True to form, even detailed plans don’t go exactly as planned. In addition to being prepared with plans, you also have to be prepared to go with the flow if contingencies are exhausted, and you are left holding an empty bag.
The Brownie Experience went well. It was noisy, rousing, and thought-provoking for all the kids. I changed a few things the night before after testing and finding my original plan had not accounted for several issues. First, I cut the graham crackers and put them in baggies by size ahead of time. I realized that if the graham crackers were crumbling so easily for me, my fourth graders would be spending most of the experience working on graham crackers and not area/perimeter.
Next, I decided to nix the pretzels as a perimeter fence. The brownies just couldn’t handle them. The students outlined the original rectangular figure on the grid paper. I still wanted to motivate the students to draw a perimeter fence around the original figure, and calculate the perimeter and area, so, I tied the new perimeter and area to the baggies of graham crackers they would need to create their original figure in the brownies. The perimeter of their “fence” was the number that was on the baggie with the length crackers. The area of their “fence” was the number that was on the baggie with the width crackers.
I had forgotten one important detail. Just before Spring Break, our Enrichment teacher had emailed the fourth grade to remind us that she would begin pushing in once a week after the break. I didn’t write this in my planner, and had forgotten all about it midway through the week of break. When she walked into my room, ready to begin, I sighed. She took up 30 minutes in the afternoon, which meant that the hour and fifteen minutes that I had planned to introduce, model, and guide, turned into 45 minutes. Only two of my students won the two day homework pass that I set up as incentive for those who accurately followed my directions step-by-step with no mistakes. Later in the day, one of my fellow teachers suggested that it might have been better to cut off the experience once the other teacher walked into the room.
The problem was, I still didn’t feel I could give myself permission to do this. I have slowly, bit by bit, allowed myself not to be a complete slave to the time-line of my plans, but I am still not 100% on this. Lesson learned.
The next day, I made sure that all the students finished their grid, even though they had already been given the brownies from the previous day to take home. It took a while, but they all finished. It was an absolute success as an assessment piece, although I don’t think that I will ever use food in an experiment again. I would use different materials, but still offer the two day homework pass as an incentive.