NOTE: This is a revised post from a year ago where I shared how my students and I created a school-wide Star Wars Day! You can still do a virtual one with your students and here’s some resources!
During my last year before retirement, while working as a GT Facilitator, my entire theme for my gifted and talented students was Growth Mindset. Check out this past blog on how I used this theme throughout the year. My students and I were all big Star Wars fans, and I realized the “Force” that’s prevalent in all the movies, is really just another term for Growth Mindset!
Above is the wall display we used to invite all students to write on a sticky note about how they use the FORCE in school. For your virtual day, I have changed this to a Padlet, and I’ve created a board that you can copy and use! You can either have YOU and your students post right on the Padlet board I created below, or you can copy this one and make it just for your class; use THIS LINK! Once you get to the board, just click “Remake” in the upper right, change whatever you want, and use as you wish!
No Prep activities for Star Wars Day!
Have your students dress up using any type of space/Stars Wars theme (even a T-shirt or hat) and show everyone in a virtual class meeting!
Share a link to the YouTube page with all of the original read-along cassettes now online; WITH PHOTOS!
Have your students write OR read a fan-fiction Star Wars story on kidfanfiction.pbworks.com – they can both post their story, if an account is set up for them, or just READ Star Wars stories other kids have written. If they do the latter, you can have them write a review of the story using THIS book review template!
Star Wars Trivia for kids! – This would be so fun to play live via screen share with your kids (or just asking them in a virtual class meeting!); there are several options!:
“One of the major advantages of project work is that it makes school more like real life. It’s an in-depth investigation of a real-world topic worthy of children’s attention and effort.”-Education researcher Sylvia Chard
I couldn’t agree more with the quote above, but I’d like to add that in Project-Based Learning (PBL), students have a chance to integrate all of the skills they learn in different content areas…reading, writing, math, science, technology, critical thinking, creativity, and communication. The projects I’m sharing with you in this post would be perfect for implementing in either a homeschool setting a remote/digital learning platform.
Passion Projects: Hands down, this is one of THE BEST projects that I have done with students! I first implemented it while working as a Gifted and Talented Facilitator at an elementary school. In one of the GT resources left for me in the cabinet, I found a page in a book that gave some ideas for doing something called “Passion Projects”. Immediately my interest was piqued and I began making plans to start this with all of my GT groups! Since a child, I have always been consumed with many passions…reading, history, learning, favorite TV shows/movies/music, family history, traveling, and photography. It dawned on me that I didn’t know what passions my students had and I set about finding out. I then put this project together as I went along. I have the entire unit, step by step, in a Teachers Pay Teachers product (ON SALE FOR THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE). Below is an outline of how I facilitated the project:
I first facilitated discussions on what “passion” actually meant and what THEY were passionate about. I then had students survey other teachers, staff members and students as to what they were passionate about.
Next, I helped them to narrow down their huge topics, (such as Basketball or Minecraft) into something more manageable by having them create an essential question…something they want to explore within that huge topic. Thus the project became an Inquiry Project.
Examples of Essential Questions (from my former students!)
How and when were dogs domesticated?
How can I create a remote-controlled model airplane that will actually fly?
How do I become a master Lego builder?
How do you use Redstone in Minecraft?
What are the different steps it takes to write and publish a book?
How is math used in video games?
What are the origins of hockey?
I had students seek out an expert on their topic so they could interview them…whether it was a friend of their parents, a book author (one author actually did a phone call with my student!), or someone we found online and contacted. With my help, we were able to find experts for every student!
Next came the research…students used their experts’ information, the internet, books, magazines, and online articles. I had them use a graphic organizer (copy in the product) to organize their research. I had to remind them to make sure the information they were collecting directly related to that Essential Question.
Once their research was done, they were given a choice of how they wanted to display their project…display board, Google Slideshow, video, self-made book, demonstrations, experiments, etc. I then set up a day where students were able to present their project to parents, school staff and other students. Even if your child is at home while schools are closed, it’s important they present, even if it’s via Facetime or Google Hangout to family, relatives, friends, classmates, their teacher, etc.
My 3rd-grade student and I read this Reading a-z leveled book together and she really connected with it because her family travels quite a bit. We began researching the beaches she read about and finding photos. She put all of her learnings from the book, new learning from her internet research, and photos into a Google Drive presentation. Not long after, her family traveled to Hawaii and she got to visit a black sand beach and brought back a bottle of black sand! She was so excited to show it to me!
Choose Your Own Adventure Project: Remember these books? They were SO popular back when I was teaching in the 90s! Now your kids can create their own with a Google Slides template! To begin the project, I had my student go through a sample CYA slideshow to get a feel for how this genre works. I then had my student come up with a story idea, plan out settings, characters, plot, and the resolution. For several of the plot points, I had him come up with four different choices that the reader could take. Next came the photos for the presentation. I had him use either Pixabay or Unsplash to find photos, as these are all open source and copyright free. With his story plan, choices and photos ready, he was ready to start on the slideshow template…and he REALLY enjoyed it! The hardest part was keeping all the slides straight so that when the reader clicks their choice, they are taken to the correct slide. Check out his finished version here and be careful making your choices!
National Monument Project: This project was created after my first EVER visit to Washington D.C. last spring. Being a teacher and a history fan, I was thrilled beyond belief to see our nation’s iconic buildings and monuments. Being the teacher I am, I started wondering how many kids know WHAT our National Monuments are and WHO they honor, so I created a Google Slideshow using my photos from my visit, and showed my students the monuments and had them try to identify them. Sadly, not many were able to identify them, no matter what grade they were in! So the slideshow turned into another Teachers Pay Teachers product…including the initial slideshow and a project involving reading, writing, research, technology, and creativity on famous Americans who also need to have a National Monument.
We explored ideas for famous Americans who should have a monument using the internet, articles and background knowledge. Once the student settled on a person, I gathered books, online articles, and videos together to help the student research. I had each create a thesis to help narrow down the research, just like the Essential Question in the Passion Project. Here are a few of their thesis statements:
Neil Armstong should have a monument because he was the first man to step on the moon and more.
Many famous Americans have national memorials, but one that is missing is Katherine Johnson, who inspired many girls and women throughout the world TO NEVER GIVE UP ON THEIR DREAMS! Here are the reasons that Katherine Johnson needs a national monument.
There are many monuments honoring famous Americans. There is one missing, female codebreakers from WWII. They broke drug and spy rings and helped the US military win WWII. Their work was the foundation for cybersecurity. Not many people know about their work. Women codebreakers definitely need a monument.
After using all forms of media for research, the students created a Google slideshow. I then helped them write narration. We downloaded the slideshow into Keynote (PowerPoint will work too!), had them add narration and export into a video.
I then had the student create a model of the research and let them choose the medium they wanted to use. One student chose to do a 3D virtual model using a website called 3D Slash, and two others chose to use modeling clay and paint. They first designed their monument on paper, then launched into their creations. You can see their final products
Finally, we downloaded the slideshow into Keynote (PowerPoint will work too!), had them add narration and export into a video.
Check out their finished versions with the links below and the slideshow of their project work.
I am so proud of these students and I know this would be perfect for your students while they are undertaking homeschooling or remote learning at home. The initial slideshow and all instructions and templates can be found in my Teachers Pay Teachers product, which just like the Passion Project, is ON SALE to help parents and teachers during this unprecedented time. Please let me know of any questions you have and how I can help in the comments below!
..when students learn how to recognize and use genres, they are building the background they need to cope with new and unfamiliar texts. – Emily Kissler, ASCD
Growing up, I was a voracious reader, and all the books I read were from many different genres. While raising my own daughters, I encouraged them to also read a wide variety of genres…and when I started teaching, I taught literacy through genres. No state standard, principal, or colleague told me I had to do it that way; it just made sense to me! By organizing my instruction around genres, I was able to meet both the state and district standards in both reading and writing. In addition, I was able to teach such skills and topics as reading strategies, as well as grammar, punctuation, and spelling throughout our work in the genres.
Here were the steps I used 25 years ago to teach each of the genres and how I think it should be done now:
I would first introduce each genre, going over the defining characteristics of the genre. Now, I would have the kids read several short excerpts or passages from the chosen genre and have them come up with common elements for the genre.
Students would then choose novels from the targeted genre, either from my classroom library or with the help of the school media specialist. One change I would make: in addition to their novel, I have them read several short reading passages in each of the genres, perhaps during guided reading groups. One book in the genre is not enough to expose a genre to the students.
For some of the genres, I would have students write a story in that genre. For example, during our historical fiction unit, I combined literacy and social studies by having them choose a period in history, research that period, then write a short fiction story set during that time period. One year we had a “History Fair” where the students created a display board on that time period, gathered or made artifacts and other books, and shared their historical fiction story with parents and other students. Here are a few photos from that event! Now in our technology era, students could now do a multimedia presentation on their historical period!
After our Folk and Fairy Tale unit, I had students write their fractured Cinderella story. We had stories set on ranches where the Cinderella character lost her cowboy boot, and one in a bowling area where she lost her bowling shoe!
If I did not have students write a story in that genre, we would integrate the arts into the genre study…such as creating Medusa masks to go along with our Mythology unit, or performing fractured fairy tale skits! No updates; this stuff is STILL fun!
5. During our poetry genre unit, my students read, discussed and wrote many different types of poems: haikus, narrative, concrete, free verse, cinquain, diamante, etc. Each student then had their poems put together in a booklet. Later, while working with my GT students, I did the same thing but had them create their portfolio in Google Slides.
After retiring from the school district, I started my own tutoring business and still used the genre approach with many of my students. I found that struggling readers, in particular, have not been exposed to many genres and really need that exposure to them before secondary school. I created a Google Doc listing all the genres so the student could keep track of each genre read and answer questions about the genre.
I also have my tutoring students write in some of the genres. Here a few examples of their writing!
I also created a Quizlet so my students can test themselves on all of the reading genres; click HERE to access it!
I love teaching about and through genres so much that I had to put this entire unit together into a Teachers Pay Teachers product. This is a COMPLETE unit that can be accessed in Google Drive for both elementary and secondary teachers! The unit includes:
On the first day of school, and the first week and the first month…students and teachers are busy getting to know one another through a variety of activities. But it’s also important for students to get to know themselves! In this post, I will share with you a few ideas that will serve as both a way for you and other students to find about each other and for students to explore themselves as individuals, learners, and citizens of the world. I call of these activities the “I Am Journey.”
The first idea is a super fun activity I did with my 5th and 6th graders during the first week of school! I can’t remember where I got the idea from (this was 23 years ago!), but I found directions for you online on how to create these. Using butcher paper and markers, I had students help each other to trace their body outlines, and then cut it out. Next, they created a “Me Collage”, adding in words, designs, photos, and illustrations of who they were as a person, and as well as their favorite hobbies and passions. The students presented their Me Collages to the class, then we hung him in the hallway. Check out some of their creations below!
While working as a Gifted and Talented Facilitator, I used a poem format that I’m sure many of you are aware of…the I Am Poem! I chose this poem because my goal for the year was to help students develop a sense of identity and become self-regulatedlearners. I then discovered a unit in the Autonomous Learner Model book by George Betts, called“Journey Into Self.” The same publisher also has another unit called “Journey Into My World”. I decided to build my year-long theme around this concept and to launch the theme, I had students create visual I Am Poems!
To start with, I created an I Am Poem for myself to serve as a model for the students, then walked them through the creation of their own poem, using THIStemplate. You can find many variations of this same template online. Here’s a sample poem that one of my students created. Next, I had students use copyright-free images they found online (that’s an entire lesson in and of itself!) to turn their poem into a visual I Am Poem. Most students used Google Slideshows, but some used other media such as a movie with music. Another student used Glogster to create her visual poem. You can check out some of their presentations HERE; many had their photo on the initial slide and throughout the poem, so I had to delete those for student privacy. Below are some images from their presentations.
The classroom teacher for my 5th grade GT students wanted the students to create math goals in their Advanced Learning Plan, so I had them all create a math version of the I Am Poem. Then, at the end of the year, I had all of my students complete an End of Year I Am Poem to reflect on their learning throughout the year. Many added in this update to their original Google Slide presentations. Here are some examples of what they added about their learning during the past year:
My younger students did something called an I Am Story. Click HERE for an example by one of my students and HERE for the template.
And here’s an idea I always wanted to do, but never got around to it…creating an “I Am” Wall with the students’ names and the first line from their poem!
I hope that you will use the “I Am” poem with your students! Let me know your thoughts or questions in the comments below!
A long time ago (well two years ago today), in a school far, far away (actually about a 30 minute drive), my students and I planned a school-wide Star Wars Day for May the 4th! Enjoy our photos and hopefully this will give you some ideas for your own classroom or school Star Wars Day! May the 4th be with you!
During my last year before retirement, while working as a GT Facilitator, my entire theme for my gifted and talented students was Growth Mindset. Check out this past blog on how I used this theme throughout the year. My students and I were all big Star Wars fans, so I led them through some project-based learning to plan and carry out a school-wide Star Wars Day! I gave the reins to the kids and had them meet with the principal to get permission, plan with the building engineer for what we would need for the day, and create presentations, a trivia game, and morning announcements promoting the event. Check out the slideshows below to see all we did! And a HUGE thank you to my former students who helped me plan and carry out this day!