“If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”
-- Ignacio Estrada

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Run, Run as fast as you can...

you can't catch me,
I'm the Gingerbread Man!

Gingie hanging out with Frosty and the singing Christmas Tree
It’s December. It was time for me to plan the normal themes - winter holidays and families. Well, this year I decided to deviate a little from my normal. I wanted to explore a problem based learning (PBL) activity with my students. Where should I start? What would get and keep them engaged for the long term? What activities could be easily adapted in order for all students to actively participate with the activities? So, I did what all good teachers do…I borrow ideas from my fellow teachers!

AH checking out Gingie at his house
And so in walks the Gingie. Gingie is the Gingerbread Man, well, really Gingerbread Boy, who made his appearance outside the Kindergarten classroom a couple of weeks ago. Gingie is sneaky little Gingerbread Boy who left his Gingerbread house outside of the Kindergarten rooms to create a little mischief around the school. Gingie made appearances on the morning news video announcements, pictures were discovered of him hanging out in other classrooms, and items were knocked over in the classroom at night. The kindergarten teacher and I created a collaborative “Where is Gingie?” presentation that consisted of pictures of Gingie around the school as well as video clips of various adaptations of the Gingerbread Man story.  Despite all this, no one was able to catch the elusive little Gingerbread Boy. This is where the PROBLEM of the PBL activity comes into play. (** Quick disclaimer: due to students’ schedules and attendance, not all students participated in all activities, I will outline activities by Reading group at the end of this post **) 

After reading several Gingerbread themed books and experiencing Gingie’s mischievous ways for about a week. I discussed with the students that we needed to do something to help “catch” Gingie. Immediately the idea of a “trap” was thought of by 2 of the students. GREAT! Now, to discuss what kind of trap would be needed. The teacher lead discussion quickly became a classroom hunt for things to make a trap out of. One student chose a laundry basket from his workstation. Another student took an empty plastic bin off the shelf and sized it with a Frosty the Snowman stuffed animal from the classroom. With guidance from yours truly, we had a little discussion about making the traps big enough for Gingie, what the traps might look like, and where would be a good place to set out the traps. We continued with other Gingerbread activities for a couple days, then revisited the idea of building the trap. The students were given a variety of materials in which to create their trap (cereal boxes, toilet paper rolls, tape, stickers, construction paper, etc....). I had 2 students (KB/KR) working together on creating a Gingerbread house as a trap (They cut/pasted various shapes of paper to create the look of ‘candy’ on house walls.) while another student (JS) worked by himself creating a trap with a toy (aka some random legos) so that “Gingie would get the toy and fall down the hole”.

Gingie playing with the KB's/KR's trap
Traps are made…now what? Where to place the traps? The students each were able to choose the location to place the traps. KR chose to place the trap in the library for the night. (No luck!) JS chose to place his trap in the 2nd grade classroom.  (No luck, but Ginger did tie up the trap and make a little mess with some glitter.) KB decided to leave the trap in our classroom. (NO luck there either, that sneaky little Gingerbread Man!) The students LOVED the various Gingerbread stories we read. And I have to admit, I had NO idea that there were so many versions.  One activity that amazed me was a venn diagram activity I did with my second reading group. As we read each of the stories, we talked about various text to text connections. The students did a nice job of talking about the individual stories, but could they comparing using a venn diagram? ABSOLUTELY! The two students in my second reading group (KR/KB) where able to compare the characters (mostly animals) in the Gingerbread Girl and Gingerbread Baby stories with only a little guidance from me. The SLP was in my classroom during this time and she was amazed at the activity. The students “got it”. It was definitely my #eduwin of the week! (If curious about #eduwin, check out twitter and search for it! Inspiring comments by teachers.)
Gingie messing with JS's trap

Were the students upset that they didn’t catch him? Absolutely not! The students truly were immersed in the activities. They enjoyed the adventure. The language that the activities elicited was amazing! Everyone the students came in contact with had to be informed of our trap making and how we needed to catch the Gingerbread Man. All of the staff were supportive. They listen and made comments about the traps, the activities, or just have their support by saying they would look for him in their classrooms.  We are so lucky to have such a supportive school staff!

So, if your school in beginning to incorporate the use of problem based learning lessons or you just want to try something new, don’t hesitate to jump on board within your classroom! I challenge you to bring the ‘problems’ and technology into your classroom and see how your students amaze you!

** Some content is password protected. Parents, if you would like to see the additional content, comment or email me and I will give you the password. Sorry to others who may want to see, but please respect the privacy of my students in this instance. Thank you! ** 

Use of technology:
  • Powerpoint created in collaboration with the Kindergarten teacher 
  • Use of youtube videos to provide various versions of the Gingerbread Man/Boy/Girl story
  • Use of iPad with talking Gingerbread Man app
  • Students explored and engaged in their first WebQuest
  • SMART Board: venn diagram graphic to compare/contrast characters between Gingerbread Girl and Baby storie and notebook file with Gingerbread themed math activities

Use of assistive technology:
  • Use of Big Mack switch to record repetitive text in stories to allow students to participate in reading/telling story
  • Use of iPad with AAC app to choose shapes for Gingerbread person creation from Starfall website
IH creating his Gingerbread Man on Starfall
Internet resources:

Best video and favorite by staff and students:

 video by Jim Rule, posted on YouTube by pnotunamusic

Reading Group #1 Activities:
Participated in WebQuest, Startfall Gingerbread person activity, explored Gingerbread Man powerpoint with videos, created/decorated own Gingerbread person for the classroom Holiday Door display, exposed to Gingerbread Man, Gingerbread Girl, Gingerbread Baby and Gingerbread Pirates books.

Gingerbread Man song preformed by AH:

Untitled from Melanie Broxterman on Vimeo.

Reading Group #2:
Participated in WebQuest  completing questions and answers with guidance, Startfall Gingerbread person activity, explored Gingerbread Man powerpoint with videos, created/decorated own Gingerbread person for the classroom Holiday Door display, exposed to Gingerbread Man, Gingerbread Girl, Gingerbread Baby and Gingerbread Pirates books, compared/contrasted Gingerbread Girl and Gingerbread Baby stories, complete venn diagram with some guidance from teacher.

Gingerbread Man song performed by KB:

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