Spaceteam app probably wasn’t created to help kids learn to decode rapidly, but it just might be the best method available. Spaceteam requires 2-4 players who all work on their own device to collaboratively solve meaningless problems. Each player is given a dashboard of gadgets with novel labels. Players see commands pop up on their screen. The only thing is each command is to be executed not by the player herself, but by one of the other Spaceteam members; therefore, the player who receives the command must quickly shout it out for another player to execute.
The game requires speed, collaboration, multitasking, and most of all, quick reading skills. For students in grades 2 through 6, they play without even realizing they are working on reading skills, and that’s the beauty of it. The game is so engaging and fun, they will beg for more and more, and before you know it, will have fluency that is out of this world! Here are my own kids (mostly grown ups) playing:
Spaceteam is free with upgrades available for $4.99. It is currently available for both iOS and Android devices.
Richie was born with no arms. His whole life has been a course in design engineering. As you kick off your new school year, this is a perfect time to show this awe-inspiring video to instill determination, hard-work, and positive attitude in your students. Personally, I couldn’t watch this video without tearing up. Richie is one of my new heroes.
Here are some suggestions for classroom use. Give your students some time to pair share their feelings after watching the video. Don’t rush into a whole class discussion or assignment right away. After ample time to process, ask your students some questions: What challenges do you face in life? How does Richie inspire you to become a greater person? What questions would you ask Richie if you could meet him? Perhaps you will assign a response essay or ask your students to blog about Richie. Maybe you could write to Richie and thank him for the example he sets for young people.
So what book are you reading these days? And what made you decide to grab that book and read it? Most likely, you heard about it from a trusted friend, relative, or colleague. Do kids recommend books to each other? From my experience, the answer is NO. They aren’t naturally talking about the books they love at recess, on their cells, or online. That’s where you and I come in. We need to provide class time and clear guidance for our students to learn how to recommend books to each other. I train my students at the beginning of the year to record, in their binder or on their iPad, a “Books to Read” list. This list should include the title along with how they can find the book. If it’s in the library, then the author’s last name is usually sufficient. If a friend will loan them the book, then write the friend’s name next to the book title. As students finish reading their current book, they look at their “Books to Read” list to choose a new one.
This is where the Book Party comes in. Students learn to roam around the classroom “party-style” and just informally chat with one another about the books they love. All students must be carrying their list. Students are allowed to gather in groups of 2 or more. The only “rules” for the Book Party is that all students must be either talking about a book they love, listening to someone else talking about a book, or writing down a book recommendation on their “Books to Read” list. One key to helping students to stay focused is for the teacher to constantly scan the room checking for students who appear to be off task. Book parties normally last about 5 minutes. Sometimes, at the end of the book party, I will ask students to hold up the number of fingers to correspond to how many books they added to their list. Here is a brief video peek at my students conducting a book party.
I have been assigning slide presentations to my elementary students for many years. I found myself repeating the same critiques to group after group. Now, I don’t leave “PowerPoint” style to chance. Here are a few of the tips I give my students.
Use VERY small amount of text. A few words that give the main idea for each slide is good. The big NO-NO: Reading your slides to your audience.
Choose one font style for the main points and one for the sub-points. Use these styles throughout your entire presentation. This includes font name, color, and size.
Be careful with overlap. Text that is barely touching a photo is awkward. Text that sits right next to the edge of the slide is awkward.
Dark text on light background or light text on dark background. Contrast! Make it POP!
No bullet points. Duplicate your slides and put your sub-points on separate slides.
Try to fill your slide with one large image.
Faces are better. We all like to see closeups of the human face.
Be careful not to distort your pictures. Grab the photo in the corner, not the edge, to change the size.
Be careful with image size. If you use a small image and resize it to make it large, the image gets very blurry.
Photos are better than clipart. Better yet, make your own pictures by taking photos or drawing pictures.
Cite your source. Always give credit for the images you use.
Overall Design Tips
Avoid using templates. They are cheesy and show little creativity.
Avoid slide transitions. You want your audience focused on the slides, not the switching between slides. NO transition is wonderful!
Simple! Keep your slides clutter free. A nice big clear picture with 3 words to focus the audience is great!
Avoid creating a “The End” slide. If you have a conclusion, great. Otherwise, just make a main topic slide as your last slide. Don’t make a slide that says, “Thanks for watching,” or something similar.
Advanced Tip: Use the rule of thirds. Draw a tic-tac-toe board on your slide. Place items where the lines cross. It’s a bit more complicated than this, but the main thing: try to avoid centering things on the slide.
Note: These tips definitely limit creativity, but my purpose is to teach my students to first create a good clean slide show. Once that is accomplished, then I encourage the students to break the rules…with purpose. It’s similar to learning a new instrument. We first need to learn our scales and copy the masters. Later, we develop our own style and can artfully break the rules.
Screencast Instructional Video: 12 PowerPoint Tips for Kids