Saturday, September 30, 2017

My First Attempt At Project-Based Learning

I have been wanting to implement project-based learning for years! I have read the books, I have attended the trainings, I have followed PBL people and websites. For me, it was just finding a way to squeeze it in with the myriad of things we are expected to teach-even in Kindergarten!

This year didn't start out ideally for us. We started school 2 weeks late because of the hurricane and were supposed to jump into our curriculum beginning with Week 3-so we were already behind. I told my principal that I wanted to start implementing a Genius Hour/PBL type plan every Friday afternoon. I would use different materials and the kids would work in groups to create/invent something based on our unit for the week. Well, the first 2 Fridays passed without me being able to fit it in. I was determined to do it this week.

The unit we were doing was about apples-not really ideal for creating structures, but I really wanted to get started-so we made it work. I started the week with inquiry-what questions do you have about apples? We watched videos about how they are harvested and stored (they can be stored in silos for up to a year by the way-even I learned something new from our research). We read stories about apples and did apple activities all week. Friday afternoon, I split them up into groups, gave each group a different material to use-blocks, legos, etc. I asked them to create a structure that could be used to store apples-what things would they have to consider?

First of all, let me say that I had to walk around the room several times encouraging them to work together and make one structure-everyone just wanted to make their own. After that about half of the groups really embraced the challenge. I asked them to present what they made to their friends and recorded the explanations to post on our Seesaw accounts. I was amazed at some of the considerations they made when building-"here is the entrance", "after the farmer harvests the apples"--this is vocabulary we learned this week.

I didn't take pics of their finished products which I am kicking myself for-but I did take some pics of their work in progress.

It's something I will definitely continue to fit into our curriculum. I think despite their inexperience in working in groups and despite this not really going along with what I am supposed to be teaching :) --it was a great start!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Ethics and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

We read the story Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. In the story the letters go up the coconut tree, fall down and have to be rescued by their parents (the uppercase letters). At the end of the story "a" is headed back up the tree calling his friends. So we discussed the story in the light of ethics. Was it right for the letters to go back up the tree?

Here were our responses:

(Love the details of the mommy and baby letters here).

Saturday, September 23, 2017

S.C.A.M.P.E.R. with David Goes to School

S.C.A.M.P.E.R. is an acronym for ways to inject depth into your activities. I wanted to give an example of how I use these with back-to-school reads. David is a book I love because the author's note in the beginning states how this story is basically autobiographical of David Shannon when he was young.

Here are ways to incorporate S.C.A.M.P.E.R. with this story:

1) Substitute another location for David-what would David at the mall look like? the zoo?
2) Adapt a classroom so that it would be an ideal learning space for David-maybe stain-proof carpet.
3) If you were the teacher, how would you have to modify your instruction because of David?
4) Another use for a paper airplane.
5) Rearrange the classroom so it would become David-proof.

So we substituted the mall for school--how would David act knowing what we know about him?

P.S. So I went back through old blog posts for a presentation I was giving and realized when I first started blogging I would only share the writing that was the best academically. Somewhere along the line that changed and I decided to post pics of all my students' writing. This is where we begin in Kindergarten-this is our handwriting, this is how we write down the page. If nothing else I will show the progress we make over the year!

Here's what they wrote:

Monday, September 18, 2017

Taking Risks

Two years ago at this time of year I was going through treatment for breast cancer. I had my second chemo treatment at the end of the first week of school. Going through that changes a person in many ways, one thing that I vowed to myself was that I needed to say "yes" to things more. Take more risks, try new things. I had been invited to student birthday parties many times and always declined that invitation-I didn't want to cause any drama. That year I accepted an invitation for Ruby and I to attend a party in the park and it was amazing! The students were talking about it for days. I was proud of myself for saying yes.

I have gotten offers to do professional development trainings that would require travel before and automatically turned it down-I didn't even really consider it. This past summer I got an offer to do a training for teachers in San Antonio and because my new policy was to say "yes" that's exactly what I did! Friday night I drove 350 miles, stayed in a hotel by myself (I think that's the first time I have ever done that) and on Saturday morning I presented my ideas to sessions of teachers twice. When you are putting something like this together it's absolutely taking a risk. What if they already do all these things I'm showing them? What if they roll their eyes at these ideas?

It actually went really well. When I started my blog in 2010 I never imagined that people would actually read it. I had teachers telling me that they have tried my ideas in their classes and that they would be able to use these ideas I was sharing with them. I'm just so glad I did it.

I was not raised to be a risk-taker. When I was younger I was never a color outside the lines kind of person. It's something I have to consciously work on but I know I'm getting better at it. We need to do better for our students. We need to model for them being risk-takers ourselves and read them stories about risk-takers, teach them about people from history who might have made waves but also made history. They need to have the confidence to try new things and maybe they will find they have talents they didn't know they had.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Thinking Like a Principal

Multiple Perspectives is one of the first concepts of Depth and Complexity that I teach. I read this story which is about a principal who thinks since school is so awesome, we should have school every day. That doesn't work out so well for the students. :) So they decide to just go back to the regular 5 day week.

So we talked about the job of a principal and whether that is an easy or hard job. Then I ask them to write from the perspective of a principal-what would they see, hear, feel, do if they were the principal of a school.

Here are their responses: