Today I tried something I'd never done before. I did it with my 9th graders, the class that is made up of all these awesome minds, hard workers, smarties, funnies, goodies, but somehow doesn't feel like a working group. We made towers of cubes out of marshmallows and toothpicks, looking for patterns (edge & vertex counting), making functions.
I gave them almost no direction at all, just showed them a couple of small starts that I'd made and they went nuts. I should have brought my camera. It was awesome! They worked so well together, building stuff, talking about what the building blocks were (these dangly things, not fully formed cubes) and didn't eat anything or poke each other at all.
Once they were supposed to start actually counting stuff, finding patterns and rules, the whole thing deteriorated. I left class feeling sort of defeated but determined, sure that I should feel some sense of accomplishment. After all: trying something new, messy, unpredictable. That's success right there, in a way.
So next, I'm trying to figure out how to get it to feel like that more often, how to connect the work they do in their minds to the work they do with their hands. How to get them to really bite into the concept of the variable, which was my motivation to do the lesson in the first place.
Also, what to do tomorrow. Ah.