Friday, March 21, 2014

The Power of Persuasion

After two weeks of debate and quite a process, the class has finally settled on The Journey of a Sea Turtle as the next unit of study.  Now let's take an in-depth look!

The Origin of Ideas

For our next themed unit we needed ideas.  But the ideas needed support (and money) in order to survive the persuasion process.  Taking a page out of the classic computer game, Oregon Trail, children were given three choices;

1. provide endless unit ideas, but don't get any money
2. provide one unit idea, and receive $25 for support of an idea of their liking
3. don't give any ideas, but receive $50 to support an idea of their liking.

From there, ideas were formed and created anonymously so that the students with the money to support would follow their interest and not their friends.  Onward we went.


Pros to this approach:
  • students had to make a difficult risk vs. reward choice
  • students accepted the ideas, whether they thought of them or not
Cons to this approach:
  • students were clearly more enamored with the idea of having more money than more say
  • although it was supposed to be anonymous, the students eventually figured out whose idea was whose

Persuasion Tactics

We took a break in the process and brainstormed all the ways the students could persuade others to come support their group.  After the tactics had been brainstormed, the class discussed which ones should be more expensive and why.  Here is what they came up with:

Talk with class ($5)
Bring stuff from home ($10)
Flyers, Giveaways, Letters ($13)
Billboards, Posters ($51)
Ad space on the Blog ($74)
Commercial ($100)

Some tactics worked, some didn't.  The kids realized, maybe they didn't.  Some kept trying the same tactic over and over again, having no realization that it wasn't working.

Pros to this approach:
  • students brainstormed, created, and agreed upon the tactics to be used and the pricing of them
  • students were forced to budget and spend their group's money strategically
Cons to this approach:
  • once students saw who was in what group, they didn't care about being persuaded and just wanted to go with their friends
  • creating flyers and giveaways started to distract the students from the task at hand

Then There Were Two

For the majority of the process there were four strong groups: dogs, LEGOs, sea turtles, and stuffed animals.  Through the power of persuasion, the dogs and stuffed animals disbanded and left us with LEGOs vs. Sea Turtles.  In their final attempt to persuade the voting, the students sent letters to Mr. LeDeaux.  The outcome?  Get your snorkel gear...

Quick hits:
  • The kids were unbelievably cheap!  They didn't want to part their money in the slightest.  I had to beg all of them to spend, spend, spend!
  • Ironically, it was the "cheapest" form of persuasion (talking with the class) that created the most movement amongst groups
  • The kids were uncertain on a lot of things, but they quickly found out that bringing stuff from home was definitely NOT working.
  • Two weeks was way too long.  The next time we do this, we can condense a lot of this into only a few days.
  • The BEST part of all of this?  The idea of sea turtles started with ONE kid! 
If you're wondering, this is how the majority of the days went while utilizing our new, subject-less schedule:
  • Teacher Time: whole group persuasive writing, clocks, and multi-step math problems were solved
  • Us Time: ideas for units formed, changed, and wavered while persuasion tactics were used to lure peers from one group to another
  • Me Time: independent (persuasion) writing, reading, and tiered math facts were accomplished