Students building a model of their “Dream Mansion”

I was really excited when I saw the topic for this week’s readings. We are just finishing up our first unit of inquiry in my grade 4 team, and the central idea is  

Collaboration influences outcomes. 

Throughout the unit we have been exploring these lines of inquiry:

  • individual and collective responsibility of group members
  • collaborative working groups in our class
  • how to overcome differences to find solutions. 

This was a quick mini-unit for the beginning of the year, which we plan to revisit at the end of the year. It started off with simple ice breaker games like The Human Knot, Floating Stick and my personal favourite, the Lego Challenge.

Lego Challenge

Next, we created a few tasks that gave students a little more choice. In groups, they needed to choose between two or three challenges and work together to complete the task. This was followed up by small group discussions about what made group work successful, and how different students adopted different roles in the groups.

Finally, the students were ready to venture out on their own. Going against the number one strategy for building collaboration (and maybe number five and six as well), we allowed the students form groups on their own, choose any project or task that they were passionate about, and spend the week working together on it with the knowledge that they would present their work on Friday (ISTE 1a/c).

We scaffolded with a planning document that related back to the conversations we had had about roles in a group and overcoming challenges, but for the most part, we left them on their own to plan out the project. 

Some of the things they were working on were:

  • Performing a cover of a hit song 
  • Building a double-decker bridge out of KAPLA
  • Creating an arcade
  • Painting a mural for the Grade 4 space
  • Baking treats for the Grade 4 community
Collaborative Mural Painting

Students had about an hour and a half each day to work on their projects together, and then we gathered in groups to discuss and reflect on what had happened that day. Each day in addition to sharing pictures and videos of what they had done in Book Creator, students wrote and discussed;

  • What did your group accomplish today?
  • What challenges did you face as a team and how did you solve them?
  • What is your goal for tomorrow?
KAPLA Bridge

At the end of the week, students shared back to the Grade 4 community about their week. They presented their (mostly) finished projects but also reported back on their understanding of the lines of inquiry and how working as a group had impacted what they had done.

Students performing a song they wrote collaboratively

Throughout the process, students took pictures, recorded videos, documented their work and researched using their iPads. Depending on the project, they were able to leverage technology like green screens, digital recording tools, materials from the maker space to enhance their projects. This was the first (of hopefully many) student-guided/driven inquiries that we undertook this year in our new Grade 4 team, and the students (and the teachers) showed their ability to learn and grow their skills in a range of areas. The skills and strategies they developed will no doubt come in handy in the year to come.