Category Archives: CBL

Group Roles: Everybody Loves Lanyards!

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As mentioned in a previous post I recently ran a CBL unit in my classroom with students working on solutions in small groups for the first time. This seemed daunting but it actually was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. For the most part, teams worked together efficiently and the classroom ran smoothly when I thought chaos was sure to reign.

One idea I introduced was group member tasks; each member of the group had a set responsibility that allowed the groups to work together with all jobs being filled. I know this is an old idea but I’ve never used it before and it worked like a dream. The quiet kids got a chance to be heard, the bossy kids had to step back and concentrate on their own jobs, the kids that previously rode on the wave of the group had to fulfil a job so they wouldn’t let down the team down, and most importantly, everyone got a lanyard. Nothing makes people feel important like a lanyard does. 

The roles:

  • Chairperson: not the boss, but the facilitator. The chairperson has to run votes on decisions, make sure all group members get a say and  no-one dominates conversations.
  • Documenter: this person keeps all notes, pictures, papers and documents and bits and pieces that accumulate throughout the project. They take photos and videos of tasks as they group complete them, and are responsible for having footage for the group’s solution video.
  • Scribe: self-explanatory and very difficult for grade 2s! They take notes on all important decisions and discussions and are in charge of any writing that takes place, such as on posters.
  • Reporter: this person reminds the group what they are up to each time they meet, and are responsible for filling in the teacher on progress during group conferences, and report back to the class on what the group is doing.
  • Resource getter: a fancy title, to be sure. They quite obviously collect resources (such as iPads, paper, construction materials) when needed, and is the only person allowed to ask the teacher for help when it is needed (and the group CANNOT continue without help).

I made the role cards for each student to wear using Canva, and you can download them here. Tip: print them nine-to-a-page to make them lanyard size.

 Are there any roles you think are important that I’ve missed?

How do you manage responsibilities within groups?

CBL Solutions and What They Might Look Like

-My whole team at the beginning of CBL

-My whole team at the beginning of CBL

My students worked on Challenge-Based Learning solutions in groups for the first time this term. I want to share what their solutions were in order to give readers an idea of the range of ideas students came up with on their own, and their varying degrees of success in implementing those ideas.

When my team first started CBL, it was really difficult to get our collective head around what we might expect students to come up with as a solution, so we pestered our CBL expert teacher, Bec, for ideas on what challenge solutions might look like. She pushed back on this and told us we didn’t need to have the ideas, that the kids would get there. We kept on pestering and eventually she relented and gave us a few examples of what kind of outcome we might see, but with the stipulation that we had to let the students come up with ideas, and not try and feed them our own ideas and make them think it was their own.

Now I’m 3 terms of CBL in, and with Bec’s philosophy in mind, here are some examples of what grade 2s can come up with and do on their own. Without my own brilliant ideas. I promise.

Big Idea: Power
Challenge: Use power in a positive way.

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Green and Yellow Groups: Body Power

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Both of these groups independently decided to make a fitness/exercise club that ran at break times. Both groups came up with a plan of how their club would run; one group wanted to play a charades game that would involve participants guessing the exercise, then completing it, and the other group simply had a list of exercises and were going to show participants how to do them correctly, then have everyone complete the exercise. Both groups made poster ads to hang around the school using the Pic Collage app and spoke to grades about the clubs they were running. The clubs started off with a bang but petered out quickly for a few reasons (memory, enthusiasm, students not getting along, etc.). I think the fact that grade 2s can run a successful club for other students without any help from teachers is quite impressive!  One of the groups did a powerful reflection on what went well, what went wrong and how they could change it, and made significant improvements to their plan to help their club run better.

Purple Group: Choice Power


Purple group chose to write a persuasive letter to the Prime Minister of Australia to convince him to hire more builders to build free homes for homeless people. This was quite powerful for this group when they actually received a response from Tony Abbott, which, among other things, congratulated them on being so passionate about important issues and reminded them that as the future leaders of our country, they should continue to champion causes that are important to them. (The letter carefully evaded the issue of building people free homes, but my students are inspired to become PM nonetheless).

Blue Group: People Power

Purple group’s solution was to make an ad that told the world that we don’t want bullies. They wrote and filmed and edited a video using iMovie on an iPad and shared their solution with the world through the class blog. Blog post here.

Pink group: Body Power

Pink group’s solution was also a video. They wanted to make a short video that would encourage people to exercise every day. They wanted to share it with the world by advertising it on our class blog and Twitter. It did not get shared in the end because of the time it took to film and some techie difficulties which meant they had to remake their entire work. Their video involved them doing a range of exercises and some text about the names of exercises and what people should do to get fit.

Orange Group: Electrical Power

This group decided on a persuasive blog post about using electricity sparingly and some tips on how to use it better. Their post can be viewed here.


Where to next

As this was the first time students worked in small groups to complete a task of their own devising, the focus was on understanding the task ahead of them, and on individual roles and responsibilities of the members in each group.  Now that we have a firm grasp on that, the next round of CBL solutions will have more of a focus on the quality of the outputs, rather than just ‘getting it done’. For example, the ‘No Bullies Allowed’ video group might work on coming up with a list of helpful tips for not being a bully, and valuing friendship, and work on making sure the dialogue in their video is easy to hear. Or the exercise video group might contact teachers to see if they could show it to their class every morning for students to get warmed up before starting the day, so that their solution has a genuine audience and will make a difference.

Overall I am really happy with the variety and quality of my students’ (and my own) first attempt at group CBL solutions. I am constantly amazed at the way my students come along for the ride when I think I might be pushing them too far. It is truly amazing what a bunch of 8 year olds can do when you don’t tell them they can’t.

If you have something of your own about CBL solutions, please share. I would love to see it!


Taking Action: Students as Recording Artists

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Does anyone teach using the CBL model? At my school we are in our first year of implementing CBL school-wide and it is massively exciting and terrifying all at once. CBL stands for Challenge Based Learning. It is a type of inquiry process that puts the emphasis on students using technology as an integral part of their learning and requires students to think of and implement an authentic solution to a challenge.

Last term we worked on the big idea of ‘Systems’ and the challenge they were set was ‘Change the way our community uses natural resources.’ I want to share the solution my students came up with as a whole grade.

To decide on a challenge solution as a class we brainstormed all the different ideas they had for addressing the challenge. Some of the ideas that came up were:

  • Writing a news report and getting it put on the news
  • Making posters to stick up in the school and local community
  • Writing a song about how to save resources

Writing a song was by far the most popular choice so we set to work brainstorming anything and everything they thought might be included. I gave students the task of writing words, sentences, phrases, rhymes or anything that they thought might get the message across. Everything at this point was basically a huge discussion, idea melting-pot and decision-making process between the whole grade. I stepped back and watched in amazement as my grade 2s took over, ridiculously capable.


They decided to split up into groups that focused on saving water, trees, petrol and air (saving it from pollution… haha!). They came up with some amazing stuff, with conversations such as:
“When you take a shower, try not to take ages.”
“Yeah don’t take an hour.”
“Hour rhymes with shower.. Hahah!”
“What about ‘When you take a shower don’t take an hour?'”
“Mrs Fintelman, is that okay?”
At this point I was in raptures. After this we went through a process of discussing what they knew about how to put a song together and they brought up things such as rhyming, making a catchy chorus, making the chorus about the main idea, and using beats to make it sound good, incorporating a lot of knowledge they had learnt in Performing Arts. It took about an hour for us to collaboratively write a four-verse song… no mean feat! I won’t pretend that they did the whole thing on their own but the majority of the writing was done by the students discussing, writing, changing, deleting, altering, testing and most of all collaborating.


UntitledI suggested using GarageBand to record their voices so students had a play with the iPad version of GarageBand to see what it could do. They soon discovered that they could add instruments and change the sounds. We voted and decided that the hard rock guitar sound was the way to go. Since no one in the class knew how to play guitar or use one to put a song together, I introduced them to the concept of the 4-chord progression frequently used in songs (if you don’t know this is, watch this song to learn about it – Note 1: I didn’t show this to the kids, Note 2: Watch out for language). They were excited and were able to play the chords after we googled them. By this point our song was really coming together! All it took from there were a few lessons about persistence and practicing and the fact that our first recording probably wasn’t going to be our best one. We had one student in the grade who learns piano and he came up with a little riff to add to the chorus, which he was ecstatic about. Finally, after a million recordings, we had a finished product.

soundcloudcom.cardinalblue.piccollage.googleAfter this a couple of students worked on some cover art using the app Pic Collage. We then uploaded the song to Soundcloud (a website where you can upload your own original music for others to listen to and download) and discussed how anyone was going to find it. It was decided that to promote it we should use Twitter and our blog (post here). The song is really good and they are very proud of themselves. I think this is testament to what Grade 2s can achieve… an authentic, genuine action that can make a difference to the local and global community!

Listen to our incredible song “Don’t Waste our Natural Resources”!