Today my class had a great time. We do have a lot of fun days. However, today they learned quite a bit and I didn't "teach" a thing. In fact, I did hardly anything all day. However, what they learned from today will be an experience I think they will take with them for a long time.
For the last several years, my fourth students have participated in the GeoCities PBL (project based learning) activity. Through it they experience the geometry and measurement standards in a hands-on, real life activity. They build their own cities from scratch. They are given a set of parameters that have to be met (the standards), but have a lot of freedom in how they create their city. Groups must be creative, collaborate effectively with team members (business partners), and be able to communicate their thoughts not just with the team, but through their advertisement to the governor and planning committee (their classmates). It has always been a terrific project that kids enjoy.
Because I loop many students due to my combos, I created a Dream House aspect last year that covers the fifth grade standards and doesn't require us to do something totally different during the math time period of our class. (Part of the reason I teach combos is my ability to teach two separate concepts with projects and not feel like I have to be two different teachers!) This project was also a major hit with the fifth graders, whether they looped with me or not.
This year, the project was taken to an even higher level (buzzword: rigor!). I am a big proponent of students collaborating and encourage teachers to do it as much as possible as well. For this project I was able to collaborate with Margaret, a teacher who I work with regularly, but not in this capacity. A few months ago she came to me with a project that others had done at her previous school and she wanted to try. She is wanting to change up her classroom (and doing a great job, I might add!) and wanted to work together on it. It sounded like an interesting project to begin with. However, once I shared with her my GeoCities/Dream Houses project, I knew we had the makings of a memorable experience!
The new element of our project would involve the students creating products to sell based on the theme of their city/house. For example, the Football House created field goals out of pipe cleaners and paper triangles for the buyers to flick into the goal. Another group, the Imagination House, made tiny cloud pillows. (They did all the sewing themselves!) Yet another group, Athlete City, made sports encyclopedias for their buyers. Students took their exploration time in Makerspace over three weeks to make their products to sell.
Today was when the rest of the school got involved. Each city/house was put on display with the products ready for buyers. The groups needed to figure out the price of their item, make change for the buyers and be able to problem solve what to do when their product ran out. (Several did early on, including the cloud pillows.) We were able to get the whole school through the activity and all seemed to have a great time buying from our classes. (I do feel a little sorry for the last two classes as there was very little product left to buy). I heard from Margaret at the end of the day that one of the groups who still had products at the end raised their prices. What a great lesson in supply and demand that neither teacher "taught" them. Students knew we were having a contest to see who had the biggest profit. There was also a contest to see which group was voted the best design. (Buyers gave a raffle ticket to their favorite city and house.)
The activity lasted for over two hours. (We did have a break in the middle of it.) Not one of the kids complained about having to stand for that long, or that they were tired. No one complained when their product ran out or when they saw other teams getting more tickets. Today was cold and very rainy. Yet not one child was out of control or wired from having to stay indoors.
While it is fun to share what the classes did today, the real point of this blog was that the activity was better with collaboration. Students could not have done as well if they had worked alone, and I would never have thought of adding the extra activity had it not been for Margaret. All of us were better together.
What I learned:
- Students are more engaged with real world learning (ok, so I knew this, but never hurts to be reminded).
-Teaching is so much more interesting with others. It should not be an island.
-Two heads really are better than one. Collaborate as much as possible!
20+ year teacher, mother of 2 kids and 2 dogs, wife, lover of all things M&M, interested in tech in the classroom, and changing up my teaching