Sunday, February 23, 2014

Explanation Game - Clothes

This lesson started with a coaching session with Michelle. ECE was continuing to struggle on finding ways to integrate thinking routines into our daily routines and lessons so they are authentic and don't feel forced or just yet another activity. It is also challenging with this agegroup how to incorporate these routines in a meaningful context alongside UbD. Considering this, we got to talking about one of our big ideas of our clothing unit being around how clothing (an most anything) is designed with a purpose in mind.

With the olympics approaching, Michelle suggested we might consider how to use The Explanation Game to explore the essential question of why people wear certain clothes and support the enduring understanding things are designed with a purpose. The Explanation Game is very similar to a See Think Wonder with the exception that it provides what feels like a less rigid framework for the children to navigate. What we have discovered with our youngest learners is that it is hard for them to decipher (and hard for us to explain clearly) the difference between thinking and wondering. Somehow the Explanation Game of "Seeing It" and "Explaining It" felt potentially looser and hopefully would promote more conversation as opposed to the children getting wrapped up in the difference between thinking and wondering hindering conversations.

Our first intention was to show one picture of some type of olympic sport which may require certain clothes for warmth or speed. however it occurred to me, it may prove more enduring and meaningful if the children were asked to look at 2 pictures to compare and contrast especially if they involved a similar activity. This is why we chose figure skating and hockey both similar in that people skate but very different when we consider what the athletes wear.

In my class, we did this activity over 2 days in small groups with the students looking at one picture one day and the other picture the next day. My group first looked at the figure skaters. Based on the comments you can read below on the chart, I was pleasantly surprised with how much conversation generated around what these skaters were skating. The children were very observant even noticing the boy was wearing a necklace. This initiated some different opinions about boys wearing nexklaces which I could not help but be amused. Getting the children to think about not just what the skaters were wearing but why proved much more challenging but with conversation a few reached the point of understanding the girl might be cold and perhaps was wearing tights and that they wanted to look pretty. It is worth noting none shared anything about the clothes being flexible given how their bodies needed to bend. 

On the 2nd day, my students looked at a picture of hockey players. Children saw a lot of detail and were able to articulate one reason why these skaters wore what they wore. They knew pads and helmets were for safety. They however did not automatically make connections between the figure skaters and the hockey players until I asked. I did this with my small group but when I noticed my para had not done the same, I thought it worth continuing the discussion as a large group to help me assess overall what all the students had come away with as far as their understanding.

By taking the time to generate discussion about the similarities and differences it seemed like the real thinking and understanding began to take shape. Students knew the hockey players were playing a game which required different clothes and protective gear. They started to understand Jerseys represented teams. They were also able to articulate hockey is a dangerous sport. It was harder for them to get past the figure skaters just looking pretty. When I posed the question of whether they thought figure skating dangerous they said no. When I told them the girl gets tossed through the air on top of solid hard ice and asked shy she doesn't wear pads, they came to the realization figure skating is also dangerous but the desire to look pretty outweighed wearing pads. Of course, this may have more to do with limited schema than anything else especially since they were not thinking about how pads would impede a figure skaters performance. 

My biggest AHA for this lesson was to slow down and take time for this lesson to build enduring understanding over the course of days. it was well worth it. While some things were missed, I think taking the time to really compare and contrast helped bridge the understanding for the students and it took time for them to get to this point. When we later went to the task of doing a writing prompt where students drew someone wearing something and had to provide the reason why they were wearing this item, I was able to see what they took away from this lesson. Many students drew themselves wearing some type of uniform and articulated it showed their team or that they wore shorts to stay cool etc. helping me see children had begun to understand clothing is at least worn with a purpose in mind. I also realized these understandings take time and happen over the course of a unit for an ECE student. Each activity or lesson builds on the next. Fairly obvious but an AHA for me nonetheless and something I have established as a goal. I want to use these routines in a variety of ways over time to build understandings as opposed to the same way each time with an expectation the understanding will come immediately. While this was placed close to the end of our unit to assess understanding, I'll try next time to strategically place the Explanation Game during another point in my unit so see what develops.


  1. Leslie,
    I understand how challenging it can be to use the strategies in an authentic manner with your age group. I think that you all did a great job in tying your essential question to the routine. You are not the first person that has noticed that slowing down makes a great difference in the enduring understanding that the students develop. You have piqued my interest in using the Explanation Game.

  2. Wow! You did an in-depth preparation for this lesson. Obviously your students were able to share their thinking and everyone could benefit from the charts. I loved seeing the names of the students who shared the responses. Even our 5th graders love seeing their names behind a response. I also think that when we add the name to the chart more students are motivated to shout out what they think.
    I agree with Kim slowing down and monitoring student understands allows us to adjust our teaching along the way. ‘There is more to life than increasing its speed.’ ~Gandhi
    Life in the classroom can be a bit crazy. It’s good to take a breathe and show the kids that learning doesn’t have to be at the pace seen on “Sesame Street”, but following “Mr. Rogers” pace might just allow more understanding.

  3. yes the slowing down is a real aha! What a difference it made the next time we played the game which I will post next. It was huge to wait and see what came about!

  4. I really like how you went back to the pictures the third day and asked about similarities and differences. When I did it it was less formal and I didn't take a lot of time with it. I also thought your strategy of you and your para doing both pictures may have generated different thinking (or allowed you to probe deeper). I did it so that my para did two groups with one of the pictures and I did two groups with one of the pictures. So I did not get to hear the thinking of the students on one of the pictures, I just got to see the notes afterwards.