Fourth Grade Play-to-Learn: Colonizing the Block Room

Well, it’s the New York State math test this week, so I signed up for the block room again.

This time it’s a little different though. We’ve just started learning about colonial America. On Monday we looked at a painting of the Speedwell, talking about the people and the journey they were about to make, and the story the painting might be telling. That got us talking about how a group of people might need to set things up when they get to a new place that’s totally unfamiliar, lacks the resources they’ve come to take for granted, has resources they might not know how to use, and is home to very unfamiliar people.

This is about when my own personal line of inquiry about learning through play popped into my head. Of course history provides wonderful content that can be accessed through play. I had been thinking with my grade-level colleagues about how to make the beginning of the study feel more active and exploratory- more of a way to stimulate curiosity. I had already signed up for the block room several weeks ago, and it just seemed like a perfect match.

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A Week in the Block Room

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We are lucky enough to have a block room in our school. Brooklyn School of Inquiry started out five years ago with only kindergarten and first grade, but year by year we grow until finally we are a K-8 school. So in the beginning we had rooms for everything. This year we still have the violin room, the TRIBES/ Responsive Classroom room, and the block room, as well as a music room, an art studio and a science lab. I keep reading about co-locations and overcrowding, and I want to cherish the space we have to do the work we believe in as long as I can. We may lose these things soon enough! Continue reading

Poetry Day 9- One Topic Many Ways

Excited by hearing back from Amy about our efforts, Alexis and Sammy decided to explore topics across several different poems. Watching them do this, and conferring with them as a partnership, has enlightened me about ways to guide children in exploring everything poetry can do. When topic is not a variable, it becomes easier for young writers (at least these two), to see how other variables can work in a poem- sounds, mood, rhythm, speed, quiet, imagery, etc. It suddenly becomes more concrete that all of these things work to support their meaning, and that meaning is really separate from topic.

Look:

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Sammy uses her notebook to explore the significance of these cookies. (PEPpercocker. I had to ask)

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Poetry Day 8- Through the Poet’s Lens

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I almost missed this. I found it while flipping through notebooks at lunch.

On Tuesday we talked about what it feels like to sit with a piece of writing and work, really apply effort, to find the most honest, precise, exactly-right word for what you need to say. Finding these words is what makes some images sear themselves into our minds’ eyes, or identify so closely with a feeling, though we might not share the experience, or delight in a new way of seeing something.

Kids tried this out, along with other ideas and strategies, over the next few days. Continue reading