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The Modular Robotics Blog

#CubeletsChat: A Cubelets Classroom Management Guide

Cubelets are a highly engaging tool—and I mean highly engaging!  Teachers around the world ask for tips on managing a classroom full of students who are completely engrossed and inspired by playing with Cubelets. What a great problem to have!

The first piece of advice to you is: embrace the chaos. Cubelets are a tool that inspires rapid iteration. It is normal and good for students to quickly design and revise their constructions – even breaking off into unplanned tangents while they do. To manage this kind of classroom, settle into it and get your hands dirty.  Walk around from group to group and ask them questions.

  • What are you building?
  • Tell me about this design.
  • What is challenging you right now?
  • What else could this robot construction be used for?
  • Why did you choose to put this Cubelet here?

The second piece of advice is this: the Battery is your best friend. Cubelets without a Battery Cubelet are just expensive, boring magnetic blocks. They don’t light up, they don’t move, and they definitely don’t sense anything in the environment. Try starting class while holding all the Battery Cubelets in your hand. When student groups have finished following initial instructions (planning, collaborating, or set-up), pass out the Battery Cubelet for students to begin their investigation.

Be mindful of how you group your students. This advice is universal, but since Cubelets classrooms can be hard to manage, it is especially important that you’ve grouped students intentionally to mitigate any predictable behavioral outbursts, and to encourage your more hesitant or shy learners to come out of their shells.  We regularly hear from teachers showing off student growth, especially from their ELL students and students with various exceptionalities. The non-linguistic basis of Cubelets levels the playing field for students, which opens many doors to reaching every child.

Plan your routines. As always, practice routines at the end of class that prepare you for the beginning of the next class. Think about how you want to manage charging your Battery Cubelets. Many teachers find success making it one student’s job to plug in all the the Batteries at the end of each class period, then the teacher unplugs all of them when they leave at the end of the day.

How will you make sure each group of Cubelets remains intact? Some teachers stick a picture of each Cubelet in the bottom of their EDU tub where each Cubelet should go so it’s easy for both students and the teacher to quickly identify which Cubelet is missing from a group.  Other teachers include a photo of the Edu Tub inside each one. (Don’t worry, we made one for you. Print your Packing Reference Guide here!) Still other teachers put one small drop of colored nail polish in each corner of a group’s worth of Cubelets so they are easier to keep track of.

Finally, be intentional. Yes, I designed units to include “Open Play Days”, but these are intended to be your opportunity to assess how your students are growing throughout their experience. That is a different objective than every other Cubelets lesson. The more specific your learning target and the more measurable your success criteria, the more focused and on-task your students will be.

Build in checkpoints and reminders to anchor back to the purpose behind the day’s investigation or design. Why are we here? Why does it matter? What are we seeking to learn or demonstrate? If your students can answer these questions, then they’ll be able to focus on the most important parts of the lesson and use Cubelets as a tool, not a toy.

 

Have your own tips and tricks to share with the Cubelets community? Use the #CubeletsChat hashtag on twitter!

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