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Monthly Archives: February 2016

Chrome-flections Week 3!

Week 3 of being 1:1 has brought a sort of breath of fresh air in a sense.  I am already noticing huge improvements in logistics/management, typing, problem solving, and overall engagement.

Logistics/Management

When it comes to managing a classroom of 25 + devices, I really feel that each teacher will have to find procedures and plans that work with their teaching style.  Here is what works for me.  The cart remains in the hallway during the day but students get their devices first thing in the morning after doing their lunch count.  Each table has arranged a way to stack and place their devices in the middle of the table in a way that works best for them.  We stack the devices only 2 high and always check the label on the bottom corresponds with our number in the classroom.  This way students ensure that they are using their device. This was the first week I had students get the devices after lunch count right away without being reminded.  This worked for our classroom and I love that they are there right away so when we need them we don’t have to go through the whole process of getting them out.  Next week, I plan on having them log in right away too so we are not wasting classroom time later.  I have been most impressed with how students seem to not mind the extra items on their table and have been able to make space so they can also write and read.

In order to help with logins, I made each student a laminated card.  I made labels and typed all of their usernames and passwords that they would need thus far.  I then stuck labels on the child’s card and had them laminated to store in their pencil boxes.  This way they always have it and can access it at any point in the day.  I have a sample below.  On an actual students cards, I typed all the information in a label template through Microsoft Word.

IMG_3904

This week I also added a Chromebook reflection sheet for students who are breaking our expectations that we agreed upon as a class.  Students must select the expectation that was broken, write what they did, what they should have done, and what they will do next time.  I sign it and the students takes it home to be signed by a parent/guardian and returned the next day.  Monitoring and managing behavior with 1:1 devices is something I plan on addressing in a separate blog post.

Here is an example of my reflection sheet: Chromebook Reflection

Typing

One of the coolest things I have noticed, is how just in the last 3 weeks how much typing skills have improved.  We have really been working on placing both hands on the keyboard (home row) so we are ready to type.  We also have been working on typing in complete sentences with capitals and end punctuation.  This was hard for students at first.  I think as adults we don’t realize how many keys we need to press to write complete sentences but it is a lot to remember.  Even just the logging into their Google account has gotten so much better.  Students are now more aware of the keyboard and the keys they need to press in order to get their message across.  It has been rewarding to watch,

I’m most interested in how this will change typing classes during our district’s technology time.

Problem Solving

In all honesty this has been one of the hardest things during this pilot.  I think, and to no fault of our own, we automatically assume we can give student multiple step directions when dealing with technology and they will figure it all out the first time.  With that being said though, I do feel like there are students who can rock that out the first time perfectly.  However, in order for this to be successful in any building we have to apply best practices and the gradual release of responsibility.  It will take more modeling and guided practice at first.  I think a big part of this difficulty lies in the fact that this pilot started in the middle of the year or at a point where I am starting to pull back in terms of how much I help.  I encourage students to use their resources and solve their problems on their own.  However, with these devices being new I have had to step in and help but then I don’t help with other things we have been doing all year.  That back and forth I think has caused some confusion for both the students and myself.  We had to adjust expectations and find a balance that we both could live with.

When going 1:1 we as teacher’s have to be open to a learning curve.  We have to be willing to try something and have it fail.  We have to be willing to go through a trial and error process knowing that in the end we will be better off because of it.

On the positive side of problem solving, I LOVE how much our devices have given me more of avenue to practice problem solving.  It has led to powerful conversations on saving progress, what to do when the internet being down, what to do when you can’t log in or find something.  It also has allowed my students to collaborate and be more open to asking for help.  I feel these are HUGE and vital to a child being a successful 21st century learner.  My new favorite graphic for sharing with families is the skills and attributes of today’s learner.  Going 1:1 has provided me a vehicle in which to foster these skills on a more daily basis.

21st century skills new

Engagement

THROUGH. THE. ROOF.  One of their assignment in Canvas (our learning management system) last week was a simile exploration .  Thanks to a Twitter Chat, I learned about creating a hyper doc: Simile Exploration  Students loved working through this document and creating something at the end. I have seen students using and locating similes more than any other year of teaching.  I feel that when students have been using the devices it has allowed for more opportunities to communicate and collaborate with one another which in turn has made them more engaged.  They want to use their device and are willing to do whatever it takes to do that.  They also all have different needs but the devices have been able to provide with me more opportunities to have students work at their level of understanding.  I have been stressing the importance of asking for help and problem solving.  There is something so powerful about a peer teaching them how to do something that beats even my best explanation.  I feel the doors that are opened and still have yet to be explored, or what will make kids more engaged and willing to embrace being a life long learner.

Overall, each week has gotten better.  I still feel overwhelmed at times and frustrated with the fact everything isn’t practically perfect and constantly worried about making sure to not just use technology for technology sake.  However, the amount of learning I have done in these 3 weeks is the most I have done all year. I can’t wait to see what my classroom will look like in the fall after these next few months of trying and trying again.    

 

 

Chrome-flections Week 2: Canvas Learning Management System

Chrome-flections Week 2: Canvas Learning Management System

This week marked the first use of our learning management system Canvas with our touch Chromebooks. I created their first assignment on contractions.  This was similar to the assignment they had in Google Classroom last week.  If there is anything this pilot has taught me, it’s that simple is sometimes better when they are learning.  I wanted the objective to be for the students to learn how to navigate through Canvas and submit their first assignment.  I decided that would be easier if they had a familiar assignment so they could concentrate on how Canvas would work.  They were eager to get going and I was floored by the amount of engagement in the activity.

First thing I noticed is that headphones are going to be a must have.  I love to use videos to embed into their assignments to make them more engaging and visually stimulating. However, students are working at different paces and it can be rather distracting to hear other students at a different place in the video.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much they rolled with the punches though.  I can see that though becoming an issue the more assignments that are added within Canvas.  The question now becomes what to do throughout the rest of the pilot.

I did see the benefits of using Google Classroom last week to prepare them for Canvas.  They were familiar with the basic concept of receiving an assignment and submitting it correctly.  So I am glad I had given them the time to do this.  Next year if we are to roll out Canvas to more teachers, this may be something to suggest as a stepping stone especially in the younger grades.

What I love about Canvas:

  1. I love how when you embed videos into assignments, students are not directed to YouTube but instead the video plays within Canvas. While it will be important to teach students what to do when they are out in YouTube, this will be a great stepping stone in teaching digital citizenship to younger students.
  2. I love the option of creating your own rubrics. They give you a template but you can edit the categories, rating scale, points, and the format you wish for the students to submit the assignments.
  3. Grading was a breeze. I was able to look at each student’s submission, select their rating they received according to the rubric, and then provide students with feedback on each category/overall if I needed to.
  4. I appreciated the ability to not publish everything I’m building. Since I’m building the classes from scratch, I get to decide what the students see.  This allows me to continue working on building my site without the worry of students seeing it not ready.
  5. Being able to organize everything in once place. You could either have one course and then a home page that links to all your subject or a separate course for each subject. I chose to do a separate course for each subject.  This way I could organize my files and folders even more.  All of my reading will be with reading and so on.  According to Canvas this is going to be a teacher preference thing.  When Canvas was linked through Powerschool, it sent me all the subjects that are currently listed in Gradebook.  I did have to create a few more courses on my own for other things I would like students to work on.

Setbacks I am finding using Canvas:

  1. Grades are supposed to push to Powerschool (attendance/lunch cards/report card program), however K-2 is standards based grading so my grades won’t push out to Powerschool. I wish there was a way for that data to go somewhere or to be logged in to their report card.
  2. From a teacher standpoint it will take a lot of time to build our curriculum within Canvas. Teachers are going to have to be given effective and ongoing professional development.  I loved that the pilot team was allowed to participate in a webinar and also granted a half day together and work on building our Canvas sites.  Since we were all in the same room this was really beneficial in terms of figuring out logistics and brainstorming what would work the best.  This will be vital in teacher buy in.  I also feel when we give them the time to work within Canvas, members of the pilot need to be present to guide and assist where needed.
  3. At the moment you cannot assign a quiz or an assignment to individual students and you can’t change the due date for individual students. While I understand the need for these type of requirements, from a differentiation standpoint, I see this becoming an issue.  I have a lot of questions about meeting the needs of gifted and IEP students.
  4. I enjoy there is a place called the Commons for us to use as a resource when creating our courses, but I have not found many things for second grade other than blank templates. I would love more samples of assignments that teachers have created.  I realize that as our district implements this, those resources will start to grow but it will be something to keep in mind when rolling out.
  5. Canvas can be hard to navigate and figure out but then again anything is when you first implement it. There are a lot of steps to remember when setting up a course in terms of your home page/front page, and then how will your organize the rest of the course after that.  While I have better feelings about it then I did initially, it still can be stressful especially when determining the best way to organize your courses, modules, pages, assignments, etc.  I also feel I am pretty tech savvy and we must keep in mind there are teachers who are not as tech savvy.  What kind of support will the district and the pilot team be able to offer them?
  6. The tables, fonts, and sizes are difficult to edit. Sometimes when you are editing a page it looks one way and then you go to save it and it looks different.  When creating a table, you can’t edit every line within that table so the sizing gets thrown off.  While not a big rock, that can be very frustrating for some teachers when wanting to create something that looks nice and clean. Also there is one font choice.  Again not a big deal but I wish there were more to choose from.
  7. One item that has been problematic is that we currently have to log in with Google to get into Canvas. At school this is not an issue because they use their Google log in to log into the Chromebook itself.  However, if the whole purpose of this is for students to have access to it at home, they will have to make sure they are logged into Google first.  This could mean logging out of their parents Google and or siblings.  I think this is one of the pluses then to being able to bring their device home.  They wouldn’t have to bother with their parent’s Google information because everything they need would be on their own device.  I find myself sad that we are not piloting taking these devices home so we can work out some of these kinks.  It is my hope that is something that maybe could be tested before a full implementation.

low tech texting

This pilot has taught me so very much and I am extremely grateful to have this opportunity.  One of my favorite things so far in terms of support was having the half day to work with the other elementary teachers.  I learned so many neat tips and tricks that I can’t wait to use.  I said this last week, but there have been so many moments where I have felt like a first year teacher all over again.  While this can be frustrating it has been a great way for me to grow and push my limits as an educator.  There are things I never would have tried had it not been for this pilot.  This will be important to share as other teachers being their 1:1 journey.  It will be hard, it will be work, but it will get easier.  We will have to collaborate and lean on each other.

I also have learned that there is the same learning curve for students.  The initial response as a teacher is to get frustrated when we see students not able to perform as we think they should.  However, we have to remember that yes what they are doing in theory may be easy, but when we add a device and a new way for them to do it, it will take time.  It still has to be about the gradual release of responsibility.  They are figuring out things way quicker than I imagined, but we still have to give them time.  We have to plan these lessons just like any other lessons.  We have to build their stamina and knowledge base slowly and understand that typing and computer skills require a different mindset than we are used to.

great-teaching

 

Chrome-flections Week One: Resources!

During my first week with Chromebooks in my second grade classroom, I have come across some amazing resources.  I know there are so many out there but here are three that I used this last week, that are my new favorites!  These are tiles that I have made sure to include in my class Symbaloo: https://sososeussey.edublogs.org/1-fish-2-fish-seussville-tech-fish/

TodaysMeet

The second day of last week, I wanted to take our failed Google Doc vocab discussion and find a better way to have our discussion, I remembered TodaysMeet.  This website is for lack of a better description, an online chat room.  You don’t have to create an account to set up a room but I did.  This way I could pick how long I wanted my room open and I could delete comments that may need to be taken down. (Oh and then screen shot page as a reflection for appropriate digital citizenship).  This went a million times better then having 25 kids edit a Google Doc at the same time.  In real time students were looking at a collection of pictures that described our vocabulary word and typing what was the same, different, and seeing what others were typing.  While I feel technology is amazing, I wanted to still have a face to face component.  After allowing them to type their reflections in TodaysMeet, I had them discuss everyone’s comments by scrolling through the feed.  It was a great way for them to point out what was good and what they needed to work on.  It was in doing this I realized this would be a great way to do a number talk before math lessons.  Enter number talk TodaysMeet lesson.  Our number talk that day was how many ways you can make 20.  It was beyond neat to see students type away and then reflect with our peers.

https://todaysmeet.com/

Honesty Alert! I LOVE TODAYSMEET! I can print transcripts and since my room is open for a year, students will be able to look back on previous discussions.  I also love how quickly it opened student’s eyes to proofreading and how important typing skills are if we want to communicate a message.  I also noticed some of my best spellers struggled with that when typing.  This will give them the challenge they need and will hopefully strengthen their typing all at the same time.  While I feel Google Docs are way cool and am currently researching how to use them more effectively, for this particular discussion TodaysMeet worked better.  I did have a student who chose to not type what they were asked to do.  They simply had to close their Chromebook and look off of someone else’s while writing out their comment on paper.  My cooperating teacher also uses it on the iPad and it was a similar hit for her students.

Kahoot!

This is probably me new favorite teacher resource.  It is a way for me to make an online interactive quiz.  I create problems with either pictures or videos playing.  Students log in with a number code that my quiz generates.  Students have to look at the SMART board to read the question and the answer choices, then use their device to select the correct colored shape that is the answer.  I created an intro to Kahoot as a way to introduce my students to how it works and highly recommend doing this.  Make your questions simple and answers they either know or can look around your room and find.

After each question it shows a graph of how many students selected what choices (so you can gauge understanding) and it provides the leader board after every question which my kids LIVED for.  Not only were they excited if it was them but I was very impressed with how much they were excited for each other.  At the end of the quiz students can provide you feedback.  Then you can save the results to your computer and it makes an Excel spreadsheet for you.  Yep, I totally nerded out over this.  This spread sheet records every students score, what questions they missed/got correct, and what they answered for every question.  There are even multiple sheets so you can break it down by questions.

https://getkahoot.com/

Honesty Alert! Engagement will be high but students get swept up in the game and begin to get click happy.  I showed them the spreadsheet it creates and they were surprised to see that I could see how they answered.  They realized that it isn’t about how fast they can be but how accurate they need to be.  My partner teacher and I thought this would be a great way to review skills and asses their knowledge of that content.  The amount of rigor is HIGH and we feel the data collected is way more meaningful.

CODE

This is a free program that teachers can set up for their students that I mentioned in a past post.  On Fridays, I have time in my schedule for them to have coding time.  Students build code by watching an instructional video, and then moving code tiles to make something move.  In the first level it is moving an angry bird.  The amount of critical thinking and problem solving skills is through the roof.  Students are highly engaged and began naturally collaborating with others to solve the code.  They even acted out which way their angry bird needed to turn which then led to discussions of how did you figure that out.  It was neat to sit back and watch them be independent thinkers.  These problem solving skills are also teaching them not to run to me every time there is a technology problem.

https://code.org/

Honesty Alert! While our time is precious as teachers, I highly recommend giving students time to do this!  The skills outside of computer science are important in every subject and will help them become independent thinkers which after all is one of the main goals of going 1:1.

Are their any resources that you feel are must haves in a 1:1 classroom?

 

Chrome-flections Week One: Using Google!

It is hard to believe I’ve had the Chromebooks in my second grade classroom for a week. After a great first two days, I decided to dive right in head first.

Google Classroom

Since, our LMS system was not up and running, I wanted to give students a taste of what it would look like to have assignments and submit them.  I set up a Google Classroom page and decided to start with a Google Doc.  When we are learning a new vocabulary word, I start the lesson by showing them a collection of pictures dealing with the word.  As a class, we then discuss what we see, how they are the same, and how they are different. I thought it would be cool to have this discussion be on a Google Doc, where students could see everyone’s ideas and it would give us practice using them for the first time.

Honesty Alert! Holy buckets Batman!  That was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.  I do not have much experience in using Google Docs and it was only after using them with 25 second graders, I realized I had only used them to edit with a few people.  I think my first mistake was having 25 of them trying to edit the document at the same time.  Cursors would disappear, lines were deleted, and the blame game began.  I immediately saw myself sinking into lesson failure and time management twilight zone (lesson lasted 40 minutes which is double usual time).  I must admit I felt like a first year teacher all over again.  I found myself getting frustrated with them at first because why couldn’t we get this to work.  It was after the second time of going over directions step by step on the SMART Board, I realized just like anything else we must use the gradual release of responsibility.  The skill set required to do things on the computer is different and takes time.

The next item we tried in Google Classroom was a question, where I asked them to record phonics pattern words they found while in guided reading.  This went MUCH better.  Not only because we had had that lesson fail earlier that day but because in the question component, they just type in their answer and cannot edit others responses.  This also made me realize how cool it was to grade and give feedback immediately from where ever I was! It made me start to see the value in an LMS.

In the middle of the week, I wanted to try my hand at another assignment on Google Classroom (since Canvas wasn’t ready yet).  I wanted to show the students that we could have some success with more practice.  I set up an assignment where they had to watch 3 videos about contractions and then write 2 sentences with at least once contraction in each.  This was pretty neat and well received.

Honesty Alert! When I post YouTube videos from my classroom playlist on Google Classroom it takes them to YouTube.  Now this led to great digital citizenship conversations but I am looking forward to how Canvas plays the YouTube videos within the LMS.  Students do not have to actually go to YouTube.  While I feel it is important to teach students to navigate the internet in a safe way, I like that for younger students we have this as a way to foster those skills first and then open it up to going to the actual YouTube page.  When it came to students writing their sentences, we realized how when typing we must remember capitals and punctuations since those require us to hit different keys on the keyboard.   Good news is going 1:1 means keyboarding will be introduced before 3rd grade.

It was in these lessons, I realized the growing pains that will occur going 1:1.  While kids now a days are able to pick up things much quicker, it will take time for them to grasp the logistics of it all.  As a district, we must prepare for that and plan accordingly.  After a while though and if our work is done early on, we will see those logistical items become easier if not obsolete.  Also our teachers are going to need effective Google training or at least be pointed in the right directions.  Whether that be teachers within our district who know how to use Docs, Slides, Draw, Sheets, Forms, etc or a video library of resources, we must be prepared to set teachers up for success.

After feeling like I was a complete failure, I wasn’t prepared for how much typing helped them to remember the vocabulary discussion or how our failures led to amazing problem solving discussions.  They saw what it was like first hand to fail and fail again.  We had to think quickly on our feet and come up with alternative guidelines and expectations.  In a way it was the best authentic real world lesson I could have given them.

As teachers moving in to a 1:1 environment, we will have to remember there will be elements of first year teacher and extra work.  It will be overwhelming and seem unmanageable.  Believe me I felt that very much in my first week and must honestly admit to spending 3-5 hours at home planning, researching, and creating lessons.  However, that is my personality and I realize that is not for everyone.  Collaboration is going to be a HUGE component of our districts 1:1 success.  It will be key to collaborate with grade level, district level, and or department levels on a regular basis to lessen some of the burden.  Instead of creating everything yourself, alternate by units or chapters when creating and make sure to share!  We must lean on each other and share resources and tips more frequently.  Granted this has my first week, so I am anxious to see how the work load and overwhelming feeling changes as I get further in to the pilot.

If you have any tips or tricks that have helped you when beginning your 1:1 pilot please feel free to share with me!  I am eager to learn!

 

Flight #2Pis1to1 is prepared for takeoff!

I recently started my adventure in piloting a 1:1 classroom for my district with touch screen Chromebooks.  Within this pilot, I will also be working with Canvas which is a learning management system.  My techie heart is overflowing with excitement!

Part of my work with my district’s 1:1 team is compel quantitative and qualitative data to in a presentation to our Board of Education.  I thought this blog would be a great way to capture my journey and reflections in hopes to help others and perhaps learn myself.

Day One
My cart of 30 devices arrived on Wednesday, February 3 at the end of the day.  Wanting to ride the excitement train of my students, I did something very unStefanie like.  I decided to take a risk and just go for it! That next day my students were able to get their hands on their device.  Since I teach 2nd grade, I wanted to spend that first day creating our Chromebook expectations:

IMG_3034
We had great discussions and worked out a few logistics.  Afterwards, I had each students sign a copy of the expectations.  One copy hangs in our classroom, another copy was sent home to all families, and one was posted on my classroom blog as reference.

I then wanted to put the devices in their hands so I opened up the cart (before it was labeled and numbered), and passed out devices.  Upon further reflection I wish I would have labeled everything before that first use.  I also wish I had remembered they had to log on for the first time.  This meant they had to type in their district email address and password which was over 20 characters.  This was also the first time any of them had seen this information.  After they typed it all in, there was a mini lesson on how usernames and passwords must be spelled and typed exactly right.  It then prompted students to reset their password.  On the fly I was able to come up with one but I wish I had thought that through a bit more.

That first day of devices was probably 20 minutes for expectations and 30 minutes for logging in.  I feel now that I have things in place that time could be cut down.

Immediately after students went home I proceeded to label my cart.  I placed signs on the outside to help differentiate my cart from some of our whole school carts.  I then took masking tape and numbered all the slots and cords for each device.  I am huge fan of color coding and class number systems.  Every student in my class has a number and that number corresponds to the number that is on their device.  It is also color coded.  Even numbers are blue and odd numbers are red.  Each device also has a number on it (made with label maker).  Now my cart is set up to where students place their numbered device in corresponding slot making sure to plug it in with their numbered cord.

IMG_3032 IMG_3234
I can’t even begin to tell you the difference this made in students getting and putting away the devices!

Day Two
I wanted students to be able to find my Symbaloo: http://sososeussey.edublogs.org/1-fish-2-fish-seussville-tech-fish/

A Symbaloo is a collection of websites where instead of typing a web address, students merely click on the tile and are taken directly to the site.  I highly recommend making one of these.  Not only does it save time with typing in web addresses and help younger students, but it organizes your resources in a neat way. Symbloo even has a collection of Symbaloos for you to search for.  I was able to find other premade Symbaloos for students who use Chromebooks and came up with even more tiles to add to my own. Be sure to check out the Symbaloo website: https://www.symbaloo.com/home/mix/13eOcK1fiV

It probably took me 4-5 hours over a 3 day span to create my current one.  A big part of this though is my need to want everything to be visually appealing.  I wanted the perfect photo to represent each site.  Symbaloo will generate one for you that sometimes worked but sometimes I felt it didn’t provide my students with enough information to know what site that tile was.

Now came the task of teaching students how to access and use it.  In order to do this, students needed to be able to access my blog.  I wanted to show them the longest way to find it in Google Chrome so that if a problem ever arose, they would be able to figure it out independently.  Students were the ones that discovered shortcuts that I didn’t even think of or realize.  It is now a competition to see who can get to the Symbaloo the fastest!  I used the gradual release of responsibility to ensure they would be able to find this independently.  Part of their homework that night was then to teach their parents.

After explaining how to find the Symbaloo, I explained the websites that were available and stressed the importance of digital citizenship.  I especially stressed this with our class YouTube page.  I have a classroom YouTube page with playlists that provide students learning videos to refer back to.  We discussed how randomly traveling throughout YouTube requires more skills and safety considerations that I plan on embedding in my future lessons. I then allowed students to explore the different tiles.

This lesson probably was about 40 minutes and took the place of my JAM session (journaling about math).  My schedule on Friday’s allows for about 40 minutes of this time which worked out perfectly.  It really opened my eyes though to how this time needs to be restructured to revolve around 1:1 activities.

Phew! The first 2 days already had me feeling excited, overwhelmed, proud, and frustrated.  The key I realized right away is the amount of patient that will be required when this is first rolled out.  As with anything new though, after practice and tweaking, things such as logging in won’t seem as daunting.

Please follow our journey on Twitter:
@PitzersLearners
#2Pis1to1

Here’s to the adventure!

 

Global School Day of Play!

This was my first year participating in the Global School Day of Play and it scores right up there with one of the coolest classroom experiences of my teaching career.  Don’t worry. At first, I was apprehensive of allowing my students an entire day of unstructured play.  I had so many questions such as: What do I do all day? How will students behave when given an entire day of unstructured play? Will students get bored and or miss screens?  What and will students learn?   Every single question was answered and I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome of our day!

What do I do all day?

This question perhaps had me stumped right away.  According to the Global School Day of Play website, teachers are not to organize, tell students how to play, or interfere with their play for the entire day.  Basically teachers are invisible all day.  At first I thought oh I could maybe catch up on some teachery things, but then I realized there were no screens.  Now while I realize I am the teacher and can change the rules, I also want to model for my students, so computer usage was out.  Interestingly enough my mind started wondering to a quiet calming activity that I could do while keeping my eyes and ears open to my students.  Enter adult coloring books! YES! Not that I needed an excuse, but I now had a perfectly good one to buy what I had been eyeing at Barnes and Noble for the last 6 months.  I couldn’t wait to go pick it up and then there was the matter of what medium I would use to color with. I found myself getting very excited at the idea of having play time for myself! Teacher activity planned: check!

How will students behave when given an entire day of unstructured play?

Whenever teachers hear the word unstructured, I think we all cringe just a little bit inside.  For some reason we tend to not give kids enough credit.  We are control freaks by nature and often want lessons to fit neatly inside little plan book boxes.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am a #tlap girl through and through, but have never had an entire day of unstructuredness.  I have had moments, time periods, and activities, but never an entire day.  Could they do it?  YES and it was beautiful! The first 3 hours I encountered no problems. ZERO. AND the best part was I saw students playing with classmates I had never seen them play with before.  Their use of manners was astonishing and refreshing.  They can do it so note to self, I must harness this for days that aren’t the Global School Play day.

The neatest part of being invisible was students were forced into problem solving on their own.  Mind you, I was always nearby and keeping a listening ear to see if I needed to step in.  However, most of the time they figured it out.  There were a few times I almost stepped in or felt I should.  But, I stopped myself and those students learned way more by problem solving on their own then if I would have helped.

I will say that at the 3 hour mark, have some sort of transitional activity.  It can be a bathroom and drink break, or switch up the location.  At the 3 hour mark we had an issue with a car.  However, after a brief reflection with the student and a redirection, the successfully played the rest of the day. The great thing is they are motivated to do whatever it takes to get back to the fun so even if something went down, it didn’t last very long.

Will students get bored and or miss screens?

In a world dominated by devices and screens, I must admit I was worried with this rule.  I was glad this rule was in place mind you but worried students would be bored.  To help them, I had posted the following acronym on the board inspired by Pinterest:

Been creative?
Observe Play (reflect)
Read a book
Exercise
Do something helpful

The words I’m bored were never uttered once in my classroom. It has also carried through on other days as well!  I saw students play in a way I had never seen them play before and it was eye opening as a teacher.  I have always said I can learn a ton about a child by their artwork.  I think watching them play is now added to that list.

What and will students learn?

This was the one question that I was most nervous about.  I know there is value in play, but would the students realize that?  To help us reflect, I had students brainstorm what they thought they would learn by playing the day before.  See our list below:

Play_1-1rwgut1

Then afterwards, we created a new list (see below)

Play_2-qkic7p
WOW! Once again kids prove adults don’t give them enough credit!

Overall, I felt this was the neatest experience.  If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend you do.  If anything it taught me how important play is.  I think we often forget that we teach kids.  Yes they are multiplying, reading chapter books, and analyzing texts but they are still kids.  Kids need to play and as educators we must find some way to harness that creativity and unstructuredness.

To end, designer Tim Brown discussed play at the 2008 Serious Play conference.  My two favorites that he said that really hit home with me were:

“Play is not anarchy.  Play has rules especially when it’s group play.  When kids play tea party or cops & robbers they’re following a script that they’ve agreed to.  It’s this code/negotiation that leads to productive play.”

“There aren’t just rules about how to play but there are rules about when to play.  Kids don’t play all the time.  They transition in and out of it.  Good teachers take a lot of time figuring out how to move kids in and out of these experiences.”

Goal: Harness the power of play every day!

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2016 in Power of Play