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Gifted Online - Sample Lesson

This sample lesson does not contain the supporting audio files or the interactive modules that can be part of a GO lesson for logged in students. However, I hope it gives you an understanding of how we work at Gifted Online. Lessons are supported by online chat sessions which are helpful in motivating children, helping them to handle tasks in a way which is personally challenging, relating the topic and activities to the conceptual theme, and forming friendships among the GO student group. 

Progress - Toys
Key example: Toys that Move.
Ancient Greek Toy.
Little Horse on Wheels.
Wherever there are children, there are imaginations, and wherever there are imaginations, certain objects become toys. A flat stone chosen because it can skip across the water is a toy (until it sinks). A battery operated robot which serves no function but to move, bleep and entertain is a toy. Today, the same child may use both of these toys, but in the past only one of them was possible. Differences in the type and number of toys available tells us a lot about the people who own or owned them. It is also a reflection of progress.

19th Century Japanese automaton and mechanism.
Public Domain Image from Wikimedia.

You do not need to send in written work about these questions (although some students like to, and I admire that). They are things to think about as you do your work. We will discuss some of them in the chatroom.

Toys have been part of every culture, throughout history.
  • Why do children play with toys?
  • Do adults play with toys?
  • Have toys that move been part of every culture?
  • How have toys changed across time and culture?
Toys, or collections of toys, tell us a lot about the people who own them.
  • What do toys tell us about wealth and poverty?
  • What do toys tell us about technology?
  • What do toys tell us about knowledge and beliefs?
Toys vary in the amount of skill they take to create.
  • What skills can I learn by making toys?
  • Why would adults develop sophisticated skills to make things for children?
  • How can progress be seen in the skills required to make toys?
  • If a toy requires skill to make and to use, is it still a toy?

Is this beautiful marionette puppet a toy or not? Wkimedia Image..

1. Quiz. A quiz about an online toy timeline was available to students.

2. Slideshow Story. Thanks, Molly, for this magnificent idea. Other GO students I have discussed it with think it is a great idea too. Take photos of your own toys, and use those photos to make a story in the form of a slideshow. Following on from the success of our last lesson, it can be a retold story if you like. Note that students contribute to the direction of their own learning as much as is practical.

3. Stop Motion Animation. Use stop motion and / or claymation techniques to make an animation about toys that move. Instructions for making animations with Gif Animator are in the Student Information area.

4. Make a Toy that Moves. This task is almost compulsory. I would love everyone to make a toy that moves, so that we can all see each other's wonderful creations. If that is not possible in your classroom, please let me know. Post toy-making sites on the Wiki to help your friends. In the interests of building a sense of online community, it is useful to all do something that is directly comparable at times.

5. Progress Chart. This task helps to make the connection between Progress (our conceptual theme this term) and Toys (our current topic) obvious. Choose a toy, and write what it is in the centre box. Think what must have already been invented to make this toy. Write these things in the ovals on the left. Think what else could be invented (real or imaginary) building on the technology used in this toy. Put those ideas in the ovals on the right. A linked template was available to logged in students.

6. Research and Development Project. Research and development is how companies improve their products. The "toy" you are going to improve is bubble mix. Start with half a cup of tap water or rainwater, and record which you used. Add measured amounts, by the teaspoon, of dishwashing liquid (record the brand), and of sugar and/or glycerine. For each bubble mix you try, time how long a bubble lasts. I made one that lasted for an hour after it landed on wet grass. Bubble photos and videos most welcome! Hone those photography skills now :) The linked audio file giving logged in students more information talked about the scientific merits of just changing one thing at a time, and pointed out the flaws in the chart below.
Water   Sugar Glycerine  Dishwashing Liquid  Bubbles lasted for :
 1/2 cup tap water  1 tsp  1 tsp  2 tsp 10 minutes.
 1/2 cup rainwater  nil 1 tsp   2 tsp Several years (or whatever is true).
 1/2 cup tap water  nil  nil  nil Believe it or not, this would form a film in your bubble loop, but maybe not a bubble, in a space station! If you like going off on tangents, check this out!!!

7. Once Upon a Toy. Ancient Athenian toys unearthed during excavations can be seen here. The little person looks very surprised to be found again. After viewing the picture, do one of the following:
  • From the point of view of the toys, introduce us to three of their owners over the centuries. The first owner must be in ancient Greece. The second may be at any time between then and now, but it must be at a real time in history. The third owner may be in the present or the future. Use writing, audio recording or a very short video.
  • Explain the expression on the little toy person's face.
  • Write a poem or a poetic description about one or both toys. 
8. Crazy Combo. Take a common object from the distant past, such as a hunter's bow, a common object from 100 years ago, such as a wagon wheel, and a common object from today, such as a cellphone. Write an explanation and/or draw a picture to show how your three objects could be combined to make a game or toy for a small child. 

9. Quotations Task. Do at least one of the following:

If little else, the brain is an educational toy. ~ 
Tom Robbins 
The intellect is a very nice whirligig toy, but how people take it seriously is more than I can understand. ~
 Ezra Pound 
Explain what you think these quotes mean. State whether you agree or disagree with each writer. If possible give examples to support your opinions. Do you think these gentlemen value toys, brains and intellect?
It has not been for nothing that the word has remained man's principal toy and tool: without the meanings and values it sustains, all man's other tools would be worthless. ~ 
Lewis Mumford 
Are words more often a toy or a tool for you? Give examples from your own life. Is Lewis Mumford's ideas still relevant now that we have interactive multimedia technology? Explain your point of view.
We are more ready to try the untried when what we do is inconsequential. Hence the fact that many inventions had their birth as toys. ~ Eric Hoffer
Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value. ~ Marshal Ferdinand Foch (1851-1929), French military strategist.
I remember how my great-uncle Jerry would sit on the porch and whittle all day long. Once he whittled me a toy boat out of a larger toy boat I had. It was almost as good as the first one, except now it had bumpy whittle marks all over it. And no paint, because he had whittled off the paint. ~ Jack Handy
Each of these three quotations has relevance to our conceptual theme of progress. What do they suggest about the nature of progress to you?
I didn't get a toy train like the other kids. I got a toy subway instead. You couldn't see anything, but every now and then you'd hear this rumbling noise go by. ~ Stephen Wright.
Design an invisible toy of your own, or a toy that depends on an unusual point of view. (If I made a toy subway, I'd make a way to look inside it - to me it is an unusual point of view to imagine a toy subway that is as hidden as a subway you are not travelling through). If your toy is visible, you can draw it. If it is invisible, you may need to describe it.

10. Monochrome Madness. If I walk into a toy store, one of the first things I notice is all the bright colours. 

Imagine that you are a very intelligent alien. Your species cannot see colours, just black, white and many shades of grey. While visiting Earth in the Year 2060, you realise that humans really enjoy looking at their toys, as they have some kind of built in visual attraction as well as stimulating other senses. You go home with the goal of producing the prettiest monochrome toys your planet has ever known. 

Design at least one visually interesting toy in shades of grey. You may draw or model your toy.

Negotiated Content: If you have a learning project to do with toys and progress, let me know. We can work out a suitable learning challenge, and add it to the list, acknowledging YOU!

Aibo robotic dog.
Public Domain Image from Wikimedia.

This lesson outline is the collective intellectual property of Mary St George, the Gifted Online students who contributed their ideas or inspired my ideas, and The Gifted Education Centre. Wikimedia Commons images are acknowledged.
© The Gifted Education Centre, 2010

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 For all enquiries about the Gifted Online Programme, please contact:
 Mary St George
 Lead Teacher for Gifted Online
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 New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education Limited