This week, I got to work with a fairly big group of students. I have been wanting to meet the kids more often, so I decided that clubbing the students of both grades into one group was the way to go. Truth be told, I was a little nervous! I was worried about how to keep the entire group occupied, about how to keep the distracting elements in check, and about how cohesively the two grades would work with each other. But I was in for surprises.
The fact, that every time I had mentioned a combined class in the past, both grades had whined about having to share time and space with each other, didn’t help either. Well, one has got to do what one has got to do! All I knew was that I wanted to get the students involved in more long drawn challenges, which meant I had to meet them more often in order to make it possible to carry over activities to successive sessions, which basically meant that I had no choice but to make this work. 🙂
For me, this week’s primary goal was to involve the students in an activity that would require them to work well in a team. So I turned the focus away from just the “physical” outcome of the challenge. Instead, I targeted the skills. I wanted the students to experience first-hand the importance of working cohesively, communicating effectively, and more importantly make strategies to achieve an outcome. I found just the right challenge to help me achieve my goal – “SNEAK A PEEK”. I had read about this activity a while ago, when I was looking at team building activities in the classroom.
Ofcourse, It had to be team building in a “maker” sort of a way. So this is how I ran the activity. Before the class, I built a small 3-dimensional structure with tooth picks, held together using play doh. The structure was neither too simple, nor overly complicated. Hard enough to pose a challenge to the students, but easy enough that it didn’t end up demotivating them. I kept the structure hidden from the class. Since the very idea of the session was to get the students to break the ice and start working together, the grouping was random. We ended up with six groups, five students in each. The goal was for the teams to replicate the structure that I had built. Of course, there was more to it. At a time, only one member from each team would be allowed to “SNEAK A PEEK” at the structure. The peek would last exactly 10 seconds, after which they would have to return to their teams, to instruct them on how to build the structure. The teams would get 5 minutes to build, after which a second team member would get to “SNEAK A PEEK”, before returning to their group. This pattern would repeat until each of the 5 members in the teams had had their turns to peek, memorise, and instruct the build. At the end of the activity, the team that was able to duplicate the original structure most successfully, and in the shortest time, would be declared the winner.
Once the timer started, the space was abuzz with activity! Students were talking, questioning and instructing. Teams were dividing out work, so that all hands were kept busy. While some members were rolling out play doh, others were starting to build the tooth pick frame, while still others were trying to recollect and save their memory of the structure, by drawing it on a sheet of paper. Teams were strategising on the order in which to send their members. They were building, hitting road blocks, and then prioritizing again the observation goals of the team’s successive “peeks”. Some groups were discussing, and mutually deciding whether to call their design done even before every member had got a turn to “peek”. All in all, the whole place came alive in those 40 minutes, with students doing just about everything that I had hoped for. They were bringing out strategies, problem solving, and yet communicating. When the final timer buzzed, four out of the six groups had managed to successfully replicate the structure.
Today’s session was meant to be different. The stress was not on the product, but on the process. While as an adult, and as a teacher, I understood this, this realisation needed to reach the students as well. What better way to do this, than have the students reflect upon the class! Thankfully, unlike previous sessions, this time we had ample time for reflection. I had prepared a class reflection organiser that would get the students to think about what made today’s challenge hard, what they could have done differently as a group, and what they learnt from the activity that they could use in their lives. While there were some of the usual product centric answers to these questions, there were also more thoughtful responses which brought out students’ understanding of the importance of cooperation, team work, resilience, communication, organisation, & work division. And that goes to show that we indeed hit the nail on its head!
Here’s to a term of good teams, good work, and good team work..! 🙂