For the last few years I have been trying to do more hands on type of learning and less lecture but the content lectures always seemed to push the activities short. Since I was turned on to the flipped classroom my teaching world has been radically changed. Now all these ideas and activities can now become a more focal part of classroom time. One activity that I have done in my traditional teaching as a " break" from lectures can now be used as a more useful teaching tool. It is pretty simple and honestly I got the idea from someone else so I cannot take the credit for this simple idea.
Basically this activity works best when you have a list of things for students to learn. I use it primarily as a tool to present a large list of suicide warning signs. What I did was take the list and broke it down into groups of 4 and put those 4 on one sheet of colored paper. I did this with each set of 4 things. I ended up with about 5 sheets (20 things total). I put each set of 4 on a different colored sheet of paper and then cult each up into about 8 pieces thus creating a puzzle. I put all the pieces into an envelope and give to a group of students to put together. Once each puzzle is out together, the students then copy the list down in their notes. It is just a quick, entertaining, simple way to get students engaged in and write down an otherwise meaningless list of "things".
Here is how I use the puzzles in class:
We are in the middle of our suicide/depression unit. The students have watched a video in class about a true story of a boy who was depressed and suicidal and eventually committed suicide. What the students were to do during the video is identify any warning signs they observed in the video. We have not talked about these warning signs yet so I am seeing what they already know and allowing them to see that they have some intuition when it comes to identifying risky behaviors. The following day I break them into groups and hand out an envelope with the puzzles. They put the puzzles together and copy down all the actual warning signs in their notes. Then they check off all the warning signs they noticed in the video the day before by comparing their lists with the notes they just took from the puzzles. I then ask the groups to report on what warning signs were clearly present in the video. Here you could even incorporate a white-boarding activity as a way to have students identify lists or themes from the video. (See white-boarding). I usually have just done a Q & A but I am looking to integrate the whiteboard idea or even a google doc?
The kids seem to like it because it allows them to work together, accomplish a task and write out a simple list. The kids also shift their attention about every 20 mins so it makes the class go quicker. It is a cheap, easy and quick way to get kids to copy a list in their notes and not feel like they are just copying stuff down. You can make this strategy work for just about anything.
Give the note puzzle a try and see how you like it.