By Kris Dorsey
Gastineau Community School, 1st Grade
Science – absolutely, Writing – of course, Reading – yep...I’ve challenged myself to integrate many different Artful Thinking routines with the instructional content in my first grade class this year. Well, all except math… I’ve avoided it long enough, I suppose. I turned my teacher’s guide to our newest chapter. Math In Focus, Chapter 15 – Calendar and Telling Time.
How do we measure time?... Seconds, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades...
How do we keep track of those units of measure?.. Timers, watches, phones, clocks, calendars…
What do the kids really need to know and how will they learn it best?... They need to develop a sense of time – how many seconds in a minute, minutes in an hour, hours in a day, days in a week, weeks in a month, months in a season, months/seasons in a year - and be able to compare those units of time. But what parts have to be experienced? The passage of time, the development of what an hour feels like compared to five hours, how it feels to wait a year for your next birthday, what mom actually means when she says there are only 10 minutes before bedtime... these are not things we can tell them; these are things they have to experience and connect with...these ideas about time must be constructed within the learner.
Sure, we need to help kids have access to the social knowledge pieces - like there are 60 seconds in a minute or that the third day of a week has a name and it's called Tuesday. These bits of information cannot be constructed within the learner alone through experiences. They have to be told from one person to another…because, in Japan, the third day of the week is called Kayobi...you wouldn't know that until somebody told you, no matter how many Tuesdays go by in Tokyo. These are the direct instruction pieces; the pieces I have to reveal to them.
But what connections can we make about telling time with an Artful Thinking routine? How can we use Artful Thinking and art experiences to assess what children already know or have learned about reading clocks? How can we make the learning engaging and meaningful?
Prior to introducing the new chapter, I told the kids we were going to do a "See, Think, Wonder" Thinking Routine for several pictures. First, I pulled out a photo of a sundial and didn't say anything while they looked carefully and thought about it.
Then, I asked them to quietly turn and share with a partner the things that they saw and thought about. I asked a few volunteers to share out their ideas and anything they wondered. Here are a few quotes after looking at the sundial:
"Maybe it's a time machine."
"I noticed some letters on the circle part."
"There's a shadow from the sun."
"I wonder why there is a shark fin on it in the middle?"
Next, I pulled out a photo of an ancient water clock (used to measure time at night) and repeated the "See, Think, Wonder" routine:
"Maybe it's an ancient bowl."
"I see Egypt writing on it – hiro, helo, hieroglyphs? I don't know what they're called, but it's Egypt picture writing."
"It looks like a bowl with water in it and it has a hole in the bottom."
"I wonder if it's for drinking water or taking a shower?"
Then, I pulled out a photo of an hourglass and repeated the routine:
"I have one of those at home"
"I think it's a timer."
"I have a small one in my game at home."
"It has sand in it and when it runs out, you turn it over to start it."
"I use one when I brush my teeth so I know how long I have to brush."
"I wonder how long it takes for the sand to run out from the top?"
The next photo to be revealed with the thinking routine was an analog clock:
"That's a clock!"
"We have those kinds in here – right over there (pointing to the classroom analog clocks)."
"I don't know how much time is on it."
"I think it shows ten-eight."
The last photo I brought out was a digital clock (akin to the Velcro shoe – most kids can figure it out without any help!)
"I have that kind. It's an alarm clock."
After they had discussed all the photos, I asked them, "Why do you think I put all these photos together?" Here are some things that they said,
"They all have to do with time?"
"Maybe it's about time machines."
"Maybe we're doing it for math?"
"We are going to learn about time."
"We know that these things are time."
"Because you want us to make connections about ways people tell time?"
"It's our math for today."
"Because we are going to be thinking about time and clocks."
I literally got goosebumps. They got it. They understood that unless we know how to "read" the markings or how the device is used to measure time, it's useless to us. The sundial, the water clock and the hourglass were all cool ideas for telling time, but we couldn't read them...we hadn't been taught how to use them to measure the passage of time. That set the stage for our purpose - learning to read an analog clock to measure time. They noticed there are three analog clocks on the walls of our classroom already, but I was the only one in the room who knew how to read them.
In subsequent lessons, we learned to draw the hands and numbers on a clock using a write on/wipe off board and talked about how to show and write time to the hour (6:00 and 6 o'clock). We practiced reading clocks in our Math In Focus workbooks. To carry over the "time" theme into an art lesson, I introduced the class to the well-known metaphor, "Time flies when you're having fun." They had to incorporate an analog clock (drawn correctly) into something that flies.
It served as a well-disguised formative assessment (to see if they really knew how to draw the hands and hours on a clock), but it was so fun that time DID fly after all. Before we knew it, our classroom clocks indicated we had run out of time for school and it was time to go home for the day.
Using a Thinking Routine to set the stage for our math learning naturally encouraged the kids to think about the purpose of what we were about to do – it intrigued them, engaged them, and helped them make new connections to the idea that time can be measured using all kinds of devices but if we are to use them, we have to know how to read them.
I'm pretty sure it was as exciting for them as it was for me. This exemplified what I love about Artful Thinking – it transformed a lesson I've taught for 21 years (and a lesson that is probably taught in most first grade math books in the nation) into something that felt like a new, exciting and meaningful discovery. It changed the focus of the math lesson from simply how to read a clock to why we need to know how to read a clock. It set the purpose for our thinking and opened up our minds to new ideas.
A collection of JSD teachers' arts integration classroom experiences