When running a classroom where students work at their own pace, one of the biggest challenges is what to do when some students are finished with a task, but others are still working. This year I have employed a puzzle! The idea is this: I put a 500-piece puzzle in the back of the room, on a table that exists only for this purpose. Next to it is a little water fountain to add a calming atmosphere. The students have the option of working on the puzzle anytime they are finished with their work or if they need a 5-minute "brain break." A few students have really responded positively to this solution. The puzzle has created an opportunity for them to work together, strategize, and negotiate, as well as work long-term on a calming activity.
Today, after 2 and a half months, they finished the puzzle!
It's hard to see from the picture, but one piece of the puzzle is missing. A group of dedicated students have created a plan to recreate the piece using the thick back-cover of a notebook! Time to buy a new puzzle!
Little people, big minds.