Friday Problem – number 21 (Climbing character)

teacher journal entry – reflection

I started to change how I presented the problem again to the students. I proposed it as more of a problem with out much explanation. I wanted students to figure out how the project worked and why. This was not to be just a googled answer, and I wanted students to explain what the thought was happening and why. This was successful and in some cases worked better then it had in the past. Which led me to think that is was a better way to address my friday problems. However, I think it might be kind of topic specific, and if it is interesting to students. I have also found that if I build it up, and get students pumped up before we start they are more incline to want to do it. And in most cases the want to try and succeed.

I also had the principal come in and ask the students to explain what they are doing. In all cases the students were able to explain what they are doing and why. But they were not able to explain how the character was able to move up the string. I followed along behind the principal and  asked some probing questions and framed them in ideas we covered that week in class. Next friday problem I would like to continue on with this format and see if I can expand on it a bit more.


Friday Problem – number 20 (horse hair paintbrush)

teacher journal entry – reflection

This was difficult for me and the students. I had to let go of some of my control and let the students explore more how to solve problems they encountered on their own. As a teacher there was just not enough of me to go around and the students needed help. I had planed the lesson out but I had not thought it out enough if they ran into problems or if parts broke and the had to use more time to build it again. As I watched the students get frustrated and some wanting to give up, I just kept telling them it was about the process not the product. Some students understood this, but they really wanted the paint brush to be finished. Most of the students figured it out and the ones that didn’t continued to to struggle their way through it. I learned about how was teaching was working well if it all was planned out and I had a working example. When I didn’t I found most students were fully engaged and invested in the project. I learned that I needed to let my students struggle a bit more to figure things out and that will give me more time to help the students that loose focus and need help getting back on track.


Friday Problem – number 19 (Woodworking {ROBOT})

teacher journal entry – reflection

This was the biggest challenge to my teaching this week. I introduced the students to power tools and woodworking. We started the class with a safety lesson and discussed how the tools could be dangerous if they were not handled properly and with respect. I was a bit overwhelmed at first and things started to level off as we got started. Then the problems hit! Students were excited o get started and wanted to get building. I should have requested some parents to help ad have a few more tools on hand. Most of the students understood that they needed to do something else while other students were using he hand tools. Most students spent the time sanding their blocks of wood. We worked outside on a nice sunny day and that worked out well for the most part. It was very warm out and some students needed to take breaks inside out of the sun.

One student had a lot of difficulty with the project. He got sidetracked and even with the EA working with him one on one he still needed assistance from me.

I had another student that was fixated on burning the wood with a magnify glass. This did not work so he was able to move on and try some other ways to decorate his wooden robot.

When doing this again I would make sure I have some extra helpers on hand so I can work with the students that need my extra help. Overall this project went very well and all the students were engaged and working. I have been working on my field study question  try to adapt my ‘Friday Problems’ into other subject areas other than Science and Math.  With this one I was exploring parts of the new curriculum also, Applied design, skills and technology.

 Friday Problem – number 18 (Any previous project re-do)

teacher journal entry – reflection

I made another change this week, I had students redo any of the previous Friday problems we had done. Students could make them again, they could combine them or create a new one that was influenced by one of the problems. I wanted to see how the students would do with the projects if they had time again to do them. I wondered if they would find it easier, or would they have some new ideas that would make the project different or even better. I also wondered if the students that had trouble with the project would they try it again? Would they have the same difficulties?  I would also like to do this to see how the students grow from semester to semester.

 Friday Problem – number 17 (Architect focus – week long )

teacher journal entry – reflection

I made a few changes again this week. As we were heading into spring break I wanted to work on a project a bit longer then just one day. We watched several videos and and continued with the project over a week. Students found this both good and bad. Some students liked the extra time and others found it long and drawn out. I find that my expectations for this project started off high and lessened as the project went on. I had hoped to add a lot of steps to this but had to end this quickly and will look at it again and add to it in a couple of weeks.

Friday Problem – number 17b (extra problem in PE )

teacher journal entry – reflection

I tried something else this week. In keeping with my field study question I wanted to try using other subjects to be the focus of the problem. By using inquiry and PE I thought of having three randomly chosen students com up with a variation of a game for PE. They would have 10-15 min  to discuss and come up with the rules and what to play then they would teach the class and we would play it. I started off the process by talking to another teacher and he gave me a game to try in class, I then adapted it and explained to the students they would have a chance to do this also.


Friday Problem – number 16 (scissor grabber )

teacher journal entry – reflection

This week I tried to give the students a more open ended problem. I keep wanting to show them hints of an idea, and get them to use the ideas and tools I have showed them before in other problems and use those in all their future problems. I would like them to see them as tools they can use, not unlike the cognitive tools in I.E. that they have them to use and fit as they need them. I am finding it is working and I am letting go more and more and the students are figuring out how to solve the problems more on their own. I am also noticing I am more of a guide or a mentor that will help them when they need it. I can feel my practice of teaching shifting and the students are even more engaged and stepping outside of their comfort zone.


Friday Problem – number 15 (Soap carving with student made tools )

teacher journal entry – reflection

This weeks problem took a bit of a turn. Students were not as comfortable with this problem. The subjects focus has changed and I am giving them more control in developing how they are solving the open problem. I however, go very frustrated with some of the students as they had seemed to have given up early or if the actual carving was not working out as they intended it, or if it broke. Most students did not have any difficulty with making a tool, but most realized that the tool that they created did not fit the task of carving such a small item. With some of the students feeling very comfortable and other frustrated it was hard for me as a teacher to find balance between the two extremes. I did manage to stop the class and regroup them to try again with what pieces they had left and they did manage to explain this process on the posting in FreshGrade.  I would like for the next problem to try something that does not create an actual product or thing, but an experience. This might be a bit abstract but I think it will be a great learning experience for me as well as the class.

Friday Problem – number 14 (Styrofoam plate biplane gliders – balance )

teacher journal entry – reflection

Our problem this Friday was a bit different again. I wanted to try doing  a problem we had done before but explore something different with it. It was similar, but a lot more challenging, and allowed the students to use what they had done before but challenge them to use this knowledge differently. The students needed to build the planes out of the Styrofoam plates, then proceed to use clay to balance the front of the plane with the back of it. Other challenges also raised were the angle of the wings and the way the tail was done. One problem that came up was one student has a hard time staying focused on the goal of the problem and gets caught up in the building. He often just keeps building and it is too heavy from all the glue and extras he has added to his plane, car, etc. He is also scared to use the things he builds because he worries they will break and then it will be wrecked and all that time he spent building it will be wasted.  In this project he managed to build the plane and it was done. He just needed to balance it and throw it to see if it worked. He did not want to do it! he also needed to video it so he could add it to his Fresh Grade portfolio. He did not want to add clay to it because it was ugly and went against his own design ideas. He did not want to throw it because he was very worried it would break, he had seen other students break their tails on their planes. I explained to him that he needed to do this so we could finish the problem then he would have time to continue to build the plane as he wanted. I had to reason with him for about 15 minutes until he finally chose to do it, and was successful. My principal was in the room and watched the entire interaction and when we finished she asked me “Is every Friday problem like this?” I answered “Yes!” “However, in the beginning he would just refuse and that was it, now he will try it with a bit of negotiating.”


Every time I finish a Friday Problem it makes me re access how I will change it the next week. I have been thinking about my question and my new field study and I have been thinking about exploring how make my Friday problem work with other  subjects/fields then Science, and Math. I would like to explore it with PE, social studies, language arts, health and art.



Friday Problem – number 13 (Paper Launchers – Angles, Gravity, Velocity and Distance)

teacher journal entry – reflection

The Friday problem for this week I tried to explore adding a different source of motivation for the students. Today we made launchers that propelled small crumpled paper balls. I wanted students to use their skills that they had explored the Friday before and apply them to a new activity while learn some new ideas and things to try. We were looking at how and angle can also affect distance and there are other factors that can influence the outcomes. I discovered that some students that took their time, measured and planned their paper launchers did well, but the students that also just quickly did it also made launchers that flew a large distance.  The competitive nature that came from this project before made me add a competitive element to this project from the last weeks “Friday Problem”.

I found the project went better and students were focused on building their launchers, as they get more use to the process of the “Friday Problem”. I have started to take aspects from the “Friday Problem” into my other areas of my teaching, but I am  finding that if I extend those time lines it looses something and the students tend to loose focus.

Friday Problem – number 12 (Paper Rockets + Newton’s 3 laws of motion)

teacher journal entry – reflection

The Friday problem for this week I tried to make it a bit more of a lesson. I had students watch some videos on rockets and discussed acceleration. Then I asked them why a rocket is able to move so fast? Why does it need to move so fast? We talked about different sources of energy and what is happening, and why. We continued to talk about sonic boom, and the speed of sound and light. I had students build the rockets and the launcher we tested launchers with a pop bottle and a bellows pump. Both sources worked, but students noticed ways that either source would be a better solution. Students were able to tell me the 3 laws after the activity and were very engaged. I learned that all my students found something in this activity that they enjoyed. I even had students telling other student that missed that day what happened and they wanted to try and build it when they got back.

Friday Problem – number 11 (Sky-balls and parachute)

teacher journal entry – reflection

I started this Friday problem with a bit more structure and videos. I went through the ideas that I had that lead me to the problem and how all my ideas connected together to have something we needed to do as a class.  We watched videos on gravity and we discussed methods that could be used to slow down the effects of it. We watched some videos on base jumping and wing/ parachute  flying.  This lead to thermals and wind. I also tried to use some cognitive tools like extremes and binary opposites. The surprise form me in this activity is how they students developed their own problems as they built. For example the size of the parachute compared to the weight of the sky-ball what does that do. TREES, and ROOFS? Other people in the proximity of where you are testing your parachute. Design failures, and how can you fix it quickly so you can get back outside to test it. Students also are getting better at capturing their own evidence and posting it on FreshGrade (e-portfolio). I am finding this is working better then writing about it, as students parents and myself can ask questions and reflect better on the project.




Friday Problem – number 10 (Elastic band Car)

teacher journal entry – reflection

As a class we re-visited a problem and I learned a lot about my students.  We also discovered new problems with this activity and were challenged to solve them.

I told the students my story of building the sample car. The problems I had and what happened when I tried it. The students were eager to get started and wanted to try to build it as well as fix the problem I was having. The problem, like before had to do with the wheels, and traction. the car worked well and the rubber band motor was fantastic, but the wheels were too thin and did not work on the smooth floor. I had discovered that it did work well on carpet, and shared that with the students. The students built their cars with great success, then began to tackle the wheel problem. The activity took a turn here. They got very frustrated and some gave up. some students pushed through, and found something that worked. The students I was most interested in were the ones that needed a short break and then came back and had a solution. I realized when planning I had not accounted for this. That I too work like this and needed to remember that some of the student think like I do and need a rest to contemplate all the different ideas and just not think about it for a bit. Once I realized this I tried it with all the students and found that they all benefited from this. Similar to a DPA break, or a brain break. I also asked several students at the end of the day, Why they looked exhausted and did they not have a good day? They all told me it was a good day and they enjoyed it, but it was a lot of thinking and trying stuff. They were tired. Later I learned from parents that some of the students were going home and teaching what they had done to siblings or trying it again over the weekend on their own.



Friday Problem – number 9 (Deconstruction Day)

teacher journal entry – reflection

Today we went back to just exploring. Tinkering with electronics and see what is inside different items. Students explored how to take items apart. I was fascinated by this the most. The curiosity of what they wanted to explore, but how the not know how to get into the item was a real road block for them. Some students used a device to look it up on YouTube, but most just came to me and asked.

I really had to change how I usually helped my students in this situation. I tend to want to remove the obstacles so they can get to the learning, or what I perceive to be the learning. However, what if the process is the real learning, and it does not fit in to the prescribed learning outcome or the learning goes down a different path for each of the students. I am finding this process is changing my teaching and my assessment of the actual learning for each student. I have also found that if the student can explain to me what they have learned and how they can link it back to lessons we have done prior to the activity, then the activity and the student is successful.

Friday Problem – number 8 (Marble Run)

teacher journal entry – reflection

I did something different with this Friday problem. I had the students make up their own question. I gave the students the background through a narrative, and then gave them what they needed to accomplish.

The students were even more excited about this ‘Friday Problem’ than others. They broke out into groups of 2-4 and started to design a question.

Students did well all groups used their time well and managed to get a marble run done and most got a question posted. We will explore how this will look again this week.

One student that has high anxiety issues did a fantastic job. I had time to work with him one on one because the other student were so engaged. Once I got him started he took off! So much so he wanted to share his success with the other students in the class, and even got his teacher from 2 years ago to tweet it out! He was very happy and had one of the most successful days he had had in a long time. I was very proud of him! I had a few students away for this weeks problem which might have made it easier for the students to manage. I do wonder if they were more engaged because of the problem and the control they had over it? Or were they excited about the topic and wanted to build something. I did have a couple of groups that did get frustrated, but I think it was more about the group dynamics then the actual problem. This do however spark a conversation about picking groups and partners. They discovered that sometimes best friends do not make the best working partners. I see another condition for next week coming 🙂

Friday Problem – number 7 (Pyramid Effect)

teacher journal entry – reflection

This project went very well. I started it off differently then the projects before. I told a background story, then added some theory about magic and the sun, and a video of an experiment with a plant that grew better under a copper open pyramid. By the end of the front loading the students were buzzing to get started. I showed them a video of what they were going to do, they were allowed to take notes and draw pictures. After the video they were given their supplies and set off to write the first pre-activity journal entries. after that they go started. they picked their own groups. everything started of great. then one group started to fall apart. My one student that I was going to do my whole field study on, broke down. He was frustrated working in his group and need to be removed. Once he calmed down he and I sat down to come up with a strategy for him to continue. We decided that he could work alone and build a pyramid at a different scale. He finished his project still on time and was happy. The group he left’s members finished their pyramid and were successful in recognizing how the reduced group worked better and was more efficient.

I learned from this activity, that if a student is not ready to learn in the way that you have designed it to work the teacher needs to look at the objective and see if the student can still make it successfully under different conditions. Most of the time the student has the best solution and I as a teacher need to look at this more.



As an added friday problem we did just before the winter break we converted the pyramids in to a modern version of a tree that we hung from ceiling, with clips we made from paper clips.

Friday Problem – number 6 (Paper Whistle)

teacher journal entry – reflection

Wow! This project has taken the most amount of planning. I also have noticed that the IE has effected how I plan a lesson. I have made it so my narrative is more elaborate and gives some hints to what I want students to discover in the problem. I have also started my narrative well before the project to help shape how the students respond to it.

This project I told the on the Monday that this was going to be a very difficult project, and that I had already done 10 examples and failed 9 and have only had one successful attempt that had worked. On the day of the problem I framed the narrative to have a why I picked it, and how it evolved and connected to other ideas I was thinking about. The students connected to the story and were engaged in how they were going to create the solution to the problem. I had template made and they ranged in difficulty. half of the class took the hardest one to do. the other half were split on the other two templates. I had one student that wanted to adapt it right away to make it his own, this student was not successful in completing the whistle work, but made a whistle that inspired him to make an add on to it and understood the process.

I learned from this process about my practice that sometimes I need to teach a bit more backwards. let the students build then tackle the questions so they can revisit it and try them, and be more successful. I also learned that they need to practice more with frustration, so they know what to do when it happens. I do see a link between frustration and preconceived notions that they can not do it. Even if they think it is easy and they have been given extensive instructions. sometimes just doing and the reflecting back and trying again gives you better results. I will try this in my practice to, and change some of the order of how I teach some of these problems.

Friday Problem – number 5 ( Autonomous Drawing Machine)

teacher journal entry – reflection

Planing the days lesson started as it usually did the night before. I had an idea that I wanted the class to create a drawing machine. I needed to craft the story or the reason why we were doing this, as well as what I wanted the learning to look like. My goal was to see how students handled frustration and could they get past that to find a solution. I knew from the night before from trying to build a sample that this project was going to be hard and would probably fail at least once. I was worried about my students that got frustrated and just gave up, as well as the students that will not stop until they have something that works.

Students worked on their projects very hard and had a lot of questions. I tried to answer many of the questions but some I wanted them to figure out. They were very engaged and time flew by. The next stage after they built the basic model they were to adapt it to be able to draw on paper. this is where it got interesting. Students found that they needed to wined up their elastic more to the point they were breaking. They were getting frustrated because they would have to re-build it and start again. Several students just gave up and threw it in the garbage, some just stopped working, others asked me to help, and a few just worked through it and changed a few things. Overall it was a very successful project and  taught me a lot about my class and how they respond to project stress and how tinkering is a mindset.