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Using Sphero Specdrums In The Classroom

Specdrum ring and Boomwhackers with tablet

Since the development of Sphero 2.0 and more recently SPRK+ and BOLT, Spheros have become one of the most popular tools in schools all around the world to teach students the fundamentals of coding and computational thinking. As these technologies continue to iterate and improve, so do the opportunities to empower our students’ learning experiences with creative lesson design.

Sphero has released a new product in Specdrums. The Specdrums are rings that connect via Bluetooth to the Specdrums MIX or EDU apps, to create and play music, sounds or recorded audio when the rings touch specific colours. The great thing with Specdrums is that the rings can pick up on colours on any material, plastic, paper and even the paint on walls, making their use very versatile in the classroom.

The two apps you can use with Specdrums are;

Specdrums EDU App

EDU Logo

The Specdrums EDU app connects via Bluetooth to the Specdrums rings. It allows students to use the pre-programmed sound packs which include instruments, synths, strings, animals and sound effects. Students have the ability to create and record their own sounds. Students then link their sounds to specific colours, and when the Specdrums rings touch that colour the associated sound will play. When students have finalised their Specdrums colour codes they can be shared with others via the apps QR creator feature.

EDU App shown on phone screen

Specdrums MIX App

Mix App Logo

The Specdrums MIX app uses the Specdrums mat, which comes together with the Specdrums rings when purchased. It allows students to become their own DJ by exploring and creating their own musical remixes. Students have the ability to record their own voice and sounds that can then be played back when the ring touches the specific colours of the mat.

Sphero Specdrums was originally designed with the intention to create and produce music. Along with its use in the music classroom, Specdrums can be integrated and linked to other curriculum areas with creative lesson design. Here are some of my favourite integrated Specdrums lesson ideas;

 

Music
Students can explore and remix their own music by changing the colours to respond to notes and music scales in both the Specdrums EDU and the MIX apps. Within the EDU app students can click and select different instruments to play including the piano and stringed instruments, linking the notes to various colours which can be customised accordingly.

Boomwhackers Lesson:
Boomwhackers are eight polyethylene coloured percussion tubes perfectly tuned to the C major scale. As students learn about the specific sounds each note makes they can associate these with the various colours of the Boomwhackers. Using the Specdrums ring, students can then replicate these colours with the same scale.

ART
Students can bring their art masterpieces to life by creating sounds or recording explanations that are played when the Sphero Specdrums touches specific parts of their artwork.

Primary & Secondary Colours
When learning about primary and secondary colours, students can create art pieces and programme the Specdrums ring to pick up on colours within their art piece to explain their learning. For example, when the Sphero Specdrums touches a particular colour students can record themselves explaining what happens when that colour is mixed with another.

Specdrum Ring on coloured dot background

Feelings/ Emotions
Using a provocation such as the movie ‘Inside Out’ or the picture book ‘Feel A Little: Little Poems About Big Feelings’ by Jenny Palmer, students can learn about the various emotions we experience through coloured characters. Using the Sphero Specdrums, students can explain how they feel by touching the various colours with the Sphero Specdrums to explain their feelings. Students can create a remix of sounds and have other students try to guess what emotion they are trying to portray through the use of colour and sound.

Feel A Little Little Poems About Big Feelings by Jenny Palmer

Unit of Inquiry – Melbourne
With creative lesson design there are many ways to integrate the Sphero Specdrums into your units of work.

Connecting to our Year 3 unit looking at the History of Melbourne, students used the Sphero Specdrums together with a Sphero Bolt to create a model of the city of Melbourne. Students researched information about the unique buildings in Melbourne and then used coloured dots to create an interactive model where others could listen to their researched explanation. (Read previous post to read about how the Sphero Bolt was used to move the trams through the city)

Sphero bolt activity on classroom floor featuring paper contruction and melbourne pictures and tablet

Interactive Posters:
Students create posters or brochures all the time to showcase their learning on a range of topics. Using the Sphero Specdrums, students can enhance their completed product by recording themselves read and explain each key informative aspect of their work for others to listen and learn from. Here are two examples of interactive posters;

Sphero interactive body organs posterSphero interactive poster with tablet and specdrum ring

There are so many ways to use the Sphero Specdrums in the classroom. This new technology has only been available for a very short period of time and is continually being developed and improved to transform teaching and learning in our classrooms.

How have you used the Specdrums in your classroom?

About the author

Eleni Kyritsis is an award-winning Year 3 teacher and Leader of Curriculum and innovation from Melbourne, Australia. Eleni facilitates professional learning workshops around the world that focus on unleashing creativity and curiosity in classrooms. You can contact her at elenikyritis.com and @misskyritsis

 

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Back-to-School Essentials

Back to school classroom overhead view

Every new school year brings with it a level of excitement for both teachers and students. It is my favourite time of the year as everyone begins with a fresh start and an enthused energy for the year ahead. For teachers, we have the privilege of getting to teach a new class of students, designing the learning space from a blank canvas, and for many, the always-elusive goal to be more organised.

In this post I will be sharing some of my must-have resources for the classroom along with my favourite beginning-of-the-year activities to get to know your students and for your students to get to know each other.

 

Teacher Planner:

My Modern Teaching Aids Teacher Planner is the most essential and most used resource each year that keeps me organised. I use the Teacher Planner to keep track of important dates, meetings, notes and reminders.

021 Teacher Planner Front with Pastel Highlighters on desks

Some things I love about this planner are;

    • Whole-term overview pages
    • Plastic zip pockets
    • Admin section – includes passwords, professional learning recording pages, expenses page, student assessment tracker and lots of blank pages for notes
    • Weekly tip/advice

Whole-Term Overview Pages:
These pages allow me to view the whole term at a quick glance, add in key dates, events and assessments, and to then ensure I am organised for the entirety of the year.

Plastic Zip Lock Pockets & Pouch:
There are two zip-lock pockets along with another open plastic pouch. The zip-lock pockets are great for securely storing those little things that always seem to go missing. There is one at the start of the planner and one at the back. The one at the back is next to the expenses page which I use to store all my receipts for tax time.

Admin Section:
This section provides teachers with various pages to help organise and store classroom information in the one place. My favourite is the Professional Learning section where teachers can record the various PD they take part in over the year. The expenses pages help teachers track and record expenses over the year for tax purposes and budgets. I love the Assessment Tracker as I can easily keep track of student assessments as well as general student organisation such as completed tasks and the returning of notices.

Weekly Tip/ Advice/ Lesson Idea:
On every weekly page within the Teacher Planner it provides teachers with a tip, piece of advice, or a lesson idea for the classroom. There are so many great tips throughout the year that include maths games, sequencing activities and activities to promote a positive growth mindset.

2021 Teacher Planner Open Spread with Pastel Highlighters

 

Classroom Must-Haves:
When setting up my classroom I always like to have a theme or colour scheme. Over the years some of my favourite themes that I have created have been based on butterflies, ‘Up in the Sky’ (hot air balloons, planes), the ocean and the circus. I love having the colours of the learning space, resources and display boards match to set the tone of a creative organised space that welcomes students to our class.

Some items I love to include in my classroom are;


Classroom Caddies Laptrays and Chairbags

These products can be used in a variety of ways in the classroom and the best thing is that they all match.

 

Lap Trays
These Lap Trays are a great addition to any junior primary classroom. They allow for flexibility in the learning space during group work and also during independent learning. I love that these trays provide students with a hard surface to complete tasks in their books so they do not need to write on the carpet or flooring. I use these daily with my students during small group work that takes place on the floor space around the class. Many students also choose to use the Lap Trays during independent learning time so they can work in a quiet spot or away from others. In my classroom, I have a beautiful courtyard outside where my students sometimes choose to go outside to work and these Lap Trays allow them to have a suitable surface to work on.

 

Children with Laptrays sitting on floor

 

Classroom Book Caddies
These Book Caddies are a great way to store take-home readers and student books. I organise my student books in these Book Caddies and have labels on them for maths, reading, writing and inquiry books. I like having them all together for two reasons; the first being that students do not need to go to their tubs to get their specific book, rather I can either have the class captain hand the books out or I can call out student names to collect, and the second being that at the end of a learning experience students place all their books back into the Book Caddy and then I can easily view and assess their learning rather than searching through each student’s tub for their book.

 

Book caddies filled with books on desk

 

Classroom Caddies
These Classroom Caddies are perfect for shared stationery and the vibrant colours stand out when placed on classroom tables. The compartments in the Classroom Caddies allow for pencils, pens, scissors, glue, rulers to be stored neatly, making them easily accessible for student use.

Classroom Caddies are also a great resource for sharing required activity materials. During STEM and Inquiry Learning activities I use the Classroom Caddies to provide each group or table with the resources they need for the specific activity. I can organise the materials prior to the lesson and, upon completion, students can return the materials in an orderly way making clean up a lot more efficient.

Filled Classroom Caddies on classroom floor

 

Chair Bags
These beautiful Chair Bags provide students with a place to store their essentials without the hassle of a tub. I love the various pocket sizes which allow for students to store their device, exercise books and the book they are reading, along with their essential classroom resources like a ruler, pencil case etc.

Filled Chairbags and Classroom Caddies on Desk in classroom

 

Beginning-of-the-Year Activities:
At the beginning of the school year the priority should be on developing relationships with your students and getting to know what they each like and are interested in. Spending time undertaking activities that highlight student personalities will support you as the teacher but also allow students to get to know each other and begin to develop new friendships. These activities also provide teachers with an insight to see how students work together, interact and complete tasks.

These are my favourite activities to get to know your students:

Jigsaw Activity:

Jigdraw DIY jigsaw activity

Materials
Jigdraw – 20 Pack 
– Snap-lock bags

Each student receives a blank Jigdraw template with 20 pieces. Students draw a different image on each puzzle piece that represents something about themselves. Some ideas for images can be family, pets, hobbies, favourite food, favourite places etc.

Students place their completed Jigdraw pieces into a snap lock bag.

The snap lock bags are then randomly handed out to students who need to put the puzzle pieces together and then try to guess which student is represented by the images.

These Jigdraw blocks are also a great resource to use for students to share their learning during inquiry learning. They can then build upon their ideas and knowledge as the learning continues throughout the year.


Chalk Mindmaps

DIY Chalkboard Signs activity

Materials – Sidewalk Chalk 

Chalk is a great resource to have in any classroom. I have found the Sidewalk Chalk to be the perfect size and thickness for student use and it comes in great colours. Students can use the Sidewalk Chalk to draw directly onto concrete, but I have created blackboard-painted timber pieces for student use across many learning areas.

Students receive a number of blackboard-painted timber pieces and draw a giant Mindmap to highlight the topic they are given. The topic gets placed in the centre and then students write or draw their ideas and place them around the topic to create their giant mind map. This is a great visualisation too.

Some ideas I like to focus on at different times are;

    • Looking forward to this school year
    • Holiday reflection
    • Inquiry brainstorm, questions, wonderings
    • Spelling words
    • End-of-term reflections


I hope this blog post has provided you with some inspiration to help you set up your classroom or provide you with some beginning-of-the-year activity ideas to get to know your students.

 

Featured Products:

 

About the author

Eleni Kyritsis is an award-winning Year 3 teacher and Leader of Curriculum and innovation from Melbourne, Australia. Eleni facilitates professional learning workshops around the world that focus on unleashing creativity and curiosity in classrooms. You can contact her at elenikyritis.com and @misskyritsis

 

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Spark The Christmas Imagination

Christmas Craft images hanging on string with pegs with Christmas themed background

Christmas is such a delightful time of the year. The anticipation of this joyous occasion brings such an amazing atmosphere to the art room as the impending holidays approach. Students of all ages embrace the opportunity to create festive-themed pieces that are treasured on trees and shelves in their family homes. With such a wide array of art and craft that can be produced, the hardest part is choosing what to create!

Christmas Wreath

Christmas wreath yarn craft project.

We hang them with such love and care on our doors during the Christmas period as a symbol of family and eternity, it is only fitting that they should feature in any festive crafting project.
This wreath kit is just perfect as you can make it as is or you can add your own unique touches to it. The creating process will build and develop fine motor skills as each strand of yarn is attached to the cardboard ring. Students can personalise their wreaths with different coloured yarn, extra pompoms, bows, buttons, bells or even felt cut-outs. I have used the centre cardboard circle and some yarn to make a bow. This would be a lovely addition to any Christmas tree.

Featured Products:
Wreath Yarn Kit
Red Acrylic Yarn  
White Acrylic Yarn

 

Paper Angel

Christmas Angel Craft Project.

What a classic, the Christmas angel has been re-imagined in so many ways in classrooms and art rooms alike. Their angelic form and principal position on any tree make them a delight to create.
This version can be produced simplistically or can have all the bells and whistles added to it to make it sparkle bright. The basis for the angel is paper which can be white cartridge paper or tissue paper that is then concertina folded. When using cartridge paper students can use gold and silver pens to add patterns before folding. The heart-shaped doilies are divine for this project, just the ideal shape to fashion wings and an elaborate collar for the angel’s dress before adding a Magiclay head adorned in glitter. A halo can be made from various materials such as armature wire or a tinsel pipe cleaner and is the perfect finishing touch for an angel that will capture many hearts.

 

Featured Products:
Coloured Tissue Paper
Gold Heart Shaped Doileys
Candy Coloured Paper Magiclay 
Creatistics Glitter Shakers

 

Christmas Printmaking

Print Making piece of art on canvas

There are so many different symbols that we associate with Christmas time. Printmaking is a wonderful process to use to give your students’ illustrations a new life. Using the A4 printing foam, a Christmas-inspired drawing and a blunt pencil or ballpoint pen students can transfer their design onto the printing plate which can be cut to any size or shape. The creative process from here is limitless where different backgrounds can be created to apply the print such as tissue paper collages, watercolour washes and textured papers.

Featured Products:
A4 Printing Foam 
Coloured Tissue Paper
Printing Ink

 

Australiana Christmas

Christmas Kanagaroo Craft Project inside a Cloch.

From Santas on surfboards to kangaroos pulling a ute sleigh, an Australiana Christmas is unique and wonderful and is the inspiration for this artwork using a glass cloche. This activity has a lovely depth to it as it combines sculpture and drawing. Students can imagine Australian Christmas scenes, drawing the background on paper to curve around the glass cloche, and then add to their scene with Magiclay models. A task that will have their imaginations running wild with a hint of humour. This piece will be treasured by all and is one that all children will place on the shelf every year during the festive period.

Featured Products:
Candy Coloured Paper Magiclay 
Glass Cloche

 

Gingerbread People

Gingerbread an Christmas Craft Project .

A character that has inspired songs and been in movies, the beloved gingerbread man has personality and style.
The Felt Gingerbread Sewing Kit comes complete to assemble your very own plush gingerbread person. Fantastic for beginner sewing skills with the pre-cut holes, the plastic needle supplied glides through to make each stitch. Once the student’s gingerbread person is filled with stuffing then the creativity can begin. Use the accessories supplied with the kit to bring them to life or give students the option of other craft materials such as buttons, fabric, glitter and felt shapes and pieces to add their own unique touches.

Featured Product:
Felt Gingerbread Sewing Kit

 

Paper Bag Elf

Christmas Craft Paper Bag Elf Activity

It would not be Christmas without Santa’s fabulous little helpers, the elves, busily working away in the toy shop. Inspired by “The Elf on the Shelf” this paper bag sculpture will enhance any students paper techniques. From concertina folds to jack-in-the-box springs, this elf has it all. Two Christmassy-coloured paper bags form the base shapes that are packed with low gsm paper, closed and glued together to form the head and body. Now it is time to add character using patterned paper. This step is where each student can make their own creative choices to decide what their elf will look like. From bows to buttons and hats, each student can give their elf a unique style.

Featured Products:
Christmas Coloured Paper Bags
Handmade Christmas Paper

 

Christmas Cards

Christmas Craft Card Activy displayed on top of brown box

Christmas wishes and joy are spread across the globe in folded pieces of card and paper. Students love giving these to their families as well as their friends. There are so many different materials you can use to create, and these natural coloured cards are the perfect canvas for creative ideas to adorn their surfaces. Buttons are so versatile, and students can imagine them into anything.

Christmas Craft Card LED Activity displayed on top of brown box

A lovely addition is the incorporation of an LED light with a simple circuit. The circuit scribe pens and kits are so easy to use that your students’ cards will light up in no time.

Featured Products:
Natural Cards and Envelopes
Christmas Coloured Buttons
Christmas Sequins Mix 
Circuit Scribe Pen
Red LED Light 0.5cm 
Coin Batteries 

How do you spark the Christmas imagination in your learning environment? We’d love to hear from you!

 

About the Author
Olivia is a specialist Visual Art Teacher in an ELC, primary and secondary school setting. She has a broad breadth of experience with inquiry learning and is an IBO-qualified educator. Olivia particularly enjoys developing Visual Art units around STEAM which include electronics, technology and science concepts.

 

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