Monday, August 22, 2011

Building Bridges-A New Start To the Year

My school year officially starts with students this Thursday and I have to admit I have done the same team building for the past 12 years.  Actually I am guilty of starting it because I used to do it when I taught in MO and brought the idea to my school.  But I am bored with it, and I know that so I started thinking about how to start my school year differently.  If I have learned anything about my teaching if I am bored then I teach a boring lesson which isn't great for anyone. 

As I was looking through my summer mail from school, I came across an article in Weekly Reader entitled "From Here to There" A new bridge across the Colorado River connects Arizona and Nevada. It took TEAMWORK to build it.  Light bulb moment -building bridges.

As I thought about the idea of building bridges and connecting it to TEAMWORK, I automatically thought of marshmallows and toothpicks and having the students work in cooperative groups and build a bridge.  I then went to Wonderopolis and found Wonder #236  How Long is the Longest Bridge? which is a perfect introduction to Wonderopolis.  After that I googled bridges and found numerous links that I think will be beneficial as well as interactive.  Finally I tweeted out to my friends about bridges and my friend Tony sent me this amazing link from TED entitled "Build a Tower, Build a Team."Although I am not starting with these materials, I definitely  will come back to this idea.

Then my word study mind kicked in, and I started thinking about the multiple meanings of "building bridges."

*connecting 4th grade to 5th grade
*connecting home learning and school learning (Wonderopolis is PERFECT for this)
*connecting teamwork with the different skills it takes to build their bridge (we will create a class chart)
*discussion of the design process which connects with science
*conversations about how the key to our success this year is TEAMWORK!

I am even going to assign homework the first night. The students are going to share about their building experience as well as share Wonder #236 and try the experiment at home with their families or even post their first comment of the school year.  For the students who don't have computers, I will print the Wonder off and send it home on paper and if they want to post, we will post at school.   I am excited about the new start to the school year!


  1. Your ideas sound terrific. I love the connections you've made with bridge-building and imagine it linking things up throughout the year. Have a great week!

  2. Love your light bulb moment. This is great thinking with some amazing connections! May be borrowing idea in the next month to go with the bridges we're building with our 2 classes this year, and the wondering we are doing all year long. Very smart!

  3. I'm so excited to get this rolling...or building...tomorrow! Thanks for the video! That was a great addition to your thinking. (Thanks, Tony!) Isn't it amazing what the high stakes did to the performance??? huh. Imagine that. But on the second try...

    I love your homework ideas, too!

  4. This is a great team building activity and I'm looking forward to doing this activity with my students next week. When you did it in your classroom, did you just give them a certain number of marshmallows and toothpicks? Did you give any other materials? Thank you for sharing this idea and also the link to the video too.

  5. I gave two groups a box of toothpicks. I gave two groups a bag of marshmallows. We then discussed how could the 4 groups share the supplies. The only other directions were that each group had to have 25 toothpicks and 75 marshmallows and one book which was the load of the bridge. This ended up a great math lesson with a 3:1 ratio to help groups build who were struggling.