Last year, I did an activity with my class to help them think about building categories to help them understand empires. I wrote about it here. I created cards that had aspects of each category, so for Clear Boundaries, there were cards for Deserts, Strong Military, Rivers, etc. Each category was on a different color paper.
Last year, it was a beautiful day, so I held class outdoors. I spread the cards all over the fields and the students had to run around, finding the different cards, placing them in groups and then working together to figure out what the larger category was. It was a wild and fun class, full of energy and enthusiasm, as they ran around, trying to locate each card and add it to their collection. They eagerly shouted to each other and were completely engaged in the work of figuring out the puzzle of the categories.
This year, however, it was raining, so we couldn’t do it outside. I decided to try it inside instead, hoping that it would work as well within the four walls of the school. I spread the cards around my classroom and the immediate hallway outside the door, a space I use all of the time for extra room. I explained the task to the students and divided them into pairs. I told them to record what they found as they explored around the space.
They started, and I immediately wished that I had waited for a Dry Day! Instead of the wonderfully fun energy that came from running around in the sunshine to collect evidence, there was a decidedly calm and very methodic circulation around the classroom. That was the best way to find all of the cards, so that was what they did. One card after another, each within reach of the one they had just written. Because there simply wasn’t enough space to make it a wild and energy-filled quest, it simply became a task of collecting the evidence. Without the running around, it was more of a classroom task than an adventure. The excitement was gone, as they knew that they simply needed to move slowly around the classroom and record what each card said.
While the process still had them up and out of their desks, which is a regular goal of mine, it lacked the momentum and enthusiasm that last year’s quest had had. As my colleague, Betty Ann Fish, @bafish10, is always saying, exercise and learning go together. This lesson reminded me to keep working to combine them more often. There really is no better way to create a strong and lasting memory! And fresh air isn’t bad either.
It clearly wasn’t a waste of a lesson, as there was a level of curiosity generated by the collection process, and the students didn’t have last year’s class with which to compare it. They simply had this class, and it made them wonder what it was that they were building with each collection of cards. When I called them back together and had them work in small groups to identify the possible categories, there was lots of energy and excitement in the room. It was a puzzle that they wanted to figure out. So this year, the ending of the lesson was stronger than the initial activity, whereas last year, it was the other way around.
As always, it is an adventure!