Perplexing Puzzle

This year I am going to work with the kids on learning how to take academic risks, how to push passed those uncomfortable feelings when solving a challenging issue.  Many of my students have spent their first few years without having to struggle and it can be difficult for them to deal with challenge. 

During our first class, the children were given a puzzle to solve.  Before taking it out of their bag we brainstormed RULES for solving puzzles.  The students discussed sorting the pieces, looking for corners and edges, not forcing pieces together, etc.  Once we were done discussing the RULES, the students began solving the puzzle using many of the rules they had come up with.  They all started with such an air of confidence and pleasure.  After awhile the frustration and confusion started to set in.  The kids were encouraged to take a Gallery Walk to study their classmates’ puzzles.  We then shared PATTERNS that were evident in the puzzles. 

This week, the kids came back to the puzzles and solved them successfully…after we discussed the PATTERNS we saw and shared last week.  Below is a video of the kids working on their puzzles. 


BIG IDEA: The children agreed that the BIG IDEA (or purpose) of this activity was to “learn to  look at things differently, stretch our brains, and to learn not to quit.”

Turtle Haikus

In first grade we read a Japanese folktale called Urashima the Fisherman.  It is a story of a fisherman that catches a sea turtle, but no ordinary sea turtle.  This turtle was a goddess that lives in the sky.  She wanted to marry Urashima and he agreed to join her in the sky.  He became homesick and his wife allowed him to return home.  When he arrived he learned that it was 300 years in the future and his family and home were gone.  He was also unable to return to the sky to live with his wife.  We had a discussion on WHAT IS HAPPINESS and HOME?  It was wonderful to hear the kids think deeply and philosophically at such a young age.  They then followed directions and created an origami turtle and wrote a Haiku about their turtle.  Enjoy their work.


In 3rd grade we have been studying the brain and how it works.  During our study we had some questions about memory.  Why do we remember differently from others?  Why do we forget?  Why do we remember some things forever and forget others immediately?  These were just a few of the questions that were brought up in our study.  To help the kids understand that memory is not neccessarily truth, that emotions and other things play into what we remember and how we remember we did a version of a self-portrait.  The kids were told to fold a piece of paper vertically and draw half of their face.  After completing one side of their face I had them flip their paper over and attempt to draw the other side of their face without looking back at the work they started.  The kids then created a metaphor for memory.  Below are the results.  Enjoy!


Brain Injuries

The third graders have been hard at work learning about the brain, it’s parts and how they work.  In our study the kids have had questions such as:
  • Can you live without a brain?
  • Does your brain ever stop working?
  • What happens if you fall and hurt your head?
  • What happens if your skull breaks?
  • Can you have only part of a brain and still think?

With these questions being asked I thought we should take a look at two well-known cases involving severe brain injuries.  We started a 160 years ago with a railroad forum that was injured with a tamping iron.  This 3 foot piece of metal flew in under Phineas’ left cheek, behind his left eye and out of the top of his head damaging his frontal lobe.  We then took a look at the case of Gabrielle Giffords, the state representative who was shot in the head a couple of years ago.  Below is a look at the differences and similarities the kids found in the two cases.