SoulPancake – Ideas for inspiring creativity

SoulPancake is a site co-created by Rainn Wilson with different creative “activities” that people can submit to answer some of “life’s big questions.” On the site, it gives people options to upload pictures or written responses to some interesting prompts, questions, and photos. A junior high teacher might not want their students to post directly on the site for privacy reasons, and some of the topics would not quite be age-appropriate for our students. However, t I think it’s worth exploring to find some engaging writing prompts for warm-ups or other practice. You could also see what others have submitted and maybe bring those back to your class to open up a discussion?

Here are some of the topics I found that seemed like they might be cool for middle-level students:

No-Stalgia: List 5 things that you are glad that you never have to experience again

Write your Biography in 10 words or less

Tweeting to the Oldies: Describe the sights, sounds, and smells of your grandparents in 140 characters or less


TEDEd – Lessons Worth Sharing

What Causes the Phases of the Moon Lesson Page

So I’ve been a fan of TED videos and the TED Radio Hour on NPR for both personal and teaching use, but I can’t believe I hadn’t explored the full lessons available on TEDEd before. We just finished studying the phases of the moon in my 8th Grade Science class, but I know this is a topic that many of my students struggle with. I am always looking for more lessons and different ways to address the topic, so I was excited when I found a link for this video on Twitter. When I got to the page, I was surprised to find that there was a whole “flipped” format lesson to go along with it, including assessment questions, supporting reading materials, and an open-discussion question. The format would be great to assign to students as an independent flipped lesson through something like Edmodo, but I could also see a teacher very easily using the materials in a whole class activity with face-to-face discussions, too. I love how it is a small chunk of information presented and assessed in a variety of ways – perfect for differentiated instruction in a junior high classroom!

There are hundreds of lessons organized by content area, and you can even see how many times they have been viewed or used by other people. Obviously, I am particularly excited to share that there are over 5 pages of videos for Science alone, but there are also interesting and engaging resources for math, literature, social studies, health, and psychology, among other topics.

Since the videos are short (usually 6 minutes or less) and the material is well organized, it would be easy to incorporate one of them as a warm-up or hook as you are starting a new lesson. Let me know if you find one that works for your class!


The Story Coaster and Storybird

The Story Coaster and Storybird

I found this picture last week and thought immediately of my ELA teacher friends. It was a cartoon from the NY Times Book Review, but had been posted on the blog for a site called Storybird. Storybird is an online storytelling platform that according to their website, “lets anyone make visual stories in seconds. We curate artwork from illustrators and animators around the world and inspire writers of any age to turn those images into fresh stories.”

Sounds like a good way to motivate students to write creatively and share their work with others!

Crash Course – US History

Crash Course – US History

Crash Course is a YouTube channel that takes major courses like US History, Biology, and Chemistry and breaks them down into 10-15 minute episodes on key topics. The videos are quick-paced explanations by narrators John and Hank Green and include graphics, important quotes, and plenty of sarcastic comments and jokes. Some of the content might be beyond the middle school level, but I know that I found some segments within the episodes that might be good for introduction or review of a key topic. I linked above to US History, but there are also currently crash courses in World History, Literature, Biology, Chemistry, and Ecology.