Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ice Cream Making...Classroom Style

My school has many wonderful qualities. Situated high on a hill, it offers beautiful views of orchards and wooded hillsides. The simple three-hallway layout makes for easy navigation. Our faculty is small enough that a 13 X 9 pan can feed everyone.

Our lack of air conditioning is only an issue for a few days out of the year.

But on those days, it's really hot! Last week, while I was teaching about reading to perform a task, I thought I'd have kids practice by making plastic bag ice cream. (There are lots of recipes and activities online for this...just search and you'll get a long list.) Why ice cream? I knew that it involved playing around with ice, and I hoped it would make us all cooler! I tweaked a recipe, formatting it for easy reading, and scraped together the supplies.

What an adventure! It was memorable, from leaking bags to ice that melted too quickly. I learned several things:

1. You will always need more ice, especially on a 90 degree day.

2. The value of a "stunt classroom" is unparalleled. (For this year, we have a vacant classroom on our hallway...it's wonderful to have a place to do messy things, and then leave the clean-up for the end of the day.)

3. More on the philosophical side: Most kids, and most adults too, would rather see a demonstration than just read directions. I struggled with this as we were making ice cream. On the one hand, I wanted them to practice reading the recipe. However, they knew that I knew more about the technique than was written on the paper. I couldn't blame them for pumping me for more information! (They asked questions like, "Why do we need the rock salt?" and "Why do we put the small bag inside the large bag?")

4. Some fourth graders find "What do you do before..." and "Which step follows..." questions to be quite difficult. Even carrying out the steps doesn't completely fix this problem for them. I'm wondering why this might be so. Does this carry over to other kinds of reading and thinking also? Is it a developmental issue that will resolve itself, or do these students need some targeted help?

5. Playing around with the ice really did help us all to feel cooler.

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