Following Directions

We’re all just going to pretend that I’ve been updating my blog regularly for the past few months and that I’m one of those really excellent teacher bloggers with a store of posts saved up and ready to go for the future and NOT one of those lame teacher bloggers who doesn’t blog for months on end just to come back with excuses and sad face emojis. Agreed? Thanks.

Have you heard of this Mystery Doug fellow? He’s the man behind the Mystery Science curriculum (which is wonderful and fun and go check it out). On the side, he makes short videos in which he answers kids’ questions as the Mystery of the Week. I signed up this year and I watch them with my fourth and fifth graders to practice our comprehension skill in multimedia texts. (Also because the videos are fun and I like learning new stuff.) The videos remind me a lot of my other science love, Destin from Smarter Every Day. Unfortunately, Destin doesn’t send an email to me each week with his new video, and I’m quite lazy. Mystery Doug is my new science guy.

The latest Mystery of the Week was “How do they turn wood into paper?” The students had lots of interesting ideas (including melting the wood?!), but first we talked about the question word HOW and the kind of answer we should expect to get. Because it’s a HOW question, we should probably hear steps like a How To paper. Surprise! We did!

This got me thinking. Following steps is something we have to do all the time and that can be given to us in a lot of different ways. Most often for students in school, they’d be reading words. We just watched a video, so I wanted to try something different. I printed out graphic instructions for making an origami pigeon (it seemed like a low intensity origami project). The students and I worked through the directions trying to figure out what the arrows, dotted lines, and colors meant. We went through each step and matched up our work with what was on the page and made sure to check ahead to see what we were supposed to get.

At the end, we talked about the main idea (our current comprehension skill) of this text (even though there are no words): How to Make an Origami Pigeon. We talked about the details that gave us the main idea (the picture of the final product, each step, the word pigeon on the page). We also talked about what was easy and what was difficult in creating the pigeon. They had a lot of fun and now we have a concrete experience to which we can tie our learning. HOORAY!

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