Monthly Archives: February 2015

Our Cardboard Arcade Journey

It seems like yesterday I sat down at the table with my grade partners with my crazy idea of building a huge cardboard arcade with our students. In our science structures and testing unit, some of our objectives involved students planning and building a structure. Since I’d watched the Caines arcade video a year before, I’d dreamed of having a giant cardboard arcade.(if you have not watched this video, you must!!!)

Both my grade partners were both hesitant but intrigued with the idea and after looking at all the positives that would come from this – hands on learning, problem solving, creative thinking plus we’d hit so many of our objectives in a real world, interesting way. They both agreed this was a great learning opportunity so we decided to give it a shot.

We started out bringing all the classes together to introduce the challenge. We showed them both Caines arcade videos and then challenged them to build arcade games of their own.

Brainstorming game ideas

Brainstorming game ideas

The students were excited right from the get go. I put some YouTube videos showing different games students across the globe had made to help jumpstart some ideas and many did research on their own. My room became a mess of cardboard, boxes, tubes for over a month. We lost our beautiful cozy corner for over a week so that arcade games that were in progress could have a safe space to stay.

Once we were finished, we skyped with another grade 3 class in our school district who had built cardboard arcade games of their own.  The students had a chance to share their games and ask questions. My students had a chance to talk about how they had tried to meet these aspects of the challenge:

Was their game functional – could it be played?

Was their game sturdy – would it survive over 150 students playing it?

Was their game eye-catching – would it stand out of the 50 different games that would be in the gym?

Arcade Skype

Arcade Skype

Then finally came the big day. After planning, building, revamping, going back to the drawing board more than once for some, their games were ready to be played. All the grade three students brought their arcade games to the gym because we had invited all the primary classes to come down and play our games. The student’s job would be to explain their game to whoever came to play and then help the younger students play their game.

How did it go you wonder? The answer – amazing! Students came and played and had fun. Our students were excited to share their games – for me, the highlight was a boy in my grade partners class who I had up to this point never seen smile, was one of the most animated, happy kids I had seen. He talked to teachers, parents, was excited to share his game. That, for me, was what this day was about.

Playing arcade games

Playing arcade games

My take away from this is that it is totally worth it to take a risk. We had never done this before, there were no guarantees it would work but ultimately our students will remember this experience. During our reflection at the end of today, many students wrote in their agenda “Today was a fun day!” And for me, the journey was worth it for that reason alone.

The Power of a Book

I am a reader.  I love books, I love wandering through bookstores and libraries. I love to go to used book stores, library sales, garage sales…. and yes, even online to Amazon and Indigo. I love reading picture books, chapter books, biographies, suspense and even young adult.  I have read the Hunger Games series, all the Harry Potter books, the Divergent series and so much more.

It should not be surprising that this love of reading is something I try to share with my class.  When I came to my new school – my library of over 250 books came with me.  For me, there is nothing more exciting than sharing a book that I love with my students and getting them hooked on the book too. I could not wait to introduce my new class to their new class library of books that I would be sharing with them this year.

It was a hard thing for me to swallow when one of my boys on the second day of school came up to me and said point blank, “I don’t really like reading.  I’m not that good at it.”  I honestly didn’t know what to say at first.  This was only the second day of school – I had just introduced this amazing library of books I had, the rest of the kids were going crazy looking at all the books and he came up with this statement.  And he was serious, he was not going to pick a book because reading was just something in his mind that he was not good at, so why bother. I explained to him that I thought it was sad that he thought this way and that maybe perhaps reading was something he wasn’t good at yet.  So I made this my challenge that I was going to try and reboot this vision he had of himself as a reader.

I did my best to try to find ways to reach him because I firmly believed that he had just not found a book that spoke to him yet, that excited him.  I went to the bookstore and bought a bunch of high interest, easier vocabulary books.  I went to the library and took out a ton of books on cd and got a cd player for him to listen to books on.  I downloaded a bunch of Ipad apps that had books that could be read to him and he could listen to. And for the first few weeks of school, he and I read together a LOT.  He was not confident reading a book independently, he wanted me by his side to assure him that yes those were the right words he was reading.  We talked about all the different strategies he could use to help him read books.

I would like to say things magically changed in those first few weeks, but it didn’t.  It was a long road with some bumps along the way, where he would lose confidence and we would again read together and I would praise him on how he was coming along in his journey as a reader. (I have spoken in an earlier post about the SLA’s and how they negatively affected some of my students’ views of themselves – he was one of these students.  SLA’s almost put us almost back to square one.)

So, today it was day two of indoor recesses.  My kids know that indoor recess means the maker bins can come out and they can create away.  As long as they work together, share and get along – the maker bins are there for them and they LOVE them. It was a huge surprise to come back early and find my student, the one who said he was not a reader, sitting in the cozy corner with a book.  I actually commented on how I was surprised he was spending his free time reading a book and not doing maker bins, which is something I know he usually loves. He replied to me very matter of factly, “I just wanted to read my book Mrs. D. You know Captain Underpants is a really funny guy.”  It took all within me not to jump up and hug him, so instead I smiled and agreed.  However inside I was doing the Snoopy dance because he had seen what I knew, that books are so much fun to read and he was a reader after all.

reading

Today My Kids Got to Play…. and We Loved It

A few weeks back I heard the rumblings of something new and interesting on twitter – Global School Play Day. #GSPD  I checked it out and found out a group of educators I follow and greatly admire on twitter came up with the idea of having a day of unstructured play for our students.  If you want to know more about it, I strongly suggest you check out the Global School Play Day site (www.globalschoolplayday.com) to find out more about this amazing event.

So after learning more about it, I knew I was in.  The challenge was for me to step up to the plate and bring it to my colleagues at my school.  I discussed things with my principal, got her on board (which I knew I would because I have an amazing admin. this year) and explained how I wanted to present this idea to the staff.  At the next staff meeting, I brought up global school play day, explained the premise behind it and why I thought it was such an important thing to be part of.  Now, you need to realize the interesting part of this whole scenario.  I am a new member on staff, I have only been at this school since September and have become widely known as the “tech” person on staff.  I am always going around telling staff about new and interesting tech tools they can use to share their students learning or to reinforce student learning.  So to have the so-called techie on staff now talk to them all about turning the tech off and just having our students play – well the irony was not lost on me.   But they were willing to try it out and give it a chance, so I signed up the whole school – all 397 students to participate in our first ever global school play day.

How did it go you wonder?  Well, to tell the truth, its hard to come up with the words about how happy I am with how it went.  While we did not do a whole day of play, the staff designated the last hour of school would be our time to get together in grade groupings or buddy classes, however we wanted and just play.  I decided my little gang of grade 3’s would get together with their grade 6 buddies during this time.  It was kind interesting, because the grade 6 teacher told me how the 6’s were very unsure how this was all going to go because where were the ipads, the DS’s, the electronic toys. Finding out that they were going “old school” in their terms was something some of them were not so sure they were going to enjoy.  Boy, it was nice to prove them wrong.

I had boys playing lego with their buddies, I had kids playing snakes and ladders, checkers, I had girls playing playdough. I had groups of grade 6 boys trying to build marble runs, make a Knex roller coaster do a loop. I had basically laid everything I had out on counters and tables and said enjoy.  Not one group caused problems, not one group were fighting or arguing, everywhere I looked I saw kids working together, creating things, playing and just having fun.

I then went and snuck into the other classes to see how things were going.  I saw grade 4 classes playing with grade 1, grade 5 classes playing games in the hallway with grade 2.  Everyone was smiling, laughing and just playing.  It was so great to see.  Time and again the teachers thanked me for such a great idea, they said their kids were having so much fun and how happy they were that we had decided to give this a try.

I can’t thank enough those that came up with this wonderful idea.  I especially thank my PLN for yet again showing me how twitter can expose me to a new idea that ends up bringing a valuable teaching opportunity to my students.  I honestly can’t wait for next year – who knows, we might end up doing this again for even longer!!

Building with his grade 6 buddy.

Building with his grade 6 buddy.

Creating with playdough

Creating with playdough