Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Pannello blog

Gotta Catch ‘Em All: Using Pokemon Go in my 3D Printing/ELA Class

By on August 21, 2016

I’ve written before about the power of using pop culture in the classroom, and this fall will be no different in Room 1. Admittedly, I can’t say I’m a huge Pokemon fan. It’s one of the cartoons I limit in my own house simply from a “this-is-just-too-cruddy-to-have-share-my-airspace” point of view. My oldest son plays the card game, and my youngest speaks the language of the little critters, but I wouldn’t say we’re obsessed over here.

But along comes Pokemon Go and the whole planet goes berserk. And even I have to admit it’s the greatest game since Space Invaders. Frankly, if I didn’t tap into this kind of global enthusiasm, I would be avoiding something that could prove amazingly engaging for my students.

So for this school year, I planned an initial, start-of-the-year collaborative activity that would hopefully “Catch ’em All,” students as well as Pokemon.


The students in my Make Writing class (a class for long-term EL students that leverages 3D printing to learn reading and writing) will be hunting for 3D printed Pokemon in small groups.


IMG_0651Earlier that week, I had printed out various Pokemon in different colors – low-poly versions of recognizable characters: yellow = Pikachu, red = Charmander, etc…

I wrote out step-by-step directions for where each Pokemon could be found.  Some of the directions were straightforward (take a left, etc…) while some asked students to infer from clues.  Reading directions, sequenced informational writing, can be difficult for these students, and I’m hoping that this will be an easy introduction to the concept.

I hid Pokemon in different offices and classrooms and prepped folks to know to expect the students on that day.


Day Of Our Pokemon Go Activity:

1- I made small groups of 4 students each.

2- The groups had to divide up 4 small writing tasks amongst themselves. The full assignment can be found here. Each student was responsible for only one task. At each “Pokestop” one of the students in the group shared their assignment in order for the whole group to advance to the next stop. Here were the 4 tasks they had to divide up amongst the students in the group:

The totodile hid in the counselor’s tree.


  • Student #1: Found a funny quote from a Pinterest board I shared. They had to memorize it and recite it to the “trainer” at the first stop.
  • Student #2: Researched when the USA Rugby team was playing and wrote a haiku about rugby. They read this to the “trainer” at stop #2.
  • Student #3: Explored our new school website and came up with a list of 3 positives that they shared with the next “trainer” at the third stop.
  • Student #4: Wrote a congratulations card to a teacher who got married this summer and put it on her desk to greet her when school began.

3- The small groups were given the step-by-step directions to each Pokemon location and raced each other as groups to “catch ‘em all.”

4- To prove they had indeed caught all of the Pokemon, the groups had to take selfies with the 3D printed critters and have the adult sign off on the directions sheet.

Our principal, Matt Arnold, was the Pokemon Trainer for the Pikachu print.

Our principal, Matt Arnold, was the Pokemon Trainer for the Pikachu print.

5- The first group back got to pick from a stack of 3D printed Pokemon.


Next Steps:

The next step is for students to research different Pokemon files on Thingiverse or MyMiniFactory, figure out the printers and print them out themselves, hide their Pokemon, and write their own step-be-step directions to lead a classmate to find their character.

In addition, my principal (Pokemon trainer #2 who was a Rugby fan) wants this class to run a monthly Pokemon hunt for the entire school. When I told my students about this, they flipped out with excitement and are already discussing rules and workflow to have the game up and running within the month.

I know there are teachers out there using Pokemon Go in their classrooms.  What’cha doing to Catch em’ All, students included?


Note: The book I’m currently working on (due out Aug, 2017 for Corwin Publications) is focused on student engagement. This lesson hits some of the key needs for student engagement, according to the students themselves:


Bringing in the Real World

Using Humor

Utilizing Technology

Learning Something Totally New


Pannello blog

Lessons to Share: 3D Printing and Design to Learn Reading & Writing

By on June 17, 2016

So I just finished my first week with my Make Writing class.  This class, as I’ve written about in the past, is intended to help those long-term EL students who have become disengaged with school and with learning.  These kids

Pannello blog

The Argh Wall! Celebrating Failure in the Classroom: A Lesson For Writing & Making

By on May 15, 2016

So, I’ve been writing lately about my new class that I’m developing for next year called Make Writing.  I’ve been writing curriculum for this class that leverages 3D printing in order to teach Literacy and Writing.  The class itself is

Pannello blog

Past, Present, Future: Assessments and Technology

By on April 2, 2016

“Grading, in kids’ brains, parents’ brains, administrators’ brains, and even teachers’ brains, is a final snapshot after which there is no beyond.  But if we can start thinking about assessments as a means to drive feedback, NOW you’re on to something.”


Alternative Strategies for Assessing Learning: Larry Ferlazzo Classroom Q & A Podcast

By on March 30, 2016

“Whether they’re doing a portfolio or a performance task, they still want to see How do I stack up?” I had a lot of fun being interviewed for Larry Ferlazzo’s podcast about alternatives to grading and traditional assessments.  The follow-up

Pannello blog

Kids Speak Out on Student Engagement

By on March 10, 2016

Hey, middle school and high school teachers and parents!  Can you do me a favor? I am polling thousands of kids nationwide on what engages them the most in how they learn.  This is based on a survey of 500

Pannello blog

Pencils to 3D-Printers: A New Kind of Language Arts Class

By on February 7, 2016

  “The printers have been ordered.  Fingers crossed.  Here we go…..” This was the email I received two weeks ago from my principal who is working with me to develop a whole new kind of Language Arts class.  The plan

The sexy Ultimaker 2

Eeny, Meeny, Mino, Moe: Which 3D Printer Should We Own?

By on January 27, 2016

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the start of my journey to create a Language Arts and ELD class that leveraged 3D printing as a means to initiate a more purposeful curriculum for reading and writing.  I will be

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 7.20.04 PM

5 Nonfiction Articles + Novels Series: Middle School Edition (Jan.)

By on January 20, 2016

Mutually Beneficial Animal Relationships (Photos) Written by: Huffington Post Staff Published On: The Huffington Post “The ostrich isn’t very good at smelling, while the zebra can smell pretty well. The zebra though, doesn’t have good eyesight, but the ostrich does.


Making, Writing, & Leaving My Wheelhouse: How This Relates to ELD Students (UPDATED)

By on January 10, 2016

I first began blogging to reflect on what I was learning during my summer with the Writing Project. After each day, I returned home, head spinning, needing to simply process. Finally, my husband said, “Why don’t you try starting one

Pannello blog

5 Non-Fiction Articles to Pair with High School Literature (December)

By on December 23, 2015

    1. Dumb Kids’ Class Written by: Mark Bowden Published on: The Atlantic “My bet is that when a comprehensive inventory is made of my generation, it will be found that not one person from a smart kids’ class

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 7.20.04 PM

5 Nonfiction + Novels Series: The Middle School Edition for Dec. 2015

By on December 22, 2015

My newest post is the first in a series  in which I’m collaborating with Talks with Teachers podcaster and blogger, Brian Sztabnik. Brian not only moderates the #aplitchat on Twitter but also writes the 5 Nonfiction + Novels series for

Pannello blog

Celebrating the Refugees Already in Our Classrooms: Memories and Advice From a Student

By on December 1, 2015

In June 2001, a family of four escaped from the slaughter of Nepal and made their way across the world to safety. They arrived, not in boats dragged up on shore, but in the arms of families who helped them

Pannello blog

The Invisible Strategies of Teaching: #whatpeopledontsee

By on November 23, 2015

hen you walk onto a middle school campus and even into the rooms themselves, it can look like chaos. After all, middle schoolers are wired to be active and wired to be loud. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t learning

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 8.03.55 PM

Who Was I In Middle School? A Reflection + Free Downloadable

By on November 10, 2015

t times, seeing the diversity in my own students, I’ve wondered who I was when I was in middle school and what really drove my tween’s brain.  So I created a Tip 10 list of memories to help me reflect

Pannello blog

Boy Talk at Recess: Pokemon, Light Sabers, and Things That Go Boom!

By on October 11, 2015

y most recent post for The Huffington Post just went live.  It chronicles my embarrassment when my 9-year-old son chose his classroom’s parent-led art session to voice his recent interest in bloody talk.  It also chronicles my son’s frustration at

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 7.58.49 PM

DIY Project Based Learning for ELA and History

By on August 16, 2015

’m excited to announce that my new book, DIY Project Based Learning for ELA and History has arrived and is now available for purchase. The point of the book was to break down the process of PBL into day-by-day chunks


How to Host a Twitter Chat with your School Community

By on August 9, 2015

very year schools sit and brainstorm ways to communicate and engage its families. How will we reach out to parents? How will we gather information about their needs or give them a little insight in what we do as educators? A

Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 10.00.17 AM

Lessons Students Can Learn From Mick Fanning vs. The Great White Shark

By on July 27, 2015

hat’s with shark videos? First it was the uniqueness of Left Shark in the Katy Perry halftime show. From him we learned to dance to your own groove, even in front of millions of people And now we have the

Courtesy of Marvel Studios and IMDB

Using Ant-Man In The Classroom

By on July 24, 2015

just watched Ant-Man with my 9 year-old, and we both walked away with a cinematic smile on our faces. For him, it was a movie of laughs and of just the right level of suspense. It didn’t have the darkness