As often as possible, I build our activities to lead towards some type of creation. As you may know, Bloom's Taxonomy states that creation is the highest demonstration of knowledge. When students (or for that matter, people,) have the opportunity to create, they are forced to use and put together the knowledge they've been building. Moreover, children feel a sense of ownership of the material and thus are inspired by the opportunity to make it their own.
You may have seen evidence of creation in the 3rd grade classroom. Our calendar, labels, and schedule were all made by the children. The creative process revealed many opportunities for learning and problem solving. With the calendar came investigation into the holidays, weather, and identifying factors of each month. With the schedule came categorization of the various parts of the day, and the idea that we may need some blank labels for special events that arise. Even though we created these back in August, the students still come up with creative ideas for these systems. Just today a student asked if we could add a clock to each part of the schedule that show what time each part of the day starts. Had the classroom come "fully-furnished" with a calendar and a schedule, the students would not have this constant reason to think creatively.
Our unit on Community, Civics, and Government has lead us to create our own class constitution. We began by building an understanding of the concept of rights through books, videos, and anecdotes. We then applied this knowledge by having our own class protest. We then used the story Two Days in May to evaluate how well citizens in the story protected the rights of the deer. After analyzing how certain laws are in place to protect our rights, we brainstormed what rights we have in the classroom and what rules we could put in place to protect them. The students pointed out that some rights are protected by me and some are protected by them.
Finally, we used those rights and rules to create our class constitution. By creating our own constitution, the students gained a sense of power and ownership over the culture of the classroom along with an intrinsic understanding of the nature of rights and laws.
Little people, big minds.