If you are looking for a way to jazz up the materials at your playdough table, I have a tried and tested provocation that I’m sure your students will love: The Inventor’s Workshop. I stumbled upon this amazing idea while perusing one of my favourite blogs: The Imagination Tree. On her blog, Anna has a list of over 50 ideas for using playdough which I go to whenever I’m in need of some inspiration. You can find her list as well as her recipes for playdough here: http://theimaginationtree.com/2013/01/the-z-of-play-dough-recipes-and.html
Before the children visited this centre, I set them up with some schema about what an inventor is by reading The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires and Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty (both titles pictured above). I have my own collection of technology cast-offs, but I also wanted to involve the children in the creation of this centre so I sent home a note asking parents for any old electronic materials that we could use. The very next day we got an awesome assortment of old wires (which we trimmed for ease of play), speakers, remotes, cell phones, etc. which we sorted into our loose parts tray. I also added some plastic caps and metal loose parts I had in my loose parts bin.
In addition to the playdough and a collection of loose parts, I also wanted the children to record their creations on paper. I created a recording sheet with “My Invention” at the top. I also provided the children with a new kind of paper to sketch on: graph paper. I told them it was a special kind of paper that planners and inventors might use. I even modeled how to draw a creation I made by sketching and labeling the parts of my machine (like the on/off button, etc.). The children couldn’t WAIT to give this one a go!
“This is the ‘off’ button!”
One of the interests that developed from this provocation was an interest in robots. This was in part due to our experimentation with the apps ChatterPix and ChatterKid. Both versions of the app are nearly identical but ChatterKid has a three second countdown before it starts recording so that students know when to start talking.
Basically, ChatterPix allows you to bring photos, drawings, and creations to life. You simply “draw on” a mouth and record your message and your image will talk! Here is a sample that one of my students made. This particular student is generally quite shy, so him having the confidence to not only record something but then share it confidently with the class at reflection time was a breakthrough (you can click on the link below to see the video on Twitter)!
Are you using ChatterPix? My Ss are going crazy for it! This one was made by a typically shy student. He was SO proud. pic.twitter.com/uxH9kh85gc
— AlexisMcDonell (@curiouskindie) November 22, 2016
Here are a few of the robots the children created:
What I liked most about this provocation (besides the fact that it is engaging, creative, and fun!) is that it provided so many opportunities for our students to engage in literacy behaviours. The children were actively telling each other about their inventions as they worked, negotiating the use of special materials, and of course recording and writing about their inventions. During reflection time, the class was rapt with attention listening to each other describe what their inventions could do and how they were made. Many students were inspired to visit (or re-visit) this centre after hearing about what their classmates had created there.
Have you ever tried an Inventor’s Workshop in your class? Are you using ChatterPix with your students? I’d love to hear about what you’re doing!
This is awesome! I will have to try this during our invention investigation next month!
This is so cool! I am wondering for supply and demand purposes, do you have the students disassemble their creations eventually so other students can also use the very special materials or are the finished machines and robots kept as finished products indefinitely?
Hi Jeanine! This work is not left assembled. We photograph it so we can “save” the creation in the children’s portfolios and then the kids disassemble it.
I am curious if you make your own play dough? Also if so – what is your recipe?
Yes I do make my own playdough. I usually triple this recipe:
1 cup of flour
1/4 cup of salt
1-2 Tbsp cream of tartar
1 Tbsp cooking oil
1 cup of water
Heat the oil in a pot on the stove on medium low. Mix the flour, salt, and cream of tartar in a bowl. Add water and food colouring. Add the mixture to the pot with the warm oil and stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a ball in the middle of the pot. When the ball is no longer sticky looking, remove to a cutting board and let cool for a few minutes. Knead the dough on the board several times until the dough is smooth.
Grrr, I have a blog on my website and it sucks. I actually
removed it, but may need to bring it back. You gave me inspiration!
Keep on writing!
Would you mind sharing the letter that you sent home to parents?
I love this provocation to create! Thanks for sharing!
Hello! It wasn’t a letter in so much as a message through ClassDojo that just said “if you have any old electronics or small metal objects (wires, phones, keys, phone jacks, remotes, etc) we would be happy to take them off your hands” kind of thing.
can you please tell me that what is the domain/foundation of this experience? is it language and literacy since there are stories made . or is it art since they are creating something. can you please tell me what do you think the domain is? thank you
p.s. i really loved your blog. good luck
As with most provocations, this one can really fit across the frames. Language and literacy are featured as the children are talking about what they’ve created and drawing a representation of it. I would also include problem solving and innovating as the children are selecting materials for design and finding ways to combine them into an invention.