Hello world! 21st Century skills research starts.. now.
Recycled Robots
I just recently finished a collaborative project with second and third grade that went unexpectedly smooth! The project in general was very loose and open-ended. The students learned about form and were asked to create a robot from recycled materials. The classroom was divided into 3-4 teams depending on the number of students. Each team had 4-5 students in them and each student had a job that they chose (builder, taper, tape cutter, runner). I explained what each role entailed and before the project could start, the students had to agree on who took on which role.
Once that was accomplished, the teams received a bin of recycled materials. I was nervous to see how much help they were going to need since they had no real set plan. I should mention that before this, we talked about what makes soemthing a robot. We made noises like robots, moved like a robot, looked at pictures of robots, and then each student made paper robots. Each table was given bins with paper and objects to trace. After cutting out their traced shapes, each student had to use them to create a 2D robot. I think that that prior experience of diving into the bins and already creating a robot out of abstract forms really helped the main group project. The kids began right away and took their jobs very seriously! It was as if I had four little factories going on in my room. The class was full of excitement and conversation from start to finish.
There were some disagreements which I totally expected. Not everyone was getting equal say, the natural leaders began to have a little too much control, and bickering as to which, the water bottle or toilet paper holder, would work better as a robot neck began. I used this as an opportunity to teach problem-solving strategies..easy ones like rock-paper-scissors or 'I'm thinking of a number between 1-10'. Those strategies got the project completed. The students were able to make an argument to their group if they felt passionate about a decision and conversation was happening at all times. Each team completed a robot, collectively came up with a name (my favorite being Latoya Burnette Jenson Jackson III) and story (quick summations of two: Queen was born in outer space, has four legs and still lives with his mom and Young Jeezy is from Mars and is Team Jacob), and decided on what color they wanted it to be.
Overall, I found this project to be a great success, not only for my classroom but also for the beginnings of my inquiry. I chose the groups myself and divided up friends and grouped up 'enemies' to see if certain students could function around others. It wasn't always pretty, but everyone did have some hand in the project. Those problem-solving strategies really did help, and were totally new to the kids. At first, they would get really upset or offended if the group didn't want to use their idea, but after a while they did ease up. Conversations got be be a lot lighter and easier as opposed to the initial heated debates. I think they really got a taste of what it means to be on a team and work in a group. Not everyone is going to have their way, and although they may have wanted a different color, name, arm or leg..they still found a way to be proud of their final outcome. [slideshow]
6th Grade...dahn dahn DAHNNNN
Today started the first day of our Claes Oldenburg sculptures. Before I go into further detail, let me just preface this and explain that I have two 6th grade classes, both of which are by far my most difficult. The behavior issues are outstanding, we're crowded, and no one seems to get along. I decided to really focus on these two classes for my inquiry. We have been doing a lot of exercises that help examine each student's identity and their unique qualities as a person. My thinking is that if the students can accept who they are, realize both their good and not-so-good qualities, they'll be able to understand that other people are complex as well. We have to first accept this in order to tolerate it.
Anywho, the first exercise happened after we analyzed a Kid Cudi rap song (yeah, it took me two nights to find a clean one). The song caught the kids off guard and were excited to have a discussion about it. We talked about how Kid Cudi used words to express an emotion. This lead into the actual project. The students were given the assignment to think about a time they felt a really strong emotion, then they were to go through magazines and newspaper to create a collage using text that would express that emotion and experience. They were given similar guidelines as we were with our paper people. The Kid Cudi intro was probably the most successful part. The majority of students were clueless as to how to approach the art project.
Another exercise involved filling out worksheets, making lists of groups the students belong to (ie. teams, troops, church groups etc.), and then coming up with symbols to represent those groups. The students were to use these two assignments to come up with a chair design. The task was to pretend that you were commissioning an artist to design a chair just for you. "How would you know it was yours? What would your chair say about you?" Many students went above and beyond my expectations. Some really took into account the actual characteristics of a chair and meshed that with their identity. For example, some students turned the legs of the chair into representations of family members or friends. Like the legs of a chair support the seat, so do certain people the student. It was quite beautiful.
So, today, we started to really turn this into something big. We talked about Claes Oldenburg and his sculptures of everyday objects. I asked them to think about all of the past projects and assignments and use those things learned for this project. The big question: think of an everyday object that represents you.