I was excited today because students were using the copies of our treasure map during recess to hide things for one another. It’s great to see students cooperating and developing their understanding of shape and space out on the playground at recess.
We are soon finishing our unit on relationships. One of the students has been asking to have a post office in the classroom. Another child has been asking to have another factory. I decided to facilitate both of these cool ideas. This would be the “going further” aspect of our learning on collaboration.
What we did:
Preparation: I found a huge box and cut a slit in the front and an opening in the back. I covered it with blue bulletin board paper and helped a student write “Letter Box” at the top. This would be our mailbox.
I asked each child whether he/she wanted to work in the factory or the post office.
I took photos of student artwork to use as stamps. I created very basic student money. I put these on paper in such a way that the students could easily cut them out (i.e. I cut the margins off the paper so the students only needed to cut ‘across’).
I spoke with the students in the factory group to find out what they wanted to make. This way I could prepare ahead of time the basic shapes that they’d be gluing together. The students wanted to make a red paper house with a yellow roof and an orange door.
- The whole class practiced cutting by cutting out the stamps and paper money. (This only involved cutting straight across.) My TA and I circulated the room correcting their scissors grip as need be.
- The class came to the carpet. They were already excited about opening a factory and a post office. I taught my class the sentence starter “I would like to be…” and “What would you like to be?” We agreed that this might be a good way to start playing make-believe together.
- The post office group worked with my assistant. They painted and drew on the front of blank “notecards.”
- At the same time, I worked with the factory group. Everyone decided which role they wanted. We got organized around 2 tables pushed together. The students started producing their goods, which were paper houses. (We had a roof gluer, a door gluer, a windows gluer, a doorknob draw-er, a chimney gluer, and a wreath gluer.)
- After about 20 minutes both groups were ready to stop “working” so I pretended the end of the workday had come. We cleaned up the room and went to recess.
- After a long break (recess, snack, etc.), we met back on the carpet. My TA read a story to the factory group while the post office group and I organized their store. We set up a table with stamps, a table with cards, a cash register table, and a table with glue and pens. Two students would “work” at each table. The students decided where they wanted to work.
- I told the students they could send letters to teachers at our school. The children were very excited. (I didn’t want them to send to other children just yet since I don’t want any one child to feel excluded if they don’t receive mail.)
- Payday! I paid the factory workers 2 bills each. They shopped in the post office, choosing stamps and glue and then paying at the cashiers’ table. At the table with glue and pens I helped them write out the cards and glue on the stamp. (For most, I did the writing for them.) Then they put their cards in the letterbox.
Photo: The factory workers churning out 20 paper houses!
Photo: The busy cashiers at our post office
Photo: Another piece of mail that will make a teacher happy!
What a fun day! I was surprised at how the students had begun to take the lead in initiating roles and working together. Instead of just grabbing cards, for example, students let the card seller recommend one and hand it to them, etc.
I hope we can continue to use the mailbox to send mail to one another. It’s a great tool for reading familiar words (i.e. names) and for sorting! On Monday we’ll sort our “out of classroom” mail and our “our classroom” mail.
The learning took so much time that we were not able to stop and reflect as a class. On Monday I will project photos from the day and then ask the students to tell me what “playing together” looks like, sounds like, and feels like.