Sunday, September 29, 2013

Working Together

We have spent quite a bit of time in first grade talking about how we will work together as a class.  We have played chain reaction games, created whole class oral stories, and completed team building challenges.  This week we also did a pair exercise with clay.  Student pairs were given a piece of clay and asked to create something.  The catch was that the clay had to be passed back and forth and only one change could be made at a time.  I enjoyed watching as students used words to communicate their plans and then acted together.  Often in groups we are asked to give everyone a voice....but sometimes it is hard to know what this might feel like when it is happening.  This exercise allowed students to feel the importance of each member of their team! We did not create any artistic masterpieces, but we did practice a valuable lesson.....the importance of each person in our class!

Creating Science Journals

This week first graders in the enrichment classroom spent time creating their science journal covers.  Students had an opportunity to think about plants and science and be creative in their design.  We will use these folders to store all of the great scientific work that we do with plants over the course of the year.

It was also great to give this assignment as one option among other choices.  The use of centers and exploratory learning will be important in our work together throughout the year and I was thrilled to see that when given the choice, students could manage their time and create their journal AND have fun exploring other materials in the classroom.  Students created some great covers and enjoyed creating with Legos and NOEnds, exploring the library, and creating an imaginary fairy world.

Reading is Awesome!

This is just one catchphrase seen this week in enrichment!  Second graders in the enrichment classroom received a request from Richmond town librarian. Students were asked to create posters that will adorn the hallway of the children's library. Check out the formal request we received!

Next, we brainstormed as a group some ways we might be able to share our love of reading and encourage others to read.  Our conversation was rich with ideas....and the authentic nature of the project create a buzz of excitement.  Students were given the option to work individually or in pairs, and then set to work designing their poster drafts.  I was really impressed with their creativity.  No two three classes...were exactly the same!  Students were engaged and enthusiastic about this project.  I look forward to this week when work on the final drafts will begin!

In second grade we will work throughout the year to engage with our local community.  If you have an idea or a request...please contact me.  It is important that we have authentic problems to solve and the connection to our community always results in amazing creativity and enthusiasm!

Kindergarten Exploratory Centers

In the kindergarten enrichment classroom, students are slowly exploring the various options which we will use throughout the year to learn.  This week we continued to use the alphabet as a basis for our centers in our Monday classes, while our Friday group began to branch out to learn more about other centers in the classroom.  

Students did a great job exploring, creating, working together, and learning the guidelines for each area which will give us all space to learn together.  My goal is for students to develop independence in each area so that as the year progresses they will be comfortable making choices and trying new things!  Our end goal is also for them to develop their own center to share with others, so these mini explorations start to give them an idea of what might be possible when they become the lead teacher!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Where in the World is Tori?

Part of our third grade enrichment curriculum is  focused on geography and developing global awareness and connections.  We are excited that a cousin of a student in one of our classes is currently traveling and studying in Europe.  While she is there, she will be providing us with mystery location challenges.  These challenges will be a chance for us to connect with a member of our extended community, AND learn some awesome geographic skills!  Tomorrow we will have our first challenge---finding her home base for our journey together--Cardiff University in Wales!  I wonder if students will be able to quickly identify it on a map! I wonder what questions they will have for Tori about her location!  Check back often to learn about Tori's adventures and our class connection to a world traveler!
Here is the introduction that we will share in third grade this week as our first challenge!!!
Hi Mrs. Rankin’s Class!
My name is Tori and I am Tess’ cousin!!
 I am very excited to be talking with you guys about my adventures around the U.K. and Europe. While I am traveling abroad I will be studying at Cardiff University in Wales and traveling to a few other countries as well. When I am not in Wales I live in New York State but go to Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont! I can’t wait to share my travels with you all! Feel free to ask me any questions that you have and I will do my best to find out the answers!
Talk to you soon,

Monday, September 23, 2013

Open House in the Enrichment Room

If you did not have a chance to attend Open House, I wanted to share some of the features of the enrichment space, as well as share some of our first few weeks!

Please let me know if you have questions or comments! and if you would like to visit another time, you are always welcome! I love to have families and community members share in our learning journey!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Our Place In This World

Students in third grade enrichment have spent time the last two weeks creating their first group project.  Instead of designing the project as the teacher, I asked the first class I worked with to come up with a plan for how they would like to share some important information.  The class worked together to come up with the idea of first creating something physically (many expressed an interest in art projects) and then photographing it to create a slideshow (many wanted to have a technology component).  Our overarching goal was to share our place in this world, including our town, our state, our country, our continent and our planet. I think the students did a great job of designing a project that they enjoyed, but that also supported our learning goals.  The best part was that I then shared their project plans with the other classes, who grabbed onto the idea, but were able to interpret the task in their own way.  I am going to try to have students set up project plans for other classes throughout the year, based on the success we have seen here!

The videos we made are linked below! Please check them out!

I was also excited to see how students worked together and picked up a new technology tool.  I asked finished students to drive the creation of the iMovie....which they did with little feedback or direction from me.  I believe that we could now do another project like this with these students as the lead learners!  It is great for me to witness the students driving their own learning choices and direction!

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Apple Balance Challenge

This week in enrichment students were challenged to use ten straws, two feet of tape, and a piece of paper to create a structure that would hold an apple at least three inches off of the table.  Students worked in teams to design build and test!  

Team challenges are a great way to begin our year of learning together.  These challenges support the idea that we all can contribute great ideas and can work together towards a solution.  I also love that students are willing to try things, take risks, and move on when something does not work.  There are many articles about the importance of risk taking in learning. These types of challenges not only provide a fun and collaborative environment for a start to our year, but they give students a chance to innovate in a risk free supportive culture!

I was particularly impressed today when a group of first graders asked me if they could have a spare piece of paper to draw out their design plans. They wanted to make sure that they used their materials wisely, as well as coordinate all of their ideas so they could reach an agreed upon plan.  They were learning the key elements of good design.....independently!