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“Connecting Communities”

February 7, 2011

This last fall, @BeckyFisher73 gave me some great advice.  She said I should consider having my students write on the floor.  After getting over the idea that writing on the floor is taboo, I went for it.  This year my students have become accustomed to using the floor as another creative space in the classroom.

About three weeks ago, during our annual unit on communities, I decided to have my students draw their depiction of a community on the floor.  The day before, we had read about communities, and discussed what makes a community.  We also discussed common characteristics within a community.

I have a wonderfully creative, and collaborative class.  I split them into 5 groups, and let them go to town (pun intended).  Right away they began to discuss common characteristics of communities.  Each of the five groups was given an allotment of floor space.  Within 3 minutes of the groups working, I had a student come up to me and say, “We should connect all the communities together after each group has finished.”  I was blown away.  This thought had not even crossed by mind.  I tell my fellow teachers all the time to let the students have the wheel and see where they take you.  This was a great example why this is so important.

The activity I had envisioned was much more teacher centered.  Driving to work that day, I thought about giving each group a 4 x 4 space on the floor.  Give them the boundaries of their community and let them draw.  I was concerned about drawing too much on the floor, and things of that nature.  After the students piled into the class that morning, I decided to change my mind and not give them a set boundary.  It was the best decision I could have made.

If I had limited their space, I would have also limited their creativity.  By giving them the space they needed, they had the freedom to draw what they really thought a community should have.  That same day, @irasocol and @pammoran were visiting my school.  I was looking forward to their visit because they consistently inspire me to be better. I was able to complete about 30 minutes of the lesson prior to leaving for my meetings.  Every hour of so, I would go by my room and see how the class was doing.  Each time I came by, the communities were getting larger and larger.  They each had churches, schools, elaborate road systems, houses, parks (skate parks), pools, post offices, police stations, fire stations, libraries, etc.  At one point, two communities were slowly merging together.  This caused a dispute between “Smileville” and “Sunset Town”.  One representative from each community came to me and asked me to solve their “land” dispute.  I told them that they needed to figure out a solution between themselves.  Eventually, they drew a line dividing the two communities. Toward the end of the day, we had a great class discussion on land distribution and school districts.

Rarely have I seen a class so proud of their work.  They were asking students from other classes to come by and look at their work.  Their engagement level was high.  They had a quiz later that week on communities, and every student did well.  I wish I could take the credit for this lesson, but truly the credit goes to my students.  This blog is written as a dedication to their commitment to learning.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 7, 2011 11:22 am

    Great activity. Congratulations. Mr Socol inspires me also.

  2. Erica permalink
    February 7, 2011 5:29 pm

    “let the students have the wheel and see where they take you” Love that line!!

    • February 7, 2011 5:57 pm

      Thanks. Sometimes, it is important for the teacher to have full control but other times you just have to take a back seat.

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