3D Shape Challenge

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In preparation for September, I have been looking back at photos from our learning last year and reflecting on what made certain provocations successful (or not). In doing so, I came across a series of photos from an exploration we did on 3D shapes. This particular learning story caught my attention because I noticed how I had started with one question/idea for my students to explore and then changed it as I observed the children interacting with the materials.

In my first provocation, I asked the children if they could build a tower using 3D shapes. I put all the necessary materials at the math centre: clipboards, pencils/pens, sticky notes, an iPad, a basket of 3D solids. I also asked the children to self-document their learning with the iPad and/or the writing materials.

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While several children visited the centre and were eager to share their learning about how they were able to stack the shapes (based on their properties), I noticed there was a group of children who didn’t seem interested in this centre at all. I usually encourage the children to self-select their centres based on their interests, but there are some centres which I would like all the children to try at some point. In my experience, most children will eventually want to come and see what a centre is all about, especially after we talk about it during reflection time and other children share their learning problems/successes. At the beginning of the week, however, I was starting to question whether or not my provocation/question for the students was engaging enough for all my learners. It became clear that some students may need more of a challenge.

During the course of our reflection time, we noticed that no one in the class had used a sphere in their tower. Why was this? The children all agreed that there was no way a sphere could be used in a tower design (“It’s too rolly polly!,” “It doesn’t have any flat sides!,” “It won’t balance.”). After this conversation, I issued a challenge to the class: let’s see if anyone can build a tower using ALL of the different 3D shapes. Interestingly, the group of children who had not been at all interested in visiting the math centre suddenly chose it as their first choice during discovery time. In fact, the math centre went from having two or three children in it at a time to being completely jam packed. It seems that in this case, some children needed the promise of a challenge to spark their interest and creativity.

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The children discovered that indeed it was possible to build a tower using a sphere (“You have to put it at the top because nothing else will balance on it.”) and many interesting reflections were had about strategies for using all the shapes, how the properties of the shapes affected the planning process, and how the children were inspired by their classmates’ ideas.

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It was interesting for me to look back on this exploration as a reminder that provocations evolve and change as the children engage (or in this case, don’t engage) with the materials I have provided for them. This is a part of my pedagogy I want to keep in mind as I make plans for the upcoming year.

For anyone who is interested, we also used a riddle song about the shapes to learn about their properties. You can find a link to the tune/lyrics here: http://webcheck-test.eharcourtschool.com/hspfw/review-hspmy/http/ma/math04_preview/se/nsmedia/activities/jingles/k_what_am_i.html

Butterfly Inquiry: Inspiring Young Authors with Tap the Magic…Egg?

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As mentioned previously on the blog, my students were totally inspired by the book Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson (you can read about it in Books That Inspire Young Authors). When it came time to design some provocations for the writing table for our butterfly project, I was thinking about how I could give the children an opportunity to show their learning about the butterfly life cycle. Since the children were already familiar with the cyclical nature of Tap the Magic Tree, it seemed like a good jumping off point for talking about the cycle of how caterpillars grow and change. As a class, we brainstormed a version of Tap the Magic Tree called “Tap the Magic Egg” (which, of course, the children were completely excited about!). After some modelling with the entire class, we placed some inspiration books, book covers, newsprint, and sample vocabulary at the writing table. As with our other Tap the Magic Tree experiences, this centre was immediately jam packed with children creating their own life cycle stories. I was able to assess the children’s understanding of the concept, but each story was unique to the child who wrote it. We certainly got a lot of enjoyment out of hearing the stories read aloud at reflection time!

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You can read more about our butterfly project by clicking here.

Snap Cube Workshop: The Spinner Project

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If you are a regular follower of the blog, you will know that the students in my class LOVE snap cubes. They love them so much, we dedicated an entire centre in my classroom to them (you can read about our journey to embrace the the snap cube craze here: https://thecuriouskindergarten.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/snap-cube-workshop/ and here: https://thecuriouskindergarten.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/snap-cube-workshop-inspiring-young-authors/).

The Spinner Project evolved out of a popular way the students used the snap cubes at the snap cube workshop: they spun them.┬áConstantly. At least once a day someone took a cube and tried to spin it. With some investigation, we learned that the children were trying to recreate “Beyblades,” a popular toy many of them had at home. (This isn’t the first time I had heard about Beyblades. In fact, for the last 5 years or so, I have been wondering what to do with the children’s interest in these toys.) The trick to coming up with an engaging and meaningful inquiry I find is coming up with just the right problem/question. It was during one of our reflection discussions that the question jumped out at us. Two boys were talking about spinning the cubes and each had made a spinner that was slightly different. We were trying to figure out if one spinner worked better than the other, and why. And viola!

The next day, we posed the following question: Can you build the best spinner? The children were so excited about this question! Before discovery time, we spent some time talking about what the word “best” would mean. The children came up with three criteria which we posted at the snap cube centre:

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In addition to creating our criteria, we talked about the tools the children could use to assess the success of their spinners. For “spinning super duper fast,” the children decided capturing the spinner on video would be a good way to measure this. For design, we would take pictures of our spinners and/or save them to show at reflection time. And for “spins a long time” we showed the children how to time their spinning spinners using the timer on the iPad.

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There were so many interesting discoveries made during this project! Here are some images and ideas we captured of the children’s experimentation:

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The spinners got more and more elaborate as design became the focus of the children’s attention. We learned that, generally, the more elaborate the design, the slower the spinner spun.

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The students were fascinated to explore the paths and patterns of a spinner’s movement.

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Many children worked collaboratively: K: “We attached our spinners together and made it so BIG! It spins so much faster when they are together.”

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In a large group discussion, we brainstormed a list of things that spin.

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J.K.: “Mine is a square, but when it spins it looks like a blade, sharp. I was just experimenting to see if I can make the best one.”

 

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Problem solving and experimentation were evident: S: “Mine is flat and I can still spin it. What if I add another cube on top and then I can use that to spin it – like a handle? [He tries it.] Hmm…that slows it down. So that is a bad idea.”

J: “My spinner is the best because it spins the fastest and for 29 seconds. Also, if you put a red block beside a while block it turns pink when it spins because white and red make pink.”

M: “I discovered you can make a spinner with just one cube. It’s small and it’s good to just use one cube because it won’t break and you can fit it in your pocket!”

Have you explored a spinning inquiry with your students? What questions/ideas did you explore?

 

 

 

 

 

Snap Cube Workshop: Inspiring Young Authors

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G.M.: Inside my book is a man and an invisible ship and a laser sword. I put how many of the cubes you need. For the man you need 5 blues, 1 purple, 1 black, and 2 browns. I want someone to build the invisible ship and then play with it. I did one for the laser sword and then W.W. looked at my instructions and made it.

Earlier, I wrote about embracing the children’s interests by creating a Snap Cube Workshop with the ever-popular snap cubes (You can read about it here: https://thecuriouskindergarten.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/snap-cube-workshop/). The children in my class view snap cubes like Lego – something they can use to build whatever kind of creations they want. In looking for ways to extend the learning at this centre, I ended up having a conversation with some of my students about the similarities and differences between Lego and Snap Cubes. One of my students pointed out that his Lego sets come with instruction or inspiration booklets to help him make the structures in the kit…and Voila! A new idea was born! The children were immediately interested in creating instruction booklets for their creations, with a view to helping their classmates re-create their structures. “How did you make it?” is the most popular question the children ask each other during reflection time, so it seemed logical for the students to not only tell each other, but show each other what to do in a diagram. Beyond adding some blank paper, markers, and a stapler to the Snap Cube Workshop, the children required very little guidance with how to create their instruction manuals since most of them were well-versed with Lego booklets. The children who did not have experience with Lego booklets simply learned from their more experienced peers and were soon well on their way to their own Snap Cube construction kits. We provided the children with a place to store their manuals (clipped to a string hung at the centre) and many children came by throughout the week to add to their booklets or borrow booklets to try to recreate the structures within.

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A Map of My Heart

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What is love? What are the things that you love the most? If we could see inside your heart, what would we find there? These are the questions we examined in our class through the Map of My Heart project. All of this really began when we noticed the children showing an interest in making maps at the writing table. To support and challenge their thinking, we added special “map paper” and an amazing book called My Map Book by Sara Finelli to our writing centre. In My Map Book, Finelli inspires us to think about maps in a whole new way with wonderful images of maps including: “A Map of My Dog,” “A Map of My Day,” “A Map of My Stomach,” and yes, “A Map of My Heart.”

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With Valentine’s Day approaching, I wanted to discuss the theme of love and friendship with my students. To get them thinking about love, we focused on Finelli’s heart map and talked about what we might find in our own hearts. At the Art Studio, we offered the children an opportunity to continue thinking about these questions by making their own heart maps (see the original idea from Playful Learning here: http://playfullearning.net/2009/01/map-of-my-heart/). I felt it was important to give the children as much thinking time as possible for this activity, so rather than having them dive right in to the drawing and painting process, we provided them with planning paper so they could jot down their ideas first. This also had the added bonus of creating some lovely opportunities for dialogue between children as they shared their plans with each other. I found that throughout the art process, children routinely referred back to their plans to help them include all their original ideas in their art piece.

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After planning, the children set to work filling in their heart maps. We used permanent black markers for the drawing process and watercolour paints to add colour when the drawings were complete. As part of our evaluation and discussion of Finelli’s heart map, some children felt that some things would naturally take up more space in our hearts (e.g. more love for my family = a large space in my heart vs a little bit of love for flowers, which would = a smaller corner of my heart) and tried to represent this in their work. Overall, I felt the finished pieces so charmingly represented all of the things my students hold dear – and I learned even more about what kinds of things/experiences are really important to the children in my class.

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A new year, a new classroom!

Our classroom Art Studio - the hub of our classroom.

Our classroom Art Studio – the hub of our classroom.

Currently stocked with beach related natural materials from my summer adventures. A lot of students have been inspired to share their own summer beach experiences while visiting this centre.

The Science and Nature Centre. Currently stocked with beach related natural materials from my summer adventures. A lot of students have been inspired to share their own summer beach experiences while visiting this centre.

Where our students try their hand at playing teacher. Also a cozy spot to curl up with a book.

The Teacher Centre. Where our students try their hand at playing teacher. Also a cozy spot to curl up with a book.

A magical place to creatively experiment with water.

Buddha Boards! A magical place to creatively experiment with water.

Math Centre

Math materials have been chosen purposely to encourage counting and sorting.

Math materials have been chosen purposely to encourage counting and sorting.

Natural materials appear in the math centre too. The numbered blocks are coasters I found at Winners!

Natural materials appear in the math centre too. The numbered blocks are coasters I found at Winners!

Labeled bins contain building materials for our Math Science Investigations building program.

Math Centre. Labeled bins contain building materials for our Math Science Investigations building program.

An important centre at the beginning of the year. The familiar homey objects here often create a cozy atmosphere in the classroom.

The Drama/House Centre. An important centre at the beginning of the year. The familiar homey objects here help to create a cozy atmosphere in the classroom.

House Centre

We chose to put out familiar sand tools and continue our extension of summer experiences with sand castle molds. All the materials are placed on a mat so children know where to put them when they are finished.

The Sand Centre. We chose to put out familiar sand tools and continue our extension of summer experiences with sand castle molds. All the materials are placed on a mat so children know where to put them when they are finished.

I opted for a large variety of materials here - scoops, cups of various shapes and sizes, squirters and pumps as well as whimsical objects like boats and rubber duckies.

The Water Centre. I opted for a large variety of materials here – scoops, cups of various shapes and sizes, squirters and pumps as well as whimsical objects like boats and rubber duckies.

Playdough Centre

Big Blocks

Small Building Centre

Writing Centre

Meeting Area

Teacher Area

No More Teacher Desk!

*Update: I get a lot of requests for wide-angle shots of my classroom which show what it looks like mid-year (after the children’s learning has taken over!). Here are a few pictures from the middle of the year so you can get a feel for the actual set up and space in our room:

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