Flat Stanley Needs Help!

I love the story of Flat Stanley – the boy who ended up flattened when his bulletin board fell on him! The book explores the many benefits to being flat!

Mrs. Zabriskie, one of our second grade teachers, wanted to create a design thinking lesson where her students would create something that would protect Stanley from falling bulletin boards.

I used the Launch Cycle by John Spencer and AJ Juliani to move the students through a design thinking process. We began by just thinking about what might work for Stanley – and, let me say that it is hard to sit in complete silence for 60 seconds! Actually, I shortened it to 40 seconds which, as one student said, “Seemed like forever!”

After that, time moved too quickly (according to students!). First, I asked the students to talk about ideas they had to keep Stanley safe. They had 2 minutes for this and everyone in the group had the opportunity to speak and ask questions. When the timer went off, there were lots of groans along with, “That couldn’t have been 2 minutes!”

Next, the students were asked to sketch of what they could create to keep Stanley safe. No talking for this segment; that came in the next step. After a couple of minutes sketching, the children shared the drawings with their group. The most difficult part was deciding which design would be used for the prototype. We role-played how to disagree nicely as well as how to take some aspects from each sketch to create a working design.

We enjoyed listening to the children as they participated in that all-important give and take; such an important skill to learn. Lots of hand gestures were observed as students attempted to explain their ideas to the group.

As for materials, Mrs. Zabriskie asked for parents to send in straws, paper towel rolls, toothpicks, playdoh, etc. I believe she bought a few items as well. Really, anything can be used.

I wasn’t able to participate in the entire building process since I had another class to teach. From comments from the teacher and the students, this was a worthwhile activity. The students didn’t think they were doing “school stuff” but, in reality, they were learning many important life skills:

  • problem-solving
  • sharing
  • communication
  • reasoning
  • failure

Yes, even failure! Two major goals of design thinking are for children to practice empathy as they work on problems to solve that help someone else (in this case, a book character) and to discover that failure isn’t a bad thing; that we take failures and learn from them.

A few days after the project, I asked the students to blog about the process. Here are just a few of the responses.

The Three Bears: Help from Second Graders

Mrs. Garcia, one of our second grade teachers, approached me to ask if we could do a design thinking/STEM activity that related to fairy tales. We brainstormed a list of tales that she wanted to present to her children and decided on 2 or 3 that we would use for the design thinking activities.

We started with Goldilocks and the Three Bears since it’s such a familiar story. On TeachersPayTeachers, I found a fun STEM activity where students build a latch for the 3 bears. This, combined with the Design Thinking “Launch” cycle, made for a really fun and productive morning!

The challenge: Build a latch for the three bears’ house that will prevent anyone from breaking in.

We discussed how designers, architects, builders, etc. work from written designs or blueprints. What would happen if a builder decided he didn’t need to follow a design; that he could work with just the idea in his head? Of course, the students could picture all kinds of ways that this would be a lousy idea! Then, we talked about what a latch is – not a very common word these days!

Following the Launch acronym, I asked the students to think like one of the three bears (empathy). How would you feel if someone entered your house without permission? Working in pairs, the children were given two minutes to talk about how they envisioned the latch would work. The hardest part of this particular part was not drawing! Only words (and lots of hand motions) were allowed! When the timer went off, there were lots of “Wait! We haven’t finished talking!” 

Next, the students drew designs. Again, a short time was given for sketching 2 or 3 ideas. Then, the hard part . . . deciding which design to use OR deciding how to incorporate elements from a few of the designs.

Only after all these steps were the students ready to construct! Supplies we used:

  • craft sticks
  • pipe cleaners
  • masking tape
  • straws
  • water bottle caps

Before collecting supplies, the children were to make a list of what they thought they would need. We did let them come back for more if needed.

As they built, we walked around to listen to the conversations and to ask questions. Listening to the students was an eye-opener! We were floored by the depth of their discussions as they built! And, it was amazing to watch them revise when they discovered kinks in their planning.

When all prototypes were completed, we came back together to share – not just describe the latch they built and how it worked. More importantly, we wanted to hear how the children handled ideas that didn’t work. Were you frustrated? Did you feel like giving up? What would you change in your design if you did this again?

Here’s a video of the students creating their latch.

Garcia_A Latch to Keep Goldilocks Out from Trinity Valley School on Vimeo.

This was so much fun! The best part for me was observing – I was absolutely amazed at the conversations and the complexity of the language that was heard!

I know children learn best through exploration, but sometimes it’s easy to forget how much they really can do on their own when we give them a challenge with no right or wrong answer. That’s when students really shine!



Dr. Seuss Book Spin-Offs

Aren’t Dr. Seuss books fun? His whimsical illustrations and storytelling create wonderful opportunities for students to enter a world of silly make-believe, while still having a life lesson for children (and adults).

Our second graders listened to The Foot Book as they designed their own foot or shoe in the Book Creator app. I loved seeing all kinds of interesting feet or shoes such as the ones that spouted crayons or confetti.

As the students completed their drawings, they recorded what these new feet or shoes could do. Each child air dropped their book to me so that I could combine them into a class book.

Here’s a video of one of the second grade books:

Zabriskie The Foot Book from Trinity Valley

Our third graders read I Wish that I Had Duck Feet. This book is about a boy who wishes he had different animal parts – duck feet, whale spout, elephant’s trunk, and so on. He thinks of all the fantastic things he could do with these parts. However, there’s always a downside to each one.

The students were asked to think of an animal part that they would like to have. They were to draw a picture in Book Creator, record the pros and cons of the part, and air drop the book to me so that I could create the class books.

It was so much fun listening to what they chose. A few even tried to write in rhyme like Dr. Seuss.

Here’s one of the third grade stories saved as a video.Gramentine Dr. Seuss and Duck Feet Stories from Trinity Valley School on Vimeo.

Enjoy all of our books and videos!

If you are downloading the ePub books, remember that you need to click on the book link while on an iOS device having the iBooks app. Choose download and open in iBooks. (We had several children absent on the day that we made the books. If you don’t see your child’s work, that is the reason.)
Mrs. Garcia’s Foot and Shoe book
Mrs. Garcia’s video
Mrs. Shapard’s Foot and Shoe book
Mrs. Shapard’s video
Mrs. Zabriskie’s Foot and Shoe book
Mrs. Zabriskie’s video
Mrs. Gramentine’s “I Wish I Had . . .” book
Mrs. Gramentine’s video
Mrs. Prescott’s “I Wish I Had . . .” book
Mrs. Prescott’s video
Mrs. Weth’s “I Wish I Had . . .” book
Mrs. Weth’s video


Loving Our Heritage!

As our second graders learn about the Thanksgiving story, they read Molly’s Pilgrim, a wonderful story that illustrates a pilgrim is anyone who emigrates from another country. The students even dress paper dolls in the native costume of the country from which they came, whether it be recently or years past.


In addition, students bring in photos of relatives to create a wonderful Heritage video/ePub book complete with narration of their family history!

We use Book Creator, which is a user-friendly app that allows students to add text, photos, narration, background, and so much more. And, the final product can be saved as an ePub book to be read in iBooks or as a video that can be viewed on any device. This is our second year using Book Creator for this project and I am SO glad we changed! Prior to this, students did a tiny part of the project but the teacher had to do the majority of the work. I’m a firm believer that students need to “own” their work and Book Creator does just that!

The children brought in photos and they used their iPads to take “photos of the photos” (they thought that was quite funny!). In this step, they learned how to make sure there was no glare, the image was in focus, and how to crop.


The next step was to add the photos to their book. I set up the books in Book Creator prior to this only to save time but students could certainly do this step. We added title and conclusion pages. Selfies were taken for the cover. Background colors were added. Fonts were changed.


Next step: importing the photos. The students used their scripts and actual photos to help with this process. A huge help was that parents labeled the backs of photos which made it much easier for the children to place their images. Remember, many of these photos are of great-great-great grandparents and students don’t tend to recognize relatives that far back! I love how the two girls in the photo below worked together to make sure each image was on the correct page; one checked the script while the other added the picture!


We had a wonderful group of parents who volunteered to help students record. Since we were trying to have as little background noise as possible, finding a quiet place in a school can be a challenge! These parents worked tirelessly to accomplish that.


The students then listened to their project, making sure every aspect was just how they wanted it. The project was saved two ways: as an ePub book to be read in iBooks and as a video.


I then uploaded everything and linked them on my teaching website, TVS TechnoWizards. Since last names are mentioned, these are behind a password-protected page. Here are a couple of samples pages in the book:

book-1 book-2

The students even blogged about what they had learned about their heritage.


We can’t wait to share our projects this Friday for Grandparents’ Day!

Celebrating Dr. Seuss with Ozobots!


What is an Ozobot? A tiny robot that can be programmed by drawing “OzoCodes” using colored markers. Various color combinations cause the Ozobot to perform different functions.

To celebrate Seuss Week, the first and second graders were given a couple of hat shapes that were missing parts of lines. The children drew codes in these line breaks to program the Ozobots.

The third graders drew their own hats. (Or, at least these were supposed to look like hats!)

For the younger students, it was easier to concentrate on drawing the color codes rather than create a hat and draw code.

Even with the older students, there was some frustration that the Ozobots didn’t do what they were supposed to. We talked a lot about how everything had to be “just right” – lines not too thin or too thick. A code has to have all the colors about the same size. If you color too hard with the blue marker, the Ozobot thinks the color is black. I told the students that the Ozobot is like Goldilocks who had to have everything “just right” at the Three Bears’ house.

Lots of practice and problem-solving occurs with this activity! It’s loud but, my goodness, it is loads of fun!

Here are the templates I created:

Ozobot Dr. Seuss hats

Sharing What We Learn: Biographies

Mrs. Shapard’s second graders have been studying biographies. She wanted to find a way that students could share what they learned with others. We decided to use the Book Creator app because of its user-friendly interface.

Because we didn’t want this project to drag on, I did a couple of tasks to help with the workflow. First, I set up the books for the students. That took no longer that twenty minutes or so. Next, I collected photos from the public domain for the children. Finding copyright-friendly images is very time consuming for students, especially the younger ones. These were posted to my Picasa albums so they could be saved to their iPad. I gave an age-appropriate explanation of copyright so students would understand it’s not okay to use any image they find on the web!

In the classroom, students collected information and drew a picture of the person they were studying. They brought this to the lab so it could be added to their book.

Because we want the students to post the information to their blog, the books were saved as videos. One thing we learned is that the students tend to forget to delete a recording if they decide to re-record. What happens when saved as a video is that ALL recordings are heard! We had to go back and fix a few – a good learning experience . . .

We’re eager for next week when we’ll post videos to our blogs.

Here is one of the videos:

Celebrating the 100th Day of School!

One hundred days of school! It’s a big celebration at TVS!

100 sign 2

In the technology lab, we’re celebrating too. The first and second graders were asked to think about what they had learned after 100 days in school. We brainstormed some of the things each class had learned throughout the year: from telling time to adding 3 numbers to tasting foods from different countries.

Here are some first grade posts:


I love the invented spelling of #7 – poetry!


2nd 100 day blog

2nd graders blogging

With the third graders, I adapted an art idea of 100s transformations, found on Pinterest. The students are creating pictures from die cuts of 1-0-0. To add a tech twist, each child is using the MyCreate app ($4.99) to build a stop-motion animation video. They take a photo for each step in their drawing process. When finished, the video will be uploaded to the students’ blog.

third pic 2

3rd 100 dayWhat a fun celebration!


Grandparents’ Day Arrives!

And the second graders finally have the chance to share their Heritage projects! (If you want to read more about the children creating a touching look at their family history, click here.)

We had a “dress rehearsal” this week – just to make sure the students knew how to access their video or ePub book created in the Book Creator app.

dress rehearsal for GP dayFinally, the big day arrived! The children led their special visitors into their classrooms, retrieved their iPads, plugged in the headsets, and shared their project. They knew exactly what to do!

Watching the expressions of the grandparents is priceless! Listening to the sweet voices of their grandchildren tell about their family history is such a special moment.

Here’s a very quick look at the children sharing.