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October 14, 2013 Minute to Win It in Your Classroom By Brian Smith
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    Three things you should know about me:

    1. I love game shows.

    2. I hate giving morning work. (Those worksheets that students work on while I’m doing morning teacher duties like checking students in, reading parent notes, etc.)

    3. I love teaching 21st century skills.

    This year I found an activity that, happily, combines all three of these seemingly unrelated personality traits.


    Finding a Good Idea

    Alex, Jaymie, and Connor trying Nice BuildThree mornings a week my class has been participating in Minute to Win It challenges when they enter my classroom. I got this idea when we sent our daughter Ella to a weeklong Kids in College program at Lenoir-Rhyne University this past summer where the students participated in these activities. I had watched the game show Minute to Win It many times, but never thought of transferring it to my classroom until I started hearing Ella talk about whatever challenge she worked on that day.

    I was hesitant to introduce these challenges into my classroom because the idea was new, very different, and had the potential to create complete chaos in my room. However, the more that I thought about it, the more I couldn’t let go of the great possibilities for STEM learning and the 21st century skills development that it would allow my students to experience. I overcame my fears and here a few things that my students have learned because I took the chance:

    • creative thinking

    • problem-solving skills

    • looking at problems differently

    • understanding constructive observations


    How I Make It Work

    One of the most important skills needed to succeed in the 21st century is being able to look at problems from all angles and coming up with multiple ways to them. Twenty-first century learners also need to be creative thinkers. In a Minute to Win It activity, a student is presented with a problem to solve in one minute. The problem is a type where the solution requires creative thinking.

    I have three stations where students are all working on the same challenge on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings. At each station there is the material needed for the challenge and a timer with the one-minute mark clearly defined. One student at a time performs the required activity while the other students at that station are the “studio audience.” The great thing about this setup is that by watching each other, each student gets ideas to try the next time it’s their turn. I switch up the groups each day so that each student can learn from different students. Monday and Friday mornings are for the more traditional morning work. Monday’s morning work is a time to reinforce a skill we learned the week before and gives me a chance to teach the new challenge that they will take part in the next three days. Using the videos from the Minute to Win It challenge website is a great resource. Fridays are a chance for them to practice a skill that we learned that week.


    The Challenges

    Michelle Facing the CookieSo far my students have participated in Face the Cookie, Johnny Applestack (during our apple unit), Nice Build, and Back Flip. I keep an eye on all three stations and if any student isn’t following the directions, they have to go back to their seat and do “traditional” morning work. This has only happened twice this year so it’s not a big problem at all.

    As soon as the morning announcements begin the students quietly head back to their seat. I have had absolutely no problems with my students transitioning to the next part of our day. Actually, I usually have one or two students who are proactive and put away all the supplies without me asking. It’s a beautiful thing.


    Brady with the Johnny Applestack challenge

    Other Benefits

    These activities also create a chance to incorporate STEM learning. Different challenges incorporate science, technology, engineering, and math at all levels of elementary education. Alycia Zimmerman had a great post several weeks ago about STEM activities that really helps explain why they are so important.

    I can’t wait to see you next week.


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Susan Cheyney