Ha!!!! i was writing a new blog post about small group instruction (i know, the excitement!!!!!) and I went to link to this post and realized i had never moved it over from my old blog on Weebly. Enjoy!!!!
Although our Constituional Convention simulation was successful, my kiddos lost interest about three quarters of the way through. Some days I really wish we had a block schedule because these simulations really benefit from not being split into multiple parts. I tend to lose the kiddos' interest after two periods.
I left school after the third day knowing that I had to plow through the 3/5 Compromise, choosing an executive, the Bill of Rights and Federalists and AntiFederalists. I really didn't think the kiddos were up for whole group instruction but I had some pretty good resources from History Alive that focused on HOT questions. I promised myself that I was going to get my daughter and drive home with the cell phone and radio off until I could come up with a game plan. How could I have my kiddos works through some reading comprehension and get to conference with them in small groups or individually to help them understand the material? I have had a real interest in gaming in the classroom and decided why didn't I treat the lesson like a video game. The midgets love to earn kudos and rewards! To cash in on this I created Level Up. The reading and questions were broken into seven sections so I created seven levels of this video game. I created a learning target for each section and changed it into a mastery questions, (i.e. I have mastered and understanding of the 3/5 Compromise.). For each mastery concept, I created a title, (i.e. Magnificient Negotiator, Population Analayst, etc.) and I created a nifty badge that I printed out on a color printer.
I set up the classroom in groups but in the center I had set up six desks with a teacher chair in the middle. I roped it off and labeled it with a sign that said, "Do Not Sit Here! Leveling Up Station". That sign got my gamers' attention. They were just buzzing at the possibility of what this lesson might entail.
Students would work in small groups or individually to answer the questions for each section. After they had finished the questions for one or two sections( I did my best to stagger them so I wasn't inundated) the kiddos would come up to the Leveling Station. Here I was able to accomplish the middle school teacher's dream of working with children in very small groups. If students had difficulty with the section I was able to give them redirection and send them back for corrections. If they got the answers correct they got their badge and were able to Level Up. Each badge was pasted onto a sheet and the completion of that sheet was confirmation of their grade which was 70/70.
In the end I got everything I wanted. I didn't have to do any whole group instruction and kids worked at their own pace. If a kid came up to me twice with wrong answers I was able to do some one on one guided reading with those individuals and sometimes was able to simply explain the concept to them but in a much more casual and useful conversation than a whole group lecture. I had a two really interesting byproducts that I hadn't planned for. As the students moved through the leveling, students that were taking longer and were struggling, felt comfortable asking if they could just stay at the Leveling Up Station and get more intense help from me. Because I was working with children in a staggered fashion, this was totally able to happen. I had other students whose groups were not good influences for them (cheating, too much talking, etc.) and they also felt comfortable asking if they could work at the station. I never could have predicted the station would be an oasis.
I will probably do this activity about once a unit. The kiddos have begged to do it again but I know that they will get sick of it if it is the norm. My proudest badge that I wear was earned because even though 95% of the kiddos really loved it, I saw excitement and pride from that group of boys that a haven't yet decided to be achievers and usually get lost in the larger group. After their friends left the classroom a couple hung back to let me know how much they liked learning this way. One of my quiet tough nuts came a little closer to me and quietly said, "I wish we could do this all the time."
I also know it was a good idea because my husband, the math teacher used it in his class the very next day and another math teacher implemented it in his classroom before I even finished my lesson. Sometimes you come up with the winner!