My students are spending the entire week filling out bubbles in an effort to prove their mastery of reading, writing and math. I slip into the role of a gentle drill sergeant, giving them the death stare when they can’t sit still for three hours.
The upside of the testing week is that we have no rigid guidelines for curriculum. We have little chunks of an hour or two when we are supposed to review standards. With that in mind, I launch a four-day UnBored Board Game project. Call it a STREAM project (social studies, technology, reading, art and math) Here’s how it works:
- They begin with asking a series of essential questions. These include: How do we market it? What are the rules? What theme is it? How do we keep kids interested in it? How will this be different than other games? How many players will it be? What materials will we need?
- Students then read up on various board games, focussing on which ones were most popular in various decades and which ones have been the biggest dud. They read this, discuss this and tweet about it in a chat.
- In small groups, they work on developing their plan, based upon the essential questions. Some of the groups struggle in this phase, because it is so open-ended. However, ultimately, they make it work. In this phase, they write functional text in the form of directions; and review shapes, proportions and rates from math as they develop the game itself.
- The groups begin making the physical prototype. I find it interesting that while I don’t assign homework, kids take their sketches home or re-work their instructions.
- After testing it out (okay, honestly, it’s just playing) they work on redesigning it. Again, students take parts home.
- Students develop a marketing plan that includes an audio advertisement (on vocaroo), a visual advertisement (on Pixlr) a text-based advertisement and a pitch that they would offer to a company. Again, they’re reviewing the standards on persuasion and propaganda.
- As a whole group, they pitch their games to the class (two minutes at a time) and rate one another’s games.
The final results are mixed. A few of the game ideas are genius (a safari game that allows kids to do charades, pictures and trivia, for example) and a few are just okay. Some of the visual aspects are really creative while others are the traditional squares on a flat board. But students are thinking deeply about their design, being creative in their thinking and reviewing the standards in a meaningful way.
Essentially it is everything that the standardized test is not.