Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Robot Parade! Fifth Grade's collaborative robot sculptures and their stages of grief working in teams.

I picked up the idea of giving each student the same materials and seeing what they could do with it from another art teacher.  It was one of those ideas that stuck with me and I really wanted to try it.

Fifth grade has had the opportunity to work with many supplies this year, so I decided to focus this lesson on their 4Cs.  Collaborative learning, creativity, critical thinking, and communication were their goals for this project.

When I introduced this lesson I showed these two short YouTube videos

Both videos show artists using trash to make truly beautiful and unique art.  I stressed how the artists wouldn't necessarily leave the objects "as is" but had to manipulate them to use as their medium.

I then got them psyched for their theme with this terribly awesome homemade video of They Might Be Giants Robot Parade.

Next, I divided the class into teams.  I made the teams prior to the kids coming to class.  I thought about which students were leaders, followers, and strugglers, and made them even.

This is when the stages of grief started.

Students did not like their groups.  "I'm going to work alone!"  "Can I work alone!"  "I'm not working with them."  Denial.

Students sat with their new team and were charged with coming up with a robot themed team name.

I put the supplies at each table and told the teams to "play" with the supplies first.  I had prepared identical grocery bags filled with random supplies.  The hard part was making sure each bag was identical, but I was able to do it.  I wanted them to see all the possible things they could do before they made decisions.  Anger.  The class did not like this.  Everyone in the group had different ideas and arguments were starting over silly things.

"Can I switch groups?"  "Can only two of us work together?"  The collaboration portion of this project was taking a little harder to set in.  I would encourage students to communicate their ideas first, instead of just grabbing and doing.  Bargaining for different team mates, begging for different supplies... each team was feeling grief and it had only been 15 minutes.

I was loving everything I was seeing come together.  I saw great ideas!  I heard encouraging words!  It's getting there!  It's getting there! However, I also saw some kids turning away from their team or sitting sullen with their head down.  Depression.  "They don't want me to help!"  and "They're not letting me help!"  were the themes of the depressed students.  I was able to get the teams to communicate more effectively in each case.  It actually wasn't as hard as I thought it would be!  I would ask teammates what they wanted to contribute, and overwhelmingly, the other fifth graders would comply.  We also discussed how it made the teams feel when someone just started doing something without first presenting it to the team.

Acceptance!  Nope, not everyone loved the assignment.  But, everyone did it.  There was not one fifth grader not engaged in the process.  I even had a sea of thumbs up when I asked how they liked their day.  One student, who literally went through all the emotions in our one hour together, left class proudly exclaiming, "This was the best project EVER!  This was the best art day ever!!"
talkin' on my iPhone


So, every team used the easel box for the body and the Kleenex box for the head.  And, every team used the puff ball for their nose.  I really did try to get them to "think differently" about these choices!  Next time I will make the sack of stuff less "obvious."

On the last day, I reviewed the 4Cs with my classes and students filled out an assessment page and reflected on their project. I loved reading their insights and all the positive responses.

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