Earlier this school year, we had building professional development with an education professor from University of Northern Colorado. She presented strategies in teaching math utilizing something she called "Low Floor, High Ceiling". She had the teachers break into groups and gave each group a math problem without detailed instruction on what to do. My group began with strategies on solving our math problem. Everyone had different solutions on how to solve, but we were all engaged with the problem solving experience. Later on, through discussions, I learned that most strategies would eventually lead to the correct answer.
We also discussed that by allowing students to have freedom over their strategy choices increases engagement and collaboration. It also differentiates the lesson by providing various points of entry for students.
I do feel (and know) that a TAB classroom contains many of these elements. But, I was wondering how I can push the limits of this strategy into an activity for my students.
Back a couple of years ago, I attends the Colorado TAB conference with George Szekely. George set up baby pools around the room and just had the teachers create boats to float. It was great. I already have done this lesson in the spring to close the school year, so what if I added some different elements to it.
I presented 2nd-5th graders with the idea of building a boat by discussing how items float and why. Instead of just letting the student loose on a bunch of supplies to use, I gave them a budget. I priced items around the room like water bottle=$3.00, tape=$5.00, etc. I really made my students think about how to use their materials. It worked great, and I had plenty of items for 240 students. After they built their boats, they had a test and redesign day. Students had an opportunity to redesign or add items to their boats. On the final day, we timed the speed and tested weight.
What did my students learn?
I teach to a TAB philosophy and had some struggles with this project because I didn't think it offered enough choices for my students. It did offer many points of entry and collaboration. I also found that the end of year can be a struggle with student engagement and behaviors. I usually add more structure to the end of the year to avoid any issues with that. The boat project was a great remedy. I did enjoy it to end the school to help give me time to close the studio.