I don't remember the details of how it came to be, but my son's teacher and I came to an agreement that I would come in to teach the class on May 10th. If memory serves me right, my son is the one who volunteered me, and that means the world.
Nevertheless, I had a lesson to plan. Before I did that, I had to understand what it was going to be like. The natural move was to reach out to Twitter for help and I was not disappointed. In particular, Kristin Gray jumped in and gave some outstanding ideas that pushed the lesson forward. Here's the slide deck I used to introduce the properties of shapes to an adorable group of first graders.
On the next slide, I created a WODB with an empty box in the bottom right. The prompt to the students was to "create a new shape that you think would not belong to the others" on their sheet of paper.
We also spent time sharing "how you would describe the shape to a friend. How would you tell someone to draw your shape? Tell me."
One last minute change to the agenda was that the class would go to a water safety presentation in the cafeteria at 8:45, and it was now 8:44. Mrs. Frazier rallied the class into their impeccable line and we walked to the cafeteria for a delightful puppet show about water safety (booze and boating doesn't mix, by the way). I had high hopes for starting right back up with shapes when we returned to the classroom, all until one of the kids noticed that a butterfly hatched in the net. It was only natural to have every single kid hovered around the net in awe and amazement... BUT I HAVE SHAPES! SHAPES ARE FUN! SHAPES!
One student (who just so happens to be my oldest son) even used resources in his group to visualize the properties as we talked about them, all on his own. SOOOO COOL!
After the Notice/Wonder, a group of 6 and 7 year-olds followed Mrs. Frazier's directions and grabbed their Chromebook from the cart. They we organized and mature about going to the cart, getting their device, holding it with two hands, and getting right to the login screen. Wait... the login screen. How are they going to log in? Do they know their passwords?!
After each friend checked their neighbor's screen to make sure they were logged in, we opened a new tab (had to show them the rhombus in the top right of chrome) and typed in the link for the day's activity: bit.ly/frazier51017
I highly recommend going to the link, which will take you to the Math Learning Center's pattern shape applet. My directions were very clear to the class:
- Use at least 5 shapes
- Use at least 3 unique shapes
- You must be proud of it!
Students immediately got to work to create something out of nothing. I gave them no instructions whatsoever, but went around to see what they were doing. One student wanted to know how to rotate a shape, and before I could chime in, a classmate popped up and offered to help. Another (in another corner of the room closest to me) also asked, so I helped her out, then her front-facing neighbor asked and she swung around right away. It was pure joy to sit back and watch kids infatuated with their design, helping each other and giggling throughout.
They enjoyed it so much, in fact, that they didn't even flinch when their recess bell rang. With less than three weeks before school let out, these kids didn't want to leave the room. I was floored, but I wasn't about to stop the momentum.
Now was a good time, about 10 minutes into their work, for me to show off mine:
Hey, I was proud of it. The kids laughed hard. It was worth every second. If you look at the slide deck, I even dropped in a turkey audio clip to add emphasis.
The students worked for another 5-7 minutes, then I walked them through how to take a screenshot of their work and had them post it to a Google Classroom assignment. Again, FIRST GRADERS were doing this with very little issue. Christine Pinto is all about giving access to "the littles" and I can see why. Jamie Duncan is in love with first grade and I can see why.
Here is some of their work:
The class finished up the activity, closed their chromebooks, and were told that they could go out to the third grade recess because they were so locked in. WHAAAAAT?! YYYAAAAAAA!!!
They left, and my day was done as a first grade teacher.
When the room was no longer inhabited by those cute little faces, Mrs. Frazier and I had time to debrief. The young man in the first row, all the way in the back, is a cryer, but he didn't cry once. He even cries when she's in the room and an aide helps out, but not today. The young lady in the first row at the front has speech issues and doesn't contribute much, but was my big helper and wanted to volunteer; she even came to the board to explain her way of drawing a shape. The young man in the first row, middle seat, was active and asking questions the whole time, which was not his normal self.
I loved coming in with a blank slate. Nobody knew me except for my son, and I knew of no pre-existing circumstances. I could tell that the class had unbelievable respect for Mrs. Frazier and her norms, and that it was a safe space to take a risk. Hey, they were volunteering their responses for a stranger!
To run the final tally, I only had one cryer. He was in the third row, all the way in the back, and was a really bright kid (that was obvious throughout the day). He got emotional when it was almost time to turn in his drawing and he wasn't proud of it. To be fair, I've never had to deal with that kind of emotion with middle and high school kids, so I was a bit surprised. Mrs. Frazier saw it and took care of it for me, so whew!
Every single kid wanted to keep working on their drawing or, at the very least, make another one that would be even better. They were hooked, and I don't blame them!
I only had one kid who came up to hug me. Twice. It was my son. The first time, it was fine, and I even told him to go sit down. Now is not the time to be dad, I thought, it's time to be your teacher. The second one was while kids were making their drawings. He came up to me and, with a smile on his face, he wrapped his arms around my right leg and told me "I love you daddy. Thank you." I about lost it. I don't know how long he will appreciate what I try to do for him, but I'm cherishing every one of those moments.
Thank you to Mrs. Frazier, Mr. Suttner, and the entire staff at my son's school. There is no place I'd rather drop him off every morning and pick him off every afternoon.
Not only that, but thank you to all elementary school teachers for the work you do to constantly engage and challenge your students, to create safe spaces where kids can take risks, and for nurturing their curiosity and encouraging them to love who they are.
Now, back to my regular job of supporting those kids 8-11 years down the road... until I get invited to teach a second grade class ;)
Happy "Shapes and Hugs" Fishing