Back2Back/Collaborative Monster Mash (Say what?)

Our third day of extra art class with Kinders and 1st graders was today! I wasn’t sure what I was really getting myself into when I started a “collaborative journey”.  As stated in my last post, I had students on day one, created circle drawings inspired by Kandinsky and then I had them put them together in a mural – aka, work individually and then create something together.   The second time, I had students actually work together to make one large item.

Today, I wanted to go further.  I wanted students to have conversations surrounding collaboration (and what better day to present this challenge without knowing if it would succeed on a day when 25 principals are visiting our school for ideas).  We practiced the big word, very big for 1st grade and Kindergarten.  We said, 1 – 2 – 3, COLLABORATION!  Then we talked about what it was.  After some prodding and reminders of the last two big lessons we had done, we gathered that it meant working together.

To get us started, I did a back-to-back exercise that I stole from a colleague (Mr. Swett will never read this).  Simply have students walk around silently and when I said “Back to Back”, students had to stand back to back with one student.  If a student was already paired when you aren’t, you simply head towards the teacher and match up with those others who aren’t paired.  If there was an odd number, I had them form a group of three. After they were paired, I had them turn and greet each other.  This was successful because students ended up paired with others they wouldn’t normally choose.  Thanks, Mr. Swett.

From there, we scenario-ed (is that a word) what it means to problem solve in pairs.  Each pair received a piece of paper and used crayons to draw their very own monster.  One monster per pair! But how do we  both get to draw then, Miss J?  By sharing ideas and working together.  This is hard, of course – but with some helpful tools like “ask what they want to do” and “take turns if you need to”, it started to work.  Students in Kindergarten and 1st grade blew me away once they got going because I heard things like “Wow, Kaitlynn, that’s a really good idea!” and I saw students who never talk or participate thrive on the attention.  At one point I told the teacher assistant, “It’s working…why am I not taking pictures?” Ha.

After students drew their monster came the fun part.  I gave each pair a dollop of red, one of yellow, and one of blue Model Magic.  They can mix or use the colors separately – that is their decision as a pair.  Again, I prompted them with problem solving strategies and instructed them to now bring their monster to life by making him/her take up space.  This was a challenge in itself because they all immediately just used the clay to fill in their drawing so I had to push them away from there and it became successfully.

We left class understanding that working together was really hard at times – that our ideas are not always the same as others.  But when we work together and share ideas sometimes something wonderful happens, right?  I am so impressed – maybe I’m just lucky but the youngest of students are really understanding why we work together – so we can get along.  I love this journey – I am learning along the way.

And just for fun – this is the monster created by two of my students who speak limited English and are normally extremely quiet.  Not only did they blow me away with their work but they were talkative and really engaged.  It was like a light in their eyes.

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