dot project beginnings

dot surveyOn September 16, our school celebrated International Dot Day. Like many schools around the world, we read The Dot by Peter Reynolds and began to think of ways for us to “leave our mark.” We looked closely at the dots we could find around us. Some children explored rocks, beads and shells. Others painted and some drew. After a day or two of exploration, I presented the children with a question about which dots they liked best. Noticing the balls of yarn, the students were eager to share their connections.

A – “I know what these are! They’re 3-D!”

Mr. P. – “What is 3-D?”

A – “I see it at the video store.”

R – “It means, not flat.”

We took a survey and discovered that most students in our class liked 3-D dots best. Thinking about Dot Day, I asked the students if they would like to create some 3-D dots. They immediately agreed, but we had a problem. How do we make 3-D dots?

M – “Maybe we can wrap up paper and put it on a stick and roll it.”

O – “Wow, that’s a lot of stuff! We can use string?”

Mr. P. – “How would we use it?”

A – “Just roll it round and round.. .Maybe we can take something like a circle and wrap string over it.”

3D Dots problemsolvingThe next day, balloons, yarn, and glue were available to the students so they could test “A’s” theory of “rolling it round and round.” I have to admit, this was an optimistic project for the beginning of Grade 1. The students were very excited to get their hands in the glue and begin wrapping yarn around their balloons. They soon discovered that this was not a very easy task. Some became frustrated because it was too slippery, or they couldn’t get their yarn to stay put. Some wanted to give up. Here was a perfect opportunity for a lesson in perseverance. I asked the children to stop and come together for a group meeting. They took a break, identified some of the problems they were having and shared some possible solutions.

3D Dots

The short break and discussion was just what they needed. When they returned to their work, they were engaged and focused. With a little assistance, those who wanted to give up were determined to complete their task. And they did.

3D Dot mobile

The students learned the meaning of perseverance that day. The creative process is messy. It can be frustrating, exhilarating and inspiring. As I reflect on this I realize there is always a lesson to be learned. Our dot project continues to evolve. The students are discovering different dots, engaging with different media and materials, and are developing unique ways to “leave their mark” through their own creative processes.

rethinking calendar

calendarAt the beginning of the school year, I have very little in the classroom. The first days of school are all about getting to know each other and building community. They are also about inviting the children to take ownership of their learning environment. After celebrating the birthday of our classroom library, we began to discuss special days. Birthdays, Diwali and Christmas were the first to make the list. We also talked about other important events like the first day of school, assemblies and pizza days. “How will we know when these days are coming?” I asked. The students were quick to reply, “We need a calendar.” In groups, they represented what they knew about calendars.

As I was cleaning the room at the end of the summer, I came across an old unused calendar. I knew I wanted to involve the students in co-constructing areas of our classroom. This included the calendar, so I kept it for reference. They immediately noticed that it had boxes and numbers. Some recognized the year. Others noticed the days of the week. “S” noticed empty boxes along the top row of certain months and wondered why they were empty. We also looked at a commercially prepared blank calendar.

observing calendar
A group of students was particularly interested in creating our classroom calendar. They were given bristol board, two sizes of blank stickies and the calendars to use as a reference. It was very interesting to see how their problem-solving unfolded. They began to lay out sticky after sticky without giving it any thought. There was no consideration for how many small and large stickies they would need. Some overlapped, some didn’t. Eventually they ran out and asked for more. I asked how many they needed and they didn’t know. When I asked them how they could find out, it took them a while to decide to look at the actual calendars. They counted the boxes on the calendar and compared the total with the number of stickies they used. It turned out they actually did need more, but before I handed them over, I asked them to take a closer look at their calendar to see if they needed to make any changes. They began comparing row by row and realized they needed seven stickies in each row, so they began to re-configure their arrangement.

comparing calendars

Once everything was re-arranged they could clearly see how many stickies they needed. “O” told her classmates that they needed “five here, four here and three here.” When I asked how many that was altogether, they counted and decided they needed twelve.

calendar stickies 2

With the stickies finally in place, they used metre sticks and markers to draw lines and label the days of the week. After a few days we had our first calendar! We took a class survey to find out if we should keep the calendar blank and stick numbers to it or if we should write on it and make another calendar next month. It was unanimous. Others wanted a chance to make one too. I love when they inspire each other!

constructing calendar This whole process was yet another reminder for me to slow down. The discussion this group had around constructing the calendar was rich and the problem-solving in which they engaged was authentic and meaningful. I’m sure I’ll be frequently reminding myself of this lesson as our year progresses.