In this lesson, scholars begin the study of a new unit: Give it all You've Got! They learn about how several fictional and real people respond to challenges and survive despite the circumstance. As a result, we begin our learning with a concrete survival experience to build their prior knowledge and get them excited about this new unit.
I break scholars up into their table groups. These groups are heterogeneous. Make sure that scholars in each group can work successfully with one another. This is an intense lesson, so you want to make sure students can work well together. Students have 10 minutes to construct a structure that can support an egg dropped from a table. I explicitly model my expectations with the materials (i.e. use the scissors to cut, the cotton balls to line the bottom of the container, etc.). I also explicitly state the consequence if scholars choose to use the items inappropriately (i.e. they will be taken away).
As scholars begin to construct, I cut their time in half. (The idea here is that you take materials and resources away so that scholars become frustrated). Then, take all tissues away from scholars. Continue to "change rules" and take away resources as necessary. This leads scholars to feel as if they are in an intense, stressful situation and helps them to understand a bit of what it might be like to be faced with a survival situation.
Scholars return to their seats and they discuss the following questions. Assign 1 person to record the groups' thinking:
1. What did you like about this activity? Why?
2. What didn't you like about this activity? Why?
3. How does this activity relate to being a survivor?
4. How did you respond to the survival situation?
The idea here is that scholars practice having a discussion in a group with their peers. I explain that when they answer a question, they should make eye contact with others in the group. When a group member is sharing, they should keep their voices off and make eye contact with that person. We practice basic conversation skills so that scholars can continue to follow the norms for discussion as the year unfolds. This is an essential part of our classroom culture, so taking the time to model and reinforce expectations now is extremely valuable!
Ask students to independently reflect on the following question:
--If you were placed in a survival situation, what would you think? Say? Do?
I do not collect these reflections. This is a time for scholars to think about how they might personally respond and I don't want them to write something down just to impress me. It is important that they know how they might respond so that when we read about how characters or how people in real-life respond to a survival situation, scholars can empathize and better put themselves in the characters' shoes. I have scholars save the reflection in their notebooks and they can turn back to their reaction as we move forward in the unit to see how they are similar to or different from the people about whom we learn.
We read the introduction of Maniac Macgee together. Then, scholars answered the following question:
-What type of survivor do you think Maniac Macgee will be? Do you think his response will be similar to your response or different? Why?
Scholars independently reflect on these questions for 1 minute, then they discuss with friends (for about 1 min), then I take 1 name from my cup and then 1 volunteer.