Friday, September 7, 2012
My First Three Act Lesson
Today was the kind of day in science where we needed to do something a little different. We've been hitting the SI pretty hard the last few days. We're ahead of the other 7th grade classes on that by a smidge and I could feel brain saturation setting in. Nobody cared how cool it was that a liter of water was related to a weight measurement in the same system (I know, right?).
So, without too much preparation, I decided to throw one of Dan Meyer's thee act problems at them. We will be starting our force and motion unit in a week-ish. I told the kids it was a little advance teaser. I showed them "The Slow Forty" since it's got some motion in it. I did not tell them what we were trying to find out. I led them in a discussion first about what they wondered about the video.
As you would expect from a hastily-planned lesson, the results were mixed.
The picture above is from 3rd period. It took them a little while to get warmed up, but as soon as they got going it was a joy to behold. One group wanted to time the runner, but not a single person had a watch so we had to download a stopwatch for my school iPad. They were floored that I was totally fine with doing that and that I handed the iPad off to the group who wanted to time. They asked interesting questions, figured out what they'd need to know, and attempted to get that information in order to answer the questions they generated. They didn't notice that it's "The Slow Forty" and NOT "The Slow Fifty," but for a first outing into doing their own thinking I was OK with this. You'll notice that even though we broke into groups based on what questions they were interested in asking they ended up divided mostly along gender lines, but again, I wasn't going to get uppity about that. 3rd period wanted more of these exercises and they wanted to be allowed to extend them and research them. I think I can honestly say #winning here.
5th period was the complete opposite. Even though I felt they set themselves up with arguably better questions than the other class, they had trouble staying on track. They didn't try to find information they didn't have despite nudging. One group changed their minds and decided to find out how far the guy ran. Since it was a self-selected group of my slowest learners, I thought I could let them try and then when they realized how easy it was to get that information I could push them to wonder about something more deeper. It was no go. They shut down as soon as they (finally) noticed that there were yard lines visible. I did have one group notice that the stride count stopped at the 40-yard line, but once they got that far they lost track of their initial wonderings. Not a single group came up with any answers or any observations about what they needed to know. When I debriefed them, they said that this was "hard" and that they wanted me to tell them what to do. They did want to repeat the experience, but it seemed motivated more by the desire to chit chat than to dig into a problem.
Now that I've done this once in a very free-form sort of way, I have ideas for doing it again. I really liked it when it was working. I confess to being utterly exhausted before the day even started, and facilitating noisy, mobile learners requires more energy than regurgitating a lesson at a classroom of sitting students. So clearly I have to be at the top of my game to make this the best experience possible.