The most fun way to teach computer science to kids

Computer Science Unplugged is my find of the week.  It houses a collection of free learning activities that teach Computer Science through innovative games and puzzles that use cards, string, crayons and lots of fun and action.

CS unplugged introduce students to underlying concepts such as binary numbers, algorithms and data compression, separated from the distractions and technical details we usually see with computers.

CS Unplugged is suitable for people of all ages, from elementary school to seniors, and from many countries and backgrounds. Unplugged has been used around the world for over twenty years, in classrooms, science centers, homes, and even for holiday events in a park!

Check out the video to see how it can be used in the classroom.  And be sure to download the excellent lesson plan booklet.       Click here to access


Simple but effective icebreakers to start the school year.

Although you may be a new teacher to a group of students, most of them have already worked together for years and know each other all too well. The new teacher may be the only one who needs to learn names. And, even if the teacher and class have all worked together before, there may still be a need for some activities to welcome everyone back and mark the start of the new year.  Here are a few that might be useful. 

Be sure to check out our list of ten great activities to break the ice for more ideas

Fibbing to the teacher
When a teacher is new to a class that already know each other, try this game. In groups of 5 or 6, the students should carefully prepare to introduce members of their group to the teacher. Everyone should introduce another person (not themselves). They should say names and something about their interests, home area, personality etc. All the information must be true except for one person in each group – for whom every single thing must be untrue. Allow plenty of time for careful preparation, after which the teacher should listen to all a group’s introductions (while learning useful names etc) and decide which is the untrue one. Warn all students that they must be careful not to give away the fib by laughing, sniggering etc.

The virtual party
Arrange an imaginary “welcome back” party. Ask everyone to stand in one part of the room. Designate another section of the room as the party room and show them where the front door is. Appoint a host / hostess or two and brief them on how to welcome guests. Be a host yourself too. Then encourage students to “arrive” at the party one by one, or in small groups, (ringing the imaginary door bell) and once there, mingle, chatting in English, catching up on news. Serve imaginary drinks and snacks. Students initially tend to react to this simulation with some suspicion (feeling it is a bit silly to hold imaginary drinks etc) but it usually takes off very well once they get into it.

Setting year goals
It is all too easy to simply launch into teaching from a new coursebook assuming that the class is automatically with you. However it is worth taking time to make sure that students are really clear about why they are learning and about what they want to get out of it. A simple way to do this is to ask them to make brief notes in answer to questions you ask. Make sure you allow enough thinking time. Students can then meet up in pairs or threes and compare thoughts. Possible questions: Why do you think English will be useful to you in the future? What is the most important area you want to improve on this year? What types of activities do you enjoy most in English classes? What advice would you give to your English teacher? What do you want to be able to do by the end of the year that you can’t do now?

Thanks for Michael Ramiko for submitting these ideas.  We'd love to hear some of yours.

Science Lesson: Making Slime

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Time Required:  45 – 60 mins for process, pus you can allow time for research and findings.

Age groups:  Prep to year 9.. Obviously you will need some more time and assistance with the younger and possibly older kids.

Learning Intentions:  To understand what a Polymer is and how chemical reactions can change the state of certain ingredients.

 Click here to download this entire lesson plan and resources as a PDF.

Intro: We are going to make slime, any ideas how we can do it? What ingredients do you think we’ll need?

Show video on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emlW5Jh-AHc&feature=relmfu  

Go through step by step instructions of how to make the slime (Paper based instructions included below - Make sure Logistics are good)

ü  Students then create the slime and put it in a bag to take home and show.

Answer the following questions once slime is made.

1.      What happened to the slime when you added the borax powder?

2.      How could we make the slime better, what variations could be offer?

Science Elements:

Now for the SCIENCE part.... This POLYMER is unique because it has qualities of both a solid and a liquid. It can take the shape of its containers like a liquid does, yet you can hold it in your hand and pick it up like a solid. As you might know, solid molecules are tight together, liquid molecules spread out and break apart (drops) POLYMER molecules CHAIN themselves together (they can stretch and bend like chains) and that makes them special. Jell-O, rubber bands, plastic soda bottles, sneaker soles, even gum are all forms of polymers. The polymer you made should be kept in a sealed plastic bag when you aren't playing with it. Also, be sure to keep it away from young kids or pets who might think it’s food. Have fun!

Recap: What is a polymer? Both a solid and a liquid. Molecules which are tiny little molecules chain together which makes an item hold its shape and then can be altered.

What are some other examples of polymers?

Extension Activity

Who can stretch their slime the longest contest?

Who find and display a practical use for it.

Click here to download this entire lesson plan and resources as a PDF.

The Ultimate Guide to Teaching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

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Charlie and the Chocolate factory is one of the most popular children's books of all time.  It is a brilliantly written story by Author Roald Dahl and there has been two starkly different, but very popular films based on it.

Therefore "Charlie" offers a multitude of teaching and learning opportunities based around the themes of bad parenting, mischievous children, greed, gluttony and much more.  Roald Dahl uses little Charlie Bucket as a role model to oppose all of the horrible aspects of the other children selected to enter Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.

This Grid I have constructed uses Blooms Taxonomy as a framework to study the book and films and has 42 excellent teaching and learning ideas.

It would be recommended that the book and both films are watched to get the most out of this grid, and there is more than enough here to keep your students busy and enthused for a fortnight depending upon how you structure your learning sessions.

I hope you like the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Learning Grid and if you have any fresh ideas to add to it we would love to hear them.

Download the grid here.

FREE E-BOOK FOR TEACHERS: FIVE FINGER PHONICS

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Five Finger Phonicsis loaded with proper sound associated with letter/sound, an image for each sound, a physical movement (done with five fingers or less), a list of visuals to show your students, a list of words that either start with the letter or have the letter (vowel) sound in the middle, food items to further engage the kids and to strengthen the letter sound, a story title or two to read to the class, a hook activity to introduce the letter and sound, hands on manipulative activity, and a song or two to sing for that letter/sound.

Download the eBook here.

SPELLINGCITY.COM - INTERACTIVE GAMES AND TASKS AROUND YOUR OWN WORDS

I am sure that we have all used a number of web sites that offer some really good spelling games and activities for students to complete online or print out. 

Whilst they are a great resorurce, it is a bit limting in the manner that your kids cannot actually enter their own spelling words and complete activities based around them

SpellingCity overcomes this problem by allowing students to enter their words either individually, or in bulk and it then creates games and activities based around them.

Implications for teaching.

I feel that SpellingCity is a great task for kids to do as part of their homework or literacy rotations after they have been through their writing books with a teacher and located 10 or so words that they need to work on.

We would love to hear of any other great spelling games you are aware of.

CLASSIC PRINTABLE BATTLESHIP GAME FOR STUDENTS

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Battleship is a classic game of strategy and logic kids of all ages love to play.  Best of all, it is a great to play in your maths class as it teaches students how to use acartesian planeand understand how to use co-ordinates on a grid.

I have made up two PDF versions of the classic battleship game you can download and print

The first one is thetraditional battleship gameand the second one is the slightly more advanced4 quadrant version of Battleshipwhich is more suited to secondary students.

"You just sunk my Battleship!"

Enjoy

FREE E-BOOK: ACING MATH (ONE DECK AT A TIME)

Acing Math (One Deck At A Time!)is a collection of math games ranging from Kindergarten to the upper elementary grades, using only an ordinary deck of playing cards.  There are games covering addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, percents, decimals, patterns, positive and negative integers, as well as many others. 

A very wise old maths teacher who once taught me said that "You can teach every aspect of maths with a pack of cards" and this e-Book goes a long way to supporting that statement.

Download the free e-Book here.