Monday, December 23, 2013

How The Gingerbread Man Taught Us To Be Problem Solvers

As usual around this time of year, I start reading different versions of "The Gingerbread Man."  

These stories are great for discussing parts of a good story!  We created a web map for each version showing characters, setting, problem, and solution. We also have been discussing how to tell who the main character is. 

In Writer's Workshop we are authors and illustrators and write books. Every child writes at the level they are at. They LOVE writing books!!!  They usually choose to write about our inquiries, but they choose what they want to write a book about!  Most have been writing nonfiction, but now, most are wanting to write their own versions of "The Gingerbread Man."  They are working hard to make sure they include a main character, supporting characters, a setting (shown through their illustrations) a problem and a solution. They are also making sure their stories have a beginning, middle and ending. 

During our Exploration time, they took our new friend Gingy and hid him, then let their friends find him. 

They also created paper gingerbread people using art supplies.

We made gingerbread cookies, of coarse!

Like with the masquerade masks, they did a great job of creating plans!  It really makes them think about what they want their product to look like, rather than randomly spreading as much candy around their cookie as possible!

One day, we came to school and found out that, like all Gingerbread Men do, our Gingy ran away!  Just like in the stories, we had a problem!  We decided that instead of throwing fits or giving up, we could try to solve the problem!  They decided to create posters to hang up all over our school.  They decided the posters needed to state the problem and how they could help us.  They created posters and taped them all over our school.

Over night, he visited our room!  We saw that he likes to read Gingerbread stories! He left all the different versions on the floor opened up to his favorite parts. 

When the kids saw that the posters didn't solve the problem, they came up with another idea!  Some decided to create traps during our exploration time. They had some very creative ideas on how to catch him, such as make a gingerbread girl to lure him back, make a trail of candies from the hallway to a trap in our room, have a net with candy in it set out for him to get tangled in... Their ideas were so smart!  They started making plans and asking for materials right away!  I gathered boxes, ribbon, pipe cleaners, tape, paper tubes...anything I could find that they may be able to use.  After that, they got right to work!

I loved listening to them talk to each other about how their trap was going to work.  There was a lot of planning, and problem solving going on as they figured out how their traps would work!  Here are a few of the traps. 

This next one is the one that ended up catching Gingy. They hung a bag from the elevated box and tried to make a net out of yarn at the opening of the bag. 

They wrote notes for him, sealed them in envelopes and put them into the bag to lure him in, along with a candy cane (The envelope in the picture says, "Welcome to your new home," to trick him.).The plan was for Gingy to get his foot caught in the net as he was looking into the bag at the notes.  That would make him fall into the bag where he would get stuck. It worked exactly as they planned as you can see in the picture below!

am always amazed at what important business this is for five and six year olds.  They were VERY serious about making the posters and creating traps to get Gingy back. They were upset Gingy was gone and worked very hard to solve the problem. Being problem solvers was the under lying theme for this whole unit. We focused very heavily on the importance of solving problems not only in our projects, but in every area of our lives. I now hear kids saying to themselves and friends, "We can solve this problem!" or "We are problem solvers!"  Many have come up to me so proud telling me that they had a problem but they solved it!  This is really helping with the tattling also!  If they tattle and I say, "That sounds like a problem," they grin, then come back later to tell me how they solved the problem...and they are so proud of themselves!  Now, rather than tattling, they try to go to who they are having a problem with and try solving the problem first.  If they tried and can't solve the problem, then they come to me for help.  Problem solving is an important 21st Century Skill and having problem solving skills will help them be successful both academically and socially!

Before our Winter Break, the kids decided on two things they would like to inquire about... Castles/medieval times and Music!  They wanted to do Castles first so we will start that in January.  I have never had kids so interested in this so I will be doing a lot of research over winter break to find experiences for them as we investigate!  I believe we will incorporate a Fairy Tale Study during Writer's Workshop during this Inquiry also!  I have a feeling we will be building some castles so if you have any boxes or materials that you think would be useful, send them in!

I hope that you all have an amazing Christmas and Happy Holidays!  

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Bakery Project

As we started reading Gingerbread Man stories, the kids started pretending the home living area was a bakery. I asked if they were interested in turning the whole area into a bakery and they became very excited! We sat as a class and came up with a plan on the Promethium Board showing a design for our bakery and listing the materials we needed.  They wanted the outside of the bakery to look like a Gingerbread House. They also wanted a sign with the bakery's name on it. They decided to call it "Santa's Bakery."  They also wanted an area for the bakers to work with supplies to make pastries and cookies, and breads to sell to friends in little bakery bags. Some wanted to make magazines for customers to read while they waited for their food!

First we worked on the outside of the bakery. They planned it together and got to work!  One team measured the surface for the walls with unifix cubes then used the measurements to cut brown butcher paper to cover the walls.

Some made candy to glue on the walls by painting paper tubes to look like candy canes. 

Another team designed and put together the walls. 

Another team worked on the sign. 

They wanted to make bread for the bakery to sell. I came across something that looked perfect at to make the salt dough breads!  She has a great salt dough recipe and a great no-cook playdough recipe!  Her class made beautiful breads so I thought we could try it!  You can see her breads here at

We researched different kinds of breads. One team made salt dough and everyone made pretzels, braided bread, cinnamon rolls, bagels or croissants. 

They loved the smell of the breads they made!

They made the refrigerator into a display case. 

Here is the finished bakery!

We used our project table for our baker's work area. I set up supplies on the table and my cooking team made spiced playdough and I made peppermint playdough to create cookies, cakes, pies and pastries. 

We set out cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice and some beads for decorating.  It smelled heavenly!

Some beautiful desserts were made!

Now that the bakery is finished, let the roll play begin!

We have also been doing a lot of gingerbread man activities! Our Gingerbread Man ran away so they are in the process of creating traps to catch him! They have a lot of creative ideas and may be asking to bring materials for their traps to school! They can bring any materials they feel they need!  I will post about our gingerbread happenings next week!