Chopped: Lesson Plan Edition

Post date: Apr 20, 2015 9:55:42 PM

I hate Jigsaw as a learning method. You know, that thing where you assign a topic to a group so they can share it with others? You know, that thing where the group learns 50% of the desired content and everyone else learns roughly 2% of it? Yep, I hate it. I tried it earlier this year (after having sworn it off for the last five or so) with the Constitution and it was an absolute failure.

I wanted to give it one last shot. What if, instead of doing Jigsaw as I'd been taught, I took it to the next level? What could Jigsaw be if I really put myself into it?

Enter Chopped: Lesson Plan Edition.

While this is absolutely a first attempt and my kids are not even done working on it, let alone teaching their lessons, I'm far happier than I've been with any other version of Jigsaw. The theme, obviously, is the Food Network show Chopped. Each pair was given an ingredient (in this case a cause of the Civil War) and has three "rounds" to complete. For the appetizer they research and summarize the key information. For the entree they design a lesson to perform for the class. Lastly, for the dessert round they create two Roughton-level quiz questions that students should learn from their lesson. They will then compete against the other periods to determine the winner. That pair's quiz question will be used on the actual quiz for all the classes. Those quiz scores will be the bulk of the grade for the teachers of each lesson.

So, other than adding on some fun trappings it sounds exactly like Jigsaw with a competitive component. Here's the next-level twist: they must design, as part of the entree round, a simulation or experience exercise to be part of their lesson. They are not just presenting their information - they are truly teaching it. This is causing them to think of their topic in very deep and abstract ways. I've got one group who designed a call-and-response chant to help teach about Abolitionists that is designed to get louder and louder to help simulate the growing chaos the arguments drove. I've got another who is going to have their students lay on the ground head-to-toe with the lights off while they lecture to simulate the Middle Passage. One is doing a class poll and then announcing that only the male votes will be counted to help explain the Dred Scott decision. I'm excited to see what else comes out of this and how the delivery actually goes.

This method is an easy, albeit time consuming, way to get some Project Based Learning into your curriculum. Not only are my kids learning the content but they are learning about research, designing simulations, presentation techniques, lesson design and how to write good questions. Already in two days I've heard such revelations as "We should make our quiz questions first so we know what to teach them" and "teaching is really hard." One student said "We don't have to put as many graphics in our PowerPoint as you do Mr. Roughton do we? I mean, don't stop doing that, I like it, but it's hard." 8th graders aren't always the most empathetic beings around so getting them to experience my side of the relationship even in some small degree is pretty great.

I'm very excited to see their lessons in a couple days and I will certainly update the blog with successes and failures. I just wanted to post something before the presentations just in case they fail miserably somehow since even if they do, quite a bit of good has come out of this project already.

My next steps are to try to streamline things a bit, clarify the competitive component, and try to find more topics for which this would be appropriate. I love what they are doing so far and even if I never did it again I've at least got some really cool simulations I can use in the future. Kid tested and kid approved!