Wednesday, May 29, 2013

RES Has Got Talent

At the beginning of the year I asked families and students to send in pictures of students doing something which they were proud of---a picture that showed their talents.  These pictures have covered the back wall of the enrichment room all year.  They have served as a constant reminder through the year of our individual strengths, interests and talents.  I love looking at the wall and seeing all the special skills that make up our learning community.  We are fishermen, soccer,hockey and baseball players, dancers, horseback riders, swimming champions, artists, caring siblings, chefs, hikers, skiers, ..just to name a few talents!  

It is important to me as an educator that I seek the talent in each student.  I appreciate that every individual might not be able to share their special talents during the school day ( I do not think a horse stable is in our future school plans), but by recognizing and celebrating these talents we can find ways to incorporate them into our learning--- even if it is just by connecting students with common interests, asking a student to share about an experience or a hallway conversation about their special talent.  Today I began taking down the wall, as I prepare to return pictures and create some activities for the last month of is humbling to me to see all the special kids that I get to teach and learn with each week.  RES has got talent!!!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Walls are Forming

Second graders in Mrs. Riggs' class continued to work with their fifth grade partners at the end of last week to build their models of the Round Church.  Students worked together to figure out how they would create stable walls and structures that could support the size of their design.

On two separate occasions I witnessed students look at each other and then one would say 'this is hard'.  What I loved about this comment was that although it was met with agreement, it was also met with a smile!  Students are recognizing that their task is difficult, but together they are persevering.  None of the groups has indicated any interest in stopping or getting adult help....they are content to share their feelings of challenge with each other and then to continue!  As a teacher this is the sort of engagement and task that I feel gets at the heart of learning.  I continue to be thankful for Mr. Peterson's efforts to collaborate across our school boundaries for the improvement and betterment of student engagement and learning!  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Greek Mythology Shields and Portrait

A few weeks ago I posted about some third and fourth grade students who have spent some time working with me during their iBlock for six weeks.  We read the Lightning Thief as well as many Greek myths.  Our final activity was to make shields that represented a Greek god.  This bulletin board has gotten attention from every grade....and led to some great discussions in Kindergarten and third grade.  It is truly great to get the opportunity to work with small groups...and I also love that by having a multi- age classroom that there is an authentic audience for the results!  

Next year I think I might try to have an interactive bulletin board so that students can connect across grade levels about their learning!  For now,please enjoy these works of art and displays of thinking, learning and connecting with  literature!

Watermelon Hemispheres and More Geography Lessons

The last two weeks students in third grade have been teaching enrichment classes on hemispheres, landforms, and more.  Students have come up with inventive ways to share their lessons with their class.  We have had watermelons and orange models of the globes which led to great visualizations and a treat after the lesson!  We have also had students build models to show what they learned about various landforms, a drawing challenge about landforms which led to students taking over a classroom bulletin board to share their work and a game of jeopardy in which students had to work in teams to score points.

As we wrap up these geography skill lessons, our next goal is to plan adventure trips.  It will be fun to see where students decide to travel!


Dramatic Play

Today I greeted a kindergarten class wearing a cowboy hat, a leopard cape, a Japanese purse and a grass skirt.  I thought that students would be shocked or amazed.....but apparently they expect these kind of antics from they merely came into the room joined our circle and waited for me to explain my get up!  We had a great discussion about creating and imagining characters.  A kindergarten friend shared why she had designed her center around the idea of dramatic play.  Students had fun coming up with reasons why my character was dressed as I was (I am a friend to leopards, shopping in a Japanese market in between my stints as a cowgirl).  Next we practiced using facial expression and body language to convey how we felt as a group (our favorite was being cold with shivers and chattering teeth).  Then students went to various centers including dramatic play led by this great student idea.  We removed our puppet theater wall and used the stage to perform.  Lots of laughter, and lots of the great kind of drama ensued!

Force and Motion Unit Closure

Over the course of the next two weeks first graders will be completing their force and motion unit during enrichment.  Students are busy creating one final experiment which they will share with me to show all that they have learned about force and motion.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Learning Spaces Matter

Each day in the enrichment space is different.  Some days tables are pushed back against walls so that students can design and execute experiments.  Some days students are sitting at tables. Some days students are sitting various places around the room working in small groups--on the floor, on the couch, etc.  Some days students are creating a puppet show in the theater while others work at iPads or on the white board.

I think it is so important that the classroom space is fluid and dynamic.  The classroom space must change with student grade level needs and with the subject matter.  When I reflect about the ways that students learn best I realize the need to further diversify our learning space options.  How can I create a quiet work space area while still providing awesome opportunities for conversational exploration by others?  I am still trying to optimize our options..but I feel truly grateful to have been given the opportunity this year to create a space that provides learners with both choice and freedom of movement.  

Sometimes in those five minute transitions between classes I sigh(and groan!) at the thought of trying to change furniture and space, to set up materials, and keep my positivity so that I can greet every student with a smile and a comment as they enter......but then I recognize that these changes are setting the stage for learning.  This space either contributes to or detracts from the learning experience.    Below are some pictures of students learning in the enrichment space....I think they capture the need for space diversification.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Learning Conversations

We continued our project with fifth graders this week through a collaborative effort with CHMS teacher Mr. Peterson. It is pure joy for me as a teacher to watch the work between students in different grades!

This week I was struck by the value of multi-age conversations. For older students this is a chance for them to guide students ( I think the picture of the student helping another to shape their building material captures this better than words could). For younger students they are given a chance to have a voice, and they show pride and thoughtfulness in their contributions. I am really impressed with the ability of students to listen to each other! Students are building models, but they are also building a collaborative environment for learning through excellent conversations.

Butterflies, Airplanes, Dinosaurs and Magic

Students in Kindergarten are designing centers that are creative and diverse! In one class we had some girls create a center about butterflies. They spent several weeks during explore time planning their center and deciding how they would share their interests with others. They made a game, created a wall mural, and had students moving and learning! In the same class a student designed a center about airplanes and helicopters. We had a classroom runway, used a fan to fly paper airplanes and dropped helicopters and experimented with ways to make them spin.

In another K class a student talked about dinosaurs. We used our imaginations to think about how big a T- Rex mouth was (we all sat inside!) and the wingspan of a pterodactyl (we stretched our arms from one side of the room to another!). Next the student set up a dinosaur display and students made fossil prints with clay.

Our other kindergarten class focused on magic. After reading a book about a magic hat, students created magic wands. Then the student leader taught the class a magic trick--they made a quarter disappear!

It is great to see students playing and exploring their ideas and interests.

Volunteers Support Capstone Learning

This week in fourth grade enrichment/library classes we have been lucky to have several volunteers support student project development. One student spent time designing a demonstration of how a touch screen works with parent and engineer, Jed Rankin. The student will now be able to physically show his concept with the use of a circuit that lights up when different sections are touched. In another class, our art teacher Joanna Elliot and our literacy teacher Darcy Woodruff took time out of their schedule to help students transfer their research ideas from paper to a final product. Students are in the creating phase of their projects and these extra volunteers are supporting an environment that allows students to make great progress.

We are excitedly planning our learning celebration...scheduled for June 10th!

Predictions in First Grade

First graders continue to work on the force and motion science unit during their enrichment class. As a group we are focused on practicing the steps to performing great experiments: creating a question (wondering and noticing), setting up an experiment, making predictions, observing and then writing results.

This week we are exploring how changes in a ramp impact the speed and distance that a ball will roll. Students are connecting what they know about sledding and skiing to make great predictions before they experiment.

I have been impressed with student ability to make educated guesses!