THINKING THEME DAY 8.2.2013      

Susan Granlund and Anni Savisaari

Part 1

Number of pupils: about 200, divided among 9 teachers into groups with pupils from classes 1 – 6 (7 to 12 year olds) mixed. They were then further divided into groups of 6.

Time: 9am – 1pm ( 4 lessons: 1 – Setting out the challenge and warm-up task, 2 – Finding reasons behind the problem and making ENV, starting to develop solution, 3 – Making a poster to advertise group solution and why it’s good, 4 – presenting solutions to each other in classes, evaluating and deciding on the best, 5 – whole school presentations of those solutions chosen in the classes, and reflection on day and solutions back in own classes.)

Aim: To have the whole school working together to solve a common problem; giving the staff and pupils a chance to see how they might manage to approach a problem with some help from TA. To let pupils see the value of working together on something difficult and to let them see how some ‘tools’ and procedures (ENV) might help them.

Specific aim: to try to solve the perennial problem of untidy corridors and cloakrooms in the school by asking the pupils themselves to solve it.

Organisation of the day

Whole school morning assembly    Step 1: SETTING THE CHALLENGE

Motivation: We imagine we are from a firm called ‘Lapsissa on Ratkaisu Oy’ – ‘The Solution lies in Children Ltd.’ We believe that children are able to solve much more difficult problems than we think, and that they can solve some problems which adults haven’t been able to. We can give them some tools to help them and we‘re sure they can do it. Today they will not have a school day, but a working day. They’ll be in teams of different ages, just like adults at work, and they’ll have the company’s paper with logos provided as well as pencils and stickers ‘I Can Think’.

The Problem: We showed them a photograph of an untidy corridor.

  1. Have they seen a corridor like this? What’s the problem? They made suggestions, specific and general – there are shoes in the middle of the corridor, the coats have fallen, and the corridor is messy.
  2. Does it matter? Why is it a problem? They suggested it doesn’t look nice, someone could trip, you can lose things, things can get broken, damaged. We also spoke about the fact that the fire chief had visited the school and said that in an emergency, when the corridors are possibly dark, corridors like this would be a real risk. We established many reasons for keeping the corridors tidy.
  3. What about the cleaners? They’ve been complaining about the corridors. So what do you think their job there is? They suggested cleaning the floor, dusting.
  4. We interviewed the cleaners themselves. They said cleaning the floor and the walls and wiping all the surfaces. We asked, is it their job to pick up fallen jackets, put away shoes and so on? They said no. We asked if it’s the teachers’ job? The parents’? The classroom assistants? Whose? The pupils all said their own.
  5. We asked the pupils to imagine they are cleaners and they go into this corridor. How do they feel? Not happy.
  6. We asked if keeping their coats and shoes tidy is difficult, and they all said no. So we asked why it’s a problem. One boy suggested at once that they’re lazy.


CHALLENGE / TASK: In their teams they have to find a solution to keeping the corridors tidy and the following limitations apply:

a)      The solution is one that has not been tried before.

b)     It should be a long term solution.

c)      It should be easy for everyone to understand.

d)     It should not involve money.

e)      It should not involve adults.

The pupils were then divided into groups and set off to start working in the classrooms. In each class there were two big posters on the wall, one with the AIM – to find a way to keep the corridors tidy, and one with the LIMITATIONS, so that they could keep them in mind while working.

Group warm-up task, 10 minutes: to find a name for your group. Limitations  - it should start with T, it shouldn’t be someone’s name, it should include at least one double consonant, and it should have an odd number of letters.

The idea of this small task was to fill the 10 minutes before their first break and to give them a chance to think together on something smaller. In the end most groups found this task extremely difficult, and the teachers said the pupils had to help each other a lot explaining what a double consonant is and even what an odd number is. In the end however they all found a name (at the end of the day we saw many of the names and no two were the same – only a few groups had made a long name, the others had all desperately tried to make a name of 5 or 7 letters, although this wasn’t stipulated at all).

It would have been good to reflect at once on this task and how they’d done it, but it wasn’t possible as our timetable was tight and there were so many groups. However, getting better at this kind of small task is something we could do with classes. This task was also difficult as the pupils in the groups didn’t really know each other, since they were all from different classes.

Teachers: Earlier in the week we’d given the teachers an explanation of the procedures we envisaged for the day and roughly how long things would take. They therefore had time to ask us questions about it and to understand what it was about. We had also made a few sheets with ‘Thinking Games’ for them to try out if they had time left over (Odd Man Out, Yes/No, Good and Bad).

Step 2: Tools to help solve the problem. See Thinking Theme Day, Part 2 andThinking Theme Day, Part 3, Feedback and Reflections


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