Monday, February 11, 2013

Viewfinders - How To & How NOT To!!

Last week I had kids make viewfinders to use in creating their mini-abstacts (here). Most 5th graders had no problems with the basic directions. For others, not so easy!!
Here were the steps:
Fold: "hamburger" style (fat), not "hot dog" style (skinny).
 Trace around rectangle which is placed ON THE FOLD. I wanted the viewfinders to have 1-inch square cut-outs. Since I don't have 34 standard rulers and we weren't going to have that much time, I had pre-cut some little 1" X 1/2" rectangles for the kids to use as a quick stencil.
Cut out.
Finished product!!

Now, in all fairness, most students came pretty close to making a viewfinder like the one above.

However, there were these, too:

 This little rectangle was folded in half around the fold.
This student placed the short end of the rectangle on the fold.
You KNOW what happened here, even though we talked about this before starting.
And then there were those that had trouble determining a "skinny" vs "fat" rectangle.

I know that with Valentine's Day creeping up, many teachers will be sighing as they observe similar cutting skills this week. Even though we model, demonstrate, remind students of possible pitfalls, we will still see that some students just need a little more time and practice. So, the word of the week: PATIENCE!!!! Have a fun Valentine's Day!

ps. To all of you on the East coast who may be shoveling out about now, I wish you well. Here in Southern California we are already seeing signs of Spring!!!


  1. Yes! I had one of those moments today when I started a Burton Morris heart project with 2nd graders! About half of the students were confident in their heart making abilities, and the other half, not so much. We had A LOT of wasted paper, despite my demonstration and review with them! Never seems to fail...

  2. After years of similar situations with the inability to accurately follow directions, I added a new rule. At the completion of each step, I asked the students to hold their work in the air for me to approve. This was particularly important before the cutting step, so I could immediately see the paper folded he wrong way, etc. I also asked them to double check their neighbors as they finished each step. When cutting paper for a loom for a weaving project, I particularly follow this 'hold in the air ' rule, and when it comes to the cutting steps, I actually do not even give a child a scissors until I have approved the lines they've drawn for cutting. I circulated the room with a bin of scissors, and their proper preparation of the paper was the 'ticket' for the scissors. I saved a lot of paper this way!

  3. You know, I would always do that when I was doing Valentine heart projects with 1st and 2nd graders. I really didn't think I needed to take that precaution with 5th graders. To be fair, most of them did just fine. But the few who had to do multiple tries reminded me that I really shouldn't take anything for granted, no matter what the grade level!!

    In my original post I didn't write about the interchange I had with one struggling 5th grader. I am chuckling!! He started by making a skinny "hot dog fold" instead of the "hamburger fold" I had modeled and emphasized. He looked puzzled when I held up my sample for him to examine closely and see if they were the same. He was having trouble seeing the difference. I said, "Not a problem, open it back up and turn it the other way." He opened his fold and flipped the paper over, not changing the direction a bit, and started folding another hot dog fold. "Nope," I said. "Let's rotate just one turn."(showing him what I meant) That was totally puzzling. I resisted swooping in, wanting him to figure it out for himself. I laid my sample down right next to his paper. At that point his neighbor did come to the rescue and show him how to turn his paper. With it in the correct direction for folding, I figured we were home free. Not just yet, though. He carefully started folding up just the edge of the paper, maybe an eighth of an inch or so, nowhere near folded in HALF. By then I was ready to show him exactly what to do -- we folded together. Like I said, PATIENCE is a teacher's friend!!!!

  4. This all makes me think of an instance, several years back, with a high-functioning autistic boy, then in the 2nd grade.
    We had read about Andy Warhol and his cats, and were doing cat paintings. We looked at his paintings with bold colors, they drew cats made from simple shapes, and I gave them a selection of colors to choose from to begin. My instructions were to begin with BACKGROUND. We were going to paint the negative space first, and in the next class we would paint the cats. Everyone seemed clear about what to do, and selected a color. As I circulated the room, I came to this boy and it appeared he had forgotten to draw his cat, as he was painting his hole sheet of paper a solid chocolate brown. How could I have missed that, I wondered. But the truth was, he HAD drawn the cat, on the OTHER SIDE of the paper. He heard the word BACK in BACKGROUND, and without questioning why, he was painting the back of his paper. I straightened him out, and calmed his confusion, and realized he had done a very literal translation of my instructions, typical with autism. That incident really opened my eyes and made me think about how I worded instructions, not just for him, but for everybody. How often do we make assumptions about what kids should know or understand, only to find out just how wrong we are?