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!).
As the district I work in has a high Hispanic population, I wanted to make sure that I was working to work cultural responsiveness into my teaching, especially with the time of the year. For our STEAM activity this week, I made a Maker Mat for Dia de los Muertos. I personally do not speak Spanish, but many of my students speak it in addition to English. I worked with the high school Spanish teacher to develop a list of items to be represented on the Maker Mat and then she translated it so that I could have it represented in English and Spanish.
I was honestly blown away by how this was received by students. Not all of my students are Hispanic or celebrate Dia de los Muertos, but most are familiar with the celebration (maybe because of the movie Coco?). In one of the classes, there were literally cheers of excitement as I shared the topic of our Maker Mat. They were so excited and started asking about some of the items they could build. Many of them were already included in the Maker Mat, but I told them that selecting the Free Choice square was also an option to build something that was not included, but may be meaningful to them. This was the first time I heard a lot of Spanish speaking as the students were working, but I could tell they were talking about Dia de los Muertos and related things (from the translations on the mat). Several students commented on how they liked that this one had the Spanish translations and asked if I had that on other Maker Mats. So, I am definitely reworking my Maker Mats to include the Spanish translations from this point forward!
At the end of the activity, I asked students to complete an exit slip telling me how they worked together, what building material they would like to use for their next Maker Mat and to do a short checklist of the items from the Maker Mat that they see in their homes or community. It was great to see their responses! I also learned they are desperately wanting to build with Legos again (we had used Pix Brix for this Maker Mat as well as our Halloween Maker Mat).
If I haven't said it in about every other post I have made about Maker Mats, I would just like to mention that I love Maker Mats. :) I think I would say that when I use them in class, students love them just as much! They know they can pick anything on the mat to begin creating and that I am okay with that (there is no specific order in which items should be created). When I hand out the Maker Mats, I always hear great conversations among work partners about what they should start to begin building. This also works in opportunities for them to respectfully disagree and share their opinions. Usually with a brief conversation, they can decide on their first two designs they want to build and then get started with the first.
As it was the week of Halloween and one of my classes falling on Halloween itself, I knew this would be a great activity as the energy in the room was, let's say, palpable.
For the Maker Mats this time, I introduced Pix Brix. I love how they are a combined take on Legos and Plus Plus. One shape that fits in multiple ways. I feel with that with Pix Brix, there is a bit of a learning curve, despite its simple shape. Learning how to stack, slide, and take apart takes a bit getting used to, as it is different from familiar building tools. At one point when he was taking apart one of his creations (my rule before moving on to the next design) stated that, "These make my fingers depressed". After having a good inward laugh to myself, we talked about how his fingers could be made happier by breaking his design into smaller pieces instead of trying to break the whole thing apart like you can with Legos. Once they started feeling more comfortable with the Pix Brix, their designs really took off!
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