Sunday, October 21, 2012

test it please

My third graders have just finished all five brain gym exercises and compressions. There are a few minutes left to work on a motion puzzle. They have been practicing on one with a cardboard track and a ping pong ball with holes in it.The puzzle promotes eye and hand coordination.
 As with all my puzzles I practice them myself first. If I can do it my students will be successful themselves.

Watch Cardboard Track and Ball puzzle on video. Two minutes.

      After hauling this styrofoam tray around in my truck cab, I shared it with my students. I asked what they thought it was made of. Was it metal? No. Was it plastic? No. Was it heavy? No. I rolled the ball down two sides of the tray to plant the idea.  "What do you think?" I ask each. "Can it work? Test it for me, please." And they do.
     Two students have to sit down to do it. Most can tilt the tray with their two hands so that the ball rolls around once. Two passes around seems to be a threshold. So, the next time we meet, I have each tilt the tray so that the ball passes around two times and then as many times as they choose after that. All of them have gotten better at it.
     It is tricky because there are two big holes in the tray and it is easy for the ball to fall to the floor. This tray promotes eye and hand coordination.
     Now that they have acquired the focus needed and the ball is controlled. What else can they make it do? The students are becoming inventors. They try out a hunch. Test it out, trial and error. Sometimes it doesn't work as easy as they thought. Two students came up with ideas I hadn't thought of. I was pleased. Do they have a name in mind for the puzzle they discovered? I listen to their ideas.

Two minute video
This next week I will have each try the boards. It is a balance puzzle. And yes, I have been trying it myself. The thing is, if I can plant an idea, of course keeping it safe and do able. What might they come up with--as they master it?

Two minute video
The students I am assigned to need the brain gym exercises to get the right and left sides of their brains working together. I tell them that the exercises are designed to make the body want to fall over. The brain tries to over ride the fall.
Paul E. Dennison coined the term "brain gym."
My class does both Hook Ups and the Cross Crawl.
You can see what my students have come up with on my Motion Puzzle blog.
"Welcome to Motion Puzzles where students have created, tested, and named their own exercises. Balance is challenged. The left and right side of the brain sends emails back and forth, "NO NO, DO NOT TIP OVER!!"

(courtesy of Teacher Tube,,; and,, accessed Oct 21, 2012)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

school skills

O Lord, you are my strength and my shield. You bring me joy in pleasant ways. I sing your praise.

There is a delight when a student thinks for himself and formulates an answer, a guess, a hunch. The thinking through and voicing of her thought. This came Friday morning with my third graders. We had completed our six brain gym exercises, and time remained for a motion puzzle. I held out a large rectangular chunky looking tray to each in the group. What did they suppose was the tray was made of? Was is wood? No. Was it metal? No. One guessed, paper. Was it heavy? They held it with both hands. No, it was light. Then I continued, I had found this Styrofoam packing material left out for the janitor to discard. It had once been around a computer unit. I thought maybe it could be used here in our room. (I brought out the plastic golf ball from my jacket pocket, and placed it in the inside the tray.) I wondered whether you could figure it out. (Taking hold off the tray on both ends with my hands, I tilted the tray so that the ball would roll down one side and across the side closest to me. Just enough to plant the idea. We had been trying various forms of ball rolling back and forth on a cardboard track. See

Each student took three minutes to try their skill at making the ball run down all four sides of the tray in a circular fashion. In the middle of the tray there were two large preformed holes. Every student experienced the ball falling through the tray to the floor, bouncing under a table to retrieve on hands and knees. It was not as easy as it appeared. Two students chose to sit down instead of standing to complete the two loops. I thanked each for trying this exercise out for me. Some began coming up with names for the puzzle. The joy of the Lord enveloped my heart.

Friday afternoon at BMP I listened to a third grader read. Sounding out words you do not know is WORK and takes much COURAGE. Following the story with my eyes as he read, I could interject the right pronunciation of a word after he tried it himself first. The sentences came together in a halting fashion. Start stop start stop. Instead of gibberish, the story actually meant something and could be understood by both of us. After he finished the chapter we looked at the book illustrations and talked about the silk weaver woman, what an ox looked like, what the wooden cart looked like, and the pointed to the major characters by name. After completing the assignment, the student was delighted and in a pleasant mood. The joy of the Lord snuck into my heart and made my spirit soar.

You make my path straight. You bring me your joy in unexpected ways. How sweet you are. How gentle and kind.