Project-Based Learning (PBL)

Role-Play Day: Teacher Creativity Motivates Students

February 20, 2008

Interdisciplinary events can demonstrate the achievements of the Hawaii Content and Performance Standards, and they motivate K-6 students with learning opportunities related to those standards. Brainstorming about these interdisciplinary events allows teachers to share what they are doing in their classrooms and also stimulates ideas about how to expand single-grade-level student collaborations to be collaborations over multiple grade levels.

Second and third graders participate in a Culture and Choices Day, during which we showcase three distinct cultures with hands-on, learner-centered activities in food, clothing, art, architecture, music, traditions, culture, and conversational and written language. The integrated mathematics, social studies, and language arts focus is on helping young students understand economic concepts, the students' place in relation to these concepts, and the characteristics of various economic systems.

Prior to the exciting day, the teachers email each student a paper-money template for them to decorate and use as currency to finance their "shopping" at "community stores." In the morning, after an assembly about the day's agenda, the students divide into three multiage groups and decorate each classroom, creating original artwork to act as backdrops for these stores. Each cultural community -- Mexican, Japanese, and Hawaiian -- has its own store.

Students do hands-on activities -- such as creating Japanese origami birds, Mexican paper cutouts, and Hawaiian artwork -- during an hour-long visit to each community. Before lunch, we again assemble the children. They dress up in shirts authentic to each community and then role-play buying and selling items and counting out money and change as they act as shopkeepers and customers in the community stores. Each store sells products that represent one of the three cultures.

After lunch, the children rotate between classrooms to experience shopping in all the communities, and they take turns acting as shopkeepers. In the day's final session, teachers pose questions that allow the children to compare and contrast the three communities. Students also fill out an evaluation on how successful the day was for them. This year, more than sixty students participated in the daylong event, and only five students said on their evaluation that they would not like to do it again.

In part two of this entry, I share details about another event with you.

What do you think of this idea? Has your classroom or school done similar activities? Please share your thoughts.

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  • Project-Based Learning (PBL)
  • K-2 Primary

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