Who Am I?

Who Am I is a great activity for students.  This activity requires students to synthesize their learning into several concise statements which build upon one another.

The result is an activity for one of their peers to solve too.

Try this creative way for students to demonstrate what they have learned.


Decide how many clues the students will provide in the presentation.  This will be the number of slides needed.  The presentation should have a  solid colored (usually white or black) background.  The picture selection comes next.  Take advantage of the DE image search!  Obviously this could be Who Am I?, Where Am I?, What Am I?, or When was it?

The image should be placed on the first slide.  Now, create a box, edit it to have no border and the fill is the solid color of the background.  Make the box cover a section of the image.  Create more boxes, moving them around to cover the image completely.  If you have five clues, you will need five boxes.

Once you have one slide with an image hidden under boxes, copy the entire slide and paste it for the number of clues (and boxes).  Finally, add a text box to each slide with a clue, and remove one box at a time for each clue and slide.  The final slide should show the answer, the full image, and add the citation form your image.

See the full example here.  Go to View and Present to see as a presentation.


Subtraction Poetry

This is an interesting idea I came across earlier in the year. Thank you to Austin Kleon, a writer and artist who lives in Texas, for the idea. The idea of subtraction poetry involves taking words away in order for the information to take a new form.
Using a Mac computer with Preview, take a piece of informational text in pdf, annotate to strike through the unwanted words and highlight the final product. How might you or your students use this?

Consider How We Teach

This time of year used to be an exciting time not just because the school year is coming to an end.  For many years, the last few weeks of school has been the window of opportunity in the school year when teachers can enjoy hands-on activities with creative thinking strategies and problem solving because the drill and kill time for testing is complete.  It is not to say that is the right way for things to happen but it does happen.  The students and teachers finally experience the pure joy of teaching and learning with little time left in the year.

Unfortunately, I am seeing even less of the joyous moments.  I’m afraid two things are happening.  One, the students find creative thinking and problem solving so foreign after so much two dimensional learning.  Or two, the teachers and students are so burned out they have forgotten that there should be joy in inquiry.

Watch Randy Wilhelm’s “Ignite the Hope of Learning” TEDx clip. (also embedded below)  I agree with his assessment that in many cases schools have stopped making learning real for children.  To “know” S’mores, you have to MAKE and EAT them.  Even in places where there has been innovative change, there is a real struggle not to teach to the test in flat, one or two dimensional terms.  I ache to see that change.

Collaborative Stories

Students were having a great deal of difficulty with inferences in reading.  Why not have them create their own stories (with an agenda) so they make inferences?  Next trade stories, read, and infer about the story when you can ask the author about the real meaning.  Middle school age students enjoy this partly because the point is to try to stump the reader by making complex inferences.  The challenge of finding an answer is heightened because it has become a game or test of wills.

In this teacher made example, students from Art created characters in varying poses.  The characters were then used in language arts classes to make short stories with inferred meaning imbedded.  Finally, whole class stories were exchanged with other language arts classes in the same grade.  The stories are examined and critiqued to find the inferences made.

sample story

Samples of student art for collaborative stories.

Try a scratch-off

Does the idea of a scratch off bring excitement to mind?  The possibility of winning something or just the intrigue of the unknown is probably whirling through your thoughts.  Let’s add this excitement to a classroom assignment.

Introducing the Secret Message Scratchcard GeneratorScratch to see the thought! (had to move from WordPress, sorry)

Wikispaces is a fantastic source for free educational wikis.  More wiki instructions here.