Classroom management is well-served by practiced routines. I’ve already written down some of my best tips in an earlier #CubeletsChat post
, but even more questions about supporting well-managed Cubelets classrooms have poured in.
We could spend an entire college course talking about student routines. They improve classroom management, increase student respect for peers and classroom materials, and there’s the importance of students practicing responsibility. But you know all of that, so we’re going to cut to the chase.
When you are deciding which routines make sense for your Cubelets classroom, remember the greatest asset we have in our classrooms is our students. Students can accomplish an astonishing amount of work in very little time (partially because there’s just so many of them!). With a short conversation, a lot of practice, and regular reinforcement, students of all ages can responsibly gather materials, report questions or problems to you, and return materials to their proper home.
To establish routines, keep three steps in mind:
- Know what routines need to be established. These can be created by the teacher or the students, but routines should be intentional.
- Plan time to practice new routines. When it comes to practicing routines, accept nothing less than perfect and make sure students can get it right more than once in a row!
- Be ready to reinforce routines. You know it, I know it, we all know there are bad-routine days: field trips, upcoming school breaks, full moons. Routines that are clearly defined are easier to practice.
Our Cubelets Lesson Plans all use a common format. This format is our version of an Inquiry Framework. We intentionally modified this framework from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to represent how student mindsets change throughout the learning process.
At the beginning of a lesson or unit, students are filled with wonder and excitement. Ideally, they’re asking tons of questions and intuitively predicting the solutions based on their background experiences.
Then, students engage in the core learning experience. This is the investigation or engineering design challenge that will gently lead students to answers (and often many more questions!).
Finally, students try to explain their new learning in their own words. They reference background knowledge from prior to the lesson as well as new information they gathered during the investigation or design process. Students share their explanations with each other and use their classmates as sounding boards to tweak and refine their understanding. Sometimes they even go back to investigate or redesign again!
The very last step is less of a student mindset and more of an educator mindset. Taking the time to accurately gather formative data throughout a unit helps teachers more quickly identify students’ synthetic models
and adjust student groups to better address common questions.
This Inquiry Framework is most valuable because it can easily be translated into inquiry investigations
or into guided release of responsibility
lessons. It can stretch to the length of an entire unit or squeeze everything into one individual lesson. Its flexibility is what makes it so useful. Every teacher, in every subject, can see themselves in our framework and also identify places to grow professionally.
Cubelets are the Inception of modeling tools
. As you go deeper into your Cubelets experiences, you learn layer upon layer of new skills, taking your models from simple ideas to more abstract ones. At first, students model concepts like animal adaptations, poem structures, push and pull forces, or energy transformation. Then, as students gain a deeper understanding of Cubelets, they begin to draw models of how the data flows within and between Cubelets. This, in turn, opens doors for students to use Cubelets as a tool for modeling more abstract and complex behaviors like computer networks, the internet, and even Turing computers
This is why we’ve written an entire Introduction to Computer Science mini-unit
: to help you introduce concepts that take Cubelets from ‘fun building blocks’ to ‘modeling tool.’
At their youngest, or when Cubelets are most novel, learners will connect this tool to their background knowledge. For this reason, one of our recommended first challenges for Cubelets users is to build a Cubelets lighthouse. We mentioned this in our Tactile Coding
Then, students progress to designing robots that incorporate various animal adaptations such as nocturnal versus diurnal or object avoiding versus object seeking.
As robots become more complicated, however, Cubelets learners are bound to ask, “Why is this happening?” And if they don’t, we, as teachers, should!
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?