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Master Desginer: Skill Builder Task

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Brianne Schultz

on 29 April 2014

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Transcript of Master Desginer: Skill Builder Task

Skill Builder: Master Designer
Minor Adaptations
It is suggested to make a poster with the three desired behaviors for the task, "Helping students do things for themselves." "Explain by telling how" and "Everybody helps."
I opted out of the poster. I wanted to see if students could identify the goal of the activity on their own (as an exit slip).
Furthermore, the original task was created to include a member who had the role of the observer. The observer was to check off every time he or she sees one of the desired behaviors.
I also chose to not assign the role of the observer. I wanted to allow all students to engage in designing or building because we would only have a short time for the task.
I had previously done this task in my methods course, TE 802. It was very engaging for all students in my class and really showed us how tough it can be to explain something simply by telling (without showing).
For this reason, I hypothesized that students would find this task inherently engaging due to its hands-on design. I also thought this would be true for even the lowest performing students, since a high level of math proficiency is not required for this task.
Finally, I thought this task would help students to be more thoughtful when communicating with their peers during group work. However, I knew assessing the tasks' effect on this would be difficult.
The Task
-To begin, students should form groups of 4 or 5
-Each student will be given an envelope containing 8 shapes (5 triangles of varying sizes, 1 square, 1 parallelogram, 1 trapezoid)
-In my interpretation of the task, groups were asked to elect one person to be the "Master Designer"
-The Master Designer is the person who has to instruct the other groups members as how to replicate a design he or she has created with the pieces (all or part of them)
-A divider is set up so that group members can see each others faces but cannot see what the others are doing, nor can they see the design of the Master. Their goal is to design the same shape that the Master Designer has constructed.
-Group members may ask questions of the Master Designer.
-In addition to verbal directions, students may use sign language or hand gestures to demonstrate to each other.
-When a group member thinks they have figured out the master design, the designer checks the solution. If it is correct, that member joins the master designer in helping others in the group by explaining how.
Exit slip responses from the day of the lesson
Exit slip responses from the day of the lesson
Last Minute Change
Goals of the Task
Exit slip responses from the day of the lesson
Promoting Effective Communication in Miss Schultz's classroom
Here is a picture of the shapes that students received
These are the dividers that were created to prevent students from seeing each others work
I wanted to do this activity with students to practice their communication skills while working on group tasks. Specifically, I wanted students to be able to:
Effectively communicate an explanation of how to do something to ALL group members
"Explain by telling how"
Ask questions about things they were confused about
"Helping students do things for themselves"
Help each other out when someone is stuck
"Everyone helps"
After getting to school the day of the Master Designer lesson, I realized I forgot the dividers at home!

However, I knew the show must go on...

Due to the way the task is designed, I remembered that I was able to use other resources from the room to create the dividers.

I found old textbooks in the classroom (enough for one for each student) that students could use to make their own divider.
The Logistics
I chose to do this task the last day of school before Spring Break. I knew that students would be slightly rambunctious and wanted to have an engaging activity to help focus their energy.

The task was done after taking a learning check, which normally takes about a half hour to complete.

As a result, each class ended up having roughly 25 minutes to receive instructions and enact the Master Designer task.

At the end of the lesson, I asked students to complete an exit slip answering the question "What skills did you practice in this activity that could help you while doing math?"
How It Went
I paired groups randomly together so students were required to work with students they might not normally work with.
However, students were still very much engaged in the task. There was not a single student that opted out of the activity or who did not participate.
One of my most recalcitrant, disengaged students said to me while doing the task, "Miss Schultz, can we do tasks like this more often?"
Students struggled with giving directions, but improved as they kept trying new things.
Groups encouraged each member not to give up and helped each other out by explaining things in different ways.

The Discussion
Due to the timing of the lesson, we couldn't discuss the activity until the first day back from Spring Break. So, students were a little removed from the task and its purpose during our discussion.
However, students were able to recollect that they struggled a lot with the task. Specifically, they cited that it was hard to give directions as the Master Builder without showing group members what to do. Students shared that they felt the need to be more precise and be clearer with directions.
Furthermore, students said that it was also very difficult to put the pieces together without being shown and it required them to really listen to what the master designer was saying.
Students felt that this task was beneficial to them for future group work because it forced them both to be more careful with their explanations and to really listen and try to understand their group members thinking and suggestions.
"What skills did you practice in this activity that could help you while doing math?"
"I practiced explaining/ teaching things to others."
"I learned communication skills."
"Listening to others"
"What skills did you practice in this activity that could help you while doing math?"
"Explaining things without actually showing and trying to figure things out"
"The skills we are practicing are our working together skills so we can help when doing math"
"Inferring and asking questions. It would be helpful because in math you have to do those things."
"What skills did you practice in this activity that could help you while doing math?"
"You working together and asking questions to try to get the answer. You are also trying your best and making what you think it is even though you may not exactly be right. So you are using your growth mindset!"
"Don't give up!"
"Teaches you to try different things until you get it right."
"We're using shapes so its like a visual way of learning."
No matter the case, I'd say this experiment was a definite success. Now whenever I see groups struggling to communicate, I remind them of the Master Designer task and how important it is to communicate clearly and with ALL members of the group.
Task adapted from:

This task did indeed prove to be very engaging for students. It was a great way to end class before Spring Break!

I think my decision to not state the goals for the activity ended up being very beneficial. The responses I received from students proved that students were able to get a sense of the main, take-away ideas without having to be told. Every one of the three goals for the activity showed up in student exit slip responses.
I was even offered ideas for valuable skills practiced with this activity that I didn't even anticipate-- such as the reinforcement of having a growth mindset, not giving up and not being afraid to make mistakes.

Furthermore, since the Master Designer lesson, I have noticed students being more careful about listening and explaining, though am unsure of whether or not this is occurring as a direct result of this activity or not. It could also be due to my decision to pay closer attention to promoting effective communication amongst students during group work.
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