Sunday, October 30, 2011

Adding Rigor to Halloween Activities

Just a few activities to spice up your Halloween theme with some challenges:

1) Ethics: are spiders/bats/monsters good or bad, why?

2) Changes over time-from pumpkin seed to jack o'lantern

3) What are the rules for making jack o'lanterns? Being a scarecrow? Being a monster (did this activity with my kiddos last week, will post the pics-I loved some of their responses!).

4) Perspective of a spider compared to that of other insects (I realize spiders aren't technically insects, but they do eat them), perspective of a scarecrow, an owl compared to that of a bat, pumpkin in a pumpkin patch compared to that of a jack o'lantern.

5) Scarecrow for the 21st Century-invent a new way to keep crows away from crops

6) Where did the idea for making jack o'lanterns come from? Why pumpkins? Theorize a creative reason. Create a new symbol for Halloween.

For Fall Activities:

1) What would happen if there was no fall season?
2) Ethics: is it right or wrong for the leaves to fall off the trees
3) Perspective of a leaf in the tree compared to that on the ground.
4) Changes for a leaf over time
5) Theorize a creative reason: why do the leaves change color?
6) Rules for the changing leaves
7) New uses for fallen leaves-what could we use them for?

Halloween Perspectives

Since the kids are allowed to wear their costumes to class for Halloween, we give it a little twist. I ask the students to choose literary characters (and yes, I give in to have that include superheroes, comic books are a form of literature :). They write a few lines from the perspective of that character: how do they feel, what do they believe, wish for, etc. Then we present it to their parents. This not only helps us develop that perspective concept, but also helps them get practice being good speakers. We discovered that's a talent that doesn't necessarily come naturally. They talk to their toes, twirl their hair, look up in the sky... typical nervous behaviors. But by the end of the week many had developed eye contact, learned to stand still and some even to project their voices a little bit.

The Runaway Pumpkin

I love this story because we can talk about thinking bubbles and patterns in the rhyming. The pumpkin gets away and the family all try to stop it while thinking about all the different foods they could make out of the pumpkin. The farmer ends up digging a hole with his tractor to stop it.

I asked the kiddos to come up with their own "pumpkin trap". Here are a few examples of what they came up with:

I would catch it with some vines.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Important Book

One of our icons of Depth and Complexity is "Big Idea". I think this book is a perfect example of looking for the big idea of things. It talks about what is important about different objects and I asked the kids to think deeply about this and come up with some of their own.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ethics and Wild Things

Where the Wild Things Are is one of my top 10 favorite stories. I love the complexity of it and the way Sendak plays with imagination. Anyway, since we are working on the concept of ethics, the students wrote about their opinion of the characters in the story. Who was right and who was wrong?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Getting Students Out of the Box

I know it's a cliched saying but I speak to my kids often about thinking outside the box. I thought about that a lot this past week with the passing of Steve Jobs and how many people must have thought he was crazy to even suggest a new way to manage music (among other things). I saw this political cartoon and thought how amazing that technology is considered today:

Anyway, I know that these kids are our future visionaries and with all the bubble-filling standardized education they will have to endure throughout their academic careers; one of my many goals for them is to have that foundation in creative thinking. I told my class last year about a billboard I just LOVED for the station fx--their tagline was "There is no box."  So far outside the box that there isn't even a box anymore. That class just ate it up. My kids used to quote it all the time. When I reminded them to "think outside the box"-they'd repeat back "there is no box".

Let's just say it's always a work in progress. Today I felt like I should be featured on the show "When Good Lessons Go Bad". I tried an exercise in creative thinking where they use a leaf to create something. Now we've done divergent art before with squiggly lines-so this shouldn't have been much of a stretch. And it's been successful with previous classes, i.e.  :

This group is still safe inside their box. Many of the kids turned their leaf into.....a leaf! Some made it a tree, which at least was a little more creative. At one point I had a very Homer Simpson d'oh moment when one of the kids came up with a picture they had drawn in one hand and the leaf in the other asking what she was supposed to do with the leaf. *sigh* There were a few that I really liked:

In any case, we'll keep working on it. Creativity can be tough nut sometimes.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

What's More Important-A Heart or a Brain?

It's not hard to get little ones to give their opinion on something, the hard part is getting them to qualify it with the why. We took a little poll the other day for our morning tally graph. I asked one of the students what they had for dinner the previous night. The answer was pasta. So we made a very simple t-chart-do you like pasta? Yes or No. We took the votes and I asked some of the kids who said yes to tell me why-2 of them voted for it and didn't even know what pasta was! I often ask my kiddos to get past those one word answers and back it up with why they feel that way.

In the novel of the Wizard of Oz, Scarecrow and the Tin Woodsman have a conversation about what is more important--having a heart or having a brain. I asked the kids to choose one and back it up with why they believe that way. Here's what they came up with:

Because it gives you life.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Creative Reasons for Why The Leaves Change Color

I love giving my kiddos a question that there is a scientific answer to; but asking them to come up with another reason to explain the phenomena. I tell them it can be silly, or funny, or serious--but it has to be something different from the real reason. Since we have finally begun to feel Fall weather (it's actually in the low '90's here in Texas). It seemed appropriate to discuss why the leaves change color in Fall. We are still working on getting those creative cogs going--I've said it before and I'll say it again: creativity like anything else, takes practice. But some of them did come up with something new. My favorite one is "because they want to be cute".

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ethics and The Giving Tree

I like this story for different reasons than I think most teachers do. I believe many teachers use this book with the intention of discussing the benefits of being a giving person. As I look at other blogs describing this story-it's "heartwarming" and a "great lesson about morality". Being the consummate rebel that I am, I read this story and am flabbergasted at this boy, who turns out to be just an entitled taker. I wonder why the tree wouldn't just tell him to "talk to the branch" when he kept coming back for more. I don't share my opinions with my kiddos before the read-aloud; but let them come to their own conclusions. Although this group audibly gasped when I got to the part where he took her trunk and all that was left was a stump.

I do love this story as a beginning lesson in ethics. We talk often about how ethics are not always black and white (although that is the representation on the icon for this concept)--there is often grey area. And 2 people may believe 2 different things to be true and neither of them is necessarily wrong. We read the story and I asked my students to write about who was right and who was wrong in this situation. This is what they came up with:

It is wrong because it's hurting the tree.