Keeping My Assumptions in Check
In my STEAMspace at Echo Horizon school, we support empowered innovative learners by asking students to make many of their own decisions, even with our youngest makers. When I started teaching my youngest students I had to keep my own assumptions in check and make sure I was giving them every opportunity to have ideas and bring them to reality.
I want my kids to know that they can trust themselves and communicate their needs and ideas with their classmates. I want them to know that I can help them, and they may find that they can help their classmates.
So I work to build great lessons that begin and end in their minds. I do this through building, making, and reading them stories. We talk about how to be creative, and we practice helping each other out.
My lessons are as open-ended as possible. With my littlest makers, I like to focus on one need and see how many different ideas they can have to address the need. When help them understand creativity by making it useful to them. What I am really pushing for it to get them to run through the creative process as many times as possible. I want so many ideas and so many revisions. I often say true creativity starts at 50- don’t make one of something, try to make 50. For my youngest makers (PreK or TK), we try to make at least 2 versions of something in a class period.
Depending on the day, I have about 45 minutes with my PreK students, so I have to use my time well. This is an outline of how I get them to their own ideas:
1. Tour the Materials
As they enter the room I have them walk the resource tables and notice what materials I have out. (Masking Tape, Ping Pong balls, Strawberry Baskets, thin Foam Sheets, Construction Paper, Craft Sticks are a standard mix) I carry materials over from week to week as their building fluency develops.
2. View the Prompt
I produce “Puppet Storytime” as a building prompt for this class. I read a story, with my puppet, and write a very brief “frame” for the story to get the kids thinking. I am really lucky to have a great librarian to work with. She helps me find great picture books that help kids ask questions and find solutions. The most recent Puppet Storytime book is “Frankie by Mary Sullivan. I found her on twitter and she granted me permission to use the book and share my work with all of you.
3. Talk about the Need
After we watch the video we talk about it as a class. I want to make sure that everyone has a clear understanding of the need presented in the story. If we need to we can re-watch it. Sometimes I rewind to a specific page and we talk through it. This is a group discussion and we learn and follow talking and listening protocols. This also helps build overall comprehension and gives the kids more time and fuel for ideas.
4. Share First Ideas
First ideas can be really helpful to hear from the teacher as well as the class. I like to hear 2 or 3 first ideas before I let them begin building. Later in the year, we will draw plans at this point.
5. Get Building
Once they have an idea I ask them to “Walk to a resource table, get the pieces you need and move to an open area on the floor to build. Our room has very few chairs right now, and only 5 tables, The setup leaves me a bunch of open floor space and my PreK students are usually very happy to work on the floor.
As they finish their builds we test them out and think together about how to improve them. This is direct teacher to student conference and feedback. It happens really quickly 20 seconds to a minute and a half. These are also the best points to record the conversation because you get the student explaining the device and assessing their own work. This is a foundation for a habit of reflection and revision. It is important to develop this habit with the teacher. This short conversation is the most important thing I am doing during class time.
7. Share Creations at the End
I want my students to value each other’s ideas, so we share our work with each other. As we share out work we help students respond appropriately and stay interested.
They leave class, and I usually post the Puppet Storytime video I created to our class social media, and Seesaw journals as well as the student’s individual work. While recording the kids does take some time and logistics, that is the beginning of their public speaking training. It is a great, authentic oral language development activity because they created this thing and really they are the only ones that can make sense of it for us.
I invite you to use the videos I create with your class. I will share all the ones I get permission for publicly. Also, if you want me to create a Puppet Storytime of a book that you use in class let me know.