The 31 Flavours Dilemma Continued

Yesterday was a PA Day in our Board, and all day long, we were engaged in professional development sessions around reading, math, and well-being. During one of the afternoon sessions, we watched a favourite TED Talk of mine. Among other things, Ramsey Mussallam’s Talk always makes me remember the importance of reflection, even when reflecting can be a challenge.

Yesterday, it was Ramsey’s Talk that inspired my teaching partner, Paula, and I to do some more quiet reflection of our own. 

We really believe in the power of regular reflection, and we often spend at least an hour after school each day reflecting on our day. This includes,

  • discussing our observations around individual students.
  • looking back at documentation from the day, and talking about possible next steps.
  • looking critically at play opportunities we provided, and what changes we could make to interest other (or more) students, to extend learning, or to meet needs that we did not meet on that day. 

We’ve worked hard at creating an environment where we feel comfortable talking freely with each other, asking questions, and suggesting changes. It was this very kind of conversation that happened yesterday.

I’m not sure how the topic came up, but we spoke about the recent increased interest that students seem to have over eating right after our meeting time each morning. Why? We went back and forth with possibilities.

  • Could it be because we’re starting our indoor learning time a little later than before? Not really. Sometimes we’re actually in earlier because of the weather.
  • Could it be because less children are taking snacks outside with them? Maybe … although many do grab them especially if we stay in our outdoor classroom space for a little while before heading out to the forest. We could encourage more children to bring a snack out with them. Could it be more than this though?
  • Could it be because of the morning meeting time? I was initially quick to dismiss this idea. We’ve always discussed a lot during this morning meeting time. It really is the one big time that we come together as a full class each day. Lately, children have demonstrated a variety of interests, so our meeting time includes elements of all of these interests. Could it be too much?

This made me think about one of Eva Thompson‘s recent blog posts that Doug Peterson highlighted in his post from yesterday. In this post, Eva makes a connection between the “31 flavours of ice cream,” and the multitude of information/options that she presented to students at onceWas it just too much? Maybe we’re also having our own 31 flavours dilemma.

While we want to get children thinking about the different play options around the room and various ways to extend their learning from the day before, there’s only so much that a child can take in at one time. Are our Kindergarten students sitting through this meeting time and wondering, where should I go first? What could I do? We wondered if having so many possibilities laid out in front of them became overwhelming. Is sitting to eat less about “eating,” and more about sitting back, processing options, and deciding what to do first? Could this be a sitting version of wandering? 

We thought that we would test out this theory by scaling back our meeting time on Monday. Instead of introducing students to everything in the room, we’d pick one or two big ideas to discuss as a class, and then let the children uncover the other areas on their own. If some children are having a problem deciding where to go first, we could always pull up the images on an iPad to share just with them, or sit down with a small group and brainstorm options together. Choice is good, but do the “31 flavours” need to be shared over many sittings? 

As we were having this conversation yesterday, I asked Paula if she noticed students wandering more than usual. I haven’t, but I’m usually on my lunch (or duty) when the play begins, so she would see this more than me. She said, “Maybe at first.” I wonder if the multitude of choices are making children do what I liked doing at Baskin Robbins: taking a little sample of everything before settling on a “favourite flavour.” 

  • Sampling is good.
  • Trying new things is important.
  • But maybe the sample size needs to be reduced.

If we also focused more on “big ideas” instead of specific activities, would children see more of the links between the various areas of the room, even if they weren’t explicitly discussed? I think about our “boat problem” from a couple of weeks ago. A group of students built a boat out of blocks, and decided that they wanted to make “Boat City.” We helped them create a space for this city, and they gathered materials to make the city. But after a couple of days, the building was complete and nobody touched the boats again. We got the children to clean up the blocks, and then we added in a blue sheet for the water. We found some video clips and images to inspire boat creations, and once again, children decided to build Boat City. After a few more days though, the same thing happened as before: the city was complete, and the blocks weren’t touched again. Both Paula and I thought that the students were demonstrating an interest in boats, but was their interest really in building/creating? 

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I wish that I documented more of what happened in Boat City today. What I love about this is that E. went back and read his work from yesterday, and made a decision about the placement of today’s fish based on what he did yesterday. He also built a “generator” this afternoon, and sounded out the word all on his own. He even got a second label for the R at the end. Wow!! E. was far more confident in segmenting and blending sounds today. ❤️❤️❤️ More students got into labelling today based on what E. did. Milla’s rescue boat “mveeol”: I wonder if she went mobile instead. Love how she sorted it with the safety boat. She thought they should be together. It’s great when reading authentically happens through play. ❤️❤️❤️ SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #teachersofinstagram #iteachk #ctinquiry

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If we look around the classroom, we really can see this building/creating interest emerge everywhere. It’s why students spent weeks building an enormous zoo, but have never really played in it. 

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Yesterday, we tried to inspire the creation of a zoo for all of the pool noodle animals. This turned into more of a drawing of a zoo, so we thought that if we changed some materials and put the pool noodle animals closer to the board, it might help. Today we did that. Tommy brought in some pictures of zoo cages, and initially children used the paper towel and toilet paper rolls to create them. It was great to hear the counting as part of these creations. They tried to tape them together, but they kept falling over. Then they thought that the two logs could be joined together to form a tree. It stood up on its own, but fell over when taped. At this point, I went over to the board, and suggested maybe starting with the background (the grass, water, etc.). Students drew a quick path and started painting. Brayden came over at this point, and thought that the toilet paper and paper towel rolls could be trees. He also painted one of the logs, initially as a water fall, and then as the entrance to the zoo. He remembered seeing cylinders in the shed, and thought that based on Tommy’s picture, they might work better for the cages “because they’re thinner.” He asked me if we could go and get them. See the next post for more. SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #teachersofinstagram #iteachk #ctinquiry

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The cylinders belonged to Mrs. Raymond, so Brayden wrote her a note asking if we could borrow them. (Now, in the end, I guess that borrow really meant use, but nothing here is permanent, so they can go back again.) She said, “Yes,” so Brayden went to collect them from the shed. In the meantime, children worked on painting the grass, trees, and the entrance to the zoo. Then Tommy thought that we could make the cage in the picture he brought. He counted the number of bars we needed, but did we have enough room? This led to an opportunity to estimate. Students started to think that the bars should be painted. They thought black initially, but then decided on a few different colours. Brayden shared thinking around the importance of camouflage, and started to talk about the different possible animals for each colour. Look to the next post for more. SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #teachersofinstagram #iteachk #ctinquiry

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Brayden then started working on painting more of the cylinders and affixing them to the board. The cylinders are heavy and white glue takes a while to stick. Children really needed to persevere and problem solve to get the cylinders standing up. Tommy thought about the giraffe cages and the need for them “to be taller because giraffes are so tall.” Brayden thought that they could double up on the cylinders. He glued two together and had them lie flat. He hopes they’ll stick. Carly realized that more glue helped. She inspired others to do the same. Then Brayden thought he needed more cylinders, but how many more? This required some estimation and math thinking. It turns out that he wanted more than I thought he might need, as he had plans for some off of this board as well. Look at the next post to see how the zoo ended today. SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #teachersofinstagram #iteachk #ctinquiry

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We then ended things for today by organizing the other cylinders to dry. Brayden decided to sort them, and he discussed his sorting rule with me. I had to do a little scrubbing of the floor, but it’s much cleaner now. Talking with @paulacrockett, we’re going to try to add some natural elements to this next week, along with some harder paper for signs. This morning, children thought that there should be a park near the zoo, so we thought that we’d link our park artwork with this zoo. Students might want to use the toilet paper and paper towel rolls for structures in the park. This might be a great opportunity to further explore sculpture in art. SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #teachersofinstagram #iteachk #ctinquiry

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Students continued to create the cages for the zoo. B. really problem solved by adding additional glue to make the bars stand up. When some fell over, T. and L. went over this afternoon to fix them. They were taken by the book GOODNIGHT GORILLA, and sat down to read it together first. They used both the pictures and letter-sounds to read the words, and actually figured out some unfamiliar words together. Then they held the bars down (with the glue on them) to make them stand up. B. then got concerned that we had all of these cages, but no space for the animals to roam. He asked for another board for grass. We got him one, and W. helped him paint it. Then B. thought that he could cut out some grass from paper to make it “stick out.” This is what he did. At the end of the day today, we looked at what was done, and Miss Barletta thought about bringing in some natural materials (eg, leaves) to add for tomorrow. We also put out some rocks. We really want to work on adding some signs tomorrow too. Can then work on segmenting sounds in words to write the labels. SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #teachersofinstagram #ctinquiry #iteachk

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This morning, a couple of students cut down the flowers I brought in, but then left this space. I asked Brayden if there was something we could do in the zoo. Initially he said, “They should have come up with a plan before cutting everything,” but then he did. He worked with Carys to add bars to the top of the cages, and even attach natural elements to them. Carys thought they needed a sensor to tell when they need to add food for the animals. Then Brayden told me we needed another board for the water. Love his thinking around salt water versus fresh water. Tomorrow he has plans to create fish. We’d also like to add some signs. We wonder if adding a writing table space closer to this creative space might lead to more sign writing. We’ll see tomorrow! ❤️❤️❤️ SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #ctinquiry #iteachk #teachersofinstagram #art

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The creation of the zoo continued today. Carys realized that she could use tape for the horizontal bars. Then students started to think about taping the top of the cages. But what about for the giraffes? They’re too tall. This led to a closer look on how to sort the animals, and how much space they all needed. Wyatt also considered the benefits of camouflage and re-painted some of the bars. We also made some more signs for the zoo. Wyatt used GOODNIGHT GORILLA to find the word “giraffes,” even correcting himself when he made a mistake. As students plan and organize more of the zoo, we need to consider layout. What else still needs to be made? What other signs might help us out? We’re going to continue to extend this zoo space tomorrow. SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #teachersofinstagram #iteachk #ctinquiry

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It’s why children have created numerous clothes and designer labels for dolls, stuffed animals, and mannequins — and even made the start of an ironing board mannequin — but never actually made a store.

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A. had to do some #problemsolving today, as she worked on getting the mannequin’s clothes off. She then created some new clothes for her “ballerina queen.” She labelled her work. I showed her how to use syllables to break down “ballerina,” and she wrote down the sounds she heard in each part of the word. Then we learned about the QU sound for “queen,” and she wrote the rest. Read back what she wrote. Need to give more independent practice time on the syllable approach for inventive spelling. @paulacrockett also worked with B. to attach one of the mannequin heads today. Now we have the start of an ironing board mannequin. The arms are looking kind of bare. We have some ideas for tomorrow (may link with patterning and counting), but we’ll see what the kids think in the morning. ❤️❤️❤️ SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #teachersofinstagram #iteachk #ctinquiry #art

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The details in these mannequins are incredible. Imagine the #finemotorskills and measurement at play. They decided to use them for storytelling today, and even created a bride, groom, flower girl, and wedding audience. Amazing! They chose to sign the aisle using cursive writing, and even discussed the letters and sounds in the names. Writing a closed sign finished things off. Addison listened for the sounds in the word, and we worked on the CL blend together. I really wanted to try and insert some writing here, but the measurement and creating was so incredible, it was hard to know how to do this and not take over their play. I think that I’ll read the book, RIBBON RESCUE tomorrow, and add this text to this space. What might that lead to? SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #iteachk #teachersofinstagram #ctinquiry #art

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And it’s why students have made the CN Tower too many times to count, but have never actually done anything in Toronto once its made.

I wonder then if this is another part of the 31 flavours dilemma. Could we be hearing interests, but could the actual interests vary from what the children are telling us? Maybe their interests are deeper than what they’re sharing. So maybe, even after we do what they ask, they’ll walk away because we haven’t gotten it quite right. It’s kind of like giving them chocolate ice cream when really what they want is Rocky Road. Both have chocolate components, but one has some additional elements as well. 

Sometimes teaching is about knowing just what flavour (or flavours) to provide, and then digging into the freezer for some more when those won’t do. Or maybe, for a small group, it’s about offering a special selection of flavours to meet their dietary needs or make their palates happy. Yes, I know that I’ve really pushed the ice cream connection here, but I can’t help myself. As Paula and I figured out yesterday, 31 flavours may be too much, but how many are just enough? It may take some trial and error to figure that out. How do you decide? I hope that when we get it right, we can reward ourselves with a few scoops of ice cream. 🙂

Aviva

4 thoughts on “The 31 Flavours Dilemma Continued

  1. OK, I stuck it out until the end of the post. Lots of things there, Aviva.

    Our profession would be pretty grim if the only choices were chocolate and vanilla. It’s the inclusion of all of the others that create rich classrooms and
    opportunity everywhere.

    Perhaps the wisdom lies in advice given to me along time ago and I’ve tried to live by it. The plate is only so big and there comes a time when it becomes full. If you stack more on it, then there are all kinds of prices to be paid. The better solution is to remove something before you add something else. That keeps it manageable and doable.

    That’s always easier said than done. I think that, as teachers, we all want to be everything to everyone. But, recognizing that there are limits is so important.

    • Thanks Doug! Excellent words of advice, and a good reminder. This makes me think about a blog post that Kristi Keery-Bishop wrote a while ago.

      https://kkeerybishop.commons.hwdsb.on.ca/2015/04/06/as-the-song-says-let-it-go/

      I think this is a post that I need to revisit right about now. Maybe this post will help us with figuring out some of our flavour options.

      Aviva

      P.S. Yes, this was quite the long post (or maybe just full of lots of documentation), but I decided to put all of this thinking together. Should I have published two different posts? Perhaps. Somehow everything just flowed for me. 🙂

  2. Well documented, it’s so wonderful to not just read about your day, but see it as well. I have come to agree that choice is essential, but can also have limits. Reaching the right balance may change from day to day and student to student. I continue to work on finding best practice – for both the students and myself.

    • Thanks Eva! I think that balance may be key. And maybe even when we have more choices, possibly introducing all of them becomes overwhelming. Is it a case of some children stumbling upon these choices on their own while we introduce others to the whole class? I think that we’ll continue to play with some choice options in the coming weeks.

      Aviva

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