home learning, Maker Space, Teaching

Unplug Your Home Learning

Home Learning is every teacher’s dream! We have the opportunity to show the learner how to apply their knowledge to their everyday environment. Once the environment is incorporated into the learning on a continuous basis, students will start to practice this type of thinking even when the assignment is long gone.

  1. Use Maker in Your Curriculum– make the most of home learning by asking students to create with household recyclables and trash. ‘Making’ may seem like craft time, but there is research to prove that the process of creating helps the brain synthesize information.  Psychology Today notes the importance of this-

Physical acts are a way of working out our thoughts. Psychologists are now recognizing something that artists have intuitively always known, that we think with our hands as much as our brains.

Here are a few Maker activities that can align with your curriculum.

  •  Read a story aloud, stop after the problem, and then ask students to build something that solves the problem in the story using household trash and recyclables.
  • Write like a serial killer by cutting words out of packaging and creating a motto for the protagonist in the book you’re reading.
  • Symbolic thinking requires more brain power- find 5 things in your house that represent the downfall of the Nazis in WWII, explain your thinking for each.
  • Nonfiction articles about world events can be more meaningful when you have to create the solution to the problem in them. Use found objects to create a solution to a worldwide problem. Write a paper to give more information.
  • What’s the motivation for the villain? Make a vision board for the antagonist in your book or the bad guy in a history lesson using cuttings, scraps and drawings. 
  • Model it! Sometimes there’s a need to represent and manipulate events to understand them. Make a 3-D representation to create a better understanding.

2. Create a Comic Book about a history assignment. History can be hard to place all the actors, settings and main events. What better way to remember than to draw them all out and put them in order in a comic book?

3. Play Word Games using only the words on a household object- got a bottle of shampoo? Have students write the title of the object on their paper and challenge them to use the letters to create as many new words as possible. Working on a word family? Tell them to highlight these words in their list of created words and give themselves double points for every word family word.

4. Math is Everywhere– 

  • Find all the items that are squares in the house, then use them to build a castle!
  • Use the labels from packages to calculate the number of calories in the entire cupboard.  
  • Create a survey on any topic and ask family members to answer- noodles, bread, or dumplings, which is better?  
  • Decide which room in the house has less right angles- justify.
  • Where did all the time go- write out a daily schedule, then notate how long each activity took.  
  • Who’s the tallest in their family? Who’s the shortest? Measure everyone’s heights, then convert their heights to another unit. Add up their heights and draw a new family super hero who towers over others.  
  • How many Cheerios are in a box, measure 1 oz. and then estimate.   How many apples would it take to fill up your entire fridge, find the volume of your fridge and the “volume” of an apple, then estimate.

5. Write a Mystery– A home can have adventures in it waiting to happen. Mom is in the kitchen, Dad is in the living room, kids are in the bedroom…… there’s a crash by the front door. Who Done It? Investigate the whereabouts of all parties and give a mystery analysis Clue style.

6. Draw a New Reality– Students draw a picture of a room in their house, then imagine it in another landscape.  Add a desert to the middle of the kitchen or a rainforest, perhaps outer space would look good in the bedroom closet.  Imagine and draw.

7. Book Spine Poetry– use the books around your house to create poetry. Stack the books flat with the spines aligned. How can you rearrange the books to create a poem?

8. Sketchnote! This is a powerful visual notetaking process that engages the brain. Sketchnoting is different from just drawing a picture about the book at the end of the story. Sketchnoting asks the artist to constantly add to their drawing to show progression of learning. Read a few pages of a book, then draw a few pictures to show the concepts learned, repeat.  Here’s a quick video to show you this learning process. 

9. Create Art using inspiration from packaging. Students find elements of art in packaging around their house that they’ve studied, then use those elements to create their own art.

10. Create a Playlist for a character in a book. What songs best represent this character and why? Go old school and write it all down on paper.

Bonus– multiply by friendly numbers! Ask students to work with numbers they know. They write down their parent’s phone number, then multiply each number by the next= 134-678-9101 is 1x3=3x4=12x6=72 etc. Find out which is larger, the sum of their parent’s phone number or their friend’s. Then multiply those sums for some serious practice.

One of the most important things to remember is, Home Learning is not going to look the same as learning done in class.  We can work on the same standards and objectives, but the learning should take advantage of the environment. I’m not saying that all learning can be done this way, but certainly many lessons can.  The advantage of home learning is that the learning will be more authentic to the real world and will help students to connect their learning to everyday situations. Essentially, home learning makes it easier for teachers to connect learning outcomes with life, which is our real goal in education.

I would love to hear the ideas you come up with for connecting curriculum to unplugged learning at home. Tweet me @1hightechteach

“Think With Your Hands”. Psychology Today, 2020, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/connect-creativity/201408/think-your-hands.

Images.App.Goo.Gl, 2020, https://images.app.goo.gl/LYQR1BYzVz3GrjZv8.

“Image: Mini Sketchnotes Tutorial – Sketchnote Love”. Images.App.Goo.Gl, 2020, https://images.app.goo.gl/HkqqVuQsJmLCwXLV7.

Maker Space, Teaching, Technology Integration

10 Ways to Use Spinners in the Classroom

spin11111111Ah, spinners. The newest toy designed to drive teachers mad.  Pokemon, hackey sacks, digipets, it’s an age-old problem for teachers.  The hot toy of the day makes it into the classroom.  Schools quickly ban the toy and kids create a black market to sneak it in. Why fight it? Embrace it!  Invite those spinners into class as a learning tool!

Here’s 10 easy ways to be the cool teacher:

  1. Review friction– students find different surfaces around the classroom to spin their spinner. Use timers or cell phones to time how long the spinner spins on various surfaces. Students can then enter their data in Google sheets, and even use the “insert chart” feature to make  a line graph of their data.
  2. Write a persuasive letter– students hate being told, “You’re not allowed”. Have students write a persuasive letter to the powers that be, enumerating all the reasons they should be allowed to have spinners in class.
  3. Practice vocabulary– (use this sheet) ask students to make small squares labeled 1,2 & 3. Have students tape each number to an arm of the spinner. Choose some vocabulary words. Students then spin their spinner and stick out their pointer finger towards their spinner. Whichever arm stops closest to their pointer finger, is the action from the sheet they will use with their first vocabulary word. Students repeat this process for each vocabulary word.
  4. Practice spelling– students use the same labels from above. Students then spin the spinner, whichever number their pointer finger points to, their partner has to write spelling sentences with multiples of the number that was spun. If I spun a 3, my partner would have to write sentences for spelling words #3, 6, 9, 12, 15, & 18. If they spin a 1, the partner writes spelling sentences for #1-8. Then switch, and have the partner do the same.
  5. Multiplication practice– Are your students studying 1×1 digit multiplication, 2×2, or maybe 3x?  Ask students to create three labels for their spinner. They can choose their own numbers, but they should correlate to the number of digits they are practicing. If you are studying 1×2 or 2×3, ask one partner to choose 2 digit numbers and the other partner to choose 3 digit numbers.  Tape the labels to each arm of the spinner.  Partners point at each other’s spinner.  They take each number that they spun and pair them together to practice multiplication.  Repeat.
  6. Division practice– students again choose their own labels for their spinner. Students can practice in small group, with one student making numbers for the divisor, and the rest making numbers for the divisor or quotient. Everyone spins at the same time. The group must use the divisor from the one student.  That student may choose which dividend they want to use. Everyone uses the divisor to solve for the number they spun. Once they have gone through all their numbers, have them switch spinners clockwise.
  7. Revise & redesign– Ask students, “Where will a spinner not spin?” Can students redesign a spinner to spin better? Ask students to design a better spinner. Have them draw up plans, diagram it, and even create an advertisement. Then, put their plans into action. Provide basic supplies: Popsicle sticks, jewel cases, old CD’s, aluminum foil, brads, paper clips, etc. Allow students to create their design and demonstrate at a “Spin-off”.
  8. Fraction comparison– students label their spinner with three labels, this time fractions. Students tape their labels to their spinners.  Students then go around the class, spinning their spinner and partnering up to compare their fractions.  They choose a new partner for each spin.  Students can even keep tally of the number of times their fraction was the largest.
  9. Random name generator– use word art to make a page with everyone’s name. Attach a paper arrow to one of the spinner’s arms.  Then place the spinner in the center of the circle and spin.  The class will love this new take on an old favorite.
  10. Reading with purpose– Find the history of the spinner here and its original purpose. Great article, but there are many ads. The article also mentions toys of the past.
Maker Space

Quick Tips for Attending #TCEA2016


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It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  TCEA is here!  Before you go, here are a few tips to help you be prepared.


Take a backpack, not a purse– No fashion bags or briefcases here.  You are carrying lots of equipment while walking at least 10,000 steps. (Wear your fitbit!)


Bring comfort– water bottle, snacks, jacket, tennis shoes, and ibuprofen. You will be walking a lot, this is not a fashion show.  Leave the dress clothes to the presenters.


Cash & extra cash– cash is faster.  Extra cash for parking.


Charge, charge, baby– not only should you bring a fully charged device, but bring an extra portable charger for your cell phone.  Don’t forget your power cord.  It is hard to find an empty outlet at times, arrive to a session early and find the seat near the outlet- it’s a prized position.


Bring Google with you– Notes for Google Drive is a great extension to have loaded for this week.  The notes stay on your browser bar, to be accessed whenever needed. Note Anywhere is another great extension that allows you to add sticky notes to the website, not the desktop.  

Download the apps– the TCEA app and the Cap Metro app are handy to have.


Business cards for networking.


Hotspot– If your phone plan comes with this feature, figure it out before you come.  The wifi is often overwhelmed.
Join in the Twitter fun at #TCEA2016.  Share your learning and find networking events.

Maker Space

5 Things You Can Do When Your Tech Lesson Crashes


I often joke with my class that there must be technology goblins that exist in my classroom.  All systems seem to be working fine and then out of nowhere, nothing will work the way it should.  These sudden episodes in the middle of a lesson can completely destroy all learning and create a chaotic atmosphere.  In order to be better prepared for when the technology goblins come for your computer or whatever technology mishap might come your way, here are some tips for any teacher:

Always have a plan B

B is for back-up plan, but this doesn’t mean a basic plan or a generic plan.  When planning lessons, ask yourself, “What will I do if my technology lesson does not succeed?”  Another website may be the answer you need, but I advise always having something that will work without technology.  You need to have something that will teach the same standards you originally planned for, so a minimal amount of learning time is lost.  An activity or worksheet over the same subject or teaching the same skill should be written into the lesson plan as a safety net.

I usually have a plan C too, this is a more generic lesson that focuses on a recurring standard.  A cache of dry erase boards and strategic use of graphic organizers can always come in handy here.

Keep a list of a few websites that serve a general function instead of a specific purpose-

When your original website goes down, use a website that can serve a basic purpose so you can quickly adjust your lesson and the learning can continue.  Here is a short list:

  • http://www.voki.com/– Inspire kids to write those reports by letting them design their own character to give the report when they are done.
  • https://www.smore.com/app/dashboard– Make virtual posters that can be as simple or complex as you want.
  • https://padlet.com/– A virtual corkboard where everyone can post their messages for everyone else to see.
  • https://popplet.com/– Graphic organizers your students create and share.
  • https://www.thinglink.com/– A picture is worth a thousand words- use this site to have students create visually interesting reports.
  • http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/– This site makes short comic strips.
  • Google Docs- Like Microsoft Word, but SO much better.
  • Google Slides- Like Microsoft Power Point, but SO much better.
  • Google Draw- Import pictures, label them, draw, and write.
  • Google Maps- Not just for geography, if it happens on Earth you can use this website.

Ask students how they would like to represent their learning

When the technology goblins visit you in the middle of a lesson, you may be left with few resources at your disposal.  It is at times like this that you can try something truly original: ask your students to decide for themselves how they would like to represent their learning.  They may surprise you with a skit, informational trading cards or a new creation all their own.

Ask students what they can learn from the technology problem that is happening

When you take the technology problem happening in your class and relate it to the outside world, students can easily see why it is important to learn how to correctly handle these situations.  What if all the traffic lights went out at the same time? What if your plane was about to leave, but you were stuck behind all the traffic lights?  Resourcefulness, patience, perseverance, and ingenuity can all be taught with hypothetical situations like these during this time.

Ask students if they know how to fix the technology problem

More students teach me how to fix my tech problems, than I have ever solved by myself.  Do not discount their knowledge, instead, challenge them to be the first one to figure out the solution!

The main point is, technology integration is not a science.  It is a daring art.  You must dare to try new programs and new situations with students who may be new to technology or as a teacher who may be uncomfortable with technology.  Random events will happen that you cannot explain, control, or fix.  Students are amazingly adaptable to every situation.  If they see that the teacher takes setbacks with a grain of salt, they too, will learn to breath easy when technology does not go right.  One of the most valuable lessons you can teach is to be calm in a stressful situation.  Teaching students perseverance in the face of adversity is worth a few visits by the technology goblins.