A few weeks ago, I pledged online through Twitter to “Go Paperless” for Earth Day. Soon after, I told my students about it and they were so excited! They immediately started to offer ideas and suggestions of how we could Go Paperless for an entire day.

“We can work on the computers,” said one student.

“We could use whiteboards!” shouted a group.

“Will we have homework?” asked a few inquisitive and hopeful faces.

“Don’t worry, we’ll have homework,” I teased, “but it won’t be on paper.”

Time went by and the week was approaching. I invited other teachers to Go Paperless too. The day we chose (since we would be on vacation on the actual Earth Day) was a library day for my class and our librarian was excited to join us. Then I told her, “We’re going hard core here…no paper books.”

After the initial shock, Mary Ann smiled, “Ok, I can do this.” And she went on to make plans to purchase an ebook and to share some stories and resources online.

Ideas floated around my own head. Talk about a type of structure! You don’t realize how much you depend on paper until you have to really do without it. But in this restriction, I found creativity in my own self and in my students. My main goal for Paperless Day was to NOT stray from the curriculum. I did not want make this a fluff day in the least. So, I started with a list (like I do for so many things!)

math – fractions, decimals, percents
LA – digital storytelling? ebook? poetry? (it IS poetry month, after all)
SS – immigration – KWL chart? gather in groups and talk?
Wax Museum – (This is a special project our 4th graders do each year. They choose an important figure, research them and become them by dressing up and giving a 1 minute speech.)

My ideas were formulating…
For LA, we would learn a poetic form, students would write them on whiteboards and then we would go up to our Computer Clubhouse and type them up…maybe as a comment to a blog I would post. link to their poems
For SS we could use whiteboards again and all do a Type One brainstorm: 10 things they have learned about immigration in library and computer class. Then we would group up, discuss, regroup, discuss and as a class come up with the main ideas of immigration, writing them on the class whiteboard.
For Wax Museum practice, their speeches would need to be memorized…no more reading them off a piece of paper. And I could record them using Audacity and post them on the school website. THAT could be the HW. Students could listen to their speeches and come back with recommendations of how to improve them. Maybe they could type those ideas up and email them to me or post them on our blog. link to their speeches

Now the math stumped me. I had a great project for the kids to do that another teacher showed me last year. Students took a cup of different colored glass bead and sorted them, finding the fractions of each color. Then they formed a circle with them and drew in lines to create a pie chart. They then used a calculator to convert the fractions into decimals and percents and labeled the pie chart with all the information. It was a great idea, but we need to draw the pie chart ON something…

So I brought the challenge to my class and, without telling them the details of the group project, we brainstormed ways we could record our results. It was wonderful to see my students sharing ideas, building off of one another and coming up with a solution. (Now that was 10 minutes of real collaboration and learning!)

Here is what we came up with…

(Sadly these pictures are lost and I’m trying to find them!!!)

Students write results on the pie chart Paperless pie chart – beads, dry erase markers and desks

Structure? Yes, actually more like restrictions. But Freedom? Yes! We were creative, innovative and free…and all the while: constructing, collaborating and learning. Imagine that!

For more pictures of the students creating pie charts, visit our school site: Mrs. Peterson’s Class