Wednesday, July 9, 2008

EraserTown USA

Welcome to EraserTown USA - The New Primary Classroom Blog! Here is a place to discuss and share the many ways to promote creativity in the primary classroom--whether it is by using technology in a developmentally appropriate way, designing long-term projects as a way of integrating the curriculum, integrating the arts into other subject areas, or any other way your imagination allows.

If you teach in a primary-level classroom, you might have experienced the EraserTown phenomenon yourself. Now that it is summer, EraserTown is funny--not so much when you are trying to teach a math lesson. Let me explain...

My second graders have desks. They sometimes sit at their desks. I sometimes try to teach a lesson while they are at their desks. They don't like that. So, they find ways of amusing themselves while I am "doing my thing." Sometimes the children will read a book, sometimes they chat, sometimes they gaze out the window, sometimes they go ahead in their math workbook. I have taken to observing this behavior and following up on what is really happening and not just correcting the children who seem to be not paying attention to the lesson. Often times, they know exactly what is going on with the lesson. Good for them, they are learning to multitask!? And at such a young age!! This year's class was exceptionally creative. There were a handful of children who collected small erasers. During desk lessons, they constructed (yes, constructed) small towns in their desks with whatever they could find, and the erasers were the people of the town. The sides of the desks had signs and pictures (via PostIt notes). They had little plastic containers (from the cafeteria) with everything from pencil shavings to small plastic bears. At the end of the day, while the children waited for their busses, the towns were still bustling with activity. While EraserTown does not match our district standards, you have to admit, it is quite clever! And as many times as I de-constructed the towns, those little builders kept building.

Luckily for me, I had many other ways of amusing my students that were academically sound as well as creative, motivating, and cooperative in nature. Even though I work with young children, I have found that they can do very "grown up" things. We were fortunate this year to have the technology tools available in our classroom to engage these creative learners in projects and lessons that would meet their needs, although not all of our projects required the use of technology. Here are some things they were able to do this year:

  • Learn how to set up and use a SmartBoard

  • Use MacBooks and software - right in the classroom - HOORAY

  • Troubleshoot when there were problems with technology equipment (imagine 25 troubleshooters talking at once - something I had to fix)

  • Use digital cameras for classroom projects and act as the "press" at school events (photos were used on our school's Web site)

  • Write, direct, produce videos--one was even featured on our district's cable channel, and we even managed a mini film festival at the end of the year

  • Write their own science textbooks

  • Participate in webinar and videoconference events - they love the back channel (chat) feature during webinars

  • Put together a circus in one week - performed for other students, staff, and family members
The biggest surprise for me this year was when I came back from a technology meeting with what I thought was a funny story for my class. Some of the adults at the meeting thought that second graders would not be able to use a SmartBoard. I chuckled to myself knowing that my students were not only using the SmartBoard, but they were also orienting it (a prized job) and troubleshooting (correctly) when it wasn't working. I told my class what the adults said thinking they would laugh (ha-ha they think we can't use it). Instead, my students responded with words like, "That is insulting." "That was mean." "Why do they think we are dumb?" When given the responsibility, they really do take it seriously and do their job well AND they learn some very valuable skills at a young age.

During the summer months I reflect on the past years of teaching and I make plans for how I want the next year to look. I fear that if I don't respond to the EraserTown phenomenon directly, I will be missing the chance to harness that wonderful creativity for learning and growing. And, now that I have some valuable technology available right in the classroom and know how these young children shine when they are given the chance to use these tools, I know that I will continue to develop projects that include such things as making movies, participating in interactive video conferences, and learning outside the classroom and away from those desks!

Now that I think about it, maybe we could have created EraserTown - The Movie!! Oh well, you never know what next year will bring.


  1. I look forward to following your blog! I am a Technology Facilitator in a K-2 building. Have you seen this NING -

  2. Your post make me think of the story about Horrible Harry and the creatures he made from the things he collected in the room. My second graders haven't built eraser towns, but oh the things they could find to do during lessons. Great to know that my kids aren't the only multi-taskers. I only had my Activboard the second half of the year, but I noticed a big difference with it. My kids always figured out how to fix problems before I did.

  3. I will check out the NING site. Thanks for the reference!

  4. And I do know which Horrible Harry you are talking about although it is one I haven't actually read! I have lots of plans for the SmartBoard for next year now that I am more proficient with it. I can't wait to NOT use the chalkboard!

  5. Our school just got our first Promethean Activboard. It's going in my (computer lab) room. Hopefully we'll be getting a second board for the second floor of the building. In addition to learning how to use it, I plan on teaching the students, too. What better way to support the board than 300 students in the building. Good luck with your new blog.

  6. Your students sound very lucky to have a creative teacher and one that's willing to give them responsibility.

    Tmurdach, thank you for plugging the NING!