Rm. 111 is Going Places!!

As I mentioned in the post about I Wanna New Room, as well as in the post about directed drawing, we did lots of projects during our first days back after the holidays.  Partly its because we only had a two-day-week (can I get a woot-woot for that one??), but also because easing back into work and being with friends after being away for two weeks is always a good idea.

Another thing we did that went SO WELL and that kiddos LOVED, was when we read the book Going Places (thank you Peter and Paul Reynolds for this amazing text!) and did a design challenge. 🙂

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I’m not really sure from where this challenge came, but we’ve done it in 1st grade for a couple of years and it’s been super.  I think this time around, though, we upped the ante a bit and had kiddos share their creation in a different way.

First of all, the book.  We are BIG fans of Peter Reynolds, so when I showed them this one, they were already “in.”  When I told them that they’d be doing a challenge based on it, they were even more excited.  I heard them say “We love challenges!” <3. And then, later on, I heard “We LOVE this story!”

After the story, I gave them the directions.  They were to build something that would help them “go places,” using a kit that everyone would get (like in the story).   We didn’t talk a lot about what to do or how to do it (because they were so excited and wanted to get busy right away!), but they automatically started looking for partners (again, like they did in the story).  And EVERYONE ended up with someone else with which to share both their supplies and their ideas!

As we got started, I recorded this video, and I love what you hear in it–that “buzz” that happens when everyone is engaged and busy! Check it out. 🙂

Did you notice in the video how they asked if they could use the bag in their creations?  LOVE how they think outside the box (er, bag!) for these projects. 🙂

And once our 18 minutes for the challenge were up, kiddos had amazing creations that they wanted to share with their classmates (and you!).

Before we presented them, though, we had a conversation about what information our viewers would want (or need) to know related to our work.  I reminded them that our audience was NOT there for the experience in our classroom, and we’d need to fill them in on the details so they understood what we were doing.  These smart kiddos came up with a very thorough list of what to include in their videos:

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They worked with their partner, and another partnership to plan and then record a video of themselves telling you all about what they made.  They were supposed to watch and critique, then revise if necessary, to make sure it was their best work with all the parts.  Many did this, but we’re still in the beginning stages of the “revision” part, so some  might still have some places to improve (i.e. please ignore the places where others friends come in a put up bunny ears while they are recording, or the off-camera comments/voices you may hear).

I will share these videos now, but first I have mention how AMAZING this project was in our room.  We had mentioned in our class that since we’ve come back from the holidays that kiddos have really stepped up their game; they are much more mature, focused and on task than ever! We ended up working on this project for close to 3 hours of our day–and most of us were engaged, busy and hard-working during that time. :). We had a debrief after it was all said and done (which I will write about in another post), and we talked about how much more we will be able to do as learners when I can count on them to be busy and working–monitoring their own thinking, time and planning–for long periods of time.  We’re excited for where we will be able to go and what we’ll be able to accomplish. :).

Ok, and so back to what they actually made.  It’s pretty great, so hope you enjoy!

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Thanks for checking out our work, and sharing this journey with us.  We’d LOVE to hear what you thought–leave us a comment! 🙂

 

I Wanna New Room!

I mentioned in a #classroombookaday update recently that we’d read a couple of persuasive texts that we loved.

We will later use the iguana book as a mentor text in our persuasive writing unit, and we found a great back-to-school-after-the-holidays activity to do with the other one. 🙂

My teammate found a version of this activity that involved actually “building” a house with tongue depressors, clothespins and notecards, and while it seemed great, I decided to do a less complicated version of the project.

After we read I Wanna New Room, we went back to the blueprint page of the story where Alex planned what he could include in the space if his dad gave him his very own room.  We talked about what WE could included in our very own special space and then kiddos were give notecards to “make” the rooms in their house/treehouse/clubhouse/lair. They were to draw each part and label it, then describe it to us. :).

It was so fun to watch kiddos as they worked SUPER hard and for quite a long, focused amount of time creating their special spaces.  I was also tickled with how each kiddo’s place was perfectly them–they included spaces that spoke to their personality, their hobbies, their loves.

Check out what we would have in our very own rooms (and how some of us would have LOTS of rooms instead of just one!). 🙂

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If YOU were going to design YOUR very own space, what would you put in it?  Leave us a comment and tell us about it! 🙂

 

 

Mrs. Sisul Brought Us a Snowman Challenge!

Remember when I wrote about Catch of the Days?  I should have updated you LONG ago, but our class is ROCKING AND ROLLING with these and already have almost 50!  Along the way, there have been rewards (for example, at 10 is an extra recess, 20 was pajama day and 30 was game board day) and we’ve enjoyed every one of them.  Once we hit 40 it was an even BIGGER deal because the prize was “admin’s choice!”

We emailed Mrs. Sisul and Dr. Wilson and asked them to come visit us.  Today was the day, and Mrs. Sisul came with two of our favorite things: a book and a design challenge!

We read lots of snow/snowflake books on Friday (which was early dismissal day for weather!), but she picked one we hadn’t read yet (and yes, that is a feat in itself–GREAT job, Mrs. Sisul!).

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She read the book to us (which we enjoyed!) and then she gave us our challenge: just like the mice the story, build the TALLEST snowman you can….with one piece of paper. 🙂

We went back and forth on how much info we’d give them about how to do this challenge, but eventually decided we would give them idea that they could make paper chains (which reminds me of the comment Kate left the other day about how creativity abounds within parameters–thanks for that reminder, friend!).  Otherwise, they may have spent all of their time just figuring out what to do and not actually building anything.

As we set off to work, I could tell kiddos were thinking about our last challenge (when we read the book Going Places last week), and they quickly began to find groups to work with, both so they could share their resources and so they could share ideas.

At the 10 minute mark, we had kiddos stop and do a gallery walk to look for ideas being done by other engineers that might help them in their own work.

Kiddos got back to work and we noticed that instead of several groups of 3, we now only had 3 groups altogether!  I decided to see what they were all up to…

Interesting, right?  This was the part that really reminded me of the work that happened with our other challenge–kiddos making decisions that they thought would help them, even though they weren’t explicitly stated in the directions.  “They didn’t say we couldn’t….” was their rationale. 🙂

We finished our work (about another 5 minutes or so, and then work time was up.  We laid our snowmen out on the rug to see who had made the tallest snowman.

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Now…of course when you do a design challenge, the process is as important as the final product, so Mrs. Sisul then led us in a reflection conversation.

I loved watching their faces as they thought about what had happened and worked to decide what they would take away for next time.

I also really liked their answers to the questions and also how honest they were when they thought things weren’t fair or didn’t make sense.  We just might try this same challenge again soon and see what happens differently!

And lastly, just for the record, Elena wins for cutest snowman. 🙂  She’s very proud!

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THANKS FOR COMING, MRS. SISUL!!  We love how much you love books, learning and coming to work with us!  🙂

Do you have any stories about design challenges you’d like to share?  We’d love to hear them!

Outdoor Adventures: PLTW Design Challenge!

Hopefully you’ve read about how we’re learning about light and sound and how great PLTW is going in our classroom.  (If not, feel free to check it out before you go on with this post–LOL).  On Friday we got to the point where we were ready for the design challenge.

We had learned about the design process earlier on in the unit, and also were then reminded of the problem from the story about Angelina, Mylo and Suzi.

Since we had learned and explored about light and sound already, we were ready to answer that question from the end of our book:

If you were Angelina, Mylo and Suzi, how would you help them communicate over a distance to get help?

Luckily for us, we have a fabulous woods and Naturescape in our backyard in which to actually try out this challenge!  We will do that on Monday, but first we had to figure out how to answer the question.  We got into groups and had a limited list of supplies (which we happened to be carrying in our backpack):

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Kiddos had time to design and build their devices and then will test their creations in the woods on Monday.

Callahan and Lucas figured out how to make their device reach higher and shared their thinking:

We also had an unexpected problem-solving situation come up after I talked with my first grade teacher-friend, Ms. Turken.  I asked her how the challenge went with her class, and she told me they had these issues:

  • It was day time, and bright outside, so the light part of the devices didn’t really work
  • It was during recess and so the “outside sounds” made it hard to hear the sound coming from the lost kiddos and their devices.  Also, since our woods are right next to a neighborhood, lawnmowers also made it hard to hear.
  • There were too many groups–her class had 7 groups to “lose” and then “find”
  • Only 2 adults were available during the time of their challenge

We decided to take on this problem and see if we could figure out how to use this knowledge (and their struggles!) to make the challenge work the best for us when we took our turn to try it out.  We headed out to the woods to have a chat, because I figured it might be easier to think about it in the actual setting.

We gathered on the stage (built by the amazing Riggs Construction!) and talked about our options.  I was excited to hear how kiddos were thinking through the problems I presented, thinking about how we could address them with what we know.  We had many great suggestions:

  • Allie thought that we should be sure to focus on the sound part of our devices instead of just the light parts.  She said their group had made sure to put both light and sound on their device. 🙂
  • Many kiddos took the number of groups problem, and thought of ways we could fix it–split our class in half, send one group then another then another to find the “lost” ones, and so one.
  • We noticed that the time of day we were outside (which was later than when Ms. Turken’s class was outside) was not so loud.  There were no kids at recess, no one was mowing and all we heard was the wind in the trees.
  • Aadish suggested that everyone’s groups all go out into the woods to get “lost” at the same time.  We could then try to use our devices to communicate with others, and as we saw each other, groups would join together to look for others.  He suggested that the person who knew the woods the best could be the leader of each group.
  • Keira asked, “But what if everyone wants to be the leader?”
  • Aadish and the class agreed that maybe we could do the challenge more than once, giving more than one kiddo a turn to be in charge.
  • We even thought that we could do our evaluation and redesign right there in the woods before our next try to see if we could make our devices communicate even better.

WHEW!  WOW!  I was tired after all that smart thinking and was super impressed with how they were considering ways to make our experience the best it could be.  I know we’re ALL excited to see how it goes when we’re actually in the woods tomorrow!  Stay tuned and we’ll tell you all about it!

#FDOFG–What Do You Do With a Box?

I wrote about my goals for the first days of 1st grade last time I did this, mainly because I needed to refocus after having first days with 5th grade for so many years.  Yeah, obviously with 6YOs I was going to need to do something different.  What’s interesting to me, too, is that my first day this time was even different from just two years ago.

I had some pretty honest goals from my first time around, and this time it is still important to me that we learn each others’ names and learn the routines/procedures of the classroom, understand our school’s universals and know where things are…these are all big deals.  But this time around, I have some other ideas first. (Wow…this post has a lot of the word first in it…sorry!)

As I went into this year, I had been reading a lot about making sure that the first days of school are exciting and engaging for your students; showing them what is important to you as a teacher and how your classroom will be this year is the focus rather than just the “rules.”  So that got me thinking about what those first messages might be to my new friends, and those messages helped me plan our beginning moves together.

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I decided I wanted to try something a little crazy.  It was based on this book:

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I had read it over the summer with my own kids, and it gave me all sorts of great ideas of what might happen if I asked my kiddos the question “What do you do with a box?”  (As a side note, I actually kept reading the title as a question instead of what it actually was.  I didn’t realize until just the other day that it wasn’t right. I must have REALLY wanted to ask that question!).  I knew when I read it that this was going to be our first big activity together.  BEFORE we learned about the supplies, BEFORE we practiced how to use our classroom library, BEFORE we learned the Robinson Mindset, BEFORE we did just about anything else.  I wanted to send a strong message, and I also planned that problems would arise that we could use to teach many of those earlier things–like for example, how much tape to use, where the scissors are, how you have to put your things away before you move on, what to do when the time is up and you’re not finished, etc.

So…we read the book and go to work.  I told them the basic idea: they would pick a box, decide what they wanted to make with it and draw a design and materials list, then build it.  Unlike a typical design challenge, we weren’t really solving a problem and we weren’t planning a redesign/rebuild, but it gave them the feel for doing something BIG early in the year.  It matched up to many of the messages I wanted to send my new friends.

Before lunch, kiddos chose their box (I wish I had taken a picture–there were loads of different sizes) and then got busy with their designs.  As a side note, I also didn’t stress that they had to have a drawing, had to have a materials list, had to have a solid plan…but most kiddos did.  Those AMAZING kindergarten teachers did a super job of leading kiddos down this design road and they knew just what to do.

We talked as a team about what we would/could use, and set the time limit of 25 minutes.  We set the timer and we got busy!!  Check out what it looked like as we worked:

It was SO FUN to see what kiddos did with their boxes.  Some kids planned and made something that you could put things into, and some made it into something else besides a container.  Yes, there were some kids who said “This is HARD!”, but were able to work through their struggles and move on.  Kids helped kids, I asked questions and made suggestions, and was able to get to know kiddos a little bit as we worked and talked, as well as by what they decided to make from their box.  I didn’t get to the part where we could explain and share with our class about what we made, and I don’t have pictures of each one separately, but I do have a pic of them all piled on the rug.  It looked pretty cool and kids were pretty proud:

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One thing we did have time for was to debrief on what they thought about how it went.  I had planned to introduce the protocol of Plusses and Deltas, and they did a great job.  Check out what they noticed:

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I was SO IMPRESSED with how well they worked, and I was happily surprised and pleased by what they were able to put on the “plusses” side.  And look–the deltas will be SUPER EASY to fix.  The “not helping” part really was when a friend asked someone for help and they were busy working on their own creation and didn’t want to be interrupted.  We worked through what words they could use instead of just saying “no, I can’t help you.”  The chairs and cleaning up was simply because of the directions I gave at the end of our work time, not that they didn’t know how or that they should do it.  Impressive, Rm. 202 friends.

Looking back, I am so glad I took the leap to do something crazy, not knowing what would actually happen with first graders on the first day after we’d been together for just a few hours.  They did great, I sent some positive messages and we started our year off with a BANG!!

Students: What did you like about our box challenge?  What did you learn?  What would you do differently next time?  Did you have fun??

Parents: What did your kiddo tell you about their box creation?  What did they tell you about the book, or what they thought of the activity?

Teachers: What are your goals for a new year?  First days?  What is your usual “first” activity?

 

Design Challenge: Earthquake Proof Buildings

A week or so ago I saw this tweet:

Since we had been studying slow changes and fast changes in Science for a while anyway, it made perfect sense to try it out!  And unfortunately, there had also just been some major earthquakes in both Japan and Ecuador that same weekend, so the idea of creating earthquake proof buildings was a real life one to solve.  And yeah, it would be fun. 🙂

We began by reading a pretty great Seymour Simon book on earthquakes to gain more information, and answer any questions that might come up about how they work.  Knowing exactly what happens helps us build stronger buildings that would withstand the tremors.

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We talked and discussed and made predictions and inferences.  Then we got with our partners and planned–most on paper and some with some help from their iPad.

Then we got busy building.  The 1st building part was actually spread over two days (an afternoon and then the next morning) because we ran out of time.

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We used this design cycle protocol to help us know what to do, and wrote down the timing so we could keep on track.

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Some even tried out their prototype on the earthquake machine before the “real” deal.  They got some ideas about redesign or shoring up their foundations.

Caught some groups in their planning stages:

We took videos of our trials, and many kiddos voiced their ideas for redesign in their recordings.  We all did some writing/thinking about it, but I’ll share those in another post, since after I add our videos, this piece will already take you 7 hours to read it!  Thanks for hanging in there–it’s worth it, I promise!!

Charlie, Evan and Joshua


Ella Marie and Emily


Millie, Amelia, Ja’Mia and Tyrin


Makayla and Ava


Amber, Sara and Thomas


Peyton, Baron and Landen

Design Challenge: Landforms

Last week we tried a challenge in Science where kiddos had to create a representation of a body of water.  Since then, I’ve heard multiple times “When are we doing this again?”  Then, when my friend, Mona, asked me if I was planning on doing the same thing with landforms I knew we just had to!

I didn’t want to make the situation exactly the same, however, so I thought of ways I could change the parameters to up the level of the challenge.  Last time, students chose their own group, as well as the materials they used to build.  It was great that somehow everyone chose something different and there was no arguing about who used what.  That doesn’t happen a lot in our room, but I was super glad it didn’t come up here.  So this time I again let them choose who they worked with (which because of numbers was groups or 2 or 3), but there as more chance in both their landform AND their building material.  I wrote the choices on index cards (very high tech, I know) and put them in two cans.  Each group chose one from each container.

I was impressed with how easily kiddos accepted both of the cards without complaining.  Again, not much of that happens with Rm. 202 friends, but I was pleased with how quickly they got to work planning their next moves.  After about 3-4 minutes, most were ready.  There was only one pair who did fuss a teeny bit about how they’d be done really fast and how their cards were not a challenge.  We talked about how that meant that they needed to figure a way to challenge themselves, ask themselves “What could we do differently than we had originally planned?”

Much like last time, they had 25 minutes to work on their representations and then we’d do a gallery walk to see if we could guess what everyone had created.  They were to work for the entire time and had to use their assigned medium, but other than that there weren’t too many rules.

Ok, here’s your chance to see if you can figure out our landform creations, and then I’ll give you the answers.

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What do you think? Did you guess them?  Here are the answers:

  1. plains
  2. hills
  3. valley
  4. barrier islands
  5. canyon
  6. plateau
  7. mountains

We love how building challenges work for learners in Rm. 202, and we want to know how they work for you.  Any stories to tell us?  What suggestions do you have for future design challenges we could try?