#FDOFG2017: Marshmallow Challenge 2017

I learned about the Marshmallow Challenge about 5 years ago and I’ve been doing it with classes ever since!  It’s always fun to see what a new class with do with the challenge–how they tackle it, how tall their towers are, what strategies they use to work as a team, etc.  Like with most years, we did it twice, with a debrief in the middle to help us think about what worked and what we could change.

Take 1:

We had an ok start, and kids took pretty quickly to what they were supposed to do.  Teams (which I chose ahead of time and are groups we will use periodically all year) worked well and learned to negotiate who did what/when/how, etc.  After our first round–where all of the towers fell over–we talked together on the carpet:

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The black words are from our first conversation; the green arrows denote the things we changed that made our second went much better.  So yeah–spoiler alert!–we tried again and this time teams were much more successful.  Successful, we thought, meant that our towers stood up and everyone participated and helped the activity work.

Check out our 2nd go-round:

Our final towers were pretty impressive and our teams were pretty proud!

Great job, Rm. 111 friends!  🙂

#FDOFG2017: Ten Black Dots

Remember when we read The Line and did drawing starts with Mrs. Berger?  It was a great experience for Rm. 111 kiddo and an opportunity to use our creativity and grit.  Well…we went back last Friday and did it again!  Not the drawing start part, but the creativity and grit part. 🙂

During our second visit to Mrs. Berger’s room, she shared Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews with us.  Many of us had heard it before, but maybe as a math book instead of an invitation to think in a new and different way.

We read and discussed the book and looked at the many ways Crews imagined what those ten dots could become.  And then, just as she had done with drawing starts, Mrs. Berger asked me to give it a try (and somehow even though she does this every year, I was totally surprised.  LOL).  So…I stared at the big white paper, trying to see something besides big black circles

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To be honest, I could have made the caterpillar I have done most every other time (boo–I know that’s not very creative!), but I figured I should try a little harder.  So I kept thinking and started moving those dots around on the blank page.

After the dots, I added some details and then stood back to see if they could figure out what my dots had become.

So…my ten black dots became:

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A fancy lady’s hair!

The funniest part to me is that most kiddos thought it was a self-portait!  Ha!

So after my beautiful example, kiddos were give a pile of dots (ours were red and yellow) from which they had to count out ten and then create something marvelous.   Kiddos went to their personal “offices” and got busy.  They were given about 20 minutes to work, and friends were challenged and then encouraged to work the whole time, adding more details if they thought they were finished before time was up.  The sound of quietly working kiddos and the creations that emerged as fabulous!

And so in the end, our ten black dots became…so many great things!  Check out our thinking:

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Again, first grade grit and greatness shined through and we ROCKED this challenge!!  Can’t wait for the next one! Wonder what it will be! 🙂

#FDOFG2017: Drawing Starts

At Robinson we are blessed with loads of gifted and talented teachers, including one who works with all kinds of gifted and talented Robinson kids, Mrs. Berger.  During the beginning weeks of first grade, every first grader goes through a series of lessons (I think there are 5) that helps us identify and highlight creativity and critical thinking of each individual kiddo.  The lessons are a variety of things that help students think and share in different ways.

The first time we visited Mrs. Berger she shared a great book with us called The Line.

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In the story, you watch as the little girl follows a line, which becomes all kinds of things, like a monster, a bear, a wave.  It reminded me of the kind of thinking that we did during our box challenge, where an ordinary item became countless other things just based on kiddos’ imaginations.

In our first invitation, kiddos were given a set of lines–drawing starts–where they had to take the squiggle or shape and create something completely new.

Before kiddos get started, however, Mrs. Berger always invites ME to do this activity.  I have to be honest that even after years of being asked to do that, it doesn’t really get easier!  I am always a little anxious, especially when I feel pressure to do it “right,” –with an audience! Each time, though, I step back and remember how much modeling the difficulty and working through it helps the learners who are watching.  They know that if I can do it, then can, too.  In many ways, because I was willing to do the same thing they were being asked to do, they were able to trust me when I told them they could do it.  They knew that I understood what it felt like to look at that squiggle or swish and not have an idea right away.  🙂 Together we use our grit and persistence to get through, and Rm. 111 learners did a great job!  Check out some of their creations!

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My favorite thing about when kiddos do drawing starts is how many of them are certain that they CAN’T do it, but then, when pushed a little (because NOT doing it is not an option) they settle in and come up with some amazing ideas.  Each child’s thinking is different, and each idea is “right.”  It’s a foundation for much of what we do later on in the year, as we focus on sticking it out, pushing through, using our positive self talk and believing in our abilities.  Way to go, Rm. 111 kiddos!  Oh, and I know you’re dying to see my drawing start, too.

(Hopefully you see a girl jump roping in that picture! LOL)

Can’t wait for our next visit!  There’s sure to be another interesting invitation to be creative and gritty!

LEGO Lessons: Leading and Following

I have been a LEGO lover for a long time…yeah, probably my whole life in some form or another.  Those forms have been many: as a kid building houses with my brother; admiring whole LEGO towns that a friend had built in his basement; watching my kids start to play and build with them (in a much more sophisticated and creative way than me, I might add.  I could only build houses.  Because those are rectangles and that’s what you dod with LEGOS is build rectangles, right?  I kid, but that’s how my brain used to work); learning how to best organize them based on how a 6 year old plays with them (it’s not by color, by the way, as many Pinterest boards will suggest); and then as a teacher learning to incorporate building, creativity and play into my classroom.  I have had opportunities over the years to try new things and learn from other LEGO-loving educators and so have been learning how to better use LEGOS as a learning tool (in addition to them just being a super fun toy during choice time and inside recess!).

So far we have used them “officially” to build our names (pics later!) as well as on Friday in a LEGO lesson on leading and following that was SUPER!  Let me tell you all about it…:)

We started our day with an easel question that looked like this:

 

In case you missed it on those post-its, kiddo shared FABULOUS ideas about leaders:

  • the help people
  • they are teachers
  • they have followers
  • they are the person in charge
  • they are the boss

We talked about what it was like to be the leader, and times in their lives when they have the opportunity to be the leader, or to be in charge.  Some were at home and some were at school.  They also shared times when they had to be the follower, and how sometimes you don’t have a choice about what your leader asks (or tells!) you to do, and that sometimes you might not like it.  We also talked about how sometimes there are situations where you have to be BOTH a leader and a follower: a specific place this happens at school is when you are in line.

After we talked about this idea and had a pretty good idea about what it all meant, we went outside to practice.  We played follow the leader and wound ourselves all around our Robinson playground.  It was fun, but was also a little tricky, because often someone would not be paying attention and their follower would then not know were to go, or would go a different way than the rest of the line!

Once we got back inside we pulled out LEGO learning tools and tried another activity I learned from a SUPER smart colleague of mine, Mrs. Marks.  Kiddos worked with their carpet partners (a friend with whom they sit on the rug for our learning times, use when we do turn-and-talk, and someone they pair up with for a variety of learning situations) to build a LEGO structure.  One person was the leader, and had to lead their partner (the follower) to build the same structure that they built.  Man–this is harder than it seems and requires both partners to pull from a specific skill set.  It’s also a little tricky because they can only use the pile of LEGOS they are given, and so much be careful with their block choices, ensuring that there are TWO of everything so their partner can copy their work.  After a certain amount of time, partners switched and got to try the other role.

For the most part, things went swimmingly and pairs figured out how to work successfully in the role they were given.  Learners knew they had succeeded if at the end they had two identical structures.  Their smiles are proof of their pride. 🙂

As is routine in our class, we had a debrief when we were finished (because the process of an activity is as important–if not more-than the product!).  Kiddos shared what they had to do to be successful in each role, and compared how these were often different depending on which one they were in.

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As with many most of the lessons we do early on in first grade, we will come back to this experience time and time again.  There are so many nuggets of wisdom in that chart that will help us be successful in the future, the first grade future and beyond!

#FDOFG2017–David’s Drawings

A few years ago, my friend and colleague, Mrs. Appelbaum showed me an idea for incorporating collaboration and creativity into a beginning-of-the-year activity.  We tried it that year, and the results were fabulous.   I don’t think I tried it last year (or at least if I did, I didn’t write about it!?), but I knew I needed to pull it out and try it again with this group.  We’ve been focusing on community building these last few weeks, and creativity is a big deal both in my classroom and in our school.  I love this book–the story is great and the conversations you can have around how kind and considerately the classmates treat each other are helpful during the foundation-building days early in the year.

We began by reading and talking about the book itself, and I told about how much I love that the author, Cathryn Falwell commented on our work the last time we did it.  We’ve been talking alot about authors and how we can talk to them “in real life” lately and they were super excited that a book’s author might see their hard work! (No pressure, Ms. Falwell! hee hee).

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After we read, we reviewed the way David developed his drawing in the story: he started with an idea, but then his friends were able to add in details that they thought were important, resulting in a masterpiece that involved numerous perspectives and ideas.  Aside from just a beautiful picture, however, the kids in the story also display such care and respect as they are sure to ask their friend if they can help BEFORE they start to work.  David is kind to oblige and the collaboration begins.  What results is something even better than what was originally imagined; the end would not have been a possibility without everyone’s input.

Once I was sure we understood both the story itself and the concept of what I wanted them to do, we broke up into small groups (which we call “crews” in our room) and artists got to work.

The drawings we ended up with were super creative, colorful and full of everyone’s ideas!  We did a great job and were excited to hang them up on another spot of blank wall (we have LOTS of it!!)!

Perhaps the best part was the debrief on our work when we were finished.  They had such great ideas to the question of what they did as they worked that made our creations so successful.  These kiddos have such great ideas–before, during and even after their work!!

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The hope (and encouragement) is that these behaviors will be repeated over and over in different settings to help make success and cooperation continue for many days to come!

 

#FDOFG2017–Nature Hunt!

During our first days together, we do many things that allow us to work together, get to know each other, learn and practice routines and procedures, and also just have fun.  One thing we did that was a big hit was a nature scavenger hunt!  We are lucky to have an amazing naturescape in our backyard (which was recently made over to allow us even more natural places to play and learn!), and so it was the perfect place to go!

Kiddos were put in small groups of 4, and then we gave them a job to do and a bag in which to collect their finds.

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We were blessed to have 4 adults with us during this time, and so we had lots of eyes on each group as we explored.  It was pretty much up to each team where they went and they could fulfill the categories of the hunt in whatever way they chose.  It was fun to see how many different leaves they found, how many “circles” there were in the woods and also what teams considered “treasures!”

Perhaps the  best part of the hunt, though, was when we found something we weren’t even looking for:

IMG_0675-minCan you see it?  There’s a friend in there….

Here, look again.  With some help from some first grade fingers:

Yes!  We found a turtle!  He was walking right there across the path, and thanks to the eagle eyes of Jeremiah we got to see him!  It was really hard not to touch and prod and want to pick him up (we didn’t–we left him in his home there), but we did the right thing and just watched as he walked and enjoyed the surprise visit! 🙂

What a fantastic morning outside!

First Grade Favorite Things

This week we started conferences.  If you’ve ever been to a conference (as a parent) or if you’ve ever prepared for a conference (as a teacher), then you know that both sides want to show/see what’s been going on in the classroom!  Some of this happens IN the classroom and during the conference itself, but some of this happens even before families get inside, by what is hanging OUTSIDE of the classroom on the walls and bulletin board.

So luckily, we (Ms. Turken and I) spent some time before school started getting ready just such a place to share our learning goodies with everyone:

It’s pretty great, right?  But yes, it’s pretty lonely. 😦

As we thought about what families would like to see, we weren’t really sure what to put out there, as much of what we’ve been doing has been to hang in our rooms, or hasn’t really had a “product” to display.  Additionally, we agreed that having everyone doing the same thing and then hanging 40 of them out there didn’t really seem to fit the bill, either.

So we decided to do something where everyone has a similar item to share, but where there is still student choice and voice and where everyone’s things look different (well mostly different. :)).

Kiddos were invited to draw their favorite things from first grade so far.  They could choose from the list we provided (in case they couldn’t think of something, because MAN–the list of things we’ve done is LLLOOOONNNNGGG!).

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As we got started with the activity, we added to the list as kids thought of other things and then artists got to work.  It was fun to watch what they chose (great info for things we should do again!), as well as to watch the empty, lonely hallway display start to fill up!

Once we were finished, we had SO MANY FABULOUS first grade favorite things to share with our families–and anyone else at Robinson who walks down our hallway!  What a treat!

What do you SHARE with families for conference visits or open house?  What do you like to SEE when you’re at school for a conference or a visit?  We’d love to hear from you! 🙂