Thursday, February 20, 2014

Creating, Writing and Sharing Our Interests

For the past two months in second grade enrichment students have been working on creating a special gift for a kindergarten friend.  Students designed and created reading dolls and books!  Below is a video sharing pictures of the reading celebration we had with each class today.  Students were excited to give and receive these amazing gifts. I love supporting work that has an authentic audience and I see the relationship development among grades as an excellent source of community spirit and cause for celebration!

If you are interested in learning more about our creative and writing process leading up to this great event, please check out the following previous blog posts:

Monday, February 10, 2014

In Their Words: Hearing Student Voice in Their Writing

For the last several weeks, students in second grade enrichment classes have been creating books.  These books have an authentic audience.....they will be reading and then giving them to a new friend in kindergarten.  Students have been working really hard to produce stories and share their ideas.  I have really enjoyed watching the excitement and engagement with which they write.  Having students write in a relatively free form has also provided me with an amazing opportunity to hear their voices! Students have a lot of amazing things to say about issues that challenge us all.  I cannot share all the stories in one post...although after reading these, I am sure you will want to read more and more!  But I can give you a glimpse into what some of our incredible second grade students are thinking and writing about.   I have put my take on the theme in purple, but of course you must read below and decide for yourself their message!

Struggles to be different:

Pixy Fairy by L
Once upon a time there was a little fairy and her name was Olivia. She was the smallest fairy in Pixy Hollow. She didn’t like being the smallest fairy. Other fairies teased her. The queen fairy told her to forget about the other fairies teasing her and be grateful for who she already is.  But she knew better than that.

One day she got mad and said to the fairies: you are being mean and that makes me feel sad so I just want to say I hate you. Then she felt normal and flew away and cried.

The queen fairy came over and said that was a mean thing to say. They didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.  The little fairy looked up and then she went out and said I’m sorry. The fairies came out and said we’re sorry for teasing you. And they finally became friends and the little fairy said I think I’m lucky to be small. And they lived happily ever after.  

The End.

 A Twist! (that I did not see coming).  Conversation can turn things around!
Batman by JL
Once there was a man called Batman. He was the best superhero in the city.  When there was trouble he was there.  He lived in a giant mansion.

He had a lot of suits. He had 6 suits! After he quit somebody snuck into Batman’s house.

The man found a passage that led into a chamber that led to all the Batman stuff. The man tried on a suit and started to fly around the city.

While he was flying the old Batman shut off the suit. The man was falling and smacked on the ground. Batman punished the man.

They talked for a while. Then they agreed that the man can be Batman.

So from then on Batman was back and Gotham City was safe thanks to Batman.
The End.

Even tough Ninja Monsters need their family in the end! 

Ninja Monsters by RP and OA
Once there were two little Ninjas.   They were going to a forest. They were walking in a forest.

They noticed this tree.  One wanted to go right, one wanted to go left. So one went right and one went left.  

And then all of a sudden they were falling down these giant dark holes.Two snakes bit them and poisoned them.

They fainted into two beds. When they awoken after their nap, they figured they would go out for a walk.  It looked  like they were in a mad scientist lair. So they got up and went to do their stuff and then they could not get out and then they saw the mad scientist.  

He said NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, how dare you, get back down or I won’t turn you into the bad evil super ninja monsters. You guys could save the world, if you only listen.  Please help me. You are my only hope. This is why my snakes bit you.

And then before those ninjas knew it...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...they were fast asleep.  When they awoke they had big teeth, they had wings, they had four feet, they were ninja monsters, they had super powers!  And then they got out and they flew out of the cave.

They had to fight skeletons. The first fight was hard.

The second battle was harder. The third battle was even harder they didn’t know what they were doing.  They had to fight zombies and ghosts.  They had victory. 

Then they went out of the forest.  They tried to get away, they found their mom and their dad.  The story ends here, tune in next time for more ninja monsters!

Identifying things that are important!
All About Hearts by Z
Hearts mean family.

Hearts mean caring for other people.

Hearts mean caring for your pets.

Hearts mean caring for friends and family and animals.

And there were other stories about mountain bike races and dinosaurs and art.....each with the voice of the writer--I cannot wait until they share these stories with the kindergarteners!

Wild Cats, Paper Flowers, Ballet and Beading!

Students in kindergarten enrichment have begun to lead their own interest driven centers.  Each week in the three classes different students will share a center that they are interested in leading!  Through a conversation with me  they develop their plan.  At the beginning of  class they share with the whole group some information about their topic, and then during centers time students make a choice to visit the student led center and learn from and with their center leader.  

This week a student shared about wild cats.  This student loved tigers and cheetahs.  He shared some facts he knew with the group, we read a nonfiction book about cheetahs and then we watched a slow motion video of cheetah motion.  At his center students colored big cat pictures, moved animals around on a map and spontaneously built a tiger habitat.

One student shared a craft that she had learned.  She showed the class how to make paper flowers.  She explained to the group that the paper flowers are special this time of year since we cannot pick flowers in Vermont.  The class then proceeded to think about other groups that might appreciate paper flowers.  After some discussion the class thought that they would like to send some paper flowers to a hospital that helps children.   I will be reaching out to the community to see where we might send some special flowers!  This was an amazing student led discussion that centered around thoughtfulness and empathy and it was completely driven by the class!  It was great!

One student shared her love of ballet.  She has recently learned some ballet leaping skills which she taught to fellow classmates with a course of scarves she set up.  Students got to see and feel real ballet slippers and read and learn about the ballet positions.

Another student set up a center for beading.  This center was very popular with the entire class, especially when the center leader made sure everyone knew that they could be creative in their designs!  

Kindergarten students have so much to share and the centers based exploratory nature of the enrichment space welcomes their interests.  I look forward to our next group of classes when we will turn our attention to sharks that use camouflage, wire sculptures and sewing!

Scientific Observation

In first grade enrichment this week we have continued observing seeds.  We are using our observation skills to play a fun game called PrestoChango, where students change one thing about themselves and then others try to detect the difference.   After we practiced our observation skills we applied them to looking at the exterior of a bean seed.  We also kept an eye on our growing beans....and came up with a lot of questions about why the beans were not growing at the same rates!  My favorite observation was when one student connected the plant cycle to the beans we are watching is just a seed, one has a small root, and one is starting to get a stem!  What a great transference of their background knowledge!  

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Digital Learning Year Round!

Today was not only the one hundredth day of school at RES, but it was also a global event, Digital Learning Day.  My colleague, coteacher and our amazing teacher librarian has blogged about how we reflected and then shared our ideas about digital learning with our fourth grade enrichment/library classes today.  I encourage you to check it out on our class blog at:

 I had originally thought about how I might also make sure that I 'covered' this event in my other classes...but I looked at my teaching plans and it did not seem to fit today to have distinct activities around DLD. In third grade, students were wrapping up our Amazing Race around the globe by taking challenges that others had created for them.  In second grade students were publishing books that they have been working on to share with K students.  In first grade students were scientifically observing bean growth and practicing the art of observation.

So I did not sign up to be a member of DL day, despite the amazing opportunities that other teachers around the globe had created.....but I do hope to in the future, and I will definitely be using ideas shared during this event in my future teaching practice.  However, I also realized another thing as the day progressed.  Even though I did not hi light technology in my classroom today, it was a part of our learning.  When students needed to figure out tricks to make the origami penguin that represented their current trip to Antarctica, they went on line to quickly call up directions.  Another student checked a fact about the height of a famous European monument.  In this same class students who finished first logged onto a blog of an RES family that is currently living in Bolivia to read about their experiences and plan some comments they would like to make.  Other students used the iPads to play geography games ( Tiny Countries is a current favorite as well as a Google Earth).  In second grade students used the iPad to take pictures of their creations.  In first grade we did not access technology today, but a recent online video of plants growing was mentioned as we discussed our plant observations. We have also just finished a project in which we used the IPads to create stop motion claymation videos, so we are intentionally shifting to a focus on real plants this week.  I feel proud that students are beginning to use technology flexibly as another tool in our classroom, and I plan to continue to reflect on improving this practice, on DLD and every day!