20 Kid's Movies From the 80's

The 1980's might have produced some of the greatest kid-friendly film of all time. Some were completely goofy, others terrifying (Dark Crystal, I'm looking at you), and many are timeless. They weren't all Oscar contenders, but they hold a place in our hearts.  Nostalgia is a power thing.

Quite possibly, the greatest accomplishment of 80's kids films is that they still hold up today (to a point). My own children have become obsessed with them, and it's been a wonderful opportunity to bridge my childhood with my kids.  Everyone needs little Gremlins in their life.

So, here are twenty films to take you back (or to share with your family).  They're in no particular order because it isn't a contest. Yes, some might be bad. Sure, you've completely forgotten about a few.  Many can still be found on Netflix, Amazon Video, and YouTube.  I've included all the movie trailers to help take you back.

1. Goonies

2. Willow

3. Troop Beverly Hills

4. Princess Bride

5. NeverEnding Story

6. Flight of the Navigator

7. Explorers

8. Harry and the Hendersons

9. Pee Wee's Big Adventure

10. Masters of the Universe

11. Adventures In Babysitting

12. Benji the Hunted

13. Space Camp

14. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

15. Follow That Bird

16. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

17. Mac and Me

18. Monster Squad

19. Karate Kid

20. The Last Starfighter

That's it.  I've left off some of the bigger named titles because I needed to get Benji in there (that movie made me cry like a baby as a kid).

Did I miss anything? What was your favorite?


Five Reasons Why Project Based Learning Works for My Students at Lower Levels

Before we get into the *power of PBL*, this is a good time to remind you that I'm a special education teacher in an K-5 elementary building. I work with a wide variety of students with disabilities (learning and nonspecific) in their classes, my resource room, small group, and one-to-one. I teach with a variety of different tools, from replacement curriculum (direct instruction) to additional identified supports (reading fluency, comprehension, math) with supplemental content and base skills (per grade level). I've had students describe me a a multi-tasker.

Over the past few years I've been including more project based learning activities because I found it was a better way to reach my students and change their focus/mindset for positive outcomes.  Project based learning allowed students to focus on their strengths, which changing their entire mindset for learning. I'm a firm believer that project based learning is crucial for "lower level" learners because it allows students to think differently than how they are normally asked to and be successful (in a nontraditional way). 

Here are five reasons why project based learning works with my students, who learn at a lower levels (or receive special education services, or have an IEP, or are just those kids on the cusp that we're trying to reach). Honestly, there's a lot more reasons but these are the most crucial for my students.

PBL is Differentiation
The big buzz word: differentiation!  Yeah, I said it.  Project based learning allows my students to learn the same content but at different speeds and different depths. You might have some students gathering information from videos while others are reading doctor journals (maybe not that far advanced) but the students (and sometimes you) are deciding how they want to attack their own learning.

How do we hit all kids? How do we make it fair to all kids?  These are some of the tough questions that we face when we teach typical classes.  Well, PBL takes some of the guesswork out of it, asking students to problem solve, create, and research the best way they see fit.

PBL is Self-Paced
Many of our students who learn at lower levels have difficulty keeping up with pace.  Whether its reading speed, comprehension, or whatever--it doesn't matter.  If you're using PBL activities, you're basically letting the students pace themselves and take in content at their own speed. 

I cannot impress upon you how important it is for students to comprehend material at their own speed, not our preferred teaching speed. Right Now!--doesn't work for my kids.  Sometimes it's got to be a slow burn. If we give them the tools and the time, it will make their learning more meaningful. Allowing students to pace themselves is crucial and extremely rewarding.

PBL Can Focus Content 
I love that PBL focuses on content.  It's not always about how fast they can read at grade level or how many math problems they can solve in a minute. It's about the content, and understanding it, and then applying their knowledge.

I've had kids completely shut down (in the classroom or my room) because everything was based on skills, so I've made a fundamental shifts in how I approach students.  There's time for skills and skill building--but there needs to be time for content.  There has to be time for content--expand those life skills!

PBL Levels the Playing Field
Kids who learn at a lower level (whether they receive special education services or are just on the cusp) survive in school because they've learned to adapt, mask, and problem solve better than most kids. Their adaptation skills are strong and they evolve (wait, I don't know if I can use that word).

Then you've got some of the higher level (or above average) students who haven't had to struggle.  Many of these kids don't posses problem solving skills because they haven't had too. They are solely lacking in ability when asked to think outside the box or without limits.

This is where project based learning levels the playing field for everyone. Everyone's equal because everyone brings a different strength to work from.  PBL rewards those kids that problem solve and imagine. My kind of kids! Your lower level kids can thrive in this environment because they're accustomed to taking risks, finding shortcuts/work arounds, and problem-solving.  I can't tell you how many times I have talented and gifted students come up and ask the most specific questions because they're unaccustomed to thinking outside the box. They need each step spelled out and don't know what to do.

PBL is High Engagement
I want my students engaged.  I want them interested, intrigued, and asking questions like to find out more.  I want them to go home excited about school, telling their family how stock markets, running a business, and creating inventions relate to class work. Allowing my students to work in a PBL-format is critical for energizing their interests. I create lessons specifically tailored around my student's interests. Finding out a student's interest and developing a PBL activity about it is one of my favorite things to do.

Case in Point: Over the past few years I've had students obsessed with monsters.  Some of those students absolutely despised writing, so I had to develop project based learning activities that would engaged those kids so much, they didn't care they were writing.  In fact, when we were all done they wrote more in that three week PBL then they did their entire fourth grade year.  At the end, one student looked at me, beaming with pride, and asked, "can we do more?" Engage the student.
If you can't tell, I'm a firm believer in the power of project based learning (both in my classroom and yours).  I love the options it give the teachers, the flexibility for the students, plus the ability to bring real-world situations into a classroom.

Project based learning can come in all shapes and sizes, and everyone does it differently based on their class and teaching style. If you're looking to start it, but aren't sure where to begin check out my top ten tips to get started in your classroom.  

If you'd like to check out some of the projects that I use with my students, click on either link below.  It'll take you to my store, where each PBL is displayed and you can find more information.


Project Based Learning: Paper Rules

This post is part of a larger series based beginning Project Based Learning (PBL) in the classroom. You can find the original post here. 

This is all about paper. Seriously. 

When we think about project based learning our minds tend to wander to grandiose ideas and concepts.  Stop. Don't start too big. Make it simple. Start with paper. 

Whether it's with loose leaf, a notebook, or a prearranged PBL; start by having the kids use paper.  Project based learning is about the research, collaboration, creating, and problem-solving which can all be completed effectively with paper.  All the ideas that are generated need to be written down first.  Side note: I'm referring more to elementary students, but I'd argue this is for all age levels (including the workforce). When we physically write out our ideas and work, we remember more, connect, and expand. 

Time and Prep Limitations
We have limited time, budgets, and resources. Creating extravagant classroom set-ups for project based learning (or any lesson) can be difficult without time and budgets. You’ve heard me preach that the simplest way is the best way. That's why my go-to PBLs revolve around paper. Paper is easy, simple, and fast. Paper doesn’t require me to hit up the Target One Spot and spend a hundred bucks. Paper is effective.

-Butcher block laid across a table for all the kids to write on.
-Anchor charts created by classrooms.
-Notebook filled with ideas. 

Paper, Paper, Paper
And when I say paper, I’m not just talking about standing around the copy machine making worksheets. Be creative with the types you use (while making it simple). Personally, I LOVE boxes with cardboard paper. But you might just love something else. 

Many times I want to jump straight into the technology portion, but reality sets in (which is failure) because I didn't scaffold my lessons by having them write/create/design enough early one using paper variations.

It Might Be All You Need
Once students ( or teachers, or you) feel like they've successfully completed the paper-route, that's when you can pull in the extension activities and adaptations that push project based learning into the next level. Sometimes that involves moving into technology and sometimes it won't. 

There are many PBL's that will stay grounded using paper...and that's okay (I sound like Stuart Smally).  You can still create a meaningful lesson filled with intrigue and wonder. Remember that's its not about the cool tools, it's about the teaching.

I tend to use the paper route with my students because of the type of classroom I run.  I've found it to be easier for organizing, allowing students to work at their own pace, and creating and anytime/any place (since I print the entire projects as booklets). 

The Design A Theme Park (seen above) is used almost entirely using paper because of the emphasis on designing rides, mapping, blueprints, and marketing.  

Don't Overthink
We spend too much time overthinking how to make something grand. I'm guilty of it. Make it easier and more effective for students (and yourself).  

If you think Project Based Learning is something you'd like to try, but don't know where to begin, read about my 10 Tips to Begin or go see some of my original creations by clicking the image below.


Shark Week. There's Something In The Water.

Welcome to the Shark Week Blog hop.  Shark Week is the perfect summer time snack for you or students because to learn a bit about all kind of sharks around the world. You can follow this hop around in a circle or just click on any blog at the bottom. Take your time wading through all these blogs, as you'll find many shark-related classroom resources that are completely free (that's a lot of chum). 

Kids love learning about sharks.  Sharks are mysterious and misunderstood creatures, but once students begin researching/learning about ALL the different types, along with amazing facts...they are hooked.  Just like everything, we (and kids) get hooked on the headlines: shark attacks! That's great to start, but students really like digging deep and finding the unbelievable facts and seeing how much more there is to these magnificent beasts. Seeing students learn about the misconceptions of these animals and understand them better is a great thing.

My students like to mix up their reading, research, and problem-solving by using sharks as the central theme for project based learning.  They research where they live and how they survive, along with understanding why their populations are decreasing. Using the PBL model for learning about sharks activity gives students a chance to learn at their own pace and use multiple forms of learning from books, internet, videos, and even the good-old Discovery Channel.

Now, swim on over to the amazing Greg at Kindergarten Smorgasbord! He's next on this food chain of dorsal fins and classroom resource freebies. GO THERE NOW!


Photo Apps for the Classroom

We live in a great big world of pictures. And those pictures need to be edited. Below are five of my favorite apps to use in the classroom (or at home) for editing photos.  Check them out below because there's something for everyone.

Color Story is all about playing with lighting to see what kind of final picture you can make. There's lots of choices, each adjustable, to see what works the best. The only downside is that many add-ons cost extra, but don't let that bother you because there's still plenty of options included.

Dynamic Light is a fun little app that allows users to play with all kinds of lighting features, allows you to change shadowing, and blow out the photo with color.  This app is simple and quick to learn and use. 

Phonto is an unassuming app that can layer text and graphics on top of your photos with ease and quickness. There's not a lot of bells and whistles, it's not an overly slick design--but the app works well.

ColorStrokes does one thing (and it does it well); easily letting you add or subtract colors from your photos. This app works well and is easy to understand, while letting you create focal points in your pictures. It's simple, effective, and fun.

Here's a photo my daughter took of our cat, Rocket.  She went in and edited herself, adding the colors back and putting some textures over the top.   

Over let's users add a variety of overlays like text and graphics. This app works well and is easy to navigate. They've done some great upgrades too, allowing users to grab a collection of free photos to make inspirational quotes.

Cat Paint might be last on my list, but it's the pick of the litter. This app claws into my heart with the simple ability to add cats to photos. You won't have to sneak over to the crazy cat lady's house anymore. Not only can you add cats, you can apply lasers to their eyes with explosions. Just look at this incredible creation!

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