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How often do you give your gifted students the opportunity to solve authentic, relevant problems? The California GATE standards state:
The differentiated curriculum provides for the balanced development of critical, creative problem solving and research skills, advanced content, and authentic and appropriate products.
What is more authentic to a student than solving classroom problems? And what excites students more than having ownership over the classroom seating? Here’s an authentic problem solving idea that ties in public speaking, group work, and classroom ownership.
Me: “Students, did you know that when a business has a problem, they often pay other businesses to solve it for them?”
Class (barely listening): “…”
Me: “Well, we have a problem here in class. [student interest spikes] Some people can’t see, others are crammed in a corner. I simply have not done a perfect job setting up our desks.”
Class (now bursting with enthusiasm): “No you haven’t!”
Me: “Since you are the experts and have to sit in these desks everyday, I’m going to let you solve this problem in the same way a business solves their problems.”
In this activity, your students will be given the opportunity to practice the speaking skills analyzed in parts one and two of this series.
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- Put students into groups (four works well).
- Give students the measurements of desks, seating area, chairs, and other common classroom items or allow them to measure as part of a math unit.
- Each group must create an exact scale diagram (we use graph paper). After the scale diagram is complete, students must check with me (to ensure accuracy and because scale drawings are part of our math curriculum).
- (Optional) Students create models using whatever materials you choose, my class loved Google’s free program SketchUp.
- Groups must write a proposal to present to the class (see steps below). Groups must have their proposals in written form first.
- All groups present their proposals, and field questions from the class. This may take a couple days, depending on how you want to do it.
- All students vote on their favorite solution (try making an online survey). After counting up the votes, announce the winner.
- Now implement the solution – have everyone move their desks into the new formation (Note: You can choose where individual students sit, they don’t need that much ownership!).
- At the end of the day, have students evaluate the solution. This is my favorite part because there are bound to be some unforeseen problems. Perhaps you can discuss point of view of someone engaged in a solution versus someone complaining about a problem.
- Revise the solution and re-implement the next day.
- After a couple months, repeat with new groups.
Outline For A Business Proposal
Students’ proposals should follow these steps when they present.
- Hook: Get the audience interested.
- Problem: Show that you understand the client’s problem. What is the problem? Why is it a problem?
- Solution: Explain how you will solve the client’s problem.
- Evaluation: Explain how we will test to see if the solution has worked.
- Schedule of delivery: When will this problem be solves and what do you need to solve it?
- Opportunity to field questions: Q&A session with the client
This is a great activity to start the year off with and you may want to repeat it after winter and spring breaks. Consider displaying a sign in your room explaining the process your students went through and giving credit to the designers. If this is successful, the next step in our series is to tackle a school-wide problem.
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