Saturday, December 6, 2014

Highlights from Teaching Like a Pirate

After fully participating in my first #tlap chat on Monday, I decided to dedicate this week to making engaging and fun learning opportunities for my students. I constantly question myself, but I think it was successful. By today, I had many students begging me to do some of the opportunities over again.

First of all, one thing that made this week so exciting was wrapping up our science unit on balance and motion. We had studied balance and gotten through the second chapter on spinning. This week, we were working on rolling. We use FOSS kits for our science curriculum, and I'm a huge fan. Coming from the early childhood realm, I have a deep passion for inquiry, play, and exploration and these kits are based on those three concepts. With that being said, please know that I'm not taking credit for these lesson plans; they were planned out for me. They were so much fun, though, and this is exactly what I think science should be like for students.

We explored rolling with three different materials this week, First, we made wheels out of disks and shafts and played around with how they rolled down a ramp. We got them to roll straight, to turn corners, and to do a wobbly roll. On Thursday, we explored the way cups roll. After discovering that they curve as they roll, I challenged them to see if they could get their cup "car" to roll off the ramp and park itself underneath it. Many students found success with this, so we moved to the second challenge: roll the small cup so it falls off the edge of the ramp and lands on its opening. This was the hardest challenge of the day, but many of the students were successful by the time we finished. Friday, we explored rolling with spheres (marbles to be exact). This was my favorite day! The students took styrofoam runways and built all kinds of ramps to see how they could get their marbles to roll. They built tracks with hills so their marbles would go up and down and up again. They built tracks with loop-the-loops. They built long tracks and short tracks.

Science was a blast and a half this week, and I wanted to keep the momentum going. I knew I needed to do something with my math lessons. My kiddos and I have been exploring using Kahoot in our classroom, and we have been loving it! I even had a student ask me if they could do Kahoot during an indoor recess on Monday. (I'm currently brainstorming ways to see how I can flip this around and have the students create the quiz for each other.) After a request like that, I knew I needed to find a way to work a Kahoot quiz into our week. On Wednesday, we were learning about a trick to help us memorize addition facts called "making ten." Essentially the students manipulate the addends to make ten and count on to answer quickly. We used tens frames to help us with this trick. After learning the strategy, we put it to use. I had created a ten question Kahoot quiz with addition facts. The students worked in teams to solve the fact; one student made the first addend on their tens frame and the other student made the second and then they worked together to make ten and find the answer. Let me just say this - it is the coolest thing in the world to look around my classroom and see every one of my students actively engaged in solving a problem while working together! It made my teacher heart so stinkin' happy!

Thursday was the ultimate of days. I hooked my kiddos with a board message as they were coming in. It simply said, "Get ready for the best snowball fight of your life!" As they filtered in and read the board, the buzzing immediately started. I wasn't talking though, and the lack of details was killing them. We made it through our rolling exploration and the students headed out for recess. I immediately set to work transforming my classroom into the snowball fight battlefield. (I have pictures, but I forgot them at school. I'll add them when I get back.) I tipped all the tables on their sides to be the forts and organized them into a circle around the perimeter of the room. I taped a square into the middle of the circle of tables. Behind each fort, I placed a stack of "snowballs" (wadded up papers with math problems). As the students came in from recess, I greeted them in the coatroom and said, "The room doesn't look the same as before, please be careful." After only a few seconds, many of them figured out that it must be time for our snowball fight, and the excitement in the air was palpable. They came in and I explained the rules.

  1. Your tablemates are your teammates. You will be working together to solve math problems to earn points.
  2. One teammate will be in the square in the middle. When I say go, the other teammates will be in their forts (behind the tables) and will throw "snowballs" to the teammate in the middle who will try to catch one.
  3. When the middle teammate catches a snowball, S/he will bring the snowball into the fort and the team will work together to solve the problem. 
  4. When the problem is solved, the middle teammate will bring the snowball to me to be checked. The first team to get theirs correct will receive 5 points, the second team will receive 4 points, and so on. 
What ensued was an hour of the most fun test review I've ever had. The students worked together magically, and I had nearly 100% of the students focused the entire time. They have been begging me to do this with them again.

Needless to say, by today, I was exhausted. The extra effort I made this week was so worth it though! I plan to continue looking for ways to "teach like a pirate!" This will be more difficult now that we're done with science for a little while, but I refuse to put a limit on the possibilities that can occur in my classroom. Monday, I have a camping adventure planned for my kiddos who collectively have read 500 books this year. They're bringing flashlights and sleeping bags. I'm bringing the "campfire" and the tent. Can't wait for the fun to continue!

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