I have the ultimate luxury of getting into a lot of classrooms during the school year and seeing all kinds of wonderfulness (that's a word, right?) that is taking place. What I tend to see (or what I look for) are ways that my colleagues are turning their students into problem-solvers by the activities, lessons, and hands-on learning taking place. The following are 12 ways that my school promotes problem-solving.
Puzzles! Seriously, they might seem relaxing but they make your brain hurt. Place a puzzle with 500+ pieces that will take days (sometimes weeks or longer) to complete. Place a puzzle table in class doesn't mean kids sit around it all day, even though that would be fun. Kids come and go as they please, steal moments when they can, and work together. Puzzle completion tends to happen organically (along with the problem solving).
Learning to Code is basically the equivalent to learning a foreign language in school these days. Kids need to know how, or at least, have a basic understanding of how coding works. Code.org is the easiest and most functional site for getting kids started. I've used this site for the past 2 years and it's a gold mine for teaching kids how to solve problems and collaborate.
Start a Class Newspaper with your students (or nudge them to try it on their own). Writing a newspaper forces kids to make a lot of decisions from picking content, writing, researching, and create the actual newspaper. We have students in school that make it the old school way--with paper. Then we upgraded to Google (Yeah!--GAFE) and used free templates provided.
Celebrate Moments of Failure. Yes, this might sound a little funny, but it's true. Failure typically occurs with kids because something was difficult. Using failure as a positive platform to promote hard work builds trust with students creating a safe environment. It's all about the mindset. Safe environments tend to allow students to take more risks. This applies for us, as teachers, too.
Survival Games are fantastic because they allow for imagination and team work. Earthquakes, lost in the desert, or living on a deserted island are fantastic ways to test their ideas. These scenarios don't have to involve huge productions and you (the teacher) can even make up the rules as you go along.
Board Games are just the best. Sure, the actual are incredible, but the real magic happens when kids play them. Most of the times kids bring in new games have have to TEACH other students. It's wonderful and requires problem solving strategies for everyone involved. If you only have a few board games, I'd suggest stocking on a few more. Cataan, anyone?
Play Chess or start weekly chess time with you students. Before I began teaching I'd never played, but I had a teacher who had his kids play every Friday afternoon. His students taught me how to play. Most of the time they beat me, but eventually I figured it all out...and I'd still lose. Chess takes skills, patience, and planning...and anyone can learn to play it.
Place STEM Bucket in your room and allow students to different challenge each week. STEM buckets can be leftover school supplies, pipe cleaners, paper, tape, or even the recycle bin. It doesn't matter whats in the bin because taking the challenge is the ultimate goal for the kids.
Genius Hour put learning directly into the student's hands as they choose what they want to learn more about. The HOW is up to them. More and more teachers are attempting Genius Hour as a way to shake up learning because it allows for students to learn in the way that fits them the best.
And my favorite, Project Based Learning. Giving students a topic or driving question and seeing how they attack it and solve the issues is a beautiful thing.
What do you do to promote problem-solving in your school?