Thursday, December 8, 2016

Textured Cardstock and Hands-on Learning

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Today we are working on a problem from our Puddle Questions math book. This is the grade 8 book. We are on Investigation #5: Birdhouse Designs.

"Darn it, I forgot the floor again," one child remarks to herself.

In this investigation, students are asked to design a birdhouse made with wood.

    Write a proposal explaining how you would build the birdhouse. Use boards that are 1/2 inch x 8 inches x 6 feet. In the proposal, show a sketch or sketches of your design labeled to show the dimensions. You may want to show different views. Tell how much wood you would need to build the birdhouse.

I'm looking at buying 12 x 12 inch textured card stock with a woodgrain pattern because both of my students scored a 1 on the rubric (1 is low, 2 is medium, 3 is high, 4 is exceptional) because they did not clearly describe their design and how to build it, they did not accurately determine the amount of wood needed for the project, and their designs did not work to produce a complete birdhouse.

Yes, Puddle Questions are HARD. It's hard to clearly explain your mathematical reasoning step by step. One child proudly created a scale model of the starting boards she would buy from the lumberyard, but then drew a birdhouse with no dimensions on it and gave the instructions as "make birdhouse according to diagram."

I've found that the best thing to do with Puddle Questions is to let their answers rest for several days before returning to them and scoring them. When they go to share their reports with me, and their thinking is no longer fresh in their minds, they soon realize where their explanations lack clarity.

For the birdhouse project, we can take it a step farther. The students can use the card stock to actually try to build a birdhouse (card stock, ruler, pencil, protractor, compass, scissors, tape). They can use these materials, follow their own written instructions step-by-step, read their own diagrams... they can SEE where they are unclear, where they fall short.

So I'm giving students time to do this this morning and to then rewrite their reports and we will score their new versions. This is a great example of hands-on learning and this hands-on aspect helps me to push students (gently) to make their writing more detailed and clear. It is so much easier if they push THEMSELVES to be more clear. It is so much easier if they realize the weaknesses in their work on their own... and are motivated to make their work stronger.

"I'm definitely measuring twice and cutting once," Becca tells me.

The room is silent as students measure, cut, draw, and write.

One child looks up and says, "I feel like I'm wording it a lot better now."

Their feeling of satisfaction with their new work takes away the sting of being disappointed in their old work. As we say in our classroom every day, Practice Makes Progress!

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