One part of the first grade social studies curriculum is called Skills for Growing, which incorporates concepts related to social-emotional learning.  Lessons teach students about being themselves, working with others, and friendship.  While looking over the lesson I would teach about working in groups and different roles of group members, I noticed the suggested activities were somewhat boring.  I decided to adapt the activities and combine the lesson’s theme with our writing skill.  We had just discussed descriptive writing, and sometimes it’s hard for first graders to write more detailed sentences.

First, we discussed what it’s like working in a group and why students may or may not enjoy group work.  We discussed the different possible roles of group members: collector, reporter, and a member.  Then, I explained the project: each group needed to pick an animal and create a web with different descriptions of the animals, such as color, size, where they lived, and what they ate.  I randomly picked the groups, so students could work with different students in the class.  I also modeled how to create a web and we did an example together, so students knew exactly what to do.

I was impressed how well the students worked together and were enthusiastic about the project.  Each group chose an animal, and each person wrote at least one description of the animal.  Sometimes they needed prompting for more descriptions to write, but overall they came up with great ideas.  The best part was that students were completely engaged, and they didn’t want to stop working!

When students are that motivated and engaged in an activity, you know as a teacher that you’ve created a successful learning experience.  The students successfully accomplished the lesson goal of working together in a group.  Sometimes as a teacher you need to take the initiative and make the executive decision to be creative and encourage students to think out of the box!  As a result they’ll have a meaningful learning experience!

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