Saturday, February 27, 2021

Creating Bubble Maps Virtually

We are in a hybrid instruction stage right now. The hardest part has been coming up with activities that both my students in class and at home can complete (because I never want either group to feel left out). We use Thinking Maps on our campus and we use Bubble Maps to describe, particularly when we are talking about characters.

Our chapter book read right now is The Tale of Despereaux. I asked my students to use their Pear Deck slides and describe the character we have met so far. Here is what they came up with (I purposely do not draw the bubbles for them-I want them to come up with an many as they want to-they had to have at least 4 ).

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Ethics and Valentine's Day

So I am posting this much later than I had planned. I am in in Texas and we had a harrowing week last week. Many people didn't understand why we had such a problem with 20 degree weather-it's 70 degrees today, that is our typical "winter" weather. So after no electricity and no water for a few days we are thankfully back to business here. 

If you know me at all you know that my favorite concept in Depth and Complexity is Ethics. My students are 1st Graders and this concept is often a difficult one for them. They see a world that is black and white, right and wrong but when they leave me they are able to identify more gray areas.

We read the story:

I asked students to think about if it is right to celebrate a holiday when not everyone can be included. What if you are like Mr. Hatch and don't have anyone in your life that loves you. The basis of this exercise was just to have them choose a side and defend it. Often they think of themselves and their experiences and I am trying to stretch them a little bit. Just because Valentine's day is fun for you doesn't mean it's fun for everyone. I think they did a pretty good job. :) 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Making an Argument

When my young students start with me, they will answer a question with what they think you want to hear. If you start asking questions, their opinion changes. For example we will have an ethical discussion and the question is: is stealing always wrong? They will answer yes. Then I ask things like "what if your baby is starving and you don't have any money-is it alright to steal then?" or "what if there's a hurricane and you are stranded-your neighbor has food and you don't-is it ok to take it?". You can just see the little cogs in their minds grinding.

Almost every day I give them a question to ponder. Is it better to be an only child or have siblings? Were cell phones a good invention? Television? Should women be allowed to be soldiers? They turn to a partner and discuss this (breakout rooms for my virtual students). The goal of this exercise is to get them to a point where they take a side and defend it. We also write about ethics often in regards to stories we read.

One of my favorite classroom moments was when we were discussing if a woman should be President (this was actually years before Hilary even ran). Chase said no, because women are not strong like men. Cecilia raised her hand and asked me if she could ask Chase a question. She said "isn't your mom strong, isn't Ms. Trayers strong?" They were having their own little debate and I loved every minute of it. They had gotten to the point where they could defend their opinions and that was my goal.

Here is an example of an activity where we explored this. My students love to read about animals and we have learned about many different species this year. My question was "do animals feel love?".

"yes they feel love because their families love."

Monday, February 15, 2021

Creating Risk Takers

I was in a conversation with a colleague recently and he was asking how I can get my students to write the way they do. All his students write the same thing and often that is copying his example. I wanted to share how I do that.

The first word we go over in the beginning of the year is creative. The 2nd is unique. We read stories about characters who are unique and I set the expectation from the get-go that I expect creativity in their work. I share work products from students who do this effectively-this is what I am looking for.

I do activities with them on a weekly basis to practice creativity. This is one-divergent art-giving them a shape or a squiggle and asking them to turn it into something. The more often I do these activities the more creative their answers are.

Here is one we did last week for Valentine's-I asked them to use the heart to make something.
sunset in the mountatins




We play a game where I separate them into groups and they have to come up with answers to a question. My favorite is to give them letters from the alphabet and each group comes up with a food or an animal that begins with that letter, but the catch is that they only get a point if their answer is unique. If 3 groups say apple and one says artichoke-the artichoke group wins. They can also do word association. "Snow __________". Snowman is the first instinct but I encourage them to dig deeper-what else can you come up with.

Lastly, I use literature. There are so many books about characters who are different but who still save the day. Here are a few:

So all in all it takes work, it takes clear expectations, but you can teach students to be more creative in their activities. I LOVE seeing 20 different answers to a question.