uncovering curriculum with help from the food truck

food truckAn interest in the amusement park inspired the students to research things they might find there. As mentioned in the last post, they became very intrigued by food trucks. We googled images of food trucks and the students decided which pictures they wanted to print to use as a reference. A group of students was very interested in finding the proper wheels needed for the truck.  Once they chose an image from which to model their wheel, they decided they needed something round to use as a basic template.  They compared a few different materials and quickly decided that the tree cookie was best.

food truck wheels

Another group of students researched other elements needed for the food truck. They discussed the need for a “sign” to show the foods they could sell. This need for a “sign” led to discussions about a menu board and how they are the same or different from restaurant menus. Our Early Literacy Teacher, Mrs. Pierre, supported the students as they researched and organized their menu board.

researching menu

A problem arose when it came time to prop open the serving window. The cardboard was too thick for the students to cut, so they asked me to cut two strips which they would use to hold up the window. They soon discovered that the cardboard began to bend and would not support the cardboard flap. This provided an authentic opportunity for problem-solving while experimenting with different materials. After trying more cardboard, pipe cleaners, thin popsicle sticks and thick popsicle sticks, they decided on pieces of dowel and string because the dowel was “…long and the popsicle sticks were too short.”

food truck problem solving

constructing food truck

The food truck is now open for business. While engaging in dramatic play, the students have been developing their literacy skills as they refer to the menu and write food orders and receipts. They are counting and adding amounts of money and they are reflecting on the need to revise their play.

food truck purchase “O” decided they needed a copy of the menu behind the counter so they could also refer to the prices as their classmates ordered. She also noticed that “… at the food truck we don’t have any cents. Just dollars. We need cents because I wanted the snow cone and I needed 3 cents, but “S” said we didn’t have any cents.”

“M” decided to work on food orders. He found images on the iPad and decided to use one as a model. Based on the picture, he wrote “010” on all of his copies. This led to an interesting conversation:

Mr. P.: How do you use this order?

M: You give it to the chef and he will know what to make.

Mr. P.: Why do you have “010” on all of them?

“M” looked at the number and read them as the number one. I asked him to look closely at the number and covered the first zero.  He realized it was the number 10.

Mr. P.: “Why do you think it says ‘Your Order Number’ and the number 10?

M: It’s for the customer.  Customer #1, Customer #2, Customer #3 (counted to 10).

Mr. P.: What will happen if they all have the same number?

M: You will get all mixed up! You won’t know who is first, second, third…                            I need to change them.

food order

As the students engage in play at the food truck, I’m noticing that they are not only reflective, but that they can and do evaluate what is working and what changes need to be made to further their play (and their learning). It’s also a reminder for me to be present. If we see the child as capable and as protagonists in their learning, and we see ourselves as researchers, then we will be able to recognize curriculum expectations being uncovered as students and teachers engage in the research together.

igniting a new spark

RoyThompsonHallIt has been quite a while since my last post and a lot has been happening in Grade 1. We have been looking at different materials and how they are used to build structures. Last month, the students enjoyed listening to the symphony at Roy Thompson Hall. They were intrigued by the surrounding buildings but especially by the shape of Roy Thompson Hall and of course, the CN Tower. The next day, we had some interesting discussion about what they noticed about the buildings. The students talked about the glass and the shapes they saw.  We had also begun to discuss different materials that objects are made from. So how did all this lead to a food truck? One of the ways children were invited to create a structure was at the studio using strips of paper.

amusement park sculptures

During our debrief, student after student shared that they created an amusement park. They were excited to describe their structures – waterslides, rollercoasters, and bumper cars were the most popular. In response to their interest, they were encouraged to research what else they could find at an amusement park. Take a close look at the picture.

researching amusement park

food truck

During the next sharing circle, students shared what they found out about amusement parks.  “O” shared the food truck. Co-incidentally, the students were in the process of co-constructing a restaurant for the dramatic play area. Several of them asked if they could make a food truck instead.  We took a survey and it was unanimous. And so begun the planning and construction of the food truck which I post in a subsequent entry.

co-constructing the fire station

fire engineThe children have been visiting the dramatic play area less frequently, so it was clear that we needed a change. They had an interesting brainstorming session where they shared their ideas and possibilities:  a rocketship, a dinosaur cave, a library, a police station and a fire station.  With the help of our DECE, Mrs. Kassam, they created a graph to decide what the play area would become. The results were clear – a fire station. More brainstorming helped them to determine the things they would need for the fire station and they began to make a plan. Using a couple of cardboard boxes, the construction began.

fire station planningdramatic play graph

The process of constructing the fire station, provided another opportunity to develop literacy skills in an authentic way.  So, it was off to the library to collect a series of books to inspire the children. They looked through them and found details they thought were important to add to the fire engine.

firestation collage 1

Once the fire engine was complete, I printed up a few of the pictures to encourage the children to do some writing.  They were eager to record their thoughts as they became involved in documenting the process.

student writing

Some children also expressed an interest in drawing the fire engine. This gave us an opportunity to revisit our investigation of lines and shapes. As they reviewed the lines and shapes they saw on the toy truck, the children slowly became aware of other details as they drew.  One student chose an interesting perspective and drew the front of the fire engine, while others drew it from a side view.

fire engine collage

fire engine drawing 2fire engine drawingThe fire station is always busy, and the children have been putting out fires on a daily basis.

you made us into toys!

photo blocksIt’s been a while since my last post, so let me start by wishing everyone a Happy New Year! This first post for 2013 is inspired by the children’s block play. I noticed they weren’t playing with the blocks as much as they had been, so we decided it was time to add a few things. First off, we added cardboard tubes, cones, string, and cardboard packing material. This engaged the children and got them thinking about different ways to make a structure.  I had been wondering if they would become more engaged in the block play if they themselves were part of the materials. I had seen this idea a few places and before the holidays, I took a picture of each of the children.  This week, I taped their image to a wooden block and introduced them to the children the other day.  Everyone became very excited and they all wanted to find themselves.  Their reactions were priceless:

“You made us into toys!”

“We’re a toy!  We’re just a toy!”

“I can’t move my arms.”

I couldn’t get “you made us into toys” out of my head…a new project perhaps?  A few of the children have also been interested in using the peg puzzle pieces as spinners so we talked about what they could use to make their own.  I think a toy project may be on the horizon.

co-constructing a…classroom?

That’s right.  A classroom.  The time came to change the drama centre, so we took the same approach we used when we created our doctor’s office.  The children brainstormed their ideas on stickies.  We chose the top three, took a survey, collected the data and made a list of things we might need.  So now we are in the process of creating a classroom within a classroom…a little Shakespearean, don’t you think?  I know kids love to play school (I certainly did!) but I thought, why on earth would they want to play school AT school?  They soon showed me.  The excitement that a few children generated was contagious.  In the span of the day’s play they estimated, measured, problem-solved, arranged furniture, read, wrote, argued, negotiated and created.The children wanted a bulletin board, so I put up some paper and gave them some borders and a stapler.  They quickly started measuring, selecting and cutting the pieces they needed.  They filled every last space.

They wanted a “Writing Centre” and calendar.

The children also wanted to include a Principal’s Office.  The decided they would use the red table and made a sign:“Principal’s Office.  Knock on the door before you come in the Principal’s office.”

The principal needs to make important announcements, so they also made a P. A. system which they immediately put to use.

It’s great fun to watch them role-play.  When the “teaching” began, I was happy to see one of our before-reading strategies put to use.  I overheard the “teacher” ask, “Does anyone have any predictions about this story?”  As you can see, we are well overdue for a new copy of this well-loved favourite.  

construction continues…

The children have been busy adding some things to the doctor’s office.  Too many doctors and no patients posed a bit of a problem, so we talked about the different jobs people did at the doctor’s office.  We decided there needed to be a receptionist to greet patients and to make appointments.  I put out an old keyboard which prompted the request for a computer.  I asked the children what they could use to make one.  They chose a box which I wrapped for them.  They cut and pasted a screen, and there you have it – a computer monitor!  One of the children made a sign.  (I love the “before” and “after.”)

They began making appointments for each other.

In addition to the reception area, the patients needed somewhere to wait, so with two chairs and a sign, the waiting room was born. The children also decided they needed an x-ray machine.  Thank goodness for boxes!

One of the  children wanted to see a picture of an x-ray and to make a sign.  I asked him if he knew what letter we needed for “x-ray”  He knew it was “x” so I asked if he thought any of the books in our classroom library might help us.  He immediately went to the “x” book and found a picture which he then used to help him make a sign.  

A little string, clothespins, black construction paper and white crayons, and we now have an x-ray lab!  

colours are for everyone

It’s clear from the last post that we have a bit of work to do around gender bias.  Most of the children thought doctors should be boys.  When I asked them about nurses, the majority thought nurses should be -you guessed it – girls.  I went on the hunt for some books that represented both genders in each of the careers.  I read them to the children and we discussed how anyone can do any job regardless of whether you are a boy or a girl.  After reading the books and looking at the pictures, the children agreed that boys and girls can be either doctors or nurses.

When it came time to take out some dress-up clothing, you can imagine how disappointed I was to find a pink nurse’s outfit and a blue doctor’s outfit from our supply of clothing.  Up until now, we have been talking about how colours are just colours.  There are no “boy colours” or “girl colours.”  I was almost not going to use the nurse outfit, thinking this would reinforce the gender bias and “undo” some of our discussion.  Instead, I decided to use this opportunity to find out what the children thought…not without some strategic planning though!  I decided to wear a pink shirt on the day we would be discussing this.  Luckily, a few of the children noticed what I was wearing, pointed it out, and didn’t think it was big deal.  BUT the pink nurse’s outfit was a big deal to them.  We took a look at the supplier’s website to see who was wearing the pink nurse outfit – a girl.  The children didn’t think this was right and a few children wanted to write a letter.  Here was the perfect opportunity for some authentic writing:

“…It’s not fair for boys.  You should put a boy (nurse) and a girl (nurse) (on your website).  Colours are for everyone.”

“Colours share.”

Colours are for everyone.  Colours share.  What more is there to say?  I told the children I would send the letters to the manufacturer.  This really excited them.  When I asked them what they thought might happen, some said the colours might change, while others thought boys would be wearing the pink nurse’s uniform on the website.

In the meantime, some of the boys are nurses in our doctor’s office and some girls are doctors….just the way it should be.