A few months ago my daughter asked me to sit and watch a show with her. It was called Chopped. When it started I quickly realized that it was a show about people cooking food…ummm, not very exciting right? I haven’t stopped watching it. It hooks you in and keeps you wanting for more. Go ahead, press play on the video below, give it five minutes and try turning it of (after posting, seems as though embedded video does not want to play, you can check it out here).
When I got my first teaching job, I lived at my grandfather’s and he had his windows replaced. He took out old windows with multiple panes, chipped old paint, real antique looking things. I stacked most of them in the cellar not wanting to throw them out, and brought a few into the classroom. During our next project I gave each group a window and simply said you must use it. What happened next surprised me. While each group discussed how to use the window, they also processed and reprocessed the information from the unit in trying to figure out how to use the window. The window ended up not just being a special part of a single moment in the presentations, but added depth and creativity to their entire presentations. Since then I have added many strange objects, and will often throw in odd words that they must use. Recently on the last day of the Constitution unit, as the student walked in they had to grab a random object from the room and simply write how that object was like the Constitution using all the key vocabulary from the unit. Awesome answers and creativity and processing of the information from the unit. Back to Chopped…
The topic was Louisiana Purchase, and I had three days. I figured this would be a good topic to experiment with. The students has basic background information on the Purchase acquired over a couple of days–we did not go into detail with this unit, it was riddled with snow days. The next day we had a 40 minute class. I spent the first ten minutes introducing the task, and stalling so that when we started they would have exactly 30 minutes until the end of class. When they started each group received one box with a list of vocab words, and six items in it. A picture of Napoleon, a letter from Jefferson to Livingston, a map of New Orleans, and 3 other random objects–everything from a puppet to the horn from a ram.
More pictures examining sources
Some of the things in their boxes were a bit strange.
While they were putting their stories together I had no idea where some groups were going with the items!
For this attempt I had them present when they walked in the next day. the next time we do this we will film the interviews in between presentations, and reflections just like the real show, but for this one our minds had enough to think about.
So try a Chopped with your class, or at the very least, tell the kids that they have to use the words “boxing gloves” in their next essay. If you don’t already promote creativity in your class, it might take several attempts to see a change, and that is ok.
So some day this year we will published a polished Chopped-Social Studies Edition video and it will look slick and impressive..but wanted to throw this up in a post so that I can link back to it and show where some of our ideas start. Here are some silly videos, I quickly realized that even on the real show, they don’t attempt to ask questions of the chefs while they were in the middle of cooking!