Musical Hoops Cooperative Style in Second Grade

Second grade teacher Ms. Leena and their English teacher, Ms. Sandra, helped English Class second graders learn to shift classroom focus from competition to cooperation by having pupils play an interesting game of musical hoops. While music played pupils danced around hoops laid out on the floor throughout the classroom. When the music stopped, pupils were directed to step into a hoop. After each break in music,one of the teachers removed a hoop. Pupils, however, were not eliminated. This challenged the children because there was a greater need to coordinate the activities of each pupil. The children realized  “we are all in this together” and the game became an increasingly cooperative activity of squeezing everyone in.

They quickly understood the importance of working together, friendship, and trust. The skills they developed include communication, empathy, listening, problem-solving and trusting others. As they celebrated the final phase of the game the second graders realized the power of cooperation.  Active pupil-involved process-based learning as mandated by the new Finnish national curriculum requires good cooperative skills.

After this exercise the children listened to Julia Donaldson’s story, A Squash and a Squeeze, which is a delightful story about space (or a lack of space) and the fact that everything is relative.




Problem-solving Day in the Park

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time-travel-clockOn a perfect sunny spring day last Friday English Classes enjoyed an unforgettable field trip. What began as an ordinary school day unfolded into a special day chock full of adventure and practical problem-solving on the island of Kirjurinluoto. Pupils were divided into mixed age groups. They were all told that they had been caught up in a space rift that caused a time warp. English Class teachers had mysteriously disappeared and now challenges and problems needed to be faced and sorted out by teams working together without the help of grown-ups. Their survival depended upon the ability to work together. Events within this time rift would not happen in order or sequentially.

Then the teams were dispersed to eight different point at which challenges needed to be met. Each team carried a pass with them where stamps or stickers were awarded for each completed challenge.

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The challenge in the collages above  show a tarp. The tarp represented a rubber raft which had flipped over. The goal was for the team to flip over the entire raft without falling into the water (stepping off the tarp). One team was able to accomplish this in 27 seconds! Their method is shown in the photo at the bottom left above. The team worked together like tracks on a Snow Cat!

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Because there was no telling how long teams would be stranded in the time warp, teams needed to build a shelter using the tarp, two poles and rope provided.

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There were as many solutions as there were teams.

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Being able to identify local plants and animals was another challenge that teams faced. The younger children learned lots from the older pupils on their teams.

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Each team jointly filled out an identification worksheet to earn a stamp for their team’s challenge pass.

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Without a sense of time passing in the time rift, teams needed some recreation. While adventuring they found a well smoothed rounded boulder with unusual properties. Each team’s challenge was to develop a cooperative game or team game to play among themselves.

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Boulder ball proved to be an instant success regardless of what rules and game was played!

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Trusting in your teammates (along with not having a fear of heights) was essential to being able to carry out the challenge of climbing up a ladder supported only by team members, going over the top of the ladder and then climbing back down again.

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This challenge got a “thumbs up” from everyone!

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“Yes, it was scary, but I knew I was safe.”

“I just went for it!”

“I was real proud of myself!”

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This challenge will stay in the minds of English Class pupils for a long time to come!

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Teams needed to discuss and then reach a consensus to list ten things that they would need to take with them in this emergency. One member of the group  acted as a scribe and wrote the items down on a list. When they submitted the list to get a sticker for their challenge pass, they were told that in reality there was space to only take four of the ten items along. This provided more food for thought for each team.

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It was nightfall within the space rift. Some team members, however, had managed to get a scope of the area and were able to lead the others to safety.  These team members were challenged to safely guide a blinded teammate through the maze by talking them through it.

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Taking away one of the senses that we rely upon heavily puts us in a very vulnerable situation. Trust is paramount then.

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Working together is necessary in an emergency. A shrinking rubber raft was one of the next challenges. Ms. Sylvia (bottom right) showed the teams how the raft mystifyingly shrunk in the time warp. The team’s goal was to make sure that all teammates were safely out of the water for at least 20 seconds when the raft was at its smallest. Yet another different challenge was for the entire team to sit down without sitting on the ground. This was accomplishing best by sitting on one another’s knees (2nd photo on the bottom right).

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Teams had to get their creative juices flowing to accomplish the challenges, but inevitably they succeeded.

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The challenge shown in the photo at the lower right of the collage above involves trusting teammates to hold hands to support those leaning forward, as well as those leaning backward. Done properly, this can be a powerful experience!

Around noon everyone had developed a good appetite so we enjoyed yummy ham-potato casserole with fresh cucumber on the side. We ate picnic-style on the grass basking in the sunshine and success of our special problem-solving day. What did we all learn? We learned that our children are caring, creative, resourceful, helpful, supportive and encouraging. We learned that together we accomplish more. We learned that our team of English Class teachers (and James) are also caring, creative, resourceful, helpful, supportive and encouraging. This experience will foster learning in and out of the classroom a long way into the future! It was a stellar day.