Sunday, March 10, 2013

4 C's (adapted for ECE)

Connect: Because ECE children have so much schema to build, a strategy we use consistently during read-a-louds to deepen understanding is asking the children to make personal connections. Because of this, this routine was a natural selection. We use several themes and texts in our teaching to also promote text-text connections so the children begin to recognize similarities and differences in stories. 

What I did: For this exercise, I chose the Gingerbread Man, The Gingerbread Boy, The Gingerbread Baby and The Gingerbread Girl and asked the children to reflect on the settings in each, the characters, the different endings, the different repeat phrases, their connections, and the behaviors of the various main characters.

Extend: In ECE we are working on adapting many of the routines so they are developmentally appropriate for preschool age children. It made sense to use this routine because we focus so much at this age on children making connections. It was a challenge however to modify the routine in relation to concept, challenge and change so it reflected in their thinking as opposed to the literal challenges, concepts and changes.

Challenges: As stated above, the routine itself was difficult to modify so that it went beyond the literal. Because preschool age children are so literal, egocentric and in the present, it is difficult for them to reflect on how their thinking has changed over time and why. To them they just know what they know. Considering this I chose to do the routine anyway but more with a focus on the on how the main character's behavior changed and how this behavior affected or caused the different endings. I then asked them to reflect on the behaviors, take a point of view and explain/defend it. For example one child explained that in the Gingerbread Baby Matti did the wrong thing by opening the oven door and letting the baby out, but then he made the gingerbread house for the Baby to live in and be protected so nobody could eat him. Also Many children felt it was fair that the fox got to eat the cookie in several stories because the old man or old woman made the wrong choice by opening the oven too early. Many also said in several stories that the fox was mean or bad because he tricked the gingerbread man, but one child noted he was smart and therefore should get the cookie. 

Reflection: In the end, despite the challenges for ECE with this routine, I was impressed with the deep thinking made by the children. With this simple modification, the children were much more engaged in the activity and I believe the lesson was more powerful as a result. Because they had to reflect not only on the characters behavior as well take a stand on whether it was fair or not who ate the cookie, the similarities and differences in the book became more transparent to the children beyond just how they were similar and different. They truly saw how the behavior of the gingerbread boy, girl, baby, man, fox or Matti led to the cookie being eaten or not. Of course, many of the children made connections to making cookies at home and eating them. I would like to try this routine with similar texts and their various versions to figure out how to use it most effectively...perhaps with other classics like The Three Bears or The Mitten. However, I would also like to find ways to use it that match more closely with the original purpose. In the end however, our discussion about these books was much more meaningful than in any year in the past when we strictly reflected and charted the differences and similarities of the books.  

See Think Wonder (Winter)

Connect: In ECE, I am trying to use the See Think Wonder Chart as a basis for starting every unit with my students. It is very developmentally appropriate for this age group as a way to document their thinking and drive deeper level thinking. My hope was that by showing the children pictures with items they were familiar with, they would make their own connections.

What I did: To start our unit on Winter, I selected 2 pictures and my para and I each worked a group on our own separate charts. The first picture is of a person walking down the street with a shovel; the other a person walking on the sidewalk with a sled. The big idea was to hopefully get the children to recognize the pros and cons of winter. Shoveling is hard work while sledding is fun. Winter brings both challenge and great fun all in one. The "See" part went smoothly as the children labeled what they say in the picture. The "Think" and "Wonder" parts of the routine were more difficult because I think my children struggled between the difference in the "think" and the "wonder" part.

Extend: My goal using the routine this way was to try to introduce a unit beyond just reading a book about winter and asking teacher directed questions about what they think about winter. I wanted to use the pictures to see if they would come to these pros and cons about winter on their own.

Challenges: Honestly, I found this lesson disappointing. The children were so literal in what they saw and had difficulty thinking and wondering beyond..."I think he is going to shovel the street" or "I wonder if she went sledding". One child even thought the person was going to find a bear. We did however have a deep conversation after one child said "I think he is going to the beach." Another child responded by saying, "That's impossible". When I asked him to explain his thinking he shared that the beach is too far away to walk. We then talked about how the beach is somewhere where it is warm and if the person is in snow that must mean it is winter and they are faraway from a warm place. In the end, what seemed like a rather silly comment turned out to provoke the deepest thought. I also realize I may have actually learned more about the routine because of how poorly it went. It was a lesson for me for several reasons. One is that I now remind myself these routines are to be used as guides rather than rigid structures. I need to be flexible and not be so hard on myself when it doesn't turn out the way I expect. Perhaps these routines are best approached not predicting the outcome. The importance is in the process. Also, the items or photographs presented are probably best when more ambiguous. Preschool age children are so literal and because this is still a fairly new routine for us, it was hard for them to move beyond the obvious. I had also enlarged the photos too much and believe the fuzziness made it hard for them to see the actual item each person was handling. Next time I will try to be more intentional and careful with the photos or items I choose.

Color - symbol - Image

Connect - I attempted this thinking strategy with eighth graders during our chemistry unit. We had previously learned about the structure of an atom and were ready to study the elements in the periodic table.  I like to use a lesson called "adopt an element" to have students make connection to an element and a use in their everyday life.  I modified this lessons to include "color, symbol, and image."

Extend- For the symbol part, I asked students to use the standard symbol that they would find on the periodic table, which includes the abbreviation, atomic number, and atomic mass.  For color, I asked students to come up with a color that is reflective of that symbol. I encourage students to challenge their thinking and not be so literal. For example, most elements are metals, and was hoping that they would not simply use gray or silver for their color.  Then I asked students to draw an image reflective of their element. To take their thinking a step further, I asked students to come up with a slogan about their element.

Challenge - I was overall a little disappointed with the results of this lesson.  I was expecting students to stretch their thinking and turn in some amazing stuff.  Most students chose to be literal with their color choices- grey and silver for metals, "clear" color for gases. The images produced were more literal than I was hoping - like a drawing of a chunk of metal, rather than its applications.  There were some students, however, that produced some surprising results.  One example, shown above, was exactly what I was looking for. His element is radon, a clear toxic gas.  He chose the color red to symbolize danger and drew an image of person with lung cancer. His slogan was spot on too, and it actually rhymed: Radon is a radioactive gas in the fresh air. But be aware in can also cause lung cancer, so be aware. I will use this as an exemplar for future years.