I created somewhat of a problem-based learning activity today. I didn't really present it as a problem statement, but I guess I could. We made a list of the locations mentioned in the book so far, and then students were to make maps of the fictional setting using what they had read so far. I was not expecting the thoughts and creativity that came from this activity. Normally the 3rd grade girls work together and the 4th grade girls work together, but not today: there are two groups of one 3rd and one 4th each. The BL group is planning in the notebooks before starting on their large page. One is working on the train stations while the other is working on the symbols for them to use. B is drawing pictures of the characters in her planning notebook based on the author's descriptions. The LL group planned for a few minutes and then moved right to the large sheet. L talked about how they should make one house on the map far away since that was what it said in the book. The idea of this project was to focus on the setting, but I am seeing how it is also making students focus on details, refer back to the book to support their ideas, and use the map background knowledge they have. This project is turning out better than I had originally thought . . . and much better than my plan. Students now have a purpose for reading each night too (beside the comprehension quiz possibility) -- they need to look for more details/locations to add to their maps. Students decided that they should leave room on the maps they created today to add new locations when they read about them in the book. Students are constructing knowledge, using individual skills and learning styles to display their understanding. I am able to get much more infromation from listening to them plan for and work on this project than I could from a pencil and paper comprehension quiz. I guess this could be considered a form of authentic assessment?
The BL group was having a disagreement about which house to do next on their "map" and I overheard them settle the conflict by rolling the die (odd number = one house, even number = other house).