Well, we weren’t going to just TELL them! We wanted the kids to figure this out for themselves, so while they were sitting in a circle, unsuspecting and eating afternoon snack, we passed out cards to each student. Each card had one letter on it. All we said was “We’re going to play a game now. Play!”
Of course, there was confusion. What game? What were the letters? But the kids jumped in without hesitation. They understood quickly that any rules or goals of the game were going to have to be discovered. Even the context — why were we playing this game? — wasn’t going to be revealed.
It was fun to watch them work. There was discussion about whether the letters spelled anything and if that was even possible when there were no O’s or E’s! Ideas were thrown out about sorting the letters somehow.
When things got too loud too quickly, one student suggested a “talking pineapple” that was passed around to ensure only one student spoke at a time. That worked for one beautiful minute. Is it mean to say that, as teachers, we somewhat enjoyed watching kids try to get the whole class’s attention?
The class tried a few things, but they started getting close when they organized the letters alphabetically by the first name of the student who was handed the letter.
That didn’t work, but they didn’t give up–they tried by last name next, which ALMOST worked, but they could tell it wasn’t quite right. Then they realized that their student numbers are by last name, but students who joined mid-year were at the end, so they re-sorted by student number and figured it out. The message was “CAMP SAIL IN BAY CITY MI” and they cheered when they realized they had found the activities and location of our Spring Trip!
Afterwards, we talked about the process of finding this out. Many students talked about how it felt chaotic but successful and many others discussed feeling left out and like they didn’t have a voice. We talked about the importance of group work on our Spring Trip before breaking up into our cooking/tent groups to figure out what we are having for dinner!