Thursday, March 27, 2014

Running Through the Hallways: A Class Created #BYOD Scavenger Hunt

Even for an enthusiastic history teacher like me, the idea of conducting a class in which students learn generals' names, gruesome casualty numbers, and mark battle locations on a map seems a bit dry.  Without added meaning, facts alone do not generate real thinking.

It takes time to look up the factual information that, taken together, can help students understand why one side won and the other side lost any given war. In our case, it was the Civil War. Students would rather work together than trudge through the facts alone, and I would rather help them learn to collaborate with one another.

Here's how we did it:

Images from Lily's Blog.
With this strategy, they learned about the major battles of the Civil War quickly without having to tediously look up all of the dry names, dates, and numbers themselves.  They saved the information in their Evernote or Google Drive notebooks right on their devices as they carried out the scavenger hunt.

Of course, I wanted them to gain an even deeper understanding of why the Confederacy dominated in the East early in the war, while the Union dominated in the West and on the sea throughout the war.  Padlet made that possible.

One student, Rachel, noted:
After everyone finished the scavenger hunt we used a website called Padlet to post answers to specific questions we were asked. Padlet was an easy way to see everyone's ideas and it was helpful to answer the essential question of the lesson.
Christina explained how it was a combined effort:
After we had finished what we could of the scavenger hunt we emailed each other notes on the battles we missed and further joined forces to reflect and analyze what the answers were to the Essential Questions based on the combined effort research. This collaboration was done technologically using Padlet, a site where you can post computer-generated sticky-notes on a virtual wall.

With their combined knowledge, students were able to answer complicated questions.  They did it all themselves. I didn't give them any answers.  And they were proud to have done it together.  Of course, in the end, I wanted them to write about what they'd learned individually so I could check that each and every one of them had learned the content goal of the lesson.  But the collective depth of understanding was more impressive than in previous years and it's because of collaboration students were able to achieve. Plus, it was more fun!

Ryan seemed to like the activity, posting:
The battles scavenger hunt was another new and fun way to present the information we've been learning in class. It's always nice to be able to do something that's enjoyable that is also different from traditional teaching methods.
Andrew simply said:
The way in which we did the scavenger hunt was fun, and barely felt like work at all.
A few students, like Jason, thought the physical activity was a bit more than he'd bargained for when he walked into history class:
Overall, the scavenger hunt was an interesting but exhausting way to discover new information about important of the Civil War.

I'm sure this activity could be used for other wars throughout history, or even for any series of facts that students need to learn but can be dry to teach or read about on their own.  It's a great opportunity for a class to come together and create something fun while learning.