Creating Landmarks out of Marshmallows

During our previous unit of inquiry my first graders discovered the world of maps. As part of their studies we learned about landforms and landmarks. In order to create a more hands on experience for them I decided to bring in marshmallows and toothpicks. I got this idea because it was the 100th day of school and my PYP coordinator told me that once she gave students 100 marshmallows and 100 toothpicks to create something… and I thought, why not landmarks?

Did I give them 100 marshmallows and 100 toothpicks? Uhh… no. But the fact that Korea now has affordable marshmallows available at Diaso (kind of like and up-scale dollar store), is incredible. Good job, Korea!

The students worked in pairs to create a landmark. They attempted to recreate the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Great Wall of China, as well as make their own bridges, towers, and statues.

They loved every second of this learning engagement, even though I didn’t let them eat any of the marshmallows. (I am not a monster though, I let them eat some during snack.)

What are some of your favorite hands on learning engagements?

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The Inquiry Cycle on Display

My new first grade teaching partner this year is going to teach me a lot of fun new things, I can already tell.

Here is a picture I took of her inquiry cycle board after our first six-week unit:

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Pretty amazing right? The students were able to see a visual fill up week by week as they journeyed through the inquiry cycle that is tuning in, finding out, sorting out, going further, making conclusions (reflection), and taking action.

I obviously had to create a board like this in my own room. Here is what it looks like after we  had our tuning in learning engagements for the first week of our Sharing the Planet unit with the central idea: Mini beasts play a role in our lives.

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While this is on the back wall of my room, my lines of inquiry, key concepts, etc. are displayed in front of the room:

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You’ll notice that under my central idea I have it translated into Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. I have students in my classroom who speak very little English, during this unit I had them guess what words they thought would be in our central idea, many of them said “mini beasts” and were very excited to hear what the central idea was, then when students heard it in their mother tongue they got even more excited.

The questions on post it notes are questions my students wrote when they came into our changed classroom atmosphere the first day of our unit. I love giving time for my students to ask questions!

How do you display your inquiry cycle in your PYP classroom? How do you have students ask and answer wondering questions?

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*Here is what my board looked like at the end of the unit!

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How To Take Your Read Alouds Further

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I was at an amazing IB Workshop this past weekend called “Reading and Writing Through Inquiry” and I have many, many things to share. My workshop leader, Rachel, was fantastic and all of the workshop participants (myself included!) were excited to collaborate and really wanted to be there. Which makes a difference with professional development, you know?

One of the learning engagements Rachel led us through was a way add more language to your read alouds, or writing and reading workshop time, or ELA lessons, you get the picture.

She read the book “The Island” by Armin Greder, an incredible though slightly controversial picture book. I had never heard of this book before. After Rachel read the book she had eleven different writing prompts, differentiated for upper and lower level grades, as well as English Language Learners. She read the choices and let us choose which one we wanted to do.

Here were our options:

Theme- What is the theme of the book? Write about it!

Write a review of book 

Supporting character- choose a character you liked or didn’t like and write about why

Perspective- pretend you are a character from your book “the best life for me would be” from the viewpoint of character

Resolution- rewrite the ending of the story

Poem- compose poem

Plotline- draw plot line 

Setting- draw a picture or map of the setting and describe it

Emotional response- draw a picture of the funniest, most exciting or saddest part of the story write paragraph describing scene

Make a T-Chart- comparing physical and character traits through main characters eyes and in the eyes of others

Climax- write the climax of the story

Author- find four facts about the author and find titles of other books written by the author

I created a simple google doc with the prompts. The more language friendly ones are translated into Korean, Chinese, and Japanese for the ELL students in my class.

Printable Version of Prompts 

What are ways that you extend your read alouds in class? 

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