As a Learning Leader in the learning commons at Keeler this year, my emphasis has been to not only to foster a variety of independent relationships with both staff and students, but to also help build an environment where teacher feel they can improve their practice in the company of their peers.

Working with the grade 5 teaching team, consisting of 2 community teachers and 1 L&L teacher, we set out on a collaborative journey to create an authentic and engaging task for grade 5 Science in the topic of electricity.

The school recently purchased a technology called Little Bits, which are tiny electrical inputs, wires and outputs. Here is our journey…

Using collaborative planning time, the four of us met to discuss the direction of this project. First, we identified that students needed to understand the importance of safety when dealing with electricity. After several days of classroom instruction and activities, students demonstrated their understanding by creating a safety video for a chosen area of electrical safety. From here, students learnt how to properly connect wires from and input to an output in order to create a working electrical circuit – in this case, we used a battery and a light bulb.

Next, students we introduced to Little Bits, but not in a traditional stand-and-deliver way. Instead, we told them 2 things about Little Bits:

  1. They are magnetic
  2. There are inputs, wire and outputs

The kids were a little shocked, but we explained to them, we wanted them to learn how to use them just like we had. To increase student engagement, we showed them the following video:

What is littleBits? from littleBits on Vimeo.

Little Bits are an open-sourced material, which means that all supporting instructional resources are free and openly available online. Using their “classroom task cards”, students explored how these bits work. But before implementation, as a group, we worked to create an environment where kids could both work at their own pace, but also demonstrate understanding. Through collaboration, we created a task card checklist, including video response check-ins, a wonder wall reflection and an idea center.


Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 9.19.21 PM

Students were grouped by teachers to ensure success, with our L&L learners having additional student support.

The final task in their checklist was to use a power course and any four bits. This led into the planning stage for their final task – of which the kids were still unaware of. In the Learning Commons, students were tasked in groups to brainstorm the following:

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 10.03.10 PM

This framework was again created through conversation with each other, ensuring all students could be successful through scaffolding.


Photos were taken of each of the group’s finding and shared in their Science class the following day. From here, a design template from the LB website was given to the students for them to brainstorm their perfect idea. The sheets were broken down for students, and additional time and support through open commons time was provided to those who needed it to complete their idea.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 10.03.24 PM

From here, all of the design ideas were placed in he hallways outside of the learning commons. Students wrote their name on three sticky notes and placed these on their three favourite ideas.

Little did they know, their choices helped the three classroom teachers work together to form their final task groups.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 10.03.34 PM


Once groups were form, as a team, the four of us met again to reflect on the plan for the students’ final performance task. Based on the video illustrated earlier, we challenged students to Make Something the Does Something. Student were given a time block of three hours to complete this inquiry challenge.

  • They had to build a prototype of “something”. In doing so they would demonstrate the ability to create a working circuit.
  • They also has to create a “pitch” for their product explaining why their product was invented, why it was an important invention and how it worked.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 10.19.36 PM

Before students began to work on their pitch, a classroom discussion was held, exemplars from the TV Dragon’s Den were viewed and then a list of criteria was generated by the students as to what a good pitch for this assignment looked like. Below is their criteria:

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 10.03.53 PM

Pitches were recorded using iPads and then presented with their projects on a showcase day. Overall, student engagement was high, teachers worked collaboratively, design-thinking to promote entrepreneurial spirit was implemented and everyone had fun.


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