Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Thinking with Blocks

My school's staff has been trained to use ThinkBlocks.  My friends who have had more training in ThinkBlocks say that they help students think in a natural way, but not necessarily a way that we are use to teaching.  It helps students make connections and distinctions between things.  (This is a most elementary explanation, as I am an absolute newbie to this, or a "white belt" as they call it.)

I've tried using the ThinkBlocks a couple of times, but felt as though I really didn't know what I was doing.  My classroom neighbor told me to start with something simple like having the kids tell you the "what is" and "what is not" a part of something.

In kindergarten today, my students were starting to paint the faces on their self portraits.  Instead of having them list the parts of the face that they needed to include, I had them tell me things that were or were not part of the face.  Naturally, I got "eyes," "nose" and "mouth." When kids suggested "ears" and "neck" there was disagreement about which block group these should go; "not a part of a face" or "part of a face."  It was interesting to hear 5 year olds defend their reasoning.  In the end, they decided that while both of those touch the face, some people might consider them part of the face and others might consider them not part of the face, so we stuck those blocks in the middle.

Nothing groundbreaking, but I am excited to start using the blocks.  I want to keep thinking of ways to use the tools and dig deeper.


Tara said...

hmmmm...very interesting!

Kathy said...

I never heard of the think blocks, but it sounds interesting to me...

Random Walks said...

Hi! I am a teacher in Maine who left eighth grade this year and entered fourth... my first time with such little ones!

I felt the same way last year which was my first year with the blocks.

This year I discovered something that is working very well. I took an object (I chose a castle for some reason) and started to think about what a castle is and what one isn't. The significant thing I did this year was find something very similar... a palace and the Great Wall of China. Each one of those shares some characteristics and it is making it easier to explore what makes a castle a castle and not a palace... We are starting a dsrp wall... interesting things we investigate which await further research. We are working on getting to know what one is by studying its parts, the parts of a palace and the parts of the Great Wall. After that, we will move on.

I envision some of my literacy block devoted to dsrping a topic of choice. My librarian is game for finding us books as topics arise.

Right now I am working on what dsrping means... and it is catching on quite well. So much better than last year when I tried to work with discrete skills in isolation... and with large complex ideas.

Derek is right... use one concept!

I am still struggling with using them as a manipulative and have only gotten them out once so far.


Julie said...

This is interesting! They are very cool looking blocks,... I have never seen them before...should be a lot of fun learning more about them and what they can do!

Sarah said...

I taught primary children for 30 years. I've heard of "thinking out of the box" but this is a new one for me. I retired in 98. I'm going to google this and learn more. ~ Sarah

jackie said...

I know I'm not a trained teacher so my opinion should be taken with a very large grain of salt, but....does education really require all these gimmicks and reinvented ways of doing things? I'm asking I guess with an open mindedness, but also some cynicism.