25 Apr

Green Glass Doors

I like to play this game with my summer camp kids (middle schoolers) called “Green Glass Doors”.  It goes something like this…

I’m going to go through the green glass doors, and I’d like to take some things with me.  Can you figure out what I can take with me through the green glass doors?

And then the kids guess various things like “dog”, to which you might reply, “You can’t take a dog, but you can take a puppy.”  And, to the extent possible, you try to give them alternatives that fit the rule, if they guess something that can’t go.

In the end, the kids figure out that they can only take things with double letters through the “green glass doors”.  It’s a fun lesson in pattern recognition.

So yesterday… I taught my kids about measuring liquid volume and weight, specifically using units of liters, milliliters, grams, and kilograms.  I’ve always been very rule oriented, so I taught the kids the way I learn, using rules.  “You want to use kilograms for anything bigger than a kilogram.”  Likewise with liters.

And basically exactly 4 of them understood.  And to be quite honest, I didn’t know what to do.  So I thought I’d try writing the rules down, because to be honest, I didn’t know how else to teach it.  I wasn’t feeling confident, but I’d present it using different words, and maybe a few more kids would catch on, but not before multiple children got frustrated, lost interest, and made me so angry I abandoned the whole lesson.  But sometimes, that’s what you do anyway.

But luckily, then I remembered the green glass doors, where you infer the rule based on examples and non-examples.  We played a quick game, but I made my rule simpler: the thing had to have a “t” in the word.  You can take your “parents”, but not your “mom” or your “dad”.  The kids loved the game and caught on surprisingly quick.

Then we created a T-chart with grams and kilograms at the top, and listed things we could weigh on the appropriate side of the chart.  And then the kids discussed with their partners what the rule was.  And then they described the rule to me in words that made sense to them.  And then we wrote the rule down, using their words.  And then we practiced, where I called out different items, and they had to figure out whether grams or kilograms would be better.  They kept calling out, “That’s so easy!”

They never seem to realize “that’s so easy” is my goal.

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