This was on my board today as my students were working on their LittleBits Challenge:
“Make sure they struggle”. How often do you intentionally build struggle into your program? I know I spend a lot of time thinking about how to make things easier, more streamlined, fewer steps, more cohesive. I don’t often think about making time for struggle. But if we don’t practice what to do when we experience the struggle, how will we ever learn what to do when it greets us?
The second part of this is even more challenging – for me anyway. “How can I help them to learn…” is a phrase I use over “I want them to ….”. It’s not about me. It is about believing that all kids have the capacity to learn. It’s not (yet) even about the “what” they are learning – let’s focus on that how: How do I listen to others? How do I manage my impulses? How can I express myself more clearly? How can I get the positive attention I crave?
My biggest takeaway from this one?
I watched two TED talks last weekend, both on the theme of “Play”.
They both were really interesting, but the second one really got me thinking, especially when Peter Grey spoke of all the skills that children can learn through play:
I am running an after school activity for G1-5 students. It is called “Invitation to Create” and it is based around the ideas from my book and my belief that kids need time to just explore different materials and processes without necessarily working toward a “product”. On Monday afternoon, with the videos fresh in my mind, I was preparing for my activity. I was planning on reading “The Dot” (as a throwback to Dot Day the previous week) and having the kids put together sculptures in the style of Louise Nevelson. I was choosing the parts, picking the paint color, sorting the objects, plugging in the hot glue – and in my head planning out so much of how I would be directing and managing this mixed age group of children. Every time I walked from my Design Pit to the MakerSpace, I passed this table outside the Head of Primary’s office:
On the third trip from the Makerspace, I stopped. I popped my head in and asked Marina if I could borrow her wood cookies and stones and I set these, the large wooden dots, and some corks out on the table. I read the book, showed the kids the materials, and gave them the option of cutting the corks into “cookies” as well.
Some spent a lot of time just sawing away at the corks. Most were beyond happy to just take the stones and wood cookies and play. The large wooden ‘dots’ gave their work focus and they just stood or sat and played for the hour we were together. There were collaborations, iterations, and expansions on the original brief with students using more dots to make stacked dots. There was conversation, cooperation, amazing ideas, and many “oohs and ahhhs” at others’ designs.
It was playful. It was relaxing. And it was fun.
I learned that when I get out of the way, and let kids play, it can be a massive learning experience for everyone – myself included.
How do you create opportunities for play in your day?
Today I joined our Middle School teachers for a Responsive Classroom all-day workshop. We have been introduced to RC through faculty meetings but it was great to spend the whole day learning ‘from the ground up’ as this is something our Primary School has been working on prior to my starting at NIS.
The day offered a lot to think about:
With so much going on, the biggest takeaway for me was to be genuine and proactive in my dealings with kids. I really like that RC gives you permission to “go slow to go fast later” in the way you take the time to set up a strong social/emotional foundation on which to build academic growth and understanding.
I know I need to be more intentional and more specific in my language and continue to look for ways to have kids actively involved in their learning.
Most of all, I really appreciated the time to reflect on how things have started this year and how I hope to improve them as we move on. Here’s one idea that was sparked in our faculty meeting yesterday, percolated in my mind during the workshop and was refined in a 2 minute cafeteria conversation with our Head of Primary, Marina Gijzen:
During a discussion about regulatory zones and helping kids who have trouble self-regulating, there was a “blue zone” with the symbol for a Rest Area:
I have taken this idea and have prepared a rest area sign for my room. I modeled to one class how they might choose to come here to take a breath, re-focus, or simply rest. Students were intrigued. As well as choosing to go there, I also said I may invite some students to hang out there if I felt they needed a rest. I was happy with this idea as a proactive way of addressing potentially problematic behaviors. Marina then suggested that when introducing this area to the classes I teach, I let the kids know that “Today, everyone will get a chance to use the Rest Area. When I come by and tap you on the shoulder, just head over there and stay long enough for you to feel what it is like to be there.” The idea of Responsive Classroom is that redirection is not punitive and discipline and punishment are not synonymous. There is also an expectation of interactive modeling so students will know what the expectations look and feel like.
I am looking forward to engaging with students in a genuinely proactive way in our coming classes.