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!