This week the 3rd graders played a game called "Perfect 500," a strategy game focused on estimation and rounding. Each turn, the students got 5 number cards. They had to choose what 2, 2-digit numbers to create that would give them a sum near 100. At the end of 5 rounds, the person whose total was the closest to 500, without going over, won!
As a way for me to check their understanding, the students completed an exit card after playing. I wrote my questions on the board.
Exit cards are such great insight into the students' way of thinking. Here are some examples!
You are probably well aware that the 3rd graders at HHAI are given lots of opportunities to make choices. Last week, we took the idea of choice to a whole new level, introducing what is called "academic choice." Academic choice is a teaching strategy that comes from Responsive Classroom. You can learn more about it here. Basically, the idea is that the teacher decides what she wants her students to learn, and the students get to decide how they learn it. When students get to direct their own learning, they intrinsically become more motivated learners. The learning becomes a part of their identity. They retain the information better and gain confidence in the process.
Inspired by this idea, I decided to infuse academic choice into our current unit about civics and government by allowing the 3rd graders to choose a topic to study, and direct their own learning of that topic. The 3rd graders got to choose between two points in history where people fought for their rights: the Civil Rights Movement and the Women's Suffrage Movement. No matter which topic they chose, I knew they would come out with an understanding of what it means to fight for one's rights.
After they decided which topic to study, the students were given a task sheet that looked sort of like a grid. Each square had a resource to read, watch, or look at along with a simple task such as a question to answer or a poster to make. Students were assigned to read 3, watch 2, and make 1. Differentiated expectations, along with the freedom to choose which tasks to do, made for a learning process tailored to each student's needs, abilities, and interests.
Once they were given this task sheet, the learning was put in their hands. Day after day, they decided what to work on and did so at their own individual pace. Being able to switch from reading a book, to watching a video on an iPad, to looking through an article helped maintain a sense of novelty and intrigue as the students gained knowledge and exposure to their topic. I circulated the room, offering support when needed. From the start, the positive effects of this type of learning were clear. The room was quiet, but alive with the buzz of learning.
The information they were learning felt like treasures they had discovered, and their excitement was evident in their eagerness to share what they'd learned with their peers and with me.
Stay tuned to read about the exciting Makerspace project they will create to show what they learned during independent learning!
Little people, big minds.