Monday, December 29, 2014

Collaboration and Community

Don't you love it when your plans come together and the kids get as excited about the lesson as you do? This post is about one of those days.

We were studying community as a part of our second grade social studies curriculum.  One of the goals is that students learn to differentiate between rural, suburban, and urban communities. We had been working on it for a couple of days, defining the terms, exploring the differences, and watching a video on Discovery Education.

I decided I wanted to assess what my students had learned through a collaborative activity.  We made a chart listing some of what we had learned so far.

I put my students into teams of three. I was pretty strategic about this - I have a few kiddos who just don't work well together. I then had each team choose a type of community to illustrate.  Using giant pieces of bulletin board paper, each team had to come up with a plan for their mural. They were given their choice of art materials. My only criteria: they had to plan what they wanted to do first, all group members had to participate in the decision-making, and their final product had to show the characteristics of that type of community.

After just a few questions, all eight groups scattered to different areas of the room, sprawling on the floor in most cases. They got to work and I walked around, listening in on conversations. The conversations were exactly what I had imagined when I planned the activity.  Students were discussing what kinds of buildings to add, who was going to draw the cow, where they were going to put the houses, and other topic-related discussions.

There were a few minor disagreements (aren't there always a few?), but they didn't last long. The students were excited about working together and enjoyed the opportunity to be creative. It was noisy and seemed chaotic at times, but it was really very productive.

I expected that most of the students would prefer to use markers for their murals. One group surprised me, though.  They used construction paper to create their city scene. I'm so glad I didn't limit them to one type of media!

Luckily, I had planned this for a day when we did not have a special area class.  Although I had originally planned for it to take two or three days to complete, the students were so engaged, I let them keep working for over an hour!

Most of the groups were able to complete their murals that same day.  They were very excited to hang them up in the hallway for everyone to see.

 Here are a few of the murals.

A Suburban Community
A Rural Community
An Urban Community

I was pretty pleased with the finished products.  All the groups displayed good knowledge of what belonged in each type of community. I was also extremely pleased with how well the students collaborated on their projects.  There were very few problems and most of those the students worked out among themselves.  If you're hesitant about allowing students this much freedom, don't be. It's amazing what can happen when you ask kids to work together to create something.  I'm eager to find more opportunities for this type of collaborative project.

Until next time,

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