Wednesday, April 29, 2009

beginnings of success with the patterns of thinking?

today on the first grade field trip to a nature center i took my video camera and “interviewed” the kids about what they were learning. i tried to make my questions include the patterns of thinking:
what is it/ what is it not?
What are it’s parts/what’s it a part of?
What is the relationship between _____ and _____?
What is the perspective of ______?

and I have to admit, I was really shocked and surprised by their answers. I’d gone on the very same trip the day before with another set of first graders, however, the first graders I interviewed with the patterns-of-thinking questions made connections I’ve never had students make. I even had one draw out the relationship between frogs and plants (one starts as a tadpole, one starts as a seed and they both change).

This was my 6th year to go on this very field trip and thanks to the patterns of thinking questions it is the first year I realized there was an overarching theme of natural changes. when the idea of making a video of our trip came to me it was really just an excuse to play with my new camera. using the patterns of thinking questions were kind of a fluke, but i have to say i am ecstatic about how i saw them process the information.

and then, other reflections:
my biggest struggle with the thinkblocks has been when i use them with my two friends who have autism. one of these friends continues to only see the blocks as representing the items we used the first two times- his family and spring. we'll keep working though.

i've used them a lot with my bff, my other friend with autism. lately we've had a difficult time focusing and so i'm not sure what's sinking in and what's not. we've been using them to label parts of the story to help with his retelling, and some days it works and some days i'm still beating my head against the wall.

yesterday i got an email from a researcher in ireland who is studying the use of thinkblocks with children who have high functioning autism. and she so brilliantly suggested, "leave the blocks out and let him play with them... adult passive: child active". adult passive? that's when it hit me why i've been having trouble with the thinkblocks. i've been looking for these great lessons- ones i can plan out and have complete control over. ones that i say, "look, isn't that great! look at the fabulous lesson i did". which is SO the opposite of what i should be doing. i need to let my bff take some more control over the blocks. he needs to explore and play and stop watching me force him to use these weird white diamond like things. i need to start slowly and watch how he uses the weird white diamond like shapes first, and then lead him from there.

So i tried this theory today with my other friend with autism. and yes, it worked! he immediately made the blocks into the trains from thomas the tank engine. (it took me a bit to follow what he was doing). now we’ll see where that takes us next.

i think the thought of adult passive: child active is a hard one for us because we so enjoy the control we have in the classroom. plus, in many ways we're expected to have complete control and we're scared that when we don't it makes us look like bad teachers. the passive adult piece is one of the reasons we don't let our students play as much- when they play we are passive. even today on the field trip i found myself struggling to stand back and let them explore on their own.

i am getting completely sucked into thinking how i would illustrate something with them in every aspect of my life. driving to school i think about how i'd connect what i heard on npr with the book i read for fun and the economist. i find myself picturing the blocks and organizing them into my thoughts. watch out mr. lipstick, before you know it i'll bring them to the dinner table for our political debates :)


Jenny said...

I want to be a fly on the wall for those dinner conversations with thinkblocks!

Greg said...

Way to make a field trip into a ThinkTrip!