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Mind Works Learning Circle Project Ideas

Elementary School (TEXT ONLY)

  • Food Fun
  • Circle Stories
  • Poet's Corner
  • Invention Convention
  • Sticky Problems
  • Fictional Character Sketches

  • Middle School Learning Circle Projects (Text only)

    High School Learning Circle Project Ideas (Text only)


    Food Fun

    Students enjoy writing about food. Students have often shared food poems and surveys of their favorite foods. Food topics can be tied to cultural celebrations as students describe special foods for special times. Or students might want to describe alternatives to traditional birthday cake. Food science might be a fun way to get students to make up science experiments or demonstrations using food. Humorous recipes have also found there ways into the Mind Works Circle publication.

    Wacky and Regional Recipes

    Students enjoy creating unusual combinations of food. For your Learning Circle project, you might want to challenge students to compose some of these regional or wacky recipes:

    Seasonal Delights: What are some of the uncommon ways of eating the food that is grown locally during the season when it is most plentiful? An example, might be Avocado Ice Cream or Zucchini bread.

    Historical Figure Favorites: Find an historical figure or legend in your community and create his or her favorite meal. For example what was Robin Hood's idea of a great meal?

    Sorcerer's Saucer: Create magical brews with ingredients that are only found in your region. Perhaps a special mushroom, a piece of moss, or an ear of corn is the critical ingredient.

    Regional Wonders: Most historical societies collect famous recipes and food from earlier periods. What is a special recipe from your past?

    Campout Fever: If you were to go sleep out under the stars in your area, what food would you bring along?

    If your students decide to sponsor one of these regional or wacky recipes, they should send an example of the type(s) of recipes they would like to receive. It is also a good idea to emphasis the deadline for receiving the recipes. This way you will be sure to have enough time to pick the best recipes and organize them according to the categories you have selected.

    When you are finished with the editing and layout, add some pictures and your section of the Mind Works journal is complete!

    Solving Sticky Problems

    A story beginning could be written that results in a dilemma. For example, a student could be involved in an incident with another student, teacher, principal or parent; a student might overhear a conversation or see actions of others that places him or her in a morally difficult position; or groups of students might be involved in a conflict. Students at each of the sites could be asked to write a solution to the sticky situation. This might help students compare how their different groups deal with similar problems.

    ******** A Problem Scenario ************

    You find our your best friend is shoplifting things from
    the grocery store. He (or she) made you promise not to
    tell anyone. You don't want to get in trouble but you
    also don't want to lose a friend or break a promise. What
    do you do?

    A humorous version of solving problems was sponsored by a class in a previous Mind Works Learning Circle. This class posed a number of "sticky problems" and asked the other students to suggest solutions and offer their own lists of sticky problems. Here are some examples of their "sticky" problems.

    ******* Solving Sticky Problems *********

    How to get the bubble gum, that you were not allowed to chew, out of your hair.

    How to get out of playing with a younger brother or sister.

    How to quickly get rid of thousands of small styrofoam balls that exploded out of the pillows you weren't supposed to be jumping on.

    How to get a raise in your allowance without having to do any
    extra chores.

    The problems and the solutions may be serious or silly. The primary goal is to exercise creative problem-solving skills.

    Invention Convention

    Students love to create new tools to solve today's problems effortlessly. They will immediately think of bed-making, homework-writing, or room-cleaning devices. Helping these creative minds find easier solutions to today's problems will prepare them to invent tomorrow's tools. Here is an example of the way a sponsoring class might introduce this Learning Circle project.

    ********** INVENTIONS AROUND THE WORLD **************

    How would you like to be a great inventor? Join in the fun of creating a wonderful invention that would help you or your friends...or make the world a better place to live. Or, if you are studying a special topic, you could create an invention that would help you out. For example, if you're reading about the knights of old, you might want to create a special word sharpener or a lubricant to keep armor quiet and well oiled. If you are studying pioneers, you could invent a new design for covered wagons to make traveling more comfortable, or a portable clothes washing machine. Or perhaps you have an idea for an invention that would be helpful to friends, parents or teachers.

    Active imaginations create amazing inventions!

    Here is how to prepare and send information about your invention:

    1) Have students work in teams using this format for their inventions.

    Name of Invention:
    Description of how it works:
    Description of how it is made:

    2) Send team inventions (or the best 5 student inventions) to the other schools on the network

    3) (Optional) Send pictures or graphics to go with the inventions.

    4) (Alternative) Imagine that you wanted to sell your invention to the students at the different schools. How would you advertise it? What features would you highlight? What would be selling points. How would they persuade others to buy their inventions.

    Fictional Character Sketches

    Characters in books, movies, television or plays sometimes make a very strong impression on children. For this project, students could be invited to share their favorite fictitious person with others. Perhaps it will be someone who undergoes a major change during the course of the story, movie, novel or TV show. Maybe it is someone with definite personality traits, interesting ideas or particular values.
        *************** Favorite Characters ******************

        Did you see a movie or read a book about someone special? This person might be just the person that you have been looking for. What is this person like? Try to create as vivid a picture as you can describing characteristics or behavior in rich detail so that others will have a good visual image of the person you chose.

      There are home pages on the Internet for many television programs and movies. This might be a way to motivate reluctant readers to explore an interest in a television character. Starting from what a student knows well an be a great way to develop writing skills.



    Circle Stories

    A network provides the opportunity not only to share your students' writing with each other, but to actually compose cooperatively. "Circle" or "Round Robin" stories are started in one classroom and then added to by one or more classrooms until the story is completed. Knowing that their stories will actually be worked on by students in distant places is a great motivation for kids to do their best. The end result, a product of collective creativity, is often a very unusual story. Because this type of project depends on having teachers and students in other locations follow a careful schedule, it is important to find out which teachers in your Learning Circle will have the time to be involved in the rotation of the stories. It does not need to involve all of the classes.

    Sample Procedure For Writing Circle Stories

    The sponsoring class decides who will be participating and makes up a schedule like the one below. Each class will write one part for each of the stories. Each class writes a beginning of a story and sends it (through electronic mail) to the class who is to do the middle section. When a class receives a first part from another classroom, they write the middle and send both parts to the class who is to do the end. That class finishes the story, and sends all three parts to the sponsoring class. The sponsoring class evaluates and edits the whole story for the Mind Works Circle publication.

    Here is a rotation schedule and timeline for 5 classrooms participating in circle stories:

               Beginning           Middle             End
           Send by March 18     Send by April 1    Send by April 15
     Story 1   school #1          School #2          School #3
     Story 2   School #2          School #3          School #4
     Story 3   School #3          School #4          School #5
     Story 4   School #4          School #5	         School #1
     Story 5   School #5          School #1          School #2
                Send Beginning    by March 18th
                Send Middle       by April 1st
                Send End          by April 15th

    Schoolroom Strategies for Composing Circle Stories:

    1. Have the whole class work as a group to compose their part of the story.

    2. Identify a pair of students to work on each of the stories.

    3. Identify a group of students (making sure some good writers are in the group!) to be the authors for their part of each of the circle stories. When the story arrives, the teacher can work as the typist for the group of authors. The students work together brainstorming ideas, discussing the plot and characters, and searching through the Thesaurus for good word choices. The teacher's skill at editing text makes it easier for students to reword things, change their minds, add characters, or modify the plot. Teachers have commented on how this third procedure provided them with an excellent teaching opportunity to effectively instruct students on setting, plot, characterization, and many other details involved in story composition.

    Poet's Corner

    There are many different forms of poetry and topics for poems. A class could sponsor a project on a particular form (cinquain, haiku, limerick) or topic suggestion (natural surroundings, local wildlife, regional events, or special people. City poems are a good way for students to share information about their communities. Composing a city or school poem can be a good project for group composing. Topics that celebrate cultural or regional diversity are particularly appropriate to share on the network. This might include special school or holiday celebrations, activities around an ocean, river or mountain, or places to visit in your area. Choose one of the suggested topics that is likely to be important to most of the students in your location and write it on the blackboard.

    Ask students to contribute colorful, active, descriptive words and phrases. Ask them to close their eyes and imagine the experience. What do they see, taste, hear, smell or feel? Work cooperatively as a group to combine and sequence these impressions to create a first draft of an unrhymed poem.

    Print a copy of the draft for each student to read and edit. Then the whole group can edit, with students offering suggestions based on their notes.

    This process helps all of the students see how a piece of writing can be improved with more work. The final poem can be displayed in the classroom with artwork and sent on the network to the other classes. The sponsoring classroom might want to add pictures to go with the poems they select for their section of the Mind Works Circle publication.

    Painted Poetry Example

    Snowy Egret

    Swiftly through the blanket of a sky
    Searching with its well trained eyes
    Gliding gracefully through
    The enchanted and brilliant sky.

    By Megan Riel-Mehan, 6th Grade, Pacific View

    Middle School Learning Circle Projects (Text only)

    High School Learning Circle Project Ideas (Text only)

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    Copyright © 1997, 2002, Margaret Riel