Monday, April 28, 2014

Turtles and Teachers

We had a special guest in kindergarten enrichment...two actually!  Mrs. Ankerson, a third grade teacher brought a pet turtle for students to observe!  A kindergartener selected turtles as the topic for her interest driven center.....and she and the class were excited to have this real life exhibit!  Students got to see the turtle and ask questions.  The student center gave students a chance to watch a video clip about turtles in the wild, touch a turtle shell and create their own turtles!

I am very thankful to Mrs. Ankerson for taking time out and arranging her schedule to make this happen.  It is great for students to develop relationships across our school....and the students were great at making connections, asking good questions and being respectful of the turtle and Mrs. A!

Kindergarten Interests are Exploding in Enrichment!

In kindergarten enrichment students are continuing to share their interests. It is so amazing to watch students think, create, collaborate and share on a wide variety of topics!  Students are producing so many ideas that I am having trouble keeping up on my blog! This post is chocked full of activities over the last two weeks!  Here is a summary of the activities students have been sharing!

*  learning about the butterfly life cycle, making tissue paper butterflies and flying them in the gym
*  all about cats, and making 3D models
*  building robots with Legos 
*  dinosaurs from pteranodon wing span to fossil footprints
*  all about dogs, including making a clay model 
*  sink or float?  Building boats!
*  ocean watercolors
*  the Avengers, from cartoons to read to making online cartoons and paper and pencil cartoons

And this week holds more fun!

Light Interactions

In second grade enrichment we are continuing our study of light.  We are thinking about how light interacts with other objects.  We began to answer this question with a very structured experiment in which we shone a light through various materials and then used a table to record our observations.  After this structured experimentation, we spent a class exploring light materials in a centers based environment.  I was impressed with how students used their exploratory time to really think about light! During our wrap up discussion students shared several big ideas they observed about light and it was great to see how this choice time helped them to think about the essential questions of our study.  

Students explored light using overhead projectors ( which I had set up to make shadow shapes, but also became a testing spot for various materials!), creating kaleidoscopes with colored patterns and mirrors ( which became a place where students were trying to bounce light from one mirror to the next to hit a target in the back of the classroom!), reading books about light, using an iPad app called Games of Light, designing their own experiments with tissue paper and flashlights, and checking out different materials on a light table that I built.

I love how accessible science is to all students and how by using a variety of mediums and choices students can really direct their learning.  This week we will do a structured experiment with different materials.  I am excited to see how they will apply and make connections to their exploratory learning.  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Technology Roles for Teachers

This week in fourth grade enrichment/library a student was working on recording some of his research results on the iPad.  He wanted to know if there was an app that he could use to draw on a picture he had taken.  I replied yes and showed him two tools that might work.  That was the extent of my direction, and off he went to figure out which tool he would use.  In this same week I have been studying and working intensely on a professional development class in technology.  These two things colliding is what led me to this post!

All of the technology articles and information we are reading for professional development speak to a changing role of the teacher.  Teachers of technology are facilitators, coaches, and co-learners (I think this applies to more than technology, but this is what I am studying right now!) That moment with the fourth grader was a clear example of these roles.  I wanted him to continue to problem solve what his presentation would look like independently--BUT he needed support to figure out what direction to go next.  My skill was in knowing what some possible options were and sharing these in a way that made him feel comfortable trying them out.  My skill was not being highly adept at these tools (I had used one once and just downloaded one at the advice of another teacher on Twitter)--- but instead, at knowing they existed, believing that we could figure out how to use them, and setting up an environment of learning and risk taking. To do this, I need to be a constant learner myself.  I need to seek out the tools and methods that other people are using.  I know that my students' imaginations are as an educator I have to keep learning to fuel this fire and passion for creativity!!!!

One of my favorite aspects of technology is that students believe that their imagination can be matched by possible creation tools.  Student creativity is blooming as we explore the myriad of new and amazing ways to create! I am very excited about our capstone projects....but I am also enjoying the process of student investigation and problem solving as they create their work.

Image from


On the first official day of Spring I received an awesome treat when two kindergarten friends stopped by with a grassy haired person wishing me a Happy Spring!  I told myself that I would wait to post the picture on this blog until Spring was really here.  I hope I am not jinxing it by wishing you all a Happy Spring as it seems sunshine and warmer temps are on the way!  (Third graders were busily studying geography when I got my gift and they could not help but photo bomb!)

Drawing Faces, Building Houses and Minecraft

This week was another busy one  in kindergarten enrichment.  K students stop me in the halls to ask who will be presenting next!  This week one student shared that she loved to draw faces.  We decided to get outlines of faces in a variety of skin tones and then to add hair, clothes, etc.  Students enjoyed this center....and because it was matched with a great library book about children around the world, we got to think about how different people look and where they come from.  
In another class a student  wanted to build houses. We read a Gail Gibbons book about how a stick frame house is built.  Next we looked at a video and a book that showed houses around the world.  There were so many different houses!  Students used this knowledge and the pictures to create their own houses out of cardboard and classroom materials.  
The final K center this week used the iPad application Minecraft.  Minecraft allows students to build and create.  The kindergartner had used this program and wanted to teach others.  What was great was that he also wanted to make a physical connection to the online building. He did this by asking students to first make a Lego house, and then to replicate the Lego house in Minecraft.  Students learned a new online tool, but they also got a chance to think visually and spatially about both creations!

Sharing Student Interest Across Grade Levels- Volcanoes!

In kindergarten enrichment students select a topic for a center which they will lead during our exploratory time.  When one student approached me about the idea of volcanoes....we instantly realized that we would need to have simulated volcanoes with baking soda and vinegar!  But I also saw the chance to make a connection with a fourth grade student who was studying the same topic for his fourth grade enrichment/library capstone project.  Due to the flexibility of the fourth grade teacher in allowing him to visit our class, and a willing fourth grader who was excited to share his expertise with a K class.....we had a great discussion!  First the K student told about why he liked volcanoes.  Next the fourth grader answered questions from the class.  It was amazing to listen to his expert answers, carefully crafted both for content and to his audience!  The transference of his understanding from a research project to an authentic audience was awesome!  And the kindergarten respected his opinions and ideas.  After some 'volcanic eruptions' the class entered into a great discussion about why the volcanoes we made did not exactly replicate real life.  K students noted differences in the way the 'lava' flowed and the fourth grader shared different types of volcano eruptions he had learned about. He also gave them some insight into his research about volcanic rock!

This interaction was a great example of how an authentic audience can build student confidence and value in their research!