Monday, September 28, 2015

Collaboration and Teamwork

Collaboration and Teamwork--it is not easy! Even as adults many of us struggle with how to best work in teams.  Almost every week I see a funny cartoon making the social media rounds that describes the different members of a team (not so kindly).  I look back on my engineering career before I became a teacher and I remember those certain 'team meetings' that I dreaded attending each week!

But even with all of the challenges that teams cause, I strongly believe that teamwork is a critical learning component for students.  While there are some life choices that do not lead to constant teamwork, I believe that most will require some level of collaboration.  Each year I begin my enrichment classes discussing the idea of teamwork with students.  I think it is important to let students know that it is difficult, to give them tools to make it easier, and to help them see the positive power of collaboration.

After discussing the reasons teamwork is important, we make a list of reasons teamwork might be positive (this gives us some back up for those frustrating times!)Here are some of the ideas that students have generated about teamwork:

-Teamwork is fun
-When you don't know the answer someone else in your group might
-When you have more people you can work faster
-When you are in a team different people can have different jobs that they are good at
-You get more ideas and you are more creative when you work with more people

What might you add to this list?

Next, we do a variety of teambuilding and collaborative challenges.

We learn to turn and talk with each other (listening as well as sharing).

We create clay sculptures in pairs ( not two different sculptures, but one agreed upon one!)

We build towers out  of spaghetti and marshmallows or straws and tape.

We have successes and we have failures, but with each project we celebrate working together AND we figure out ways to make teamwork easier.  Is it all fun and cheering?  Unfortunately, no.  There are times of frustration over sharing of materials, or rejection of ideas, there are disappointments at fallen towers or unfinished sculptures......but teamwork is not easy and by working together we will continue to improve our collaboration skills. My hope for students is that through our shared experiences they will come to enjoy working as part of a team and have some strategies to make the quality of their participation both fun and meaningful.

Do you have to work as part of a team for your job?  We would love to hear from you with some real world examples of why teamwork is important (you can leave a comment on this blog, or feel free to contact me directly).


Our Place in This World

Students in third grade enrichment are currently working on a project to showcase their 'place in this world'. Students are studying geography in their classrooms as their first social studies unit of the year and we are connecting with this learning to create a project which has teams working in groups to understand our geographical place in this world while they build, make and work collaboratively.  Each student selected a place they wanted to work on and then jumped into a group to define how they would showcase that place.  Each week before we set to work we discuss that our place begins with ourselves and then extends to our town (Richmond), our state (Vermont), our country (U.S. of A.), our continent (North America) and our planet (Earth). 

Students will create something physical that we will then photograph and video to create a composite project of our concept of our place in the world. I have been impressed with student teamwork and creativity. It is also amazing to walk around the room and watch as students support each other in both their knowledge acquisition and by providing positive comments!  Students are making everything from banners to showcase our country, to a 3D map of the solar system, and more.

Stay tuned to checkout the finished product!

Just in Case You Missed Open House in Enrichment!

I enjoyed talking to many families at Open House over the course of two very busy nights! If you did not have a chance to connect with me, or ever have questions about enrichment programming at RES, please contact me via email at I am looking forward to an excellent year of learning with everyone!

If you did not make it to Open House, here are a few of the things that were on display in the Enrichment classroom.

I also noted the dates and time of some enrichment events during Open House (they are also on the school calendar, but it does not hurt to mention them again! ):
Flynn Trips
Grade K:
11/3/2015  Noon  Caps for Sale

Grade 1: 
3/8/2016  9:30am  Dr. Suess's The Cat in the Hat

Grade 2:
4/15/2016  Noon  Peking Acrobats

Grade 3:
11/2/2015  9:30am  Andes Manta

Grade 4: 
3/9/2016  9:30am  Math Dance

All School Events
Cougar Cub Inventor's Workshop
Working with the Vermont State Science Fair, the Society of Women Engineers and Technology Teachers at the Middles School we will provide an evening of making!  Last year many teachers visited/hosted booths. 

Thursday November 12th, 2015 Evening (Exact Time TBD)

RES Science Fair
Students and families are invited to work together to create projects and share at this family oriented science fair. 

Thursday March 10th. 2016 5:30 - 6:45pm

My goal  for all of these events to provide enriching opportunities for as many of our students as possible.  From guaranteeing that every student in K-4 see a live performance once a year, to evening opportunities to extend learning in science and engineering.  I am always open to add other let me know if you have ideas!

RES Celebrates Dot Day 2015

On the International Dot Day website at:  schools are encouraged to celebrate creativity, courage and collaboration.  At RES, enrichment students in grades 1-3 celebrated Dot Day this year!

First, we read the book The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds.  In our class we discussed discovering and celebrating our talents, interests and passions.  We also talked about the power of sharing these with others.  Next students created a paper dot that shared some of their passions.  This was a great beginning of the year activity as it allowed me to meet with every student and talk to them about their interests. I believe it is so important to build our classroom community on a foundation of caring for each other, and so this project was the perfect way for me to connect with students AND for them to connect beyond our school walls at the same time!

 After every student 'made their mark' by creating a paper dot, we used the Green Screen app by DoInk and 'green screened' the student and their dot! Now their interests and passions loomed larger than life on the screen behind them and they proudly struck a pose!  Each picture was printed and placed on the wall outside the classroom on a large dot for students to share with families during our Open House evenings.  
By sharing about Dot Day at Open House we had great conversations about student interests.  The incorporation of a technology component to our project also allowed families to see the engagement and potential for this sort of project! Families had fun making greenscreen pictures themselves and students showed off their new technology knowledge.  It was also a great opportunity for me to highlight the manner in which I try to provide students with opportunities for choice, student voice, technology learning and creative fun during their enrichment time.  I truly enjoyed watching students as the teacher as they explained the process, the meaning of Dot Day and technology to their families.

Our learning did not stop within our own community though!  We also went online and viewed projects completed by other students celebrating Dot Day.  Students enjoyed and made great connections (and asked great questions) as we viewed projects from as far away as the Netherlands and Borneo! Students were amazed that over 100 different countries were celebrating Dot Day.

 Next year I hope to extend this project to create more 'live' connections with students from other schools--perhaps by skyping or exchanging handmade dots!

 As we begin the year I will ask myself 'how I can make my mark as the RES enrichment teacher?', and I will keep encouraging students to explore their passions as we learn together!   
Happy Dot Day 2015!


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Welcome Back to RES Enrichment 2015-2016

I am so happy to be beginning my sixth year as the enrichment teacher at RES!  I am excited to spend another year thinking, creating, collaborating and sharing learning with students in grades K through 4. I encourage you to check at this blog (and even subscribe!) to hear about all of the great things going on in enrichment.

This summer I saw an example of a classroom door on Pinterest--it was beautiful, and it really spoke to what I want students to know as they enter our classroom to learn.  My door did not turn our nearly as fancy as the one that I used as a model.....but I hope the message is clear.  Students are the reason we are all here, and my goal is that EVERYTHING I do as an educator has that idea front and center.

Happy new school year!

Questions about enrichment programming?  The best way to contact me is via email!