Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Traffic Jam - A Good Thing

The feet in the picture from the previous post are trying to solve a traffic jam. Mister Teacher thought the idea sounded intriguing and I'd have to say he's right. Of all the team building, community building activities I do during the first week or so, it is by far my favorite. I save it for last because it's my favorite and because it's very challenging.

I'm sorry to say that I don't recall where I found the activity (somewhere out on the worldwide web), but I'm sure it is floating around in various forms. The way we do it involves seven pieces of construction paper and at least six students. We lay the construction papers on the floor in a row as stepping stones (surely there are cooler, more interesting things we could use, but construction paper is handy). Three kids stand on the three at one end and three kids stand on the three at the other end leaving the one in the middle free. The goal is to get the kids to the opposite ends. They can only move forward, can only move onto an empty stone, and can only go around one person.

I never have an exact multiple of six in my class, of course. So some students end up being 'directors'. It's really helpful to have someone who can see the big picture. Once the students have figured out the strategy (and can actually repeat it) I put them into bigger groups. Eventually, we have the entire class work their way through one big traffic jam.

Watching them work it out teaches me a lot about them. Some students spend time with their white boards drawing pictures to try various options. Others grab whatever manipulatives are closest in order to move them around. Some just stand around on their stones and move when other, more alpha-students, tell them to. It's noisy and chaotic and fun.


Mister Teacher said...

Very interesting! I think I've seen this activity as a computer game, with frogs.
I might have to give that a try, it sounds pretty cool.
Thanks for sharing!

organized chaos said...

Next time you do this I want to come watch! This sounds like the kind of thing I would have LOVED in 5th grade. Some days I want to go back and re-do 5th grade in your class.