Tag Archives: problem solving

Making Time for Making

We’ve been doing a lot of making in our classroom this past week and a half.  Snowflakes, poinsettias, Hopscotch projects…  It’s not that we don’t make at other times, but it seems that we have really gotten in the flow of making lately.

I love it when we can give ourselves and our students the time to plan, design, improve, and finalize a project.  Our snowflakes were just such a project.  Math and science, reading and writing, along with problem solving and some systems thinking all came together to create animal shaped snowflakes that will be accompanied by original snowflake poems later this week.

I wrote about the start of the project here and the value of tenacity and iteration for students.  Our students had at least four opportunities to create their snowflake designs–with time to study their own and others’ attempts in between.  And yesterday, all of our students successfully created an animal-shaped snowflake of their own design.  (We did not provide templates, although we did help the few students who needed some additional scaffolding.)

Here are a few examples…and remember these students are 6, 7, and 8 years old!

If you look closely you will notice a moose, a giraffe, a squirrel, and a lizard in these four designs.

Students also created winter scenes using computer programming yesterday.  You can read about it here.  And then today, in addition to writing about snowflakes, we began assembling the poinsettias we are making from the paper we painted on Monday.

They still need their finishing touches…but already are beautiful!  And students have learned a lot about poinsettias and a bit about their history.  (The Ecke family, locals from our area, established themselves as primary producers of poinsettias around  the world!)

But what I love best about this making is the productivity and collaboration from our students.  They love making…and once they get past the fear of failure, are willing to take risks and try new ideas to improve their products.  And we see evidence of students taking these ideas home and trying them out there.

One of our students came in this morning with a huge snowflake…a good three feet across…that she made at home.  She had talked her mom into a trip to Michaels to get the big paper that she designed (a butterfly), cut and decorated…and then brought to school so we could see what she had done.

I know there are people who might call these activities “fluff” and complain that this isn’t real learning.  For those people, I wish they could see the energy and enthusiasm, the collaboration and problem solving…and all the reading, writing, math, science and history that are learned in the process of the making.

Have you made time for making lately?

A Lesson in Resilience

Learning is what school is all about…and I’m lucky to learn with my students every day.  Today’s lesson was all about resilience.

We have 1:1 iPads in our classroom–for the second year in a row.  It’s one of those mixed blessings:  a flexible tool that kids love to learn with, and a tool with a mind of its own that creates havoc with lessons from time to time.  Last week, before the students arrived, Margit and I spent time sorting out our returning students’ iPads and assigning the newly “cleaned” iPads to our new students.  We made sure to sync the entire batch to our “cart account” to ensure that all our apps were on all the iPads and we also charged the iPads so they would be ready to use.

We introduced (or reintroduced) the iPads on Tuesday (the first day of school) with our focus on care, basic operations, and getting the IPads out and putting them away.  Students constructed rules for iPad use yesterday…and we had grand plans for a project involving the iPads today.  Things began smoothly…we split the students this morning with returning students in one room “cleaning up” their iPads and new students in the other room personalizing theirs. Students were successful and engaged–helping one another and taking care of business.  That wonderful “buzz” permeated the classroom as we all were reintroduced to our tools after a summer away from them.

We moved on to our project…working with personal “artifacts” to tell a story about ourselves. Each student photographed their artifact.  They worked to ensure they captured the item in the photo, careful to keep fingers out of the way and not let the iPad cover block the lens.

After recess we moved on to the next step: using the Notability app to import the photo and then record their voice telling the story of the artifact.  We walked through the basics of the directions confident that students would help each other through the steps.  And then the rumbles began…

It quickly became clear that our new students did not have the Notability app on their iPads–in spite of our syncing last week–and it wasn’t a quick fix.  Times like these doubly reinforce the benefits of co-teaching.  Margit worked with the IT support as I encouraged students to rehearse for their eventual recording, even without the iPad.

As you might expect, there was some anxiety from those without iPads–wondering if they would get to work on their projects and the sense of frustration that comes with plans gone awry.  But overall, resilience won out.  Our projects did not get done today and students have been reassured that they will get to return to the work tomorrow…with Notability installed on all the iPads.  As teachers, we once again learned the importance of resilience and flexibility and a sense of calm in the face of a potential storm.

I know that in spite of the frustration, our students will benefit from learning how to respond when technology complicates our best laid plans.  We hear plenty about this generation’s need for immediate gratification and inability to wait…often attributed to new technologies.  And sometimes I don’t think I am any more patient than they are!  But what I know from experience is that the use of these digital tools in the classroom is the perfect venue for teaching delayed gratification, problem solving, cooperation, and resilience…important life lessons for all of us.