Last year our staff embarked on a personalized PD game (See past blog post). One of the activities I had to do to get my points (even teachers like to be point collectors!) was something called Novel Engineering. My wonderful friend, Robin Glugatch, who works in our Library/Makerspace, found it and brought it to the school. Since I wanted my points and I am always looking for something to try with my class, I was up for the new adventure.
I began by reading a picture book to the class, “Weslandia” by Paul Fleischman. I figured I would start with something we could do as a class for our first time. It was a cute book that the students enjoyed. But it was the activity afterward that made it so much better. I liked it so much that this year I decided to not only do it again, but to share the experience.
The point of novel engineering is to get the kids to go further into the book to improve their comprehension, but to also develop critical thinking and problem solving skills through a hands-on activity. It is STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) all rolled into one activity. Since it also involves literature, it’s a cross-curricular dream activity.
We start with the Engineering Design Process (see image). This really helps students to understand what they need to do and how being perfect isn’t required to be successful. It’s also great for those students who need a graphic organizer to plan out their thoughts.
Students are then asked to find a problem in their book. I allowed the students to work independently, in pairs or groups of three. Since we are reading 6 different novels in the classroom as part of our novel studies activity, they were limited to who they could choose to work with only in that they had to be reading the same book. This didn’t seem to be an issue for the majority of the students.
Once the problem has been identified, students have to create a physical solution to the problem. This is the part that created an issue for some of the students. They wanted to either copy the solution that was already given in the book or had a hard time coming up with a way to make the solution into a model that they could create. With a little help, most of the students are able to get past this.
I love hearing the students discuss the book while they go through the process. They are able to think of the action in a way that answering questions on a worksheet or online test would never access.
Next up, the students are going to be creating a possible solution for endangered animals from a non-fiction text we are going to be reading. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!
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