Rm. 202 Kids Take Over!

This will be the first of several posts that document some changes that have been taking place in Rm. 202’s neck of the woods over the last two weeks.  We’ve been dealing with some struggles and are working on working through them.  Kind of like in the beginning of the year when we were working on working together.  Remember?  And in true Rm. 202 and Robinson form, we’re problem solving as a class to figure out what to do.  LOVE THAT!  It hasn’t been easy, but with so many great brains working on the solutions, it’s coming along.

Here’s the beginning of the story…

We had had many days where our class was struggling to follow directions, listen to each other (including me!) and struggled with working well as a group.  Of course I was frustrated, and knew that it meant something had to change.  Luckily, because I know that these choices mean they’re telling me something (rather than just that they’re bad kids, or trying to make me crazy, or that there is no hope! LOL), I choose to try to figure out how to help them change those choices, by teaching or reteaching behavior, or by restructuring some other part of what we do everyday.

And because I work in the best school in the best school district anywhere, I am lucky to know about using a problem-solving model with most every classroom bump in the road.  I learned years ago about how to use the ICEL protocol for this problem-solving and it came in SO handy to us lately.  Basically it helps you problem-solve through a variety of items, starting NOT with the kids in your class, but with how you are teaching them.

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So as I worked through how to best respond to the struggles we were having, I logically started with the I in ICEL, which has to do with HOW we’re learning and HOW I’m choosing to present things.  Sometimes an easy tweak in this area can provide the response you were looking for.  And also luckily (wow–do you get how blessed I am? LOL), I have a super supportive group of coworkers who are ALWAYS willing and able to help.  We happen to have a place to post questions and ideas so I wrote this, looking for some suggestions:

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And like I said, there ended up being LOADS of friends who gave their support and ideas for how we could respond, and even better than just helping me, anyone who read the thread could benefit. #collaborationforthewin

This response was what got us to this blog post today:

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And since I cannot step away from a double dog dare, but more because I knew she had a point with her suggestion and was thinking we’d get some good results from it, I started our next day with this as our easel question:

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Apparently I haven’t asked a question like this in a while, or they are programmed to answer this “learner” question in a certain way, because on our first draft thinking, their responses were “be quiet” or “listen to the teacher” or “be a good friend.”  Of course those are all good things, but what I was asking was more like the answers on this second draft are responses I as expecting.  The notes are grouped by type and the big pile at the bottom (not surprisingly) say PLAY.  The rest say things like READ, WRITE, CODE, and DRAW.  And yes, there were at least two that said they’d enjoy doing anything.  Yes, girls, you’re my favorite students.  LOL  Just kidding!

We gathered for morning meeting and got busy building our schedule for the day.  Again, this surprised my students MUCH more than I thought it would; I think I give them choice ALL THE TIME and work to be really responsive to what they need and want.  Funny that this seemed so crazy to them.  Anyway, we decided that they could choose to do something from the list of blocks/cars, art, Legos, or iPads.  We also reviewed how, since this was normally the time when we did writing and sci/ss, they had to figure out a way to include those things in their work.  I also gave the offer to let some friends help me start a bulletin board that first grade was in charge of making–4 friends took me up on this offer.  The rest made their choice and got busy with their learning plan for the day.  They had to start in their area by talking with the others kids there about how they’d use the tools they had available to them.  As we got busy, I shared with them that we would stop to share our work after a chunk of time (I think I gave them about 40 minutes).

Once they had time to work on their creation, we gathered in each area so groups could report to us on how they spent their time.

When we returned later in the day, we got busy writing a report on how we had spent our morning.  More on that later!

Oh, and I know you want to know how it went….this was one of the most pleasant mornings we’ve had together in a while. 🙂  They had choice, they were engaged, they managed their bodies and were in charge of their learning.  And I went to lunch with a smile on my face (for whatever that’s worth. 🙂 ).

Please be sure to come back for the next chapters of the story–it’s a great one!  Rm. 202 kiddos have GREAT ideas! Can’t wait to tell you about it.

#FDOFG–Got GRIT?

If you’ve read our Robinson Mission Statement (or if you’ve listened to a Robinson kiddo or teacher talking lately), then you know it mentions GRIT:

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and our kiddos know that you gotta have GRIT, make mistakes, try again and work hard in order to learn and be successful.  And so this being true, this is a topic that it is important to start talking about (and practice using!) early in the year.

We started the other day by talking about that the word GRIT meant to my new friends.  I was SUPER impressed with what they already knew; even as kindergarteners, these kiddos were learning about and applying this big deal concept.  Check out what they said during our first conversation:

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I was especially impressed by the way Mara explained GRIT as having “enough courage to do something even if it’s hard or you’re scared.”  It’s like being brave!

We used another fabulous classroom tool to practice this idea (and one that my friend and teammate, Mrs. Marks, reminded me about the other day): puzzles!  I had been collecting them all summer with the intention of bringing in new ones for this year’s class, so when I saw the AMAZING job Mrs. Mark’s first graders had done with working hard and being gritty with puzzles, I knew this was the way we’d be gritty, too!

Kiddos were able to choose a partner and a puzzle and they got busy.  We worked for a pretty big chunk of time, and while we worked pretty hard, not many of us finished–which is TOTALLY ok for our first try!

We did have one puzzle that was completed by Kaiden and Jack, though–check it out!

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Now, don’t get me wrong–this doesn’t mean the rest of us weren’t being very diligent puzzle-makers and working with our partners well, but I did hear many kiddos say “This is hard!” and “I can’t do this!” or “There are too many pieces in this puzzle!”  It seems like we need to keep working on our self-talk, our problem solving about what to do when things are hard, and even with what we can say instead of those negative explanations.  Later on this week we’ll going to start talking about YET, and I am sure that this will be helpful to my first grade friends.

We also debriefed on the activity, marking what was helpful and what was hard.  This will also guide our thinking the next time we do puzzles (or encounter anything that’s hard!).

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I can’t wait to share with you what happens the next time!

 

#FDOFG–Guided Discovery: Play-Doh

On Open House night, I had up a wish list that families could grab from and donate items to our class if they liked.  One thing on the list was play-doh.  I hadn’t ever asked for it before, but got the idea from another teacher, and thought I’d give it a try. Play-Doh is one of those things (kind of like Legos and blocks) that can be used in so many ways.  Thanks to the Ella and her family, we got a huge box of Play-Doh a couple of days before school started!  THANK YOU, KOHRINGS!!

On Thursday is was time to whip it out and discover what we could do with it!  Part of a guided discovery is for kiddos to just play and have fun, to figure out what they can and want to do with a certain item/manipulative.  So after we went over some basic guidelines (only use the color from your can, keep it on the table, be sure to clean up all the bits and pieces when you’re finished, etc.) Rm. 202 kids got the first 5 or so minutes to do whatever they wanted.  Then we spent some time using the Play-Doh to share some of our thinking.

Kiddos were asked do create something that represented the following things: 1) their FAVORITE thing to do when they aren’t at school (by the way, lots of Rm. 202 kiddos made TVs), and 2) their FAVORITE thing to do at school.

Then I had kiddos make their names.  Not a hard thing, really, but some kiddos needed encouragement with figuring out how to use the amount of Play-Doh they had to make the letters they needed or to shape the “curvy” letters so we knew what they said.  Some kiddos had time to make both their first and last names, and we even had a couple of Rm. 202 friends share tips for how to make their dough super flat (Allie used her forearm, and Peter used his fist and pushed real hard!).

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I was excited for how they were excited, as well as for the things we learned about each other during this seemingly “easy” activity.  It’s a first time I’ve done an intro survey this way, and am glad that I did.  After we had had a chance to investigate and play, then Play-Doh then became a choice during afternoon choice time. I’m excited to see the other ways we’ll use it to represent our learning as we go further into the year, too!

Students: What did you make with your Play-Doh to show what you like to do outside of school?   What did you find that was easy about this?  What was tricky for you?

Parents: What did your kiddos tell you about our Play-Doh investigation?  Were you surprised with what they made? 

Teachers:  What ways have you used Play-Doh in your classroom with your learners?

We’d love to hear from you!!

Global School Play Day 2015

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a tweet about Global School Play Day.  Being one who truly believes in play as an important learning tool for kids (and adults!), and being one who likes to jump in with both feet when I see something that looks like fun (like I did with World Read Aloud Day, for instance), I knew that this was something I wanted to try.  And honestly, we have choice time and recess every day anyway, so it wasn’t that far out of our norm.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 8.11.07 PMBefore the special day, I told kids to bring something they could play with during our time, but the rules were it couldn’t be electronic or have batteries.  There were a couple of “whys?” but really it wasn’t any big deal to them.  I wish I had taken a picture of all of their toys in the bucket when they brought them in, but what I thought was funny was that most everyone brought something stuffed–My Little Ponies, dogs, cats, and all other sorts of animals.  There were some cars, a couple of American Girls and 2 Barbies who attended our GSPD as well. 🙂

We reserved the afternoon for our official time, as we had some exciting and necessary work to do in the morning with our current studies in reading and math.  Before we got started with our fun, we had a little chat about why we were even doing it.  They had great ideas, like for them to learn to take care of their things, as well as how to solve problems and how to play together.  All were right, and I had some additional ideas of my own:

1. Negotiation: By participating in free play, children get to learn how and practice what it is like to initiate play with someone else, as well as negotiate with that playmate about what to do, where to do it and how to do it.  They get to learn give-and-take, as well as how to work with others in a positive way (because unfortunately, if you choose NOT to do it positively, your friend may not want to play with you anymore!).

2. Problem Solving: Much like negotiation with friends, kiddos learn and practice problem solving in many ways when they play.  From what to do when the Legos don’t go together they way you want or you don’t have enough big blocks to build your castle, or even where to put the pieces of the puzzle you’re working on, problem solving is a crucial part of play.  Even choosing what to play at any given moment is a kind of problem solving in itself.  Letting kids figure these things out for themselves helps build and encourage grit and perseverance.

3. Winning (and losing!) Graciously: Child-directed play (including playing games) allows kiddos to learn how to win–and also to lose–graciously.  We all know an adult who didn’t get the chance to learn this when they were younger, and now has such a hard time knowing what to do when things don’t go their way.  That same adult might have a really hard time not being overly proud or boastful when things do.  Allowing (or even planning for) situations where students DON’T win are crucial!  Life is not fair, things don’t always go as planned and sometimes someone else does better than you.  How great that kiddos have a chance to learn to deal with these disappointments when the stakes are low, so that when they are higher, they’ll know the appropriate choices to make.  And yes, winning is a good thing that can happen occasionally, too (and how great that kids can learn how to deal with their happiness without sacrificing the feelings of others).

4. Creativity: A big pile of paper, blocks, Legos, cars or any other open-ended toys allows for such a great development of creativity in kids!  Being able to figure out what that pile of “stuff” can become is a great practice in trial-and-error, trying new things or even working with a friend to put two great ideas together to make an even better one.  This practice of creativity in free play can easily be transferred to learning, then, when a kiddo is given open-ended opportunities for both gaining information and showing what they’ve learned.  When they’ve had a chance to try out new things and take risks in a safe, play environment, many students will be more willing to take the same creative risks with their learning.

5. Beating Boredom: I guess this one is another idea that’s related to some others on this list, but being given free time to play is a great way to figure out how to entertain yourself (either alone or with a friend) and keep a kiddo from being “bored.”  Knowing what to do when there’s [seemingly] nothing to do is a life skill, really.

6. Respect, kindness and including others: Play is a great opportunity for kiddos to practice skills they’re learning about showing others respect, using kind words and helping make sure everyone is included.  Helping kids pay attention to who doesn’t have a playmate is a lesson in empathy and is definitely a bucket-filler for a friend who longs to be involved but is perhaps unable to initiate themselves.  Knowing how to speak to others kindly is a skill that can never be mastered and can always be improved upon.

7. Fun!: Um, how have I not mentioned that playing is TOTALLY FUN!?  Yep.  Should have mentioned that one first. 🙂

8. Organization and Care: Emily was the first to mention it, and I hadn’t really thought of it until she said it, but yes, I think that kiddos can learn about and practice putting things away, organizing and caring for property (theirs and others’) when they’re playing.  Great idea, kiddo!

Ok, so enough of my rambling…I know what you really came to see were the pictures of Rm. 202 kiddos PLAYING!!  Here you go!!

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Cup Stacking Challenge

You may have seen a post floating around Facebook and Pinterest about a STEM Cup Stacking Challenge:

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It’s similar to the Marshmallow Challenge that I’ve done several years with my 5th graders: build something really tall with your supplies and your team, using cooperation and problem-solving.  Great idea for any group of kiddos, but I especially love it for littler ones who are just beginning to learn about what it takes to work together, try something and have it fail, then rework the plan to try again.  This activity fits the focus we have on being gritty, as well as having a growth mindset and trying even when things are hard.  And yes, the first time we did it, it was hard. 🙂

Cup Challenge Take 1:

The first time we did this challenge, kiddos had 30 cups, their small group and 12 minutes.  Most thought they were done in about 2 minutes, and most used the same strategy.  Do you see how all the towers look the same?  One thing that also happened during this is talking.  Loud talking.  And much arguing about what to do next.  So when we were finished with this first try, we sat together to talk about it.  We talked about plusses (things that went well) and deltas (things we could change next time):

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They noticed that our list of things to change was REALLY LONG and go busy thinking of ways to do things differently when we tried it again. (When I mentioned that we could do it again, by the way, there were many cheers from the rug!) Working on the floor instead of tables was suggested, as well as not being able to leave your own team’s spot.  We also agreed that they would get one warning about their voices and then any teams that were still loud would have to work the rest of the time in silence.  Oh, and one more change was more time–they got 18 minutes instead of 12 (which was really the original plan anyway, we just ran out of time).

Cup Challenge Take 2:

Check out our chart the second time around.  They were SO EXCITED about how the columns had changed!

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What a change that happened when kiddos reflected on what worked–and what didn’t–and then planned how to redo the challenge in a different way.  I’m excited to see all of the many things they learned here, and how those lessons touched so many subjects at one time! Way to go, Rm. 202 kids! 🙂