Thursday, January 28, 2016

History Chef

Sometimes I think I should rename this blog...."A View of What Mrs. Weber Takes From Other Teachers and Uses in Her Classroom."  But that would be too long.

However, it is true.

I get so many awesome ideas just clicking on link after link, reading teacher blog after teacher blog, and then sometimes, I do actually come up with an idea myself.  (Like this one.)

This post is, yet again, my take on someone else's awesome idea. (The original idea is found here.)  The point of this kind of activity is to get kids thinking creatively.  To some people, that comes easy.  To others, it is very difficult.  This is a way to set the stage and get kids to think "outside of the box."


The idea comes from popular cooking shows like Chopped and Master Chef.  I think the original idea used "Chopped" as the inspiration, while mine uses a little of Master Chef in there too (because Gordon Ramsay is just awesome.)  If you're unfamiliar with those shows, both have a "mystery box" type of competition.  The chefs are surprised with random ingredients and have to create a dish using the items in the box.

This is the inspiration for the History Chef activity.  Last week I presented the students with an "essential question" that needed to be answered through the process of analyzing primary sources, identifying the context information, and using various other collaborative and historical thinking skills.  Our topic is the Indian Removal Act and how the Cherokee attempted to fight it.

The essential question is:

How did the Cherokee Nation argue against the U.S. removal policies?

The task:  Students are divided into teams and each team is given a box.  Inside each box are six "ingredients" that must be used.  The team is instructed to work together to create a presentation that must answer the essential question using all items in the box. The lid has this list of instructions on the top along with a sweet logo for our activity.  (Shout out to my awesome husband for creating that awesome "History Box" logo!)

Inside each box are six items.
  • Photo of Andrew Jackson
  • Photo of Cherokee Chief John Ross
  • 2 pieces of laminated paper for supportive quotes from the primary source documents we studies with an Expo marker to write on the laminated paper.
  • 2 SURPRISE items.  -- These are completely random objects I found around the room.  **Each box has different surprise items**

When the 8th graders came in today, I started off class with this cool "teaser."

Once they were "hooked" into the idea that today was not going to be a normal day.    I had each group go and get a box from the back table, but not open the lid yet.  We read through the list of rules, made sure everyone understood the objective of the day, set the timer for 30 minutes, and POOF.  They were off!

After the time was up, I used a random number generator to decide the order the groups would present.  The presentations were entertaining, and some even turned out to be good.  Many kids said that they were disappointing that their presentations didn't turn out they way they wanted, and if they had more time it would have been better.

Here's the thing.  If I wanted a "Good presentation" I would have made this a completely different assignment with the appropriate time, instructions, and rubric to have good quality work produced.  This was different.  The point of this activity was how can you creatively, think critically and produce something different from everyone else in the room in a fraction of the time you are used to.  Most presentations included good ideas, that if I had the time (and desire) each team could spend a week perfecting that idea into awesome presentations.

After the completion of our activity and a chance to clean up and prepare the boxes for the next batch of students to come we had a chance to debrief and discuss their thoughts on the History Chef activity.  Some of the thoughts of the day....

  • "This is my favorite day in social studies this year."
  • "Can I be held back this year so I can do this again next year?"
  • "We should do this again, but add in a money value where we have to purchase items or supplies we want to use in our presentation."
  • "Can we do this again this year?"
  • "This was awesome!"

The kids  loved this idea, and wanted to help brainstorm other ways that this activity could be used.  My favorite idea that came from discussions is to have a multi-subject Mystery Box type of activity.  The whole class would compete in a Language Arts competition and then be judged on their presentations.  There would be one team that would be cut.  The remaining groups would move on to the History themed box, and then from that competition the last few would compete in the final science competition.  They were really pumped up with all the possibilities with this project.

What ways could you take this activity and twist it to fit your class?  What other reality/competition type shows could be used in a school setting?