#PBLclouds – the story

In January I participated in a twitter chat #hackingPBL and was so inspired I bought the book Hacking Project Based Learning by Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy. I had learned about Project Based Learning (PBL) in college at SUNY Frediona from Dr. Mira Berkley. I already knew PBL is good for kids. If you don’t know what PBL is read this. I’m not going to get into that now. I want to tell the story of the first time I tried a PBL in my kindergarten class. I reached out to Erin on twitter for a little idea bouncing because she has experience with the logistics of PBLs with kinders. She was very supportive! Fast forward to February. I am a member of the Wake County Teacher Leader Corps (#wakeTLC). We meet 5 times a year to improve our own instruction as well as support other educators in our schools. This year’s focus is a self guided group project. I knew back in November at Fall Convergence #WonderWake I wanted to get into trying PBL in my room. So I joined a group working on PBL. At #wakeTLC in February we listened to Erin Gannnon talk about PBL and she introduced me to a resource bie.org. I began searching right away for ideas to get me going on my first PBL. I found one on weather and clouds. A perfect fit for the weather unit I had just begun. So it was time to change gears! It took me about 2 weeks to wrap my brain around it and plan for it. I decided to photo/video document my learning process and my kinders’ learning process on twitter using #PBLclouds.

Day 1: I launched the PBL reading Eric Carle’s Little Cloud and then let my kinders paint a cloud. I of course forgot to take photos on our first day!

Day 2: After launching, I needed to teach my kinders how to collaborate. We created an anchor chart together.

Day 3: Next, we took a pre-assessment of what they already know about clouds and weather.


Day 4: I strategically grouped my students taking into consideration kinders who bring devices from home and tried to balance my talkers and my thinkers. Their first task as a group was to decide on their roles.

Day 5: I invited our school technology facilitator, Molly Harnden, to come collaborate with me because I was about to give my kinders a mission I had never tried before. I asked my collaborative groups to work together to find a video that teaches about the different types of clouds. The task included using YouTubeKids to find 4 different videos about the types of clouds and deciding together which one was the best. This was a very involved task and required my kinders to be critical of the information they found as well as reaching a group decision. Each member of the groups had a role and each role had a specific task for this mission. Leader – listened to each member’s opinion of the best video and decided which video got the most votes. Recorder –  wrote down the title of the video they chose. Digital leader – worked the iPad to show videos. I chose this mission because my kinders were using YouTube already for entertainment. So I taught them to use a safer version – YouTubeKids and how to use it in an effective way for learning.


Day 6-8: Each group shared the video they chose and why they picked it with the whole group using Reflector 2. This took 2 days longer than I anticipated. I had to learn to be flexible!

Day 9-14: We went outside to observe the clouds. Each group kept track of the clouds they saw using a graph. There were protocols for each role during observations. Leader – listened as every shared and decided what the recorder would record based on what they heard. Recorder – recorded on the graph.  Noise Monitor – used a pointing protocol to make sure that the group members were taking turns to talk.

Day 9-10: The groups built models of the cloud types we learned about with cotton balls. I had done this activity for the last 4 years but this year was different! In the past, it was very teacher directed and I had to tell them what to do with the cotton balls to make each type of cloud. This year, they worked with their groups and didn’t need my help at all! They were even able to model 6 types of clouds where in the past we only did 4. The groups even came up with a way to color the clouds black for the storm clouds!

Day 12: This is where karma was on my side! We scheduled a Science Fun for Everyone field trip at the beginning of the year. The theme was meteorology! I was so proud of my kinders being able to answer the scientist’s questions and make connections to what we were doing.


Day 13: We watched a few videos of TV meteorologists and made notes of what we noticed. We watched each video 3 times. The first time was just to watch. The second time I asked my kinders to think about what they saw in the video. The third time I asked them to pay close attention to what they heard the meteorologist say. We made a list.

Day 14: We went over the list we made the day before then the groups decided on what they were going to say in their video and who was going to say it. Each group took a video using a green screen for their weather forecast. Molly was a big help teaching my class to take videos!

 

Day 15: Groups used Kiddle (another great resource brought to us by Molly!) to search for images to use behind their Green Screen video. Molly and I taught the groups how to use the DoInk Green Screen App to create their video and the groups shared their finished products. We critiqued each video using the list we made on day 13.

Day 16: I was able to get a local, self employed meteorologist to come talk to all 100 kindergarteners at #WeAreBrierCreek! Big thanks to Josh Nagelberg for coming out to talk to such a big group of kids! They loved seeing the connection between what they are learning and a real life meteorologist!

Stay tuned for future posts on this PBL. My plan is to write one as a reflection of how #PBLclouds went, another as a reflection of lessons learned from #PBLclouds and Hacking Project Based Learning, and another with my next steps and where I’m going in my PBL journey!

Questions or comments on #PBLclouds? Post below! Thanks!

Purposeful Play – how the book changed my teaching

Purposeful Play – BUY IT! READ IT! LIVE IT!

Yesterday I saw this Facebook post in a group I’m in – Simply Kinder– about Common Core and Play based learning.:

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This got me thinking: Are CCSS and Play mutually exclusive? Does it have to be either or or can it be a yes and? My opinion – NO! They go together like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong!

Purposeful Play is a game changing book by Kristine Mraz, Alison Porcelli, and Cheryl Tyler. I have been  big on incorporating play and being developmentally appropriate since college (Thanks Dr. Mira Berkley and SUNY Fredionia). Play based learning is my passion. But little did I know, I’ve been doing it all wrong! I was on the right track but there’s a better way. Here’s my reflection using a Visible Thinking routine I love –  I used to think… But now I know… after reading Purposeful Play:

I used to think…

Play is centers, free choice time, and recess. Lots of learning happens during play. Play is good for all ages. Play is a safe time for children to take risks. Play can support all subject areas. Direct instruction happens during subject area blocks. Students can take what they learn during direct instruction and try it out during play.

But now I know…

Play is centers, free choice time, and recess. Lots of learning happens during play. Play is good for all ages. Play is a safe time for children to take risks. Play can support all subject areas. Direct instruction happens during subject area blocks. Students can take what they learn during direct instruction and try it out during play.  Play is the glue that holds it all together. Play is a mindset and a method. Play should not be separate from my standards and objectives.

It’s not like me to read something mind-blowing and take no action. Here’s how I changed my teaching after reading Purposeful Play:

  1. Transition time now includes more singing or movement themes (hop like a kangaroo, crawl like an inchworm, etc.)
  2. During reading, writing, and math mini lessons children act like a spy to watch what I’m doing. “Put on your spy goggles!”
  3. I do collaborative activities and tasks every chance I get!
  4. Cleaning up the room is a game called treasure trash- Who ever can find the secret piece of trash I’m thinking of wins! (hint: the treasure trash is usually the last thing I see)
  5. I got puppets for literacy centers for children to act out stories!
  6. Inquiry focus – I have a Wonder Wall in my classroom (no not the Oasis song, photo below), I’m incorporating PBLs (another great book – Hacking PBL)

I still have a lot of work to become better and be more Play Based. Here are my action steps:

  1. Teach mini lessons before choice time and recess to help children collaborate, communicate, and problem solve. The book has some great ideas to use as a starting point and some amazing examples of anchor charts.
  2. Add more share time with my class. I’m really bad about this. We need to be sharing after independent and partner reading, after writing, after math stations, after choice time, and at the end of the day. Kids can learn from each other as much as they can learn from me.

Biggest take away = be playful through instruction and everyday tasks. While choice time is important you can incorporate play in other ways.

Can’t stop… Won’t stop…

I’m already excited to post again. I was nervous about this at first. I feel self conscious putting my thoughts in a public space but a new PLN friend encouraged me – this is for me.  Thanks Bill! Also, I learned a new trick – links in my post (don’t laugh I’m learning!).

My plan for this blog is for it to stand as my portfolio. I want to collect my growth and best work all while growing a positive digital footprint. So today I want to look closely at the standards I’m evaluated on and see if I can understand them better.

Standard 1 – teachers demonstrate leadership – classroom, school, profession, advocate, high ethical standards

I think that leading in my classroom and school and upholding high ethical standards comes easily for me. They’re kind of a given… A duh!moment.  How could I teach and not lead my students or take on some leadership role in my school? I don’t think I’d be effective… Educators have long be held to high ethical standards. We’re role models for our students. The families and community we serve expect a lot out of us. These are the easy sub standards.

The ones that make us stand out are leading in the profession and advocating for schools and students. My goal in life is to grow up to be just like my all time favorite teacher Dr. Mira Berkley. She is my most favorite professor from college. She is a guru of early childhood education. She is passionate and a leader in the field as well as an advocate for everything developmentally appropriate. I want to be all of those things! In my near future I plan to return to school for my doctorate degree then pursue a career in educating future educators. I see this blog as my way of pushing forward to becoming more of a leader in the profession and then advocating for students and schools will come…

Standard 2 – teachers establish a respectful environment for a diverse population of students –  positive nurturing relationship, embrace diversity, treat students as individuals, adapt teaching for special needs, collaborate with families

In my humble opinion this standard needs to be observed overtime and needs to be part of a teachers belief system. This isn’t something you can fake. You have to believe that diversity is an important part of a community. I work hard to create a classroom community each year with my young kinders. We regularly talk about the differences and similarities between us. I encourage them to all be friends and to include each other during play. I reach out to my families to learn about their home cultures and traditions. We include those in our classroom discussions. When it comes to diversity positivity is key. I think that diversity comes in many shapes and sizes. It isn’t all the color of our skin. We also have to look at religions, socioeconomic status, and other cultural aspects. Every student in my class is important to me and so is their happiness and well-being. Of course I care about their academics, but the whole child is in my classroom not just their brain. I give hugs when they need love, food when they are hungry, sleep time when they are tired, and band-aids fix most everything else. 🙂 When it comes to academics, I challenge my students as they need it at their own levels. I differentiate lessons, center activities, and homework. None of this is easy but it’s the right way to do it and it’s what needs to be done for the kids. At the end of the day… it’s all about the kids.

So I’ve come to realize that talking about the standards is going to take me a while and in an effort not to make this post a mile long, I’m going to stop here.  I’ll be back soon to talk my way through some of the other teaching standards.

Please comment with your thoughts on these standards!