Since attending the GAFE PD at Sacred Heart a couple of weeks ago, algorithmic thinking has been on my mind (yes, I am a total nerd!). I attended a session with the fabulous, Dr Rebecca Vivian that focused on how to implement algorithmic thinking in practical ways.
We’ve been studying number patterns in Mathematics so this workshop was brilliant timing, allowing me to implement ideas straight away. We’ve also been focusing on writing information reports. An idea began to boil in my mind… what if instead of designing success criteria, students could use algorithmic thinking to create a flow chart for a successful information report.
I decided that I would attempt this task through Literacy Rotations. This meant that while other students were engaged in their specific rotational task, I could explicitly teach students in small groups about flow charts and the symbols… and it would link with the algorithmic work we were doing in Maths… even better!
I distributed to the students a template of the flow chart symbols (an example of the symbols but my example was much simpler) accompanied by an information report work sample (from ACARA work samples) which we’d previously studied and labelled.
As a small group, we then worked through the symbols and their meanings and I modelled how they might start their flow chart (Are you writing about something people will want to read? Yes? No?). In their small group, students then continued these draft diagrams. Here’s an example of a starting point.
From here, students began using the drawing tool in Google Docs to create flow charts that could be added to and adjusted more easily. Check out the example below:
This continues to be a work in progress and these flow charts will develop as we continue to delve deeper into interesting and effective information report writing.
So, I had been struggling as to how to end the mystery of our missing glue sticks. Who, should I say, had taken them? and, why? I had wrestled with asking a colleague to say he/she’d borrowed them and had forgotten to ask. Perhaps the glue sticks should just reappear and we should never know what happened to them.
When Skyping with @Miss_Para on the Thursday eve, we concocted a plan. NBCS were having a Maker Day on the Friday and would need a lot of resources. We decided that @Miss_Para would Skype into our class on the Friday and let the students know that she and her students had, in fact, borrowed our glue for their Maker day.
Students were very confused when they arrived on Friday that there was no clue. They were also surprised when my iPad started ringing in the middle of the day. I answered it and the students heard how their glue sticks had been used for a good cause and how they were excellent sharers. They also were able to see pics of the Maker day.
They were quite unimpressed that someone had taken our glue sticks without asking but they were also relieved that the mystery had been solved.
The students wrote their final entry about the mystery and edited their work. Many students were so proud of their writing that they wanted to publish their work. When I asked if they liked writing about a mystery, the acquiescence was resounding.
If you try something like this, I’d love to hear/read about how your students go.
Thursday was to be the final day students would receive a clue about their missing glue sticks. I wanted the level of engagement and commitment to the solution to hit a climax at this point so I did this:
The final clue was purposely vague as I wanted students to challenge who they thought had taken the glue sticks. I also wanted the students to focus on describing the footprints in their recount. We brainstormed as a class what information about the footprints would be important for the investigation.
I was excited by the way students described the size, colour and pattern of the footprints as well as who they supposed owned the footprints.
Following this, students had a second attempt at giving peer feedback using the same Visible Thinking routines as the previous day. However, this time they needed to focus on their peer’s detail in their writing. Students definitely found this challenging but there were some great examples. One student wrote:
“I like how you wrote about the size of the footprints. Even better if you had written about the pattern of the footprints.”
I chuckled when, at recess, one student pointed at me and exclaimed “I’ve got it! Our principal is NOT on holidays; he’s smuggling glue sticks around the world!”
I had to be a bit more organised for Day #3 of our mystery. My students needed to use the Aurasma augmented reality app to access the next clue so I ensured that I teed-up the download with our Head of IT the day before.
The new clue looked like this (and was found by the first child in the door on Wednesday morning):
The note was accompanied by the following Aurasma image (otherwise known as an ‘Aura’) that links to a Bon Jovi song. This was a tricky clue for students so I directed them to look on their iPads for an app that looked like a big A. Eventually, I guided them to use Aurasma to scan over the image below.
To be honest, the song had a tenuous link to the missing glue sticks, but it was still cool to see how students creatively linked it to the overall mystery in their writing.
After the students had finished writing about Day 3’s clues, we had our first attempt at pair feedback using a Visible Thinking routine. Students completed the following statements in relation to each other’s writing –
I like how you…
Even better if…
As we’d previously viewed Austin’s Butterfly together, students had a bit of direction as to what made helpful feedback. It was heartening to see how invested students were in writing well and in helping each other to write well.
Tomorrow’s clue would focus on accuracy of detail and reporting like a detective.
Funnily enough, one of the very first things my students did when they entered the classroom on Tuesday was to check for another clue. Their efforts were rewarded with this:
This note was accompanied by several QR Codes that directed students to the following article (created by Yours Truly) about glue sticks going missing from several schools and why the glues were going missing.
Feel free to click on the image to check out the actual article.
As they scanned in the QR code, my students were astounded, shocked and concerned that our class was not the only class affected by glue sticks going missing. This was accompanied by calls of “Those glue sticks look exactly like ours but in different sizes.” My students were also becoming more astute – looking at things like detectives, if you will. They noticed when they were directed to an article that it had my name attached… an oversight that I cheekily claimed was someone trying to frame me.
My students went to write again. This time, they used higher modality words to express their concern that the effects were more far-reaching than they initially realised. Again, they were amazingly engaged and wrote in greater detail than I had witnessed before. They also wrote about who they thought had our glue sticks.
I was thrilled for my students and they were excited to be involved in solving the mystery. They couldn’t wait for Day #3.