are awesome learning vehicles. Here are ten things we can learn about learning from video games, ready for use in the classroom!

Question of the Day:
Do you use any of these ideas in your classroom? If so, how?

I fully admit that my classroom is not a utopia where all ten of these lessons appear every day in every lesson, but I do try to keep them in mind when I'm coming up with new ideas -- especially the concepts of play, choice, and investment.

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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Free Craft Idea: Stained Glass For Christmas

These beautiful art projects are something I picked up at a conference a few years ago and have loved ever since. They are simple and relatively inexpensive (as stained glass goes!), and the kids love them. If you need a quick homemade Christmas gift or a class art project, this is a great way to do it.


(For each student)
-an 8X10 picture frame (I buy them at the Dollar Store) with a glass cover
-glass paints
-fake leading (often sold in packs with the glass paints)

What to do:

1. Most picture frames have a fake picture in them for marketing purposes. Take it out and flip it over -- it's usually white on the back. If it isn't, you will need to trace around the glass from the frame to cut a piece of white paper the same size as the glass. 

2. Have students draw a large object (we often use Christmasy symbols like a candle or a star) in the centre of the paper. Encourage them to make it large and use outlines only -- they won't be able to draw details in "lead" easily. 

3. Once the main object is drawn, have students block in random shapes around it. Students have a tendency to make these too small, so encourage them to keep them large enough to rest a quarter inside. 

4. Once the pattern is drawn, place it under the glass and secure the frame to keep the glass and paper securely in place. Using the black leading, trace over all the lines you can see under the glass. If you're right handed, start at the top left; if left handed, the top right. Work down diagonally so as not to smudge the lines as you draw. 

5. The leading dries fairly quickly and this step takes a while, so by the time you've finished the top should be dry enough to begin carefully filling in each space with coloured glass paint. Encourage students to not have two sections of the same colour touch. 

6. That's it! Let the paint dry, remove the paper and frame, and you have a piece of Christmas stained glass to treasure for years to come.

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