Creating classrooms that are full of the joy and wonder of learning; is a passion of mine. I am continually pondering new ways to make my classroom a magical space. I think many have the same desire. We all want to create amazing experiences for our students, but it is easy to overthink it. We become so overwhelmed by the idea of doing something so incredible and mind-blowing with our students that we become paralyzed and end up not doing anything different at all. What I've discovered is that sometimes all it takes is a little bit of mystery and wonder to take a lesson from ordinary to amazing!
I've added a bit of mystery and wonder in a number of ways, but today all it took was a Google Form. In Culinary Arts 3 we are beginning a new unit on Midwestern cuisine. Our food truck teams have been traveling across the country from Medford, Oregon to Medford, Maine and we've arrived in the Midwest. To create a little excitement when they returned on the first day back from Winter Break, I had a Youtube clip with adventure music playing in the background and this message on the screen in front of the room. "Your food trucks have arrived in the Midwest! To discover your first recipe...you must unlock the clues!!! Jump into Google Classroom...your adventure begins now." When students entered class, a buzz of excitement was immediately generated. Students quickly gathered ipads and teamed up to begin unlocking the clues.
All I used to generate the clues was a Google Form. I came up with 5 clues that they would unlock to reveal the Midwestern recipe they were preparing for the day. I've included a youtube video explaining how I created this below:
It was so fun to see students collaborating to unlock each clue. One ipad on each team had a Google Form opened, while the others were used for Google searches. It took teams between 15-20 minutes to unlock all of the clues that led to their recipe before they were off gathering their ingredients. To personalize this activity to your specific set of circumstances, you could add more or less clues and/or increase or decrease the complexity to fit the timeframe you have to work with. My Google Form led students to a recipe upon submission, but yours could lead to a Youtube clip, or other activity depending on what you teach.
Adding this little bit of mystery and wonder took my lesson from ordinary to amazing with out a whole lot of effort. Not only did students start class more energized, they began collaborating and thinking much quicker than they would have otherwise. The built in anticipation that it generated created a buzz and excitement and students could hardly wait to begin preparing their recipe! It was fun to hear the conversations as they began cooking. They were reflecting on the clues that were most difficult and how they figured them out, their strategies, connections to other recipes they had made. They were critically thinking, communicating, collaborating, and creating and having fun doing it!
Have you guessed what it is they made?? Runzas!!! This Midwestern specialty is one that I learned about from my friend Craig Badura from Nebraska. A Runza is a yeast dough bread pocket with a filling consisting of beef, cabbage or sauerkraut, onions, and seasonings. There is a whole other story about the Runza that I'll share at another time that has to do with the power of being a connected educator! Do I have you wondering? Guess you'll have to stay tuned for my next blog post about the Runza! See what I did there? Mystery and wonder...it's a magical thing.
Tech Integration Specialist in Southern Oregon and author of Make Learning Magical. I'm passionate about finding innovative ways to transform teaching and create unforgettable experiences in the classroom.