Well, we made it through week one. I am not sure what place I expected us to be at the end of the week, but here we are. I worked with my daughter to come up with a schedule on Sunday evening (my son "didn't care" what we did). We talked about how this wasn't a snow day like they were used to, but we were still going to do some school work. My children are creatures of habit, so I knew it was important to keep some sort of schedule that was similar to that of their normal school schedule. I kept track throughout the week of what we did, so we could spread out activities through the week. We made sure to build in brain breaks, STEAM, and "recess" so that they weren't doing everything on a computer all day. We re-evaluated from day to do, but the schedule we came up with and there was no fighting me for more time outside, doing activities, or general fighting with each other (!).
I tried to take pictures throughout the week so that we have them to look back on years from now. The pictures are not anything amazing, but captured moments of our learning at home during this unprecedented time. We tried to get outside whenever weather allowed in the morning and had creative time in the afternoon (their choice of STEAM activity). Then they had the rest of the day to themselves (which thankfully they chose outside everyday!).
This week with my littles, we read the story Bunny Slopes. This book has been a favorite of my own kiddos for a long time, so I knew I would have to incorporate it during this winter season. I had seen several people share on Instagram about making a hill out of poster board and students designing something (I told my kiddos I didn't want to label it as a sled or something because I didn't want to limit their imaginations) to slide down the hill. I knew this would be perfect for my groups! I fancied up two pieces of poster board that I taped together with some trees, a mug, and snowflakes I cut out on my Cricut. I added a little "finish line" at the end (the colors coincidentally matched the blankets in the book!).
Students designed some sort of transportation that would go down the hill as well as keep their little bunny mini eraser safe inside. We had many trial and error attempts where either the bunny fell out or the mode of transportation fell apart (or both). I was so impressed how the students did not get frustrated when things came apart, but rather picked up their pieces, went back to their table, and started fixing or redesigning. We found that larger, sturdier modes of transportation kept the bunny safe and didn't fall apart opposed to the smaller structures. Engineering for the win!
Thanksgiving Maker Mat
Today in 4th grade it was Thanksgiving Maker Mat day! I think the kids know when one is coming now (before holidays or breaks), but they are great for keeping students on task during days that are filled with this, that, and the other thing. I focused on Creativity with their building, and even let them build alone to see what they could do by themselves. It always amazes me that how many groups ask if they could build together instead of working by themselves. There are also students who thrive when they work by themselves, so I try to change up the structure of how we work together.
Before they began working today, I went through their exit slip that I had posted on the board. Each student had a small post-it note with their name on it and they had to place their sticky note in the appropriate column for how they feel they exercised their creativity today. As this was a Thanksgiving Maker Mat, I also worked in thanking those who served as inspiration as part of their self-reflection. I told them that no level was a "bad" level and it only shows them areas that they might need to work on to grow as a learner.
The Night Before Thanksgiving
In Y5, we read the story, "The Night Before Thanksgiving." I had pre-select six different items from the book and put them on a Maker Mat. This was their first experience with me and using a Maker Mat, so I wasn't sure how it was going to go. Usually I have students work on building collaboratively, but for introducing Maker Mats, I wanted to see what they could create individually. I gave each student their own Maker Mat and they showed me their item they created before moving on to the next one.
I feel like I can't say it enough. I love Maker Mats! They are easy to create, allow for student voice and choice, provide direction to students to create under a theme, and allow for students to have room for creativity. To fit this Maker Mat with our Toy Story STEAM Mania theme, I picked just a couple of items from Toy Story and then let then the students start creating!
When using Maker Mats, I have students work in pairs or as a group of four and then they have to select one item on the mat to build together. After they are done building, they have to show me what they made, and then I check it off on their mat before they can move on. This adds a bit of accountability with what they are building and sometimes I have to send them back with direction to add a little more (because I know they can!). They usually respond really well and come back with something even better. I have to say that I was really impressed with the claw machines that the students built - many of them built some functional claw machines and spent a lot of time adding little details to their machines. I know pictures don't do it justice, but they were pretty awesome!
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