Fish Friday Challenge

Today we had our inaugural Fish Friday Challenge. We had so much fun and I am compelled to explain what we did and to encourage you to do something similar with your classes.

Whilst I was gathering ideas for our Sealife unit (centred around the use of Endless Ocean on the Nintendo Wii) I began to think about the use of John Davitt’s Learning Event Generator or LEG for short. Essentially this is a crowd sourced list of learning topics – the DO pile and a list of styles or outcomes – the AS pile.

If you take a look at his site you will see the LEG creates a random combination from these two burgeoning lists – I just generated DO “Glaciation” AS “A Mini Opera” ! John explains:

The idea for the LEG came out of desire to nudge learners (and teachers)  and also to give them permission to move beyond the “comfort zone” of talk-look-listen-write and allow them instead to move across a whole chessboard of learning opportunities.

I decided to adjust the different sets of ideas to suit our sealife topic. Although the full list of outcomes from the AS pile is great, I needed to edit it down to just those which are manageable and clear enough for our Year 5s (9 and 10 year olds)to complete in a single session.

I created a list of sealife that the children have had some experience of or learned about during the last 5 weeks and combined it with the outcomes list in Richard Clarke’s excellent Excel version.

The class were split into groups of 3s and a couple of pairs. Each group had access to a laptop if they needed it. I spent time explaining that today’s session would challenge them and make them scratch their heads. I outlined what we were doing and it helped to just run through the different outcomes from the AS pile – they loved the idea of a finger puppet show.

I then generated the different Fish Friday ChallengesI think in the other class they even had a drum roll for this bit for added tension! I added to the Excel sheet the sentence “Show me what you know, have learned or can find out about…” which helped them to focus. Some of the combinations included:

  • A Killer Whale as a 5 slide Photostory.
  • A Puffer fish as a heated dialogue between enemies (good to highlight the predators!).
  • A dolphin as a cartoon.
  • A lionfish in the style of a weather forecast.
  • A manta ray as a mime.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the children rise to the challenge of the different tasks – each one requiring a different approach. The children really got into it and took to it with energy and enthusiasm. One girl said 5 minutes in:

Can we do this every week! I love it!

The children were engaged and the anticipation and unexpectedness of the task really helped. The outcomes reflected their commitment and this enthusiasm. I wasn’t necessarily that interested in the outcome as I was keen to see the children work in their group to solve the challenge. But it just blew me away.

This style of activity puts the children on their toes and makes them think laterally about presenting information. As John said we were well out of our “comfort zone” but it is good to know what that other place is like. We need children to face new unexpected challenges and to learn not just from the process but also from the accomplishment of completing it too.

One of the highlights for me was the mime about the manta ray between two children who probably had the biggest challenge. They did an amazing job and I was so proud of them – I asked the rest of the class what they just learned from the mime and they just reeled off facts about what the manta ray eats, how big it is and how wide – even how it moves.

In total we spent about 45 minutes preparing the outcome and then half an hour celebrating their work. Sometimes you spend days or weeks on pieces of work, we busted this out in an hour and it was great. I am sure you can see from some of the examples in the slideshow. (Some of the children had to do video interviews with an expert – hence the Flip cams in the slideshow.)

I hope you can see the potential for any unit of work in school for this sort of approach and urge you to consider including it in your work, why not try it next week?!

The unknown direction we were taking as a class, in terms of our learning, brought about a real energy in the room which pervaded the quality of work too. A great day!

  1. It was an intriguing challenge – they used a big image of the lionfish and added symbols, like in a weather forecast, to the fish. The two boys that did it used the IWB to talk through the lionfish forecast using the symbols to help illustrate what they knew about it.

  2. I’ve been following this topic since your first mentions on Twitter and I’m really enjoying finding out how it is developing. Like you say, children do require unexpected challenges and the use of John Davitt’s ‘LEG’ tool gives them just that. It also gives us a chance to be outside of our own comfort zones and let us rediscover how creative children can be in solving its outcomes.
    Keep pushing the boundaries. Wonderful.

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