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Not A Traditional Classroom

May 6, 2011

This afternoon a teacher candidate came into observe my class. At the time, my students were working in small groups to make dinosaur models: the final task in our Newspapers In Education project that we have been working on all week. The groups had to create their own dinosaur. They needed to name it, design it, and then create a three-dimensional model of it. Students had tons of choice in the materials that they used, but the one requirement was that the newspaper needed to be used in their model.

Both the Grade 1 and Grade 2 students have been learning about three-dimensional solids in class, so what a great way to apply their knowledge of these solids. Those that know me know that I am not artistic in the least, so trust me when I say that I gave very little direction or assistance for this activity. Students used the books in the classroom, online resources, and the newspaper to research dinosaurs and create their own unique dinosaur. Then they problem-solved together to build their model. They used everything: some just used newspapers and glue; others used bristol board, newspapers, glue, and tape; and still others added paper bags, staples, and elastics to the mix. They not only helped their group members, but they helped each other. They were offering suggestions, problem-solving, and persevering. Students were everywhere, supplies were everywhere, the room was buzzing, and everyone was learning something new.
This was a difficult task. Truthfully, I was hesitant if the students could create these models, but I was so pleasantly surprised with what they did and what they learned. They showed me that they understand the properties of three-dimensional solids, and what they need to consider when building with these solids. Even the students that created the two models that didn’t work were able to reflect on what went wrong and what they would do differently the next time. They didn’t learn this because I told them the information, but they learned this because they figured it out for themselves. This was learning by doing, and the students will definitely remember what they learned today. I couldn’t be happier!
And it was when we were tidying up that this teacher candidate started to talk to me, and she mentioned how much she enjoyed the visit. She then said to me something that I will remember for a while: “This is definitely not a traditional classroom!” You’re right. My room isn’t traditional, and looking back on what my students learned today, I feel confident when I say, “I’m good with that!”



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  1. Aviva,

    Thanks so much for sharing this great activity – I really appreciate the Animoto that walks us through the process – a fantastic resource. There is no way that your classroom would ever be 'traditional' and that is definitely a great thing!


  2. Thanks Shannon! That means a lot! I'm so glad that I had my camera with me to help document the process. My students were great at taking some photographs along the way too. It was nice to look back later and relive the activity.:)


  3. Aviva,
    As i read your post I continually thought of all of the “work place” skills your students were demonstrating.
    Especially since I had already viewed the Animoto the words and pictures just came together into a defining piece.
    Personally, I would like the word “traditional” to disappear from the education dictionary. Education is doing what's right for kids and that's what you're all about.

  4. Thanks JoAnn! That means a lot to me. I really do try to do this, and I'm glad that's apparent to you too!


  5. Aviva, thanks for providing this window into your nontraditional classroom! I think some adults have a tendency to think that if students are having too much fun with a creative project like this one, then they can't possibly be learning “real school information.” Thanks especially for highlighting the learning objectives of this activity.

  6. Thanks for your comment, Beth! I'm all about having fun in the classroom, but expectations still come first. It's nice to know that students can have fun and learn too!


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