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  • Writer's pictureTrish Dotts

He Gets it!

excited child

I just earned Purple Bunnies! A student shouted within 30 minutes of first hearing Purple Bunnies even exist. I thought, “Man, I wish I could get that excited face on video!” I was so happy that my little mini-lesson already had an impact.

This kiddo had just completed a cup building challenge in my new STEAM class at our K-2 Elementary school. Broken up into groups of four students, ‘teams’ are given points based on cooperation. They were not competing to get done first or make the highest tower. Each team’s ‘challenge’ to use 7 cups and three pieces of paper to make a tower 5 cups high is somewhat easy. I know, that with a little work each group will achieve their goal.

This challenge immediately solidifies the message about Purple Bunnies. The step-by-step lesson is narrated below.

So today, the class started at the carpet area. With chart paper, I introduced the idea of problems being good things to have because they offer the opportunity to earn Purple Bunnies.

Having a problem, itself can be a little stressful. But our goal is to work to solve the problems. I did a ‘think aloud’ of problems I’ve had, and wrote them down on the chart. Then I gave students 15 seconds of thinking time to remember some problems they have had. Next, they shared those problems with an elbow partner. After a minute of them talking, I ask for volunteers to share with the class. Usually, 1st and second graders repeat some of the ideas here. This is good because they have been given time to internalize and make personal connections to the experience of having a problem.

a tunnel with the word problem

  • Messy room.

  • I can’t find my socks.

  • I came to a word I did not know when I was reading.

  • MY dogs, horses, cats got out of the yard.

  • Brother/sister/friend problems.

problem tunnel with arrow through it

Then I showed them that the goal of any problem is to ‘solve it.’

I ask them to think of a time they have solved a problem. Have they ever finally made their room clean? What does it feel like to find a lost item?

“Show me on your face what it feels like to finally solve the problem? “ Most of the class is showing me their smiles. So I tell them that this feeling has a silly name. “We can call this feeling Purple Bunnies”

I prompt the students to chorally say.

“The feeling I earn when I solve a problem.” We repeat this until everyone in the class can say it. There are a lot of “r” sounds in this sentence. Sometimes they struggle, so I break the long sentence into two parts. “The feeling I earn” “When I solve a problem”

Now Purple Bunnies can be a “signal word”

Teacher: Purple Bunnies,

Students: The feeling I earn when I solve problems.

Teacher: When I say “Purple Bunnies, line up at the door.

Students: (as they are lining up) The feeling I earn when I solve problems.

I took the class outside for their challenge, though you can send them back to their tables groups and keep them in your classroom and still have great results.

The challenge has two teacher goals.

1) reinforce Purple Bunnies, 2) reinforce cooperative learning behaviors.

I shout out that I am giving points to teams based on cooperation skills I see. “Red team earns 5 points for everyone being involved,” “Green team 5 points for using sharing words,” 5 points for the yellow team for achieving their goal but not stealing the ‘thunder’ of other teams.” When I see a group arguing, I’ll give a different group points for negotiating in a healthier way. When I see a team where one kiddo is excluded, I give the neighboring team points for everyone having a cup to add to the tower. This reinforces working together effectively.

During all of this organized chaos, I approach a team who has just accomplished its goal. Obvious due to smiling and showing signs of accomplishment, throwing fists into the air and usually, jumping with joy. I stop at the group and ask them to notice the feeling they have. They usually say “Happy”. But then I define this type of happiness as Purple Bunnies.

The students usually look at me a bit weird, because I just introduced the idea 15 minutes ago on the chart paper, so I just ask them to say “The feeling I earn when I solve a problem. Then, the students ‘get it”.

Immediately, I give them a new, yet similar challenge. “Now, you have a new challenge, make a tower 7 cups high.” Empowered by their recent accomplishment, they always attack this new challenge with excitement.

Today, this is when I heard a student exclaim another comment I wish I had captured in video.

“Oh my gosh! We got even more Purple Bunnies when we work together! I got MORE Purple Bunnies!”

Okay, friend. . .now I seriously have Purple Bunnies, because this kid, already GETS IT!

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