It began with TJ, a sixth grader who had a habit of throwing his shoes at his classmates...
I would be reading aloud to the class or some other teacher-y thing when PLOP - a size 8 Converse All-Star would land in the aisle, just short of another student's desk. To retrieve the flying footwear, TJ* would proceed to crawl toward the errant shoe, as if by crawling he could avoid my attention.
We've all had students like TJ; essentially good kids who tear our class to pieces. We try every trick in the book to keep a lid on the class when this student is in the room.
Last Spring I brought in a cute little jigsaw puzzle entitled Kittens in Cups into my classroom - just something for my kids to do while waiting for their buses. TJ loved that puzzle. He would raise his hand at the beginning of class and ask if he could work on it. Now here's a dilemma - if I make him stay at his desk and do classwork, he will disrupt and distract for the whole hour. If I let him work on the puzzle, he'll be quiet as a mouse. I'm reluctant to confess...I let the kid work on the puzzle. In the back of the room, there he would be, intently studying the picture on the box and placing pieces.
It wasn't just TJ who liked the puzzle. Many students would hang around after class to find a few pieces. Early finishers and bus-holding students would drift back and work on it. It took just two days for them to complete the 250 piece puzzle so I brought in a 500 piece puzzle with a picture of an amusement park . The students loved it, and when it was done, they asked for yet another!
Kittens in Cups takes shape in the classroom.
What if these were standards-based?
If my students were this interested, I thought, wouldn't it be great if they were learning the curriculum while doing it? I looked for educational jigsaw puzzles online, but they were pretty generic and not really standards-based. Fast forward one year - I've published 12 beautifully illustrated 513-piece puzzles that align with Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards in several middle schools. They are good-ol' hands-on puzzles that come with lesson plans that let you set up "stations," with group activities that relate to the puzzle.
Coming up with creative curriculum is my favorite part of being a teacher. I'm excited something we have created will get students excited about learning and leave a long-lasting impression.
Many thanks to our dedicated teacher consultants who have made this project possible. And thank you, Kittens in Cups!
Learn Happy - Jane & the StandardsInPuzzles Team