Willett/Smith Tug of War: Used with Flat Stanley Project
Connect: Second graders tend to be very literal. They are looking for the right answer. We have had great conversations about different ways to look at or approach a situation, then at the end of the discussion I will hear someone say, “Yes, but what is it the right answer?” I wanted to find a routine that we could use on a regular basis that would encourage my students to look deeply at a dilemma or topic, consider the different sides of the issue and use this information to form an opinion based on sound reasoning and informed thought.The purpose of Tug of War is to show a visual representation of thinking or exploring an issue or idea that presents a dilemma or idea that can be considered from multiple perspectives. It encourages students to take a stand and be able to support their stance with sound reasoning. It introduces the students to an understanding of the deeper complexities of decisions that are made that impact our every day in life.
What I did: The book Flat Stanley written by Jeff Brown is about a boy named Stanley Lambchop. One night while he is sleeping a bulletin board falls on him and in the morning he discovers that he is flat. The author tells us about Stanley’s many adventures, some good and some not so good. As one of our Social Studies Units, I read the book to the class and then we participated in the Flat Stanley Project. We discussed the kinds of activities that Stanley could do that we aren’t able to do, such as fly like a kite and get mailed to another state in an envelope. We also considered the problems that it caused him such as needing new clothes and being teased by others.I wanted to introduce a strategy for making informed choices, so I used the Tug of War Routine as a strategy to make our thinking visible and record our thoughts. After reading the book and discussing the events in the story we asked the question, “Is it better to be round like we are or would it be better to be flat like Stanley?” Each student wrote their choice on a post-it note. I gave them the sentence stem I choose-----because-----. Students were instructed to give sound reasons for their choice. I reminded students that a tug of war is a game where participants hold on to opposite ends of a rope and then try to pull the rope closer to their side. I told them that we will use a similar activity, but we were going to tug the rope with our thinking. I created a two sided chart and across the top I strung a rope with a paper flag in the middle. Students could vote for being flat like Stanley or choose being 3d like typical students. In order to post their note on either side, they had to give sound reasons for their choice. As they read their note and posted their choice on the chart, they got to literally tug on the rope. We watched the little red flag go back and forth across the paper. Students were cheering for their side just like you might do during a real tug of war. Any time second graders can actively participate in something, it has more meaning for them. They had fun and the activity made them think more deeply about the story and how decisions impact our lives.
Challenge: I used this routine last year when our class was faced with a decision about whether we should get another fish or not. Some students thought our one fish was lonely and we should get more fish. Some students thought that new fish would attack the one that was left. There were definitely two opposing camps and both sides cared passionately about the outcome. I thought it was a great way for both side to have their concerns heard and be more accepting of the final decision. This routine worked perfectly and I wanted to add it to my list of go to thinking routines.However, my dilemma is determining appropriate content for use of this routine in a 2nd grade classroom. . There are many obvious topics that come to mind such as fracking, gmo’s, fiscal cliff… However, I am looking for topics that are specifically important to 2nd graders. I am also looking for ways to incorporate this routine into my math lessons. I feel that developing the ability to look at an issue, topic or problem from multiple perspectives and make informed decision is a critical skill for life.