Last week, the children in my Year 1 class experienced a different kind of collaborative task which involved active learning. Our theme in Science this term has been ‘Materials’. Children have learned to identify, name, label and sort objects made of different materials. The next objective was to be able to brainstorm characteristics / properties of various materials. We decided to get children involved actively in exploration and investigation.
We laid out different objects made of materials in different packets.The pack of wood had pencils, log of wood, piece of chipped wood etc, the pack of plastic had a ruler, lego, plastic lid, bottle etc. We had six such packets made of wood, plastic, glass, metal, fabric and rubber on each table. There was also a white board and marker on each table. The children were divided into trios and had to choose a scribe.
They moved from one table to another in their groups, describing and recording the various properties and characteristics, by touching, looking, observing and discussing.
The results were outstanding. Not only did they create knowledge by sharing and collaborating but they also came up with questions and ideas which we could further explain or touch upon, in future lessons. Some wrote words like ‘thick’, ‘bendy’ and phrases like ‘can see through it’ which gave us opportunities to introduce words such as opaque, malleable, transparent etc.
This activity was great! Unlike previous times, when I’ve been the one talking about characteristics, this time, it was them ‘doing’ the learning. I was facilitating, observing and ensuring that the activity moved successfully.
The climate in the classroom is crucial for a collaborative task to be successful. Children have to feel safe to share ideas, be willing to say or try new things, take risks and have the freedom to make mistakes. Children were engaged actively, developed and built on characteristics, helped each other and were moving on their feet! There were no chairs! Having them move after every few minutes kept them on task and the variety on each table kept them excited!
An activity like this takes time to prepare and also focuses on the importance of talk and constructive debate in a classroom setting. “It is friction that makes the sparks” as Jonah Lehrer states in his article Groupthink published in The New Yorker. It takes control away from the teacher and provides opportunities to students to be autonomous.
If you want to read more about collaborative learning, Click here!