Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tuesday SOL How much can you change?

This is a Tuesday Slice of Life for Two Writing Teachers
Check out their website for many more reflections on teaching.


My Teaching Resident worked with a small group of students to race cars in the hallway today, using this profound interest of theirs to cultivate curiosity and understanding about measuring distance.  This lesson was my idea, and one that was unsettling to her.  Her own educational experience has been far more traditional - teacher-led instruction, much memorization of facts, working at tables. This idea - learning math by racing cars? - was a huge, amazing step for her. 

I have been searching for ways for her to more fully experience children driving their own learning. (No pun intended! Well, maybe it was.)

She watches/observes me, but, ultimately, the best learning is experiential - "letting go" in a lesson of your own.

Her mentor observed as she worked, giving her feedback in between small groups…there was no need for me to be there, too.

I was able to get a small glimpse from my classroom window that peeks into the hallway:

I was so tempted to be out there with them,
to hear the children's enthusiasm,
to see their engagement,
to watch the fun. 

A teacher friend says her principal insists "Don't expect any radical changes - one's teaching style can only be changed about ten percent in any given year… and that's when the teacher has a strong desire to make the change."

I wonder about change.

How much can you change your very instincts?

How can you do something that is so different from how you yourself learned? 

How do you find the courage to attempt something all new?

I suspect my Teaching Resident is often in a state of disequilibrium.

I am watching her change so, so, so much more than ten percent.

Today, I saw a huge smile come over her face,
seeing children race down the hall after their cars,
intent on measuring how far the vehicles had gone.

Here's the note that she shared with families about the experience:

The Big Cats tested cars to see which ones could go the furthest. Children were introduced to the concept of measurement and comparison from this activity. Once the car raced down the ramp and stopped, children used a piece of tape to mark where the car stopped and compared the distance with each other to see which car went further. Also, we talked about how we could adjust the 'slope' of the ramp to make the car go even further. We used different types of measurements including yardsticks and big blocks to measure the distance. The Big Cats practiced counting, measuring, and following directions.

It is extraordinary to watch her metamorphosis.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tuesday SOL When do you see the learning?

This is a Tuesday Slice of Life for Two Writing Teachers
Check out their website for many more reflections on teaching.


We have just had the most terrific week of school. I am convinced that the return to school after spring break is one of the best times of the school year - when you see the learning!

We are in the midst of a transportation theme - cars, trucks, boats, things that go. (Always a favorite topic with preschoolers!) In engineering, we created boats out of cardboard recyclables and foil. We tested them in the water table. As I planned for the lesson, I imagined our test site for the boats to be nice and calm and orderly, like this:

And, for a moment, it truly was! But that was only because the others were still hard at work finishing their boats - adding details, making walls, working with the tape. Within a few minutes, the test site looked like this:

There was a flurry of activity - many, many boats, many, many children, many, many hands, many, many questions and comments - all at once! Both Ms. Kim [Teaching Resident] and I fell into the beloved position of 'guide on the side' - not directing, but encouraging, making suggestions, helping them to find space to work. Truly, these children were instructing themselves:

Why is my boat sinking? 
What does it need? 
The bottom is getting wet. 
I think it needs walls! 
Why is the tape not sticking? 
Is this tape stronger? 
Mine is so huge, it doesn’t sink. 
The foil is ripping! 
Oh no, it is sinking, again. 
Look, this end is down, but this one is up! 
What if I made it bigger? 
Look, mine is floating! 
Mine is small and strong! 

They were self-propelled, unbridled, engaged…moving back and forth between the water table and the engineering supplies. They tested the boats to see if they would float; upon seeing the boat sink, they would rush back to make repairs and modifications; then, they were right back at the water table to test again. (I quickly covered the engineering table with towels, to catch all the water dripping off of their boats.) It was a very organic and busy process with children motivated to solve the problem themselves. I wish I had a video about the activity - these few photos are all I have.

This engineer is directing me where to put the tape!

At the end of this very lively centers' time, we gathered as whole group and I asked children to share about their boats. Did it float? Did it sink? Why did it float or sink? 

Here are their thoughts:

Why Did My Boat Sink?

·     It didn’t have enough pieces
·     The pedal come off
·     Needs more tape
·     Flat parts don’t have energy
·     It was gently wobbling
·     Water went through foil
·     They didn’t have any walls
·     If boats crash, they sink

Why Did My Boat Float?                  

·     A lot of things on bottom
·     Smaller ones don’t sink
·     Heavy walls
·     It had enough energy
·     It was too strong
·     Added more foil
·     It had enough tape and things on it
·     The paper

This is science inquiry at its best! We have a classroom of budding engineers and scientists.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tuesday SOL When will we be back together?

This is a Tuesday Slice of Life for Two Writing Teachers
Check out their website for many more reflections on teaching.


Today is our first day back at school after a beautiful spring break...I had a fabulous time, hiking in the Georgia mountains with my husband. We stayed in a cabin at Vogel State Park, near Blairsville, Georgia, and did day hikes in the Appalachian mountains that surround this park. 

Yesterday - Monday - staff returned to school for a professional day, to plan our final weeks of the school year. Anyone who is a teacher knows how delightful this "cushion day" was - allowing a time of transition from spring break to classroom teaching. I thoroughly enjoyed this bonus day before returning to my teaching role.

It was really sweet to see a few of my preschoolers at the on-site daycare program, allowing me a sneak peek at the children I have - quite honestly - been missing a great deal. I was working on lesson plans in our classroom when I saw a few of the children walk by in the hallway with an instructor. They saw me, I saw them, and I saw nothing but confusion on their faces. Why was I in the classroom but they were not? What was going on? 

James, in fact, quickly put up his hand as a blinder, as if he did not want to see me or me to see him.

I called out,

"Hey there! You can't walk by without giving me a hug! Come here, buddies! Group hug time!" and I spread my arms wide to embrace them, to invite them towards me.

Immediately, Simona, Ellis, James, Naima, Wesley, and Malcolm raced into the classroom and dove in for a group hug. Evan stood back, uncertain. 

Many questions poured forth -
Why are you here?
Is this a school day?
Did you know I saw my grammy?
Did you know I was at camp?
I saw my cousins!
Did you miss me?
Did you know it was spring break?

James, with conviction, concluded - "Ms. Ingram, tomorrow is not a camp day anymore, right?"

"No, James, tomorrow we are back together - we are going to have a great time, the Big Cats together again, here in the classroom!"

With this news, he gave me another big hug, and everyone else joined in, again. Except Evan, still uncertain, but a slow grin coming over his face.

Here's to today - and our great time, together again!

But before I go, let me share a few pictures from my week of hiking...