Game On!

Today was a great day in my classroom.  Today was the day when the 5th graders from my friend’s classroom came over to our classroom to play the government board games my students have been creating.  Christie’s students helped by reading through my students’ papers in which they described the rules and objectives to their games.  On the first draft, my 2nd graders were pretty certain that their directions were clear and easy to understand.  That’s when I told them that I was going to walk their papers over to Christie’s classroom and ask her 5th graders to comment and ask questions about their games.  The 5th graders were awesome.  They made comments on little sticky notes.  They asked questions.  They wanted clarification.  When I got the papers back, I was impressed with how much time and effort they put into reading them.  I showed my students the sticky notes and told them they had some rewriting to do.  I instructed them to read every sticky note and try to address them in their rewrite.  When students were finished with their 2nd draft, I sent them back to the 5th grade for a second read.  In the meantime, my class worked in small groups to create their board games.  We worked for several weeks on them.  It was interesting to see the creative juices flowing.  They all seemed to work well together.  Most groups shared the tasks of planning the game board.  They discussed how their game would be played.  I did have a few groups where some students were not sharing the tasks at all.  One group complained about a member not helping.  However, these complaints were rare.  Everyone worked together.

When we got the 2nd drafts back, my students were disappointed to see all the sticky notes on their papers again.  But, this time, my students were really happy.  I could hear comments like, “Oh this one is a positive comment.”  Or, “This is a good one.”  And, “We just got a compliment.”  This was followed by high-fives and pats on the back.

As our game development continued, I stressed the fact that students should not forget the purpose of the games.  The purpose was that people would learn about the three branches of government through playing their board game. After some thought, students would go back and re-do or re-work what they had already done.  When groups said their games were finished, I had them play someone else’s game.  I would then ask, “What did you learn about the government?”  They would either say some facts they learned or tell the group who created the game that they didn’t learn anything.  That meant some groups had to go back to the drawing board.  The games went through so many different iterations.  In fact, my groups were still trying to make their games better right up to the moment the 5th graders came over.  It was pretty amazing.

When the 5th graders arrived, they found the game where they had provided feedback.  They were able to sit with the 2nd grade developers and play.  All the students were excited and engaged.  They were learning together.  They were also laughing and having fun.  My friend, Christie, and I marveled at how well they were interacting.  Here are a few pictures of the students together.





 After the 5th graders left, I had my students reflect on their game making experience.  All the feedback was positive.  They all said they loved the process.  They enjoyed working as a team, even though they argued some of the time.  My students all agreed that I should do this again next year.  I was amazed by what I saw in my classroom this morning. That is what I feel learning should be. . . a truly collaborative experience.  Students had ownership in what they were learning.  They worked together toward a common goal.  My students were able to tap into their creative side.  I think they realized that learning is a process.  And, most importantly, they had a whole lot of fun!


A Day of Making

This morning I had the great pleasure of meeting with the San Diego Area Writing Project (SDAWP) for a morning of tinkering, making, and inquiry.  Christine Kane began the morning by sharing a brief history of the Maker Movement which started with Leonardo da Vinci.  She ended her presentation by telling us about Seymour Papert, the father of the modern day Maker Movement.  Papert was the father of constructionism (not to be confused with constructivism).  Constructionism is learning by actively constructing knowledge through the act of making something shareable.  The motto of the Maker Movement is:

If you can’t open it, you don’t own it.”

Then, Margit Boyesen talked to our group about systems thinking.  After that, the fun really began.  Kim Douillard asked all of us to hack our notebook by creating a simple circuit using a 3 volt battery, copper adhesive tape, and a light bulb.  After a few minutes of instruction she let us create.  At first, I was a bit frustrated because there was a lot of new information thrown at me.  It took me a few seconds to get started.  Thank goodness I was sitting at a table with supportive peers who encouraged me to start.  As with anything new, I find that just getting started is the hardest part.  However, once I began, I couldn’t stop!  Here is the simple circuit I created in my notebook.

simple circuit

It was an exciting moment when I got my light bulb to illuminate!  As I look at it now, I am thinking I don’t need to go that big with my initial rectangle!  I will have to remember that when I attempt this with students.  The circuit can be smaller.  🙂  The next thing we did was to incorporate the light into a picture or text.  Since we were instructed to keep the page before the circuit blank, we could draw our picture on that.  At first, I was disappointed that I had selected a red light for my circuit.  We were given several little light bulbs and I had not paid attention to the color scheme when I stuck it to my page.  I suppose I could have switched out the light bulb, but I was afraid to mess anything up, especially since it was working.  In any case, I decided to go with what I had.  I began thinking what the red light represented to me.  What do I relate a red light to?  The first thing that popped into my mind was a stop light.  This is what I was able to create with the red light from my circuit.

first attempt

It’s basically a picture to remind myself of things to stop doing, or things to stop and do.  Kim and Margit shared this video with us which served as inspiration for this light bulb activity.

After lunch, we were given more time to hack our notebook.  Kim brought out more materials for us to use.  She gave us a battery holder and 2 alligator clips.  We could tape the battery holder to the back of our notebook and that way we could create as many “light” pages as we wanted.  There were also filament thread, needles, and crochet hooks.  People were getting creative by sewing directly into their page.  I had a picture in my mind of what I wanted to create, but I was unable to get my circuit to work.  I tried several ways to try to get 3 light bulbs to light in a series circuit.  Nothing worked.  Then, someone suggested a parallel circuit.  I did that and got 2 of the light bulbs to light.  Unfortunately, it was time to stop working and go home.  When I got home, my husband helped me figure out a way for the third light bulb to be part of the parallel circuit I had already created.  He said that I needed to think about the circuit like water flowing.  Here is how I was able to get my third bulb to light up.

final circuit

I was so excited!  This conversation with my husband reminded me of the power of collaboration.  Kim asked us during the session what we do when we get stuck.  My first solution almost always is to ask an expert or someone I think can help me.  I want to build this kind of interaction in my own classroom.  I want there to be moments where kids are creating, discovering, collaborating, discussing, problem-solving, and sharing.  It is so powerful when these things happen.  Learning can be fun, exciting, and meaningful.

After I got my circuit to work, I made this picture.


I realized that I actually incorporated my 2014 word of the year!  🙂  I had a great morning learning, sharing, and creating with my SDAWP friends.  It was a productive day, and I am proud of what I accomplished.