Christmas Puzzles, Riddles, Games and More to Survive the Week!

The week before Christmas is always a tough one. It is a week when kids don’t want to learn and teachers hold on for dear life. The cold weather, the coughs, the sugar buzz, the excitement, and a nice break in the future make it hard to get much done.

School must go on. The bells will ring, the bus routes continue, and we must not lose our minds completely.

Over years I have gathered many puzzles, riddles, logic, puzzles, and more that have allowed me to survive when I was in the classroom.

Recently, on the Iowa gifted listserv a huge file was posted of many of these items. As I clicked on them all I was taken back to memory lane doing many of these in the classroom to break up the day.

I have decided to compile them into one document and add a few more that I used to use back in the day.

I hope you find them helpful, fun, and a nice way to enjoy these days with your students and maybe even your family. If you have others that you use that others could benefit from please reach out to me and I will add them to the document.

Enjoy and happy holidays. We are close!

Document of goodies

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Hour of Code: Where to Go?

Hour of Code is a global movement to make computer programming fun and accessible to everyone around the world. You and your students can learn to code! Many of your students have already dabbled in code and know how to code. Why not join the millions of others to code and push your brain into some new learning.

Below  are a bunch of resources to get started. Many of these have come through my inbox via newsletters and subscriptions I have. To be clear, these links and how they are describe are not my words. I have pulled them from the many emails I receive. I just wanted to curate it all into one place to help everyone out. Leave a comment if there are other resources.



  • Code the News: Videos and graphics are all about tech, diversity, kids and coding! Finished projects can be added to your school’s website as the report on Hour of Code itself.
  • Bestie Greeting Card: Make a holiday-themed greeting card with code! Created in partnership with Girl Scouts of Greater New York.
  • Climate Science & Code: Research and record a video focused on a single fact about Earth’s climate. Code effects for emphasis.

Khan Academy

  • Drawing with code: Learn to program using JavaScript, one of the world’s most popular programming languages (ages 8+).
  • Creating webpages: Learn to make your own webpages using the basics of HTML and CSS (ages 10+).
  • Creating SQL databases: Learn the fundamentals of databases using SQL to create data tables and query the data (ages 12+).

Let’s join Microsoft, Google, Apple, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Malala, and millions of others around the world to make history. Have your child start their Hour of Code today!

Skype in the Classroom

Get involved today and invite one of our Technology Guest Speakers to your classroom or one of the Microsofties they will give your students a glimpse into what it’s like to work in tech! You can also connect your classrooms to discuss on their participation in the Hour of Code.

For 2016,, Microsoft and Mojang are announcing the all-new Minecraft Hour of Code Designer, a tutorial that lets students code their own Minecraft rules. This year, students can use code to control how animals and other Minecraft creatures behave—they can create a totally unique Minecraft experience, and then share it with friends or play it on their phones!

The new tutorial begins in a Minecraft world where sheep don’t move, the chickens don’t cluck, and nothing attacks: it’s a blank slate without movement or defined action. Over the course of an hour, students will bring this world to life using computer science. At the final level, they get to define the rules of Minecraft however they wish. If they want, the cows can lay eggs, sheep can explode, and zombies can run away from players!

If you used last year’s Minecraft activity, the new one provides a perfect way to expand your students’ knowledge of computer science. For new teachers, we are pleased to offer both tutorials, which require no experience to teach.

We’re thrilled to add Minecraft Hour of Code Designer to our list of activities for this year’s Hour of Code. If you haven’t checked out the expanded list yet, there are tons of new activities that you can filter on our site based on grade level, experience level, subject area, and more. Find the perfect activity for your class at


Learn to Code with the Minecraft Hour of Code Tutorial

Help! The Minecraft developers have all gone on break and the mobs have forgotten what to do. We need you to save the day by programming the Minecraft mobs how to behave!

Last year, over 30 million students completed the Minecraft Hour of CodeTutorial. Beginning with Computer Science Education week in December and continuing, students were introduced to coding using loops, if statements, and low level programming that allowed them to move Steve or Alex around the Minecraft world.

This year brings a new Minecraft Hour of Code Tutorial, where learners of all ages will tackle basic programming concepts such as randomness, entities, sequencing, loops, and events to program Minecraft mobs how to behave. No previous coding experience is required. Students of all abilities can enjoy the tutorial.

To learn bring the Minecraft Hour of Code Tutorial to your classroom, start

Raspberry Pi

Hour of Code – What could YOU do in one hour?

As part of our CSEd Week celebrations, we would love it if you took part in our annual Hour of Code. Visit our specially curated page that contains lots of cool resources, including two new ones specially written for the event!

All the resources on the page are designed to only take one hour, so they’re perfect to get you started.

Visit our Hour of Code page.

We’re also holding a live Hour of Code session here at Pi Towers, run by our Communities Manager Ben Nuttall. You’ll be able to catch a live stream of this on Wednesday 7 December on the Raspberry Pi Facebook page.

Other Links

Here’s Why I’m Going To Teach My Math Students To Code 

Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) boots up Monday, December 5. More than 50 self-guided tutorials that emphasize math, such as:
  • Frozen’s Anna and Elsa in an exploration of snowflakes
  • 10 minutes of code for the TI-Nspire CX
  • a Python exploration of the four quadrants of the coordinate plane
  • drawing flags of the world with JavaScript to learn about shapes and coordinates
Join in the fun. Advocating “an hour of code for every student,” CSEdWeek occurs annually in recognition of the birthday of computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper. This year, students all over the world over have registered to participate in nearly 100,000 events, many as part of their entire school hosting an “Hour of Code.”

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038: Living On The Edge Of Chaos 2nd Roundtable Insanity Talk

We are back. Another Friday. Another crazy week. It was perfect to get together and make this episode happen. It was so fun and great way to end the week. Once again we had a blast with some crazy topics that will lead to great thinking, discussion, and further questions. Take a listen, and let us know what your answers are by leaving a comment. We would love to hear from you as well as what you thought about our ideas.

We would love to know two things

  1. What is your favorite topic of discussion this week?

  2. What questions do you want us to discuss? We are creating a random topic generator and need your ideas.

Please remember to leave a rating and feedback. We would love it if you took 3 minutes to leave us a rating.

Check out the show and episodes on iTunes

The image you see above was one of many paintings done on the Original Buddha Board.(buy one if you don’t own one). This has been a room favorite the last two weeks and during this show many paintings were created.


Topic 1: If you could pull one object out of any movie, then what would you pick and why? Here are our answers. Which one do you like best?

  1. Harry Potter Magic Wand
  2. Dr. Who Screwdriver
  3. Pulp Fiction briefcase
  4. Avenger Spaceship





Sidenote chat

  • Government plans for alien discovery

Topic 2: Is inspiration useful?

  • different from ambition
  • does it actually lead to action?
  • goals of education conferences to inspire – is this enough?
  • personal stories of inspiration and how they have carved a path for our current jobs and future goals

Topic 3: Are rappers modern day poets?

Topic 4: Mandela Effect


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2 Essential Books To Read on Learning

I have not blogged about books in a very long time. It is weird how one goes through phases in their learning journey. It was not that long ago when I blogged about books I read on an almost daily basis.

Recently, I have read two books that I believe are really important to help educators and schools revisit some key ideas about learning as well as pushing the thinking forward.

First and foremost I have not forgotten that most teachers barely have any time to read anymore and if they do it is for pleasure and getting away from the grind of teaching. These two books are short reads, easy to process, and neither one really has to be read from front to back. You pick a topic and explore.

The first one is Lessons for LifePractice Learning by Ginger Lewman. I recently had her on my podcast. This book focuses and centers around project based learning, but in essence it is all about how to be practical and moving education and learning to the real world, right now. The ideas in the book don’t require a monumental shift. Your admin won’t go crazy and you won’t lose your job. However, what you will do is begin to change your classroom where kids are excited to learn even more than they are now.

I recently read her latest book and after reading the book, scribbling mass notes in the margins, and being reminded about the key things we must be doing in schools I want to make sure more people know about this book.


I won’t go into great detail about the book as I really think you should read it yourself. She even mentioned on the podcast that it was written to be processed small doses.

Here a list of my favorite ideas from the book

  1. A one full school day project that is started and finished in one day. I want to do this so bad that I almost wet myself thinking about it.
  2. The importance of soft and hard deadlines
  3. The topic of assessment and when to do it and whether it is always the best method
  4. The importance of the launch of a project and what are you going to do with the students who are not impressed?
  5. How to group students?
  6. The power of a midpoint regrouping of the project
  7. Wow’s, How’s, and Bow’s – my favorite idea of the whole book

If you are just experimenting with project based learning or if you feel as if your projects have grown stagnant then I would highly encourage you to read this book.

My second required reading suggestion is STEAM Makers by Jacie Maslyk. I believe I have more words highlighted in green than non highlighted. This book really helped me to frame what I needed to think about when it comes to makerspaces and STEM. It helped me grapple with some of the practical ideas that are hard for teachers to put into place with all the expectations on their plates.


What I love about this book is how she acknowledges the accountability and pressures of teachers, but helps to push them forward by not using it as an excuse to do nothing. We know the world is changing along with the job market. It is time we push more and more to do the things we know in our hearts are best for kids.

Some of the key ideas that really stood out to me

  1. The importance of leadership from administration. If we want change makers in our students and teachers, then we need leaders who are willing to support this. If you have an admin that is not supportive, then I recommend sending them this book or Innovator’s Mindset as a Christmas present
  2. Role of Facilitator – this idea is not new but exploring how to shift our teaching practice to make sure we are actually doing so.
  3. All the practical examples of how schools are actually doing all of this. It is great to scan and check the resources to see that not only is she talking about it, but people are actually doing it. I have already implemented like three ideas and will continue to add more.
  4. Failure – don’t cringe. The way she addresses failure is spot on.
  5. The scale up process about how a school started small and continued to build. These stories are important.

Both books have so much more to offer, but you have to read them. I encourage you track these books down and give them a try. If you read them and want to chat let me know. I love talking books. Heck, we could chat as a podcast.

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Accountability of Learning #makergoals

A few weeks back I was lucky enough to present at the Georgia Education Technology Conference(GaETC). I was able to share my message on the importance of the makerspace culture where the emphasis is on building a culture of learning and not a emphasis on tools(check the resources here)

At the end of the presentation I challenged the audience to write themselves a postcard stating what they were going to do accomplish to enhance the learning environment of their school/classroom in the month of November. I collected all the postcards and promised to send them out at the end of the month as a gentle reminder. I also had those who did not get a LEGO set make a note so I could send them one because I felt terrible that I ran out of sets.

This is something I have never done before. I was nervous about how everyone would respond. Obviously, it is a reflection on the session. If the audience was not inspired by the session, then the results would show. If I did my job to lead to action and changing for the better, then the results would also show.

I feel inspired, motivated, and almost moved to tears of joy when I read some of their goals. Each person had their own unique flavor, goal, and approach to creating their goal. It is awesome and I am reminded by how passionate educators are in striving to get better all the time. These powerful positive moments are not expressed, shared, and celebrated enough.

I have linked all the goals here in this photo album for you to be inspired. I made sure their names were not attached to protect their privacy. I encourage you to check them out. Leave a comment to this post about what you think as I hope many of the writers themselves will see the feedback.

As I write this I am preparing all the packages. I purchased mail packages for the LEGO sets that need to be delivered. They are being mailed out this week in hopes to arrive before the week ends.



I also created a sticker using my Brother QL-720NW Professional, High-speed Label Printer  that I learned about from Tony Vincent. This allowed me to add a personal touch to the postcards. It also allows them to share their follow through of their goal to the following page.



I attached the sticker to the postcard. When I mail them out they will read their goal and see the note. My goal is that they will head over the to Maker Goal page and share what they have done. Be sure to check this page as the educators begin to share. As I share over on the page I want the goal to be a development of yeasayers instead of naysayers.

Think to yourself……how are you holding yourself accountable? Have you written down a goal? What are you doing to make sure you reach the goal? These are things we all work on and also struggle with. I hope by investing in creating this presentation and follow through that costs me time, money, materials, and follow through that we can move the needle. More importantly it has helped me to realize that I need to do more to myself accountable.

I cannot wait to share with you my goals for 2017, but in the meantime enjoy all that these educators have shared and demonstrated.


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037: Living On The Edge Of Chaos Roundtable Talk of Insanity

This episode has been an idea I have had with some fellow teachers for quite some time. Have you ever that moment where you get going into a deep conversation with fellow teachers during a prep or after school or whenever you can carve out time and afterwards you wish you had those ideas recorded for others to hear and respond to?

After talking about doing a podcast focused on a group of teachers just talking to showcase that we are more than just a Mr. or Mrs. whoever, we finally made it happen.

To keep it authentic we all agreed to bring a topic to the table for us to discuss, but we were not allowed to share the topic until the microphones were turned on. This kept the conversation authentic and fresh.

What you are about to listen to is a podcast that I think is not only awesome, but powerful, funny, and natural. It will hopefully give you something to think about and more importantly we hope you engage with us. Leave a comment, tell us what you agree with or what your answer is to the question.

Enjoy! And we hope you enjoy enough that we get to do this again.

Check out the show and episodes on iTunes


If you want to watch the first 25 minutes(ran out of battery) in 360 Virtual Reality video go here


Shownotes, Topics, and Resources

  1. Dual consciousness – in case you don’t understand this topic(like me!) start here in Wikipedia
  2. Corpus callosotomy – 8:00 minute mark
  3. Idle Hands – 8:30 minute mark
  4. When you write something with a pencil and then erase it…..where does it go? – 9:00 minute mark
  5. Inside Out
  6. Would you wait in line physically for 2.5 hours for an object or experience?
    1. Is the wait worth it?
    2. The bonding of strangers in line around you
    3. Is it a follower mentality?
    4. Being in line is such a major part of your life
    5. Cutting in line
  7. Would you rather….
    1. do something somewhat important and get credit? OR
    2. do something completely revolutionary such as cure cancer and never get credit?
    3. Hard part is this question has a socially accepted answer!
    4. Into the Badlands
    5. Fever 1793
  8. Could it be possible that Apple has their own hackers that create virus for Windows machines AND is ethical?
    1. Ethics is a category in Billy Madison
    2.  Does this even happen?
    3. Why is it that Macs never have a virus?

Games and Distraction

  1. One Night Ultimate Werewolf by Bezier Games
  3. Reddit Thread – explain it like I am 5
  4. Reddit Thread – change my view
  5. Giphy Tab

How to pronounce gif?



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Hololens: Unboxing and Getting Started

I am beyond grateful for a grant I recently wrote. This grant has allowed us to purchase a Microsoft Hololens. The grant has been designed to pilot a new programming challenge for students to write code and games for content classes in our school. The grant awarded us one pair of Microsoft Hololens as we hope to develop AR learning tools.

I am not going to lie. We have no idea what we are doing. At this point I have not even brought this to the hands of our students as they are wrapping up a few projects that are in URGENCY mode. Once they finish their current projects we will be moving into this journey and I cannot wait.

As a nerd I could not wait. I have created a video of unboxing and my journey with simply wearing the device and exploring the games. The video also shows a short glimpse of my 5 year old daughter using Hololens.

All I can say is MINDBLOWN. This is going to change everything. Mark my word. It may not always look like a Hololens, but the concept of AR is going to be the future.

We will be documenting our entire journey here on the blog. For now it will be a matter of understanding the layout of Hololens and what it has to offer. From there we will begin to learn to code with Unity and the other tools that we have started downloading. If there are things you want to know, then please leave us a comment and we will be sure to cover them in future episodes.

Until our next episode enjoy


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036: Living On The Edge Of Chaos with Sarah Loomis

I am so pumped to share this episode with everyone. Sarah Loomis is an educator that has inspired so many people to be great. I was lucky to meet her this past summer in Colorado and her presentation on Makerspaces and Literacy has motivated me to create these experiences myself by using her ideas and testing out some new ones.

You can find Sarah on Twitter at @dodeastoy2015FOLLOWS She is a Department of Defense Instructional Tech Coach working in Germany. She is also a DoDEA Teacher of the Year, MIE Expert #mieexpert, MIE Surface Expert #surfaceEdu, Microsoft Cert. Ed, and SMART Exemplary Ed #see

My favorite part of this podcast is when she talks about a student who says

and the one question that has stuck with me

In this podcast you will learn about

  • Makerspaces and how to make it work with limited supplies
  • How to connect books to making
  • The power of the lightbulb moment
  • How to help students see the world in a new way
  • If we don’t limit students, then they will soar
  • The importance of wanting students to be creators, not just consumers.
  • Two important rules to have in your space

Check out her resources on how to get started

Check out the show and episodes on iTunes

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Is Social Media a Prison of Fake Smiles?

My latest Facebook Live video addresses this question based on the Black Mirror Episode 1: Nosedive. I promise no spoilers! I also mix in the thoughts swirling in my head with Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus and a social media project I am working on with 7th grade students.

Check this video out and let me know your thoughts. It is a topic I am dealing with as a parent, educator, and coach and what I believe in role may not be the same in another role!

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Where is the $ for Makerspace, STEM, and Learning?

Recently, I have been asked several times about where in the world do I find money to get materials, tools, and resources to do the projects that we are very fortunate to do with students and teachers in our school. This question is always one I avoid(sorry) because it is difficult. Finding money to fund programs is never easy.

I wish I could give everyone a nice little cheat sheet of directions to a magical money tree, but I can’t. However, I realized that perhaps I could stop avoiding the question and actually do the next best thing and provide outlets and places to get started.

While I preach and educate about the building the culture of making and learning as being the first and foremost essential ingredient to creating positive change in schools, I also realize having money can help to move the needle a bit. Here is what I have for you.

A list. A starting point of places I have used over the years. I write a ton of grants each year. Upwards of 10-20. I have a pretty solid rejection rate of about 95%. I don’t give up because all it takes is that one or two acceptance applications to keep things going.

This requires grit, determination, patience, and tough skin.

I have built a form. This form is something that I hope we all contribute to. I hope that as educators we can crowdsource funding opportunities. Let us help each other and spread the wealth. If you know of a source please take the few minutes to fill out this form in hopes that others could gain something positive for their students.

Best of luck! If you have success please leave a comment and reach out because sometimes all we need is a bit of positive reinforcement to know that things do turn out for the best.

Form to submit funding sources

Responses of Funding Sources – this will self populate as people enter information


While we wait for this to populate here are some general sites

  1. LEGO Education has created a Funding and Grant page that is helpful 
  2. STEMfinity – search by state. Thousands of grants listed
  3. Grants for Teachers
  4. After School Alliance
  5. Reach out to your local companies and business that are in the STEM field. I am blown away by how often I reach out to these companies and they have either grants, checks, resources, or volunteers begging to be used. They just don’t have it advertised very well. This is a great activity for students to make calls and build connections in developing ownership into the spaces they want to create.
  6. Donation list – Don’t be afraid to compile a “junk” list of things you need and share out to parents, churches, and community bulletin boards. You will be surprised at how many people will donate if you provide specifics. Be ready sure to have a deadline because if you don’t you will end up with more junk than you want.
  7. Back to School Night – you can put money tiles on a wall that parents could grab and write a check to donate. Each dollar amount can be linked to a material that you plan on buying so they know where the money is going. Simple construction paper laminated with dollar amount, image of material, and asking for contact to show them how it is being used works really well.
  8. Back to School Supply List – each classroom can ask for one item that supplies the whole school. Kindergarten teacher 1 can add cotton balls. Kindergarten teacher 2 can ask for glue. 4th grade teacher asks for cardboard. You get the idea. Each set of students brings in a material that goes into the makerspace. Sort and organized accordingly.
  9. Win the Powerball although you will probably bounce out of teaching at the same time!
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