My classroom is a MESS right now and I love it! Kids are in the process of wiring a complete circuit with a switch using wire, paper clips, brads, a D-cell battery and a Christmas light. I've done this same activity in many different ways. This year I chose to not give specific directions. My purpose was to challenge my students with a little more problem-solving. I gave some very basic directions, drew a diagram, and showed them a model of the wiring.
As I watched the kids work today, I noticed them learning some lessons besides the obvious learning of the content.
Perseverance: This challenge was a struggle for some kids. I had a few kids want to quit. I had a couple break down in tears because of frustrations. I had a few more joke off their obvious frustration. But then the magic happened. I watched as my students reminded each other that "We're not quitters!" and "It's okay to make a mistake. That's how we learn!" "You'll get it! Keep trying!" I also witnessed the thrill of victory! As each light came on, the class broke out in spontaneous applause for that student. They were not only applauding that the circuit was complete, but also applauding that their classmate had persevered and had conquered the challenge. Every single student in my class was able to make a complete circuit. Every single student in my class received a round of applause. The students that really struggled received a standing ovation. It was fun for me to see the big smiles on the kids' faces.
Teamwork: My students worked together in order for everyone to be successful. It was a teacher's dream! They problem-solved together, helped each other measure wire, cut tape, held the battery in place, etc. If two people couldn't get the circuit to work, a third or fourth person jumped in to give suggestions. Girls helped the boys. Boys helped the girls. Gender was not a factor when it came to teamwork.
Appreciation and Admiration for Others' Work: I gave the kids supplies like cardboard, paper, and some styrofoam. But I didn't give them specific instructions about how to decorate their box. My classroom oozed with creativity as a result! Kids were passing out compliments like candy to their peers. A great idea was well respected and if others liked it, they asked if it was okay to do something similar. I have all kinds of houses, outdoor scenes, buildings, a nativity scene, and many basketball courts compliments of Joseph's idea. (name changed) A little note about "Joseph". Joseph is a kid who struggles in school and has very little support at home. He shined today! Not only was he creative with his embellishments, but he was creative about how he made them. He received many compliments from his peers today. It was definitely a self-esteem booster!
Here's some pictures of our progress.