Game On!

Today was a great day in my classroom.  Today was the day when the 5th graders from my friend’s classroom came over to our classroom to play the government board games my students have been creating.  Christie’s students helped by reading through my students’ papers in which they described the rules and objectives to their games.  On the first draft, my 2nd graders were pretty certain that their directions were clear and easy to understand.  That’s when I told them that I was going to walk their papers over to Christie’s classroom and ask her 5th graders to comment and ask questions about their games.  The 5th graders were awesome.  They made comments on little sticky notes.  They asked questions.  They wanted clarification.  When I got the papers back, I was impressed with how much time and effort they put into reading them.  I showed my students the sticky notes and told them they had some rewriting to do.  I instructed them to read every sticky note and try to address them in their rewrite.  When students were finished with their 2nd draft, I sent them back to the 5th grade for a second read.  In the meantime, my class worked in small groups to create their board games.  We worked for several weeks on them.  It was interesting to see the creative juices flowing.  They all seemed to work well together.  Most groups shared the tasks of planning the game board.  They discussed how their game would be played.  I did have a few groups where some students were not sharing the tasks at all.  One group complained about a member not helping.  However, these complaints were rare.  Everyone worked together.

When we got the 2nd drafts back, my students were disappointed to see all the sticky notes on their papers again.  But, this time, my students were really happy.  I could hear comments like, “Oh this one is a positive comment.”  Or, “This is a good one.”  And, “We just got a compliment.”  This was followed by high-fives and pats on the back.

As our game development continued, I stressed the fact that students should not forget the purpose of the games.  The purpose was that people would learn about the three branches of government through playing their board game. After some thought, students would go back and re-do or re-work what they had already done.  When groups said their games were finished, I had them play someone else’s game.  I would then ask, “What did you learn about the government?”  They would either say some facts they learned or tell the group who created the game that they didn’t learn anything.  That meant some groups had to go back to the drawing board.  The games went through so many different iterations.  In fact, my groups were still trying to make their games better right up to the moment the 5th graders came over.  It was pretty amazing.

When the 5th graders arrived, they found the game where they had provided feedback.  They were able to sit with the 2nd grade developers and play.  All the students were excited and engaged.  They were learning together.  They were also laughing and having fun.  My friend, Christie, and I marveled at how well they were interacting.  Here are a few pictures of the students together.





 After the 5th graders left, I had my students reflect on their game making experience.  All the feedback was positive.  They all said they loved the process.  They enjoyed working as a team, even though they argued some of the time.  My students all agreed that I should do this again next year.  I was amazed by what I saw in my classroom this morning. That is what I feel learning should be. . . a truly collaborative experience.  Students had ownership in what they were learning.  They worked together toward a common goal.  My students were able to tap into their creative side.  I think they realized that learning is a process.  And, most importantly, they had a whole lot of fun!


Math Tasks

My district has rolled out the math common core standards this year.  On Monday, we had a non-student day so teachers could have a Professional Growth Day.  Our morning was devoted to math instruction and how this looks now that we are trying to implement the common core standards.

We watched several videos of teachers giving their students math tasks.  These are real-world problems that students have to solve.  After our morning of discussion and debate, I met with my grade-level team to see how we could create math tasks for an upcoming math unit.  Interestingly enough, the math unit was on solving story problems.  I am not quite there yet. I am still trying to finish up a mini-unit on geometry.  I feel great knowing that my team has prepared a few math tasks that I can use when I get to that unit.

In the meantime, I was getting ready to tackle the idea of perimeter with my 2nd graders on Tuesday.  I realized that I could develop a math task for this.  My task was decorating gift boxes.  I wanted to wrap a piece of ribbon around the edge of the box lid.  I gave my students the dimensions of the lid and asked them to help me figure out how much ribbon I would need to decorate the boxes.  I wasn’t sure how this task would go or if students would understand the task.  But, I was pleasantly surprised by the math work and math talk that was generated as I walked around the classroom.  I spent my time asking students about their discoveries and asking them to explain their thinking.  I was also able to touch base with the students who were having difficulty.

Math is at the end of my day.  All I know is that by the end of math, I was exhausted from all that activity.  However, I think the students had fun while they learned about perimeter (They didn’t know this at the time.).  I also know that I don’t necessarily need to make everything into a math task.  I think I need to be mindful of what concepts actually need to be a math task.  I also believe that students will become comfortable with this process the more I do them.  Finally, when I did my lesson on perimeter today, the students were able to connect our math task from Tuesday to the problems we had to complete today.  I know that when students can make these kinds of connections, math will make much more sense to them.  That’s the reason why I am going to keep pushing myself to give more math tasks in my classroom.  Sure it is a  lot more work, but it is totally worth it.