Monday, November 30, 2009

assessment, etc.

We enjoyed a wonderful performance last Wednesday--everything went smoothly and those who remembered our performances in past years especially enjoyed this new musical spin. I think the primates felt really proud of themselves--and they had a lot of fun too!

More people are reading the blog--THANK YOU! This is wonderful incentive for me to write, and I hope it will give parents in my class a different perspective on their primate's learning experience in my room. Additionally, I hope following the posts will develop deeper understanding of the translation of MI theory to practice for all readers--and even myself!

My student teacher is taking over this week, which gives me some time to catch up on documentation that has piled up, and do some much needed, thoughtful planning for the weaving project. I will meet with my documentation team on Friday so I want to be prepared. Another team is working on a video of MI at our school in the upper grades. They are using a script, which I think is a wonderful idea. I'd like to develop something that outlines the major points of what I'm trying to do with this project, where I expect MI to be visible, and how I hope to accomplish these goals.

Today, though, I am thinking about assessment and where all this data-craziness is bringing us. I have always held the belief that there is a stark difference between "high standards" and "standardization". Holding primates to high standards requires individualizing learning, encouraging personal responsibility for learning, and illustrating growth and effort through actual primate work. Standardizing, (ie, everyone taking the same test on the same information, regurgitating select facts, comparing individuals, and setting arbitrary benchmarks--(and I say arbitrary because most benchmarks do not consider developmental expectations in a broad enough range), is the lowest form of expectation. Reducing a primate's growth, effort, and potential to a number or letter is lowering standards. In our current system of "holding schools accountable", there HAS to be a bottom group. If everyone was scoring proficient and/or advanced on the MCAS, we wouldn't consider it a valid form of assessment. If everyone's passing, it's too easy. Someone has to fail in order to show that others are succeeding. Success for all is not a viable option.

So what kind of data would better suit high standards?

Work that illustrates growth over time. Work that shows effort to solve problems and create products. The processes primates utilize as they solve problems and create products. We need to stop spending money on "assessment programs" and tests, and put that money into smaller class sizes, resources, supplies, programs from the community (field experiences, visiting professionals, etc), and study what primates are producing over a period of time. Set benchmarks for individuals and for learning groups--the work they do together as a group is as powerful as their individual achievements--based on individual strengths and challenges. Learning is not a competition, because in a competition someone ALWAYS loses. We shouldn't be willing to allow any learners to lose, and we most certainly should not promote assessment methods that necessitate failures.

In an earlier post about entry points, I highlighted a project on the poem, "The Spider and the Fly", where students made retelling sets based on the characters, and were asked to retell the story. The activities offered multiple entry points for primates to connect to the story. As primates used their sets, I assessed how they retold the story--did they use vocabulary from the poem? did they follow chronological order? did they use intonation? did they add something of their own? what did they leave out? Retelling is an important skill for beginning readers because it shows comprehension of the text. A traditional intelligence view would be satisfied with the teacher reading the story and asking primates to write a retell. Yes, that would show comprehension, but only for some primates. While reading and writing are intertwined skills, one's acquisition of these skills is not always at the same pace. In other words, primates can possess strong comprehension skills long before they develop writing skills. Adding the task of writing dilutes a teacher's ability to assess comprehension because the primate may shift his/her focus from comprehension to the task of putting letters together to make words, words together to make sentences, even just forming letters appropriately. Allowing primates to perform the actual skill I am assessing offers an undiluted look at their ability to perform that skill.

This type of data is far more difficult and time-consuming to collect and analyze than just collecting writing samples, grading them, and incorporating that data into a graph to analyze. However, the latter offers false information, while the former--based on the primates' abilities to actually "do" what I am hoping to assess......well, need I really say more?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


We had our final rehearsal today...Stew Day is tomorrow. We are having a timing issue with the music, but I have to trust it will all work out in the end. Truly, though, as I watched them perform today, I paid less attention to the "show" and reflected on the learning experience. My thoughts:

The primates love the song. It's not the kind of tune that makes you want to dance, like "Fire Burning on the Dance Floor". There are no funny or repetitive lyrics. Although the musical patterns do repeat--a more musically informed person could better describe it, I am sure, but a teacher doesn't HAVE to be a music expert to use music as a learning tool--and I mean beyond singing songs about adverbs! I'm not exactly sure what they love about it or why, but I do know they are engaged and it is the top requested clean up song as of late.

There's something about the music that strikes a linguistic cord with me, which is why we are here doing this performance! At a recent birthday party, my son received a cd of the birthday girl's favorite songs (such a cute idea!). Superman is on the cd and he requests it repeatedly in the car, so on the 50th or 60th time listening to it....a story in pictures began popping in my head...primates dancing around like autumn leaves, kids and turkeys dancing around, Farmer MackNuggett miming chopping turkey heads off, and a big finish. This is why I felt it was important to read the story with the primates, listen to the song, and exercise our imaginations in illustrating the story to the music. Music may provide the "hook" in connecting to the story for some primates.

Does the performance illustrate the story? To some degree...definitely the mainpoints: kids go on a field trip to the farm where they meet Mack Nuggett and the turkeys. They dance and play, are horrified by Mack Nuggett's speech about chopping their heads (btw, our Mack Nuggett does a fantastic job telling the grim tale w/o words), and end happily in friendship. I wish I had asked the primates to do a picture/writing retell today, but just no time. This would have served as a written assessment and opened another point of entry. maybe next year...

Primates are working together in pairs and as a whole group--successfully. They are helping each other, offering suggestions, looking to each other for guidance--these practices are important areas to gain experience because we ask primates to work together in various academic settings--and as adults in the real world, teamwork is critical. Practicing these skills in a fun experience may influence how well they can transfer those skills in another context.

The masks are a big hit. The props too. The primates have ownership in this performance via creating props and costumes, as well as sharing their acting ideas.

Working in a group, contributing in different ways, experiencing a story through musical, narrative, bodily-kinesthetic, and artistic entry points....this is MI. Again, it's not about creating a lesson that targets 8 or so intelligences. My observations of students as they work--and believe me, putting together a performance is work!!!--combined with my reflections on the learning experience with an MI lens is where you can distinguish this from a traditional intelligence view. Assessment, in this case, is informal, observational. Jotting notes about primates that stand out in some way, or notations on how each primate approached the problems and created the product would be more formal assessment.

Teachers have to make choices though, because you can't possibly capture every learning moment. There are always too many happening simultaneously in different areas--or at least there should be! So I chose to use this as an opportunity for informal assessment of the group--and my assessment is that they work very well together. A few stand out as leaders, others who struggle, but this is all information I file in my mind for now. Our future lessons will require me to use that "data", ie when forming small groups--creating a balance of leaders and strugglers, when planning another group project or performance--I can push this group further because they share a collective strength in teamwork.

I highlighted some key words: engaged, linguistic, imaginations, illustrate, working together, transfer, ownership, performance. So here is my evaluation of this learning experience:

I engaged my primates. They used their imaginations to illustrate a narrative text while working together. I believe they will transfer these skills into other areas of learning, and I will need to pay close attention to assess success in this area. My primates own this performance of their understanding as a group.

If you catch the performance tomorrow, I hope you will see the primates having fun, following a plan, telling a story--though it may not be totally clear unless you know the story, and working together. If you have read this post prior, maybe you'll see something else too. What may appear to be a cute, fun performance is also a learning experience that involves the use of various combinations of multiple intelligences.

Wish us luck!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

solving problems, creating products

Our performance is coming together--we have costumes and props and we've run through the show four times....3 days to go! The primates are so excited, although there is definitely a bug going around and I am getting nervous about everyone staying healthy!

I introduced kumihimi (it's a Japanese braiding technique) to the group yesterday. Primates worked in partners--one observing and the other practicing. This is a technique one of the primate parents taught me afterschool a few weeks ago. The mom--an art teacher--also donated supplies, and our yarn basket is filled with other yarn donations from parents. "It takes a village"--so true!

I met with my documentation team this week and they were soooooooooo helpful--collaboration is critical, with parents and other teachers! We all experimented with the looms and at the end of the meeting I walked away with:
- a fantastic idea for creating a visual model for the kumihimi (and got a good start on it!)
- one teacher grabbed her drill and we made weaving "needles" for fabric with paint sticks and sandpaper
- two teachers donated yards and yards of fabric for weaving on the big loom
- through trial and error (is there a better way to learn???), we were able to troubleshoot some issues on the big loom and this will be invaluable when I begin working with the primates
- I have a plan to make a large loom because the one I ordered is disappointingly small--thanks to the efforts of one of my teammates
- another teacher used her fancy iphone to search the web for much needed instructions for weaving on a big loom

It's amazing to plan a project like this with the support of a group. The exchange of ideas amongst a mixed group--teachers with different areas of expertise and experience, is powerful. I hope they're having as much fun as I am!

Shifting topics....

I have a bulletin board in the hall covered with the primates' photos. Attached to each face (mouths open as if speaking), is a white, laminated speech bubble. Each session I will ask the primates a question, record their answers, and post each primate answer in their respective speech bubble. It is quite a visual display, and I have the benefit of a great view from my chair on the rug, so can I watch people (adults and students) stop and read the board. Last year the questions were related to the theme we were exploring. This year, I am framing the questions around MI....remember that intro to MI lesson I did in Sept? (half the class had no idea what I was talking about when I asked, What is MI?--even though I felt I had done so much with it the previous year--WITH THOSE SAME PRIMATES!!!!)

Anyways, in the spirit of our big idea for the year, "Don't waste your mistakes!", I am making a point to spend more time exploring multiple intelligences theory with the primates. I defined MI as: creating problems and solving problems that matter to society. Gardner's definition is something to the effect: the bio-psychological potential to solve problems and create products that matter to society. So I'm making an effort to stick to the basics while maintaining direct derivation from Gardner. Session One's question was, "How do you solve problems?" and the answers were very interesting. We had just begun using "the Peace Path" which is a system we use for building communication skills and conflict resolution (more on that another time), so many answers came from that interpretation of the question, ie "talk it out", "use words", use the peace path", " think about it". Other answers involved math, fighting with sibling, trying, experimenting. ALL great answers, and very revealing in terms of how primates are thinking--some very concrete, some more critical. This session the question is "What kind of products do you like to create?" . Diverse and revealing answers again--I will post a few tomorrow.

One of the best ways to assess a primate is just asking a question and thinking about what that answer reveals. Almost time for Survivor, gotta run!

Monday, November 16, 2009

6 days to showtime

Today we held our first rehearsal for "Twas the night before Thanksgiving". We began with a Capt Carl-style warm-up and divided into groups. I explained that I had a "map" in my mind as to how the performance goes to the music. After reading the story again, I described my "mind map", and next we tried it out.

Along the way, I asked kids to make up their own ways to convey certain parts of the story, i.e. the leaves floating and whirling through the air, the kids and turkeys reacting to Farmer Mack Nuggett's speech about chopped up turkeys for Thanksgiving feasts, etc. Performances are so chaotic at this stage--ugh, it's painful at times, but I know if we stick it out and really get organized, it will be great. Tomorrow I will work with small groups on their individual parts, while the others work on props and costumes.

I will introduce a new weaving technique for after snack choice--we're diving into the yarn basket! Here we go!

MI at home

These images may look a little allow me to explain....

The first is a drawing my 5 year old did...just to give you some background, he is obsessed with everything reptile/insect/dinosaur/sea creature (both modern and prehistoric), and he loves to draw. As I looked at this drawing, I noticed his attempt at using a logical/mathematical pattern of lines on one creature--3 horizontal, 2 vertical, and on and on. When he explains his drawings, each creature has a different name, eats meat and/or plants, lives on water and/or land, and usually is interacting with the others in some way. He uses lots of details that classify the creatures in a naturalist intelligence way. He used the whole space, which shows purpose is his design and where he chose to place each creature. There is also evidence of interpersonal (or inter-creature) intelligence in his dialogue about how they interact.

This second picture, which I am sure you can clearly see is a bat, is something he constructed using black yarn, some Halloween decorations (that I thought were packed away!), and our bureau. I almost dropped on the floor when I saw it because of the symmetry he used and the spatial relationships he recognized in utilizing the drawer handles to create the image of a bat. There is balance, composition, and design in this creation.

Now, I am a mom, his mom, so of course everything he creates is a masterpiece in my eyes, however, observing these two creations with an MI lens, I am able to see his intelligences at work--several in combination--to create these products. Instead of only seeing a nice drawing and a holy mess on my bureau (and believe me, I did cringe at the sight and thought "one more mess to clean up!"), I also used this opportunity to think about how these products (including his descriptions) were examples of how he is using his intelligences.

MI is not something that just happens in a classroom--it is a complete shift of how you view the world. I read all Gardner's books, (some twice!), and other books on intelligence and MI, but it has been through my practice of reflection and discussion with colleagues and others that my viewpoint shifted--and continues to shift. I notice MI everywhere--in personal interactions, movies, books, tv. One example I'd like to share is the show Survivor. I am a big fan, and I think a huge part of the reason I love the show is because it is "so MI". Basically, groups of strangers have to live together on an island and compete against each other in different "challenges". There is the financial incentive of winning a million dollars, however, if you put that aside....there is a huge interpersonal piece (how each member interacts/communicates/socializes with others)....and intrapersonal (because it requires a tremendous amount of personal strength to survive the physical and mental obstacles along the way)....and then, there are the challenges, which require not only physical stamina and agility, but also include puzzles, flexible and creative thinking, coordination, and the ability to work as a team to solve problems and create products. Physical strength never dominates as a key to success. In the end, the winner is chosen by other contestants--all of whom were voted off by each other. For the most part, social connections, strategizing, and general performance determines the winner. Check it out sometime--and try on the MI lens...Thursday nights, 8pm, channel 4. And also take a second look at something you or your child has created....but use your "MI eyes"!

Friday, November 13, 2009

painting primates

I am realizing I have to have my camera ready at all times so I can take pictures to post with the text. I am writing more frequently--(back to my original goal)--but it took some time to get here. However, I've hit the point where I will let laundry pile up and dirty dished sit in the sink because I just HAVE to get these thoughts down. I love writing (always have--journals, poems, letters, lists, you name it!)---but at this point in my life, with work/family/exhaustion/ get the greatest obstacle is having a clear mind combined with a smidge of energy and settling down to do it! Now I'm motivated, and that is critical for every learner, every teacher.

Sooooooooo, my original post idea is about painting in my classroom. My primates paint everyday. Our easel is located at the door to the classroom and always has fresh paper. I train the primates from day one to carefully fill an old yogurt container with just enough water, and where to find the paintbrushes. Painting is an independent choice for after snack time (2ce a day). Primates are responsible for set up and clean up (rinsing containers and brushes in the sink and leaving them to dry on the rack, and replacing fresh paper)--and they do it! I love to see their creativity develop and particular styles emerge. By mid year I can look at a random painting left on the floor with no name and tell you who the artist is--based on style, composition, and/or subject matter. It's a wonderful way to know someone--through their art.

A few weeks ago I displayed a turban squash, which is truly an astoundingly fantastic natural creation. It sits on top of the easels on a makeshift cardboard shelf. I waited to see if anyone would paint it on their own, and after a few days, no one had. So at snack time, as the painters prepared their spots, I introduced the turban squash and suggested using it as subject matter for paintings that day. The wall behind the easel is now filled with beautiful, vibrant, watercolor interpretations of the turban squash. I think I need to take a moment next week, perhaps while we are lining up for something, to address the display with the class and get their impressions.

I used to do a "painting of the session" where each session I chose a painting that represented an idea we were exploring via curriculum. As a group, we analyzed the painting using entry point questions developed by Project MUSE (a research project at Harvard's Project Zero). Then primates would create their own representation of the painting using a variety of media--sometimes paint, chalk on paper, sculpture, sketching, poetry, etc. I saved each one for a mini "Paintings of the Sessions" portfolio to be kept inside their larger portfolios. I loved those activities. Maybe I'll start that again next year...too much on the plate right now.

I have to mention that one of my primates just experienced a devastating loss, and this, of course, affects our whole class community--parents, primates, the whole school. This week has been time to pause and react. There is a long road of healing ahead, however I think as we get back on track next week, our upcoming busy list of things to do will provide a good distraction.

Life is precious......

entry point

As I mentioned earlier, I have baskets of yarn, fabric, and cardboard/plastic/wood looms all over the classroom. Perhaps the most spectacular is this huge "Moses" basket (it was a gift from my team when I had my first son, and both of my primates used it as babies), which is filled with brightly colored cones of yarn--I'll post a pic next week. Our art teacher stopped by my room the other day and commented that she'd like to just dive into that basket it looked so enticing.

I repeated this story to my husband--also an art teacher but a different district--and his response was, "That's an entry point." (meaning the basket display)

I thought about this--and I think he's right. Just having this attractive visual display of things one just can't help but stick their hands in and explore is providing an experiential entry point. One has to be curious first--before any learning can take place.

Teachers do stuff like that all the time--the difference between a traditional teacher and an MI teacher is recognizing that basket as an opportunity for teaching and learning.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

fairy houses

Photos from fairy house building described in an earlier post...

"doing MI?" such thing

Recently I had a conversation with a colleague about people using the term, "doing MI", as in, "She doesn't really do MI" or "Who is doing MI?"

A teacher does not "do" MI--MI is a theory about how the brain solves problems and creates products. The primates bring their intelligences into the classroom, and the teacher provides opportunities for the primates to use their intelligences in unique combinations to solve problems and create products.

This blog, including the statement above, is the way I have interpreted Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, and the way I approach teaching and learning is heavily influenced by this different perspective on intelligence. It has taken years of trial and error, experimenting, and most importantly reflecting on my teaching practice to feel ready to share what I do as an example of effective translation of theory to practice.

So I don't believe it's appropriate to think of MI as something a teacher "does" or "doesn't" do, it's a shift in how a teacher perceives her students, how the classroom environment is created and maintained, and how s/he thinks about teaching and learning. All of this requires ALOT of thinking about teaching and learning, because MI necessitates a paradigm shift and everything changes from that point.

I'd like to also share another conversation w/ a different colleague.....this time about whether or not project work was the only way to incorporate MI theory into teaching and learning practice. I wasn't sure of where I stood on that issue at the time...but after some reflection, I feel confident in saying that while project work lends itself well to providing multiple entry points and child-directed learning, it isn't the ONLY way to transfer theory to practice...for example............

I just began working with a reading group of 19 primates--it's a big group, but I have a wonderful student teacher, so it's working well. They, much like my own class, requested Tony Terlizzi's The Spider and the Fly which was not a book I planned to read w/this group, but the cover to that book is just so enticing to these guys! We read it twice on consecutive days after completing the work I had planned for the group. Today we read it again and I split the group into 3 smaller groups, which rotated at 3 different centers:
- Make: make a spider and a fly using black & gray construction paper, scissors, pencils, glue, and google eyes
- Marble: marble paint white webs onto black construction paper prepared by folding one edge and stapling it to form a pocket on the back
- Play: primates retell the story of the spider and the fly to primate is the spider, one the fly, and the rest form the web...roles rotate so primates get a chance to play each part

After three center rotations, we left our marble paintings to dry, and gathered on the rug. I used my own marble painting and spider and fly to retell the story to the group in my own words. I included text directly from the book, intonation, followed the same pattern of the story (spider beckons to fly, fly refuses over and over until the spider uses flattering words to finally entice the fly and then eats it). Then pairs of primates took turns retelling. They will each take their own retelling set home when it dries--using the back pocket on the web to hold their paper spider and fly.

This one day exploration of a story (really a poem), provided multiple entry points to learning: foundational, logical, aesthetic, narrative. Thus providing opportunities for students to use unique combinations of intelligences to understand story structure and make connections to the text.

MI is all about perspective. More on how and what I assess through this learning experience later....

Monday, November 9, 2009

monday, monday

We learned a new Native American game today, focusing on awareness--clearly something we need to work on as a group! We also read a NA legend about the importance of awareness.

I have our class loom and many, many skeins of yarn all over the room, which has captured interest and curiosity amongst the primates. Today I spent a lot of time preparing: making reflection journals, sorting and displaying yarn and the different looms we will use.

We also chose parts for the Stew day performance and listened to the song for ideas. We are very excited! I made the leaf costumes over the weekend and purchased supplies for masks. One of the primates suggested making masks for the turkeys and the leaves as costumes. Now that we know our parts we'll begin developing the performance (Captain Carl style), and also costumes and props.

Tonight I am reading through some of the literature I've been collecting for months, and developing my next steps with a long term view in mind. We will continue paper weaving, the beat walk, and hopefully try the awareness game again tomorrow.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

blogger learning

I love my newest post--hooray--I added pics successfully! But the layout is a bit off--still learning the ins and outs of posting and I can't figure out how to go back and fix the text next to the pics.....advice welcome! So for now, I apologize for the choppy text next to the pics!

let the weaving begin!

We added a weaving choice this week for after snack, and while many primates checked it out the first day, it sat sadly on the shelf the rest of the week. On Thursday afternoon, I distributed paper to everyone, and we folded, cut funky lines, and weaved magazine strips together. Everyone was engaged, and I observed several interesting things:
* what I noticed....
- how it impacts my teaching....

* some primates really struggled with the cutting
- time to work on fine motor coordination!
* most primates were able to follow the "over and under, under and over" pattern
- good sign for primates being able to move on to yarn, which will be more challenging!
* some primates were able to create a visual pattern using the magazine strips
- I've got some strong fine motor-spatial-logical intelligence combinations in the group.
* the primates are interested and willing to take risks as weavers
- allowing time to "mess about" is critical in terms of developing the confidence to take a risk with something new, and will make the transition to a greater challenge smoother!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

solving problems

Day 2 of "walking the beat"....much better concentration from the whole group, although we are still working on complete focus and not yelling at eachother to "watch out" or "move!" every two seconds. The primates (of course) are anxious to be the drummer, but that only comes after we master the beat walk. I think this activity is a good exercise in focus and concentration, which are essential skills in any area of learning.

We added paper weaving as an after snack choice today, and to my surprise, it was a big hit with the boys. They are weaving strips of Bon Appetit magazine into construction paper, and this produces an interesting pattern, but as I watched them weave, I realized it is too difficult to plan clear patterns using the magazine strips. So the focus of this activity using these materials will be on the skill of weaving, and once we've messed about with that enough, I'll switch to solid color strips so we can focus on color patterns. Perhaps then we'll switch back to the magazines, or at least add them as a choice with the stipulation that they must use them carefully and thoughtfully to create a clear pattern. That will definitely require strong spatial and logical skills.

Our fairy houses survived the night, and walking past them this morning, I was truly impressed. One primate led a small group in making a "fairy forest"--which looks fantastic. He wanted to write the words "fairy forest" on a shell so people would know what it is, but we are sticking to the fairy house rule of using only natural materials. I suggested using pine needles, but wondered what we could use to stick them to the shell. Sap was suggested by another primate, but we were unsure of where to get sap. Today I brought in pine needles and will bring in some natural beeswax I got from a beekeeper so we can try that as an adhesive. The forest primate is a strong reader, very linguistic, so it's interesting that he felt so strongly about adding words to his creation.

We also discussed the meaning of "traditions", and I introduced an annual tradition in my class. Every year we have a huge, whole school celebration called "Stew Day" on the day before Thanksgiving. It is my favorite day of the school year--all about community. My class has performed the story, "Twas the night before Thanksgiving" for the past 3 years, and this year I told them I'd like to act out the story to a song...the theme from Superman--really a great piece of music. I've been thinking about it for awhile and have some ideas of how we will map out the story to match the music, but the primates will choose their parts, create props, and we will collaborate on the dance. We've done some work in the past with Captain Carl, the dance man, and I hope the primates will use what they learned from him--I know I will--as we create this piece together. They are excited about the song (I played it for them), and creating the props. We'll read the story every day for the rest of the week and collect ideas on chart paper. Monday afternoon we will choose parts and begin rehearsing. We discussed how traditions evolve over time as they are passed on to different groups. Real world learning at it's best!

Monday, November 2, 2009

MI project, take one

OK, it's been waaaaaaay too long, but I'm back.

Last I wrote I had introduced Mi to the students, and now I continue to periodically refer to the visual aid in the classroom. We are beginning a big project this week that will continue for at least the next two sessions--taking us into Feb. I am working with a team of colleagues to document this project via video, journal reflections, photos, maybe even reflections from this blog, in an attempt to "show" what MI looks like in the classroom.

The project is "Weaving Traditions in our Lives" and is based on a grant I received to purchase looms, yarn, related books, etc. Our year long arc is "Time, Traditions, and Changes", and I am beginning this project under the theme traditions. But let me back track a bit first....

Last session the primates were obsessed with the book: "The Spider and the Fly"--an old poem illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi. The illustrations are all black and white and are beautiful--a Caldecott winner, I believe. So we read the poem several times, and I found a cool activity to extend the story. I played a piece of music--different from the one recommended in the lesson, but this piece worked well...Mozart's Den Vienialla Finestra, which is about 2minutes long. One student was designated the spider, one the fly, and the rest were each a piece of the web. We did this in two groups. Each group acted out the story of the spider "spinning" the web--the web kids formed a web, and the fly kid was enticed by the spider and finally captured. I gave each group 5 minutes to plan, and I have to say...I was blown away by the little skits they created. This activity required teamwork on the fly, which is so difficult at this age, and the ability to tell a story without words, and they all did it--beautifully. I recorded the activity in photos, as the video camera was not available, but I may do it again because it was so great.

Realizing that spiders are actually nature's great weavers, I feel this was a good intro. I had planned to have the primates make webs using yarn and some round looms, but I just couldn't make it work, so instead we did the old marble painting on a piece of black paper and attached plastic spiders and flies.

Today we began session two, and I started the day with a Native American "full moon story" for the 12th moon--which is November. We also did a drumming activity where the primates have to walk around me (with the drum) in a circle to the beat I am playing. The beat is slow and soft, so they have to listen and coordinate. It's an activity from a Native American awareness game I read about--somewhat modified. The primates had much trouble listening and moving to the beat, and also moving together in a circle without landing on top of me in the middle. We will do this every morning at circle time this week, and hopefully improve our coordination & listening. Next week I'd like to let a primate take over the drum beat. We'll see how it goes.....

Tomorrow I will add a paper weaving choice to after snack choice time, which is twice daily. This will allow primates to begin messing about with the concept of weaving--one over, one under. Whatever is produced will stay in school. I am not looking for products at this point, only process. It will also give me a glimpse of fine motor ability within the group. Next week I will add another weaving choice.

We also worked on building fairy houses outside our classroom window. Fairy houses were a wonderful project I did last year, so half the class were already experts and shared their skills with the new primates. We are collecting natural materials and I hope to do a lesson on weaving branches to create a fence for the fairy houses. I am making connections to a very popular project from last year. One of the worst things schools do is introduce a project or concept, and then never revisit. I believe it is only when we revisit topics over and over, that primates are able to authentically transfer their learning and cement it in their brains for the long term. Learning takes time, repetition, and patience.

On another note, I mentioned earlier that a big theme this year is "use your mistakes", and I have adjusted that to "don't waste your mistakes". I think it's a more catchy line. It fits perfectly into this weaving project. One of my Navajo weaving stories includes a grandmother's advice to her grandchild, "sometimes unweaving is as important as weaving". This is a tough thing for me to swallow as an avid crafter/knitter--it kills me to undo rows of knitting or crocheting because of one mistake realized too late, but unweaving, or "un-knitting" in order to not waste the mistake is the lesson in itself. It requires the creator to be patient, take time, and pay close attention in order to create a piece of quality work. I look forward to sharpening my skills in this area!