After previously using Ashely Spires "The Most Magnificent Thing" to inspire creations in Ms. Wallace's grade one class we'd thought we'd up the ante by introducing Squishy Circuits.
For those of you unfamiliar with squishy circuits please enjoy AnnMarie's Thomas' explanation how to use them with young learners below.
Before we began the making process, I had jotted down some ideas for a series of prompts we could use with the students to guide their thinking/making and creations.
As discussed in one of my previous posts, I think the first question was too limiting - and in reflection I think I would change it to (given the next opportunity I have to work with another class) ask:
What kind of magnificent thing do you think you would like to create? What kinds of materials would you need to make it?
We began this making session with the prompt:
Is making with playdough fun? Why?
(One of the most important things I have learned already in my journey to document learning is that I need to take a picture the anecdotal notes I take while observing/listening to learners. The notes I took this afternoon have promptly disappeared from where I thought I put them and I am working from memory right now)
Students responded that yes, making with playdough was fun and the most resounding answer to why it was fun was because you could squish it and make it into anything you wanted.
I even went so far as to ask why/how does playing with playdough help us learn (Karen suggested that this question might be too abstract - I think she was right - but I asked it anyways) The answer, for the most part, remained the same: because you can make anything out of it. Again, no surprise - isn't that the beauty of play dough and why it is used and so many early years classrooms?
The next few questions got a bit tricky:
How would your "most magnificent thing" change if you could add a working light to it?
Initially, students began listing the things they had made previously, just with a light on it.
Ss: A hot dog with a light?
T: That's a great idea! Where would the light be? What would it represent?
Then students began listing things that WERE lights:
Ss: A lamp, a light bulb...
T: Those are all good ideas. Think back to the hot dog idea - could the lights be used for eyes on the hot dog? What other things can we think of that have lights?
Ss: A Christmas tree!
(I am wondering....how could I have better prompted this question to elicit some different responses? Or is that sequence or progression of thinking fine - because they did get there. Would some images have helped maybe? Or am I wondering too much :)
In small groups we began teaching them how squishy circuits worked. We don't have a document camera hooked up yet so I didn't think teaching in a large group would have worked (too many students crammed into a small viewing area - yes, no thank you!). Students were engaged in making something new with the playdough while we went around modelling how to make a squishy circuit - it worked well. (as well as it can go for grade one students impatient to get results...)
I was surprised to see how quickly most students grasped the concept of how to get their squishy circuit to function. We found the terminology that AnnMarie Thomas used in her video was easily grasped by the students; with additional scaffolding and modelling, most students had created a squishy circuit that lit up in about 15 minutes.
One effective documentation strategy noted in Visible Learners, is to notice when things are going well ... or going poorly by observing exactly what is happening. The emotions being experienced by the students in the classroom are "important indicators of the quality of the learning experience" (Krechevsky, Mardell, Rivard & Wilson, 2013). I noticed several students had difficulties getting their circuit to work; before they got too frustrated, we continued to prompt in small groups, having students help each other. Students were elated when their circuit worked and lit up. Perhaps the favorite key moment I witnessed was the pure delight and joy of one boy who finally got his circuit to work after several attempts. Hands clasped together, I could almost see the excitement dancing in his head. I often have doubts about what and how to introduce making in the classroom - but this moment clearly told me that this experience was worthwhile for the students.
Once students became more comfortable they began to add more LED lights to their creations. The LED lights I gave the students were different sizes and lit up with differing intensities prompting one student to ask: Why is this light brighter than the other? (What a great question for future inquiry - and a discovery we will share in our next session. Why do we think this is?)