Saturday, October 18, 2014

Beginning a Bridge Design Thinking Project

This week my students began a design thinking project that will last for a good part of the year. I plan to come back to the topic every 2-3 weeks. We started this week with reading a variety of books about bridges and looking at pictures from famous bridges around the world. The goal was not really to learn about the specific bridges but to look at all the different bridge styles and forms. Some of the books talked about why engineers use different types of bridges in different locations but this was not our focus for the week. The point was to have a general understanding of bridges. After students build and experiment and gain some hands-on experience we will come back to a more thoughtful conversation.

Next up was a review of the design thinking cycle and how we would use that for our bridge projects throughout the year.

Finally, I gave students a very simple challenge--build a bridge at least 14" long in unsupported sections and at least 2" off the carpet that will support 4 Matchbox cars. Their supplies were 6 books, 2 feet of tape, 25 Lego bricks, 4 toothpicks, and 3 index cards. In my mind I had an exact idea of how this bridge "should" be built with the supplies provided. Of the 7 groups, only 1 built in the format I had anticipated. None of the bridges met all 3 of the requirements in the initial go around (5 min to plan, 20 min to build) after testing.

That was fine as I had hoped this would be the case. We discussed each bridge's strengths and weaknesses as a class. Finally, students answered 4 reflection questions in a format of their choice. Some choice to record themselves talking, some chose to type in a variety of apps, and some wrote on paper.

WeMap and a Shared Understanding of a Short Article

Today student read and shared understanding of a Wonderopolis article. I gave students a choice from any of the Wonderopolis articles from this week. They read their article of choice independently and then discussed it with a partner. Then we created one WeMap for each article. All students who read a given article wrote one thing they learned. It could have been what they thought was most interesting, surprising, or important. Finally, students found a different partner who read the same article and explained to that person why they chose to write the fact.

What We Know About Listening

This week I paired students and asked them to create skits demonstrating listening and not listening. We had a detailed conversation about how a person could tell if someone was listening to them or not and how others might use these same cues to decide if they were being listened to. We videotaped the skits and then students commented on the actions that demonstrated listening or not listening. Due to privacy those videos are not linked.  Students then formed groups of 3 with classmates that they did not create a skit with and created an Educreations about listening skills.

listening skills

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Report about Plants

In addition to growing brassica, students have read about plants from several sources, including the Tween Tribune Junior website, the Wonderopolis website, FOSS book, and Look Again series about plant parts and life cycles.

This week they created a presentation about each of the 6 plant parts. For each plant part they needed to illustrate it, explain one or more ways it helped the plant, and an example of a food people can eat that comes from this part of the plant.

Haiku Deck would be a great app for this activity, but for technical reasons we used My Story and it also worked well.

Reflecting on a Design Thinking Project

We are reading a lot of fairy tales at the moment. With the iPads I am able to have all students read a fairy tale, such as The Three Little Pigs, but I can easily differentiate by having different versions of the story with different levels of vocabulary difficulty. Students can also listen if necessary.

Following The Three Little Pigs reading groups of 3-4 students were given either strip of paper (straw), straws (sticks), or unifix cubes (bricks) and asked to create a house for the pigs. As part of the process I asked each student to use the My Story app to reflect about 2 ways they helped their group and 1 way they could improve in the future.

Identifying Nouns and Verbs with Write About This and My Story

I love the Write About This app. There are so many fantastic photos and I really appreciate the 3 different questions for each of them. It makes it easy for me to differentiate or for my students to differentiate for themselves.

This week we used the photos to review parts of speech. Students took a screenshot of a photo of their choosing and brought it into the My Story app. On one page they listed 5 nouns from the photo and on a second page they listed 5 verbs.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

WeMap Reasons for Actions

One topic we discuss for almost every book we read is why do characters do what they do? What is the cause/effect relationship? To help students think about actions and different causes for them, we used WeMap this week. Pairs of students worked on the same map. Each person created a bubble with an action. Their partner then thought of 3 different reasons the person could be doing that action.