If you've read the blog you know by now that the 3rd graders are deep into a unit of study about civics, government, and communities. We spent a lot of time learning our rights and studying points in history when people needed to fight for their rights. We came up with a list of rights that we have in the classroom, and used those to develop a class constitution which includes what rules need to be in place to protect our rights. This week we are transitioning to learning more about how the government works, but before we do, I wanted to pause to ask this question: So what?
Why are we learning this? What's the big idea?
The answer is cooperation. We are studying these topics in order to help us better understand the importance of cooperation in maintaining healthy communities. After all, no community - no family, school, city, or country - could function if its members did not cooperate.
To begin our discussion about cooperation, we made a mind map.
Students volunteered connections, examples, and definitions of cooperation and added it to the chart. I prompted them to think deeply about the books we've read and the discussions we've had, and to use those as catalysts for understanding all the many facets of cooperation. This mind map will be posted in the room so that we can refer back to it and add to it as we go further in our unit.
After thinking all the thoughts we could think about cooperation, we embarked on an activity that would require a lot of cooperation on the part of the students. I began by telling the students that they would now be writing and performing skits. Before I told them what the skits would be about, I had them divide themselves into groups. I told them I wanted at least 2 people in each group, but that they could have more if they wanted. Interestingly, the class divided into two groups by gender. I told each group to pick a number, which they were able to do quickly and with consensus. Based on their number, I assigned the topic of their skits: the girl group was to create a skit showing cooperation, while the boy group was to create a skit showing the opposite of cooperation. Both groups were excited by the task and eager to get started!
Observing them as they prepared, it was interesting to see the different ways in which cooperation was evident. From a glance, it would appear as if the girls team was not cooperating. Everyone was loudly shouting ideas and interrupting each other. However, a careful observer would notice that all ideas were being taken into account and put into action. Even though they were talking over one another, everyone's ideas were being heard and respected. Though it looked chaotic from my point of view, they were functioning in a way that was comfortable for them. The boys team was much quieter, and each member had a job delegated to him. However, towards the end of their preparation time, the boys realized they had left one member completely out of the skit. Luckily, they all realized this was unfair and they quickly fixed the problem. It took cooperation not only for the boys to fix the problem, but also for the one who was left out to be willing to forgive and join back in.
The final result was two very different but very clear skits. We discussed the two groups' different approaches, and how the team members' working together allowed for a coherent final product to be created.
Little people, big minds.