Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Different Kind of Mystery Picture [Part 2]

Part One of this article is here.

The next puzzle is going to be based on one of my favorite math concepts, symmetry. If you're a new reader of this blog, my most recent picture book is called Seeing Symmetry (see a video preview here.) Anyway, I wanted to use shapes with and without line symmetry for the clues. The kids find the symmetrical shapes to solve each clue. The squares (on the left) have the lines that will be drawn in the grid square.
The photo below shows the clues page with some of the symmetrical shapes circled in orange. The grid rows and columns are indicated by different symmetrical shapes. By the way, line symmetry is introduced in grade 4 of the Common Core State Standards (4.G.3), and it's also taught in 3rd grade in many states. Just a few of the squares have been drawn in so far (see below).
 Once all the clues have been solved and the lines drawn in, an owl with outstretched wings should appear.
As you can see, the owl is also symmetrical. Any glitches in the drawing will be obvious and the student can double-check that square again. Once it looks correct, they go over the lines with a black or dark marker. I like the Crayola® brand  SuperTips because they are a good thickness, are washable, and don't have that awful brain-melting smell that certain markers do (yes, Sharpie, I'm talking about you.)
One of the nice aspects of this different kind of mystery picture is that once the drawing is complete, each kiddo can color it with their choice of colors.
It'll be fun to see the whole flock of uniquely colored, symmetrical owls that will fly in, don't you think? Here is the cover and a link to this puzzle:
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Thanks for reading, and let me know if you like this kind of mystery picture…I'm interested in any and all opinions pro or con. Toodleloo!

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Different Kind of Mystery Picture [Part 1]

Mystery pictures are used for a variety of educational purposes from learning math facts to sight words to geometric shapes. Typically they are based on a 100s or 120s chart and require students to color in the squares or rectangles according to a list of clues. Very useful, but there are a couple of things that kind of bug me about them. First, the image has numbers or words all over it…which is the point, to familiarize kids with those particular concepts. The other issue for me is that the image is blocky, like an enlargement of pixels on a computer screen.

So I've been playing around with a different approach…instead of numbers or other thingies in the squares, how about labeling the rows and columns? It's a kind of simplified coordinate graph as used in the game Battleship.
To find a particular square's "address," the clues can indicate C4, F8, and so on. The next obstacle is the blocky image. I tried drawing a picture in a grid, similar to an art project where you enlarge an image by drawing what's in each square. But drawing curved and other arbitrary lines seemed too difficult for my purposes. It's a puzzle, not an exercise in duplicating an image, per se.

What about straight lines instead? Here is the same image, sans curves:
And not only are the lines straight, they start and stop at key points in the square, such as the corner, midpoint of an edge, or center point (with a few exceptions.) It's definitely easier to draw. So, each clue reveals the coordinates plus has a little square with one or more lines in it for kids to draw on their blank grid.
Since this approach seemed workable, I went ahead and designed the first puzzle. The clues are based on numbers in expanded form, part of learning about place value. Here's a link to the freebie, "It's a Fluke!" (Get it…whale tail…flukes?) Another advantage is that once the picture is drawn, the kiddos can color it any way they like, so each picture will be different.
There may be similar mystery picture puzzles out there in Internetland…in any case, this type is intriguing to me because of the creative options with the image. It will be interesting to see if teachers find these to be useful and fun for students. "Fluke" has had some positive feedback already, so we shall see!

This article is getting long, so I'll post a part 2 soon. Update: Here is the link to Part 2. Thanks for reading!

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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Whooo Likes Owls? From Doodle to Designs

Recently I was doodling some ideas for fall writing templates. (Yes, I know the school year is barely over and summer beckons!) This little owl popped up on the page.
There was something intriguing about him. Eventually, it occurred to me that with the out-stretched wings he could make an interesting 3-section graphic organizer. And as an option, the wings could fold in to hide the contents!
Naturally I went bonkers and made a bunch of them. There's a a KWL chart; Sequencing 1-2-3; Beginning-Middle-End; Are-Have-Can; and a Blank Template. They have primary lines, plain lines, or no lines, for 18 designs in all. They can be used for a wide variety of creative projects such as fall and winter writing, fiction and nonfiction about owls, forest animals, predators, food chains, and so on. Here is the cover of Owls Are All Write!:
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After that was finished, I took my almost-90-year-old mother to visit family and old friends in the northeast. While we were on the road, another idea popped up, this time for a "getting to know you" activity. The long image below gives an idea of what Whooo's in Our Class? is all about:
Kids finish the writing prompts, doodle and color, draw or paste in a photo of themselves, and cut out and fold their owl's wings. Students can browse the finished owls to find out fun facts about each other. It will be great for a back-to-school activity or any occasion when kids are getting to know each other. It's a quick print and go kind of thing, which can certainly help in the hectic beginning days of school. This is my newest classroom resource, and will be discounted for a few days. I mark down all new products as a "thank you" to the wonderful teachers who follow me.

But for now, grab a book, relax in a hammock for awhile, and have a great summer! If your school year isn't over yet, hang in there!
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