Session 2 - Section Beta

For our second session, my students walked into class to find these instructions on the board... Take a minute to read the board to understand how I tried to bring in core course elements in an aspect of class beyond the puzzles (I would recommend reading this post on a computer/laptop or tablet with a big screen to appreciate the student work).

The "problem" was that the class had 17 students which made making even pairs impossible. 17, being an exasperating prime number, made making even groups of any kind impossible! 😅 My students came up with some ideas that included:
  • having 1 group of 3 and the remaining as pairs (this was the solution that was finally adopted)
  • letting one of the children who had said that they preferred learning 'alone' work without a partner
  • having me sit with the child who was the odd one out
Regarding the agenda, the children were quick to realise that the times added up to 1 hour and 55 minutes instead of 2 hours. They correctly concluded that the extra 5 minutes was a buffer for agenda items that spill over!

I discussed some of the course expectations that emerged from what they had written in class yesterday before we got down to tackling Slitherlinks. See a Slitherlink that I have solved by hand below.

The rules are pretty straightforward - a single continuous loop is to be drawn through the grid without branching i.e. 3 lines cannot meet at a single point. Numbers tell you the number of lines that immediately surround them. Cells without numbers can have anywhere between 0 and 3 lines surrounding them.

I provided children with 8 copies of the same introductory puzzle to give them freedom to make mistakes. I also told them to not erase their mistakes as they served as markers to wrong turns taken along the way to a right solution. Below are samples of 2 students' work - you can observe how their strategies went from random to some semblance of logic to a more systematic effort.

For the first 15 minutes, children worked individually and documented their strategies/approaches in their Thought Books. Pushing them to articulate their thinking was a challenge but a rewarding exercise as they began to see the value in noting down strategies that they could use for different Slitherlinks rather than having to think up a new approach for each Slitherlink. You can see how they first came up with strategies that did not work. I emphasised that these failed strategies were valuable in moving towards strategies that did work.

Then, we transitioned to partner work for kids to share strategies with one another and apply them to a second set of Slitherlink puzzles.

In their Thought Books, I asked my students to reflect on the Slitherlink - what they learned, liked and found hard. Here are two insightful responses.

From the first picture in this post, you might have noticed the second to last agenda item called Dissection. This was a visual puzzle intentionally planned for the end of the session as the Slitherlink, while engaging, was also challenging for my students. Also, the Dissection puzzle was the kind that children could mull over during the mid-morning break and was elegant in its simplicity.

This shape, made up of a square on the left joined to half the same square on the right, had to be divided into 4 pieces of equal area using any number of straight lines. Just like I did for Slitherlink, I gave them 8 copies of the puzzle to try different approaches. Here are the attempts by one of my students who wasn't able to reason it out during class but came up with the solution later in the day. Can you figure it out? 😃

I strongly believe in taking regular feedback from my students as it gives me insights into how to improve as a teacher while keeping a two-way channel of communication open. It also conveys to them that I value their opinion and that I shouldn't be put on a pedestal simply because I am the teacher; after all, I'm a learner too delivering this course for the first time!

A common theme in the feedback was children wanting more time to work with Slitherlinks. Thus, I have tweaked the session plan for tomorrow's class with section Alpha to explain Dissection while leaving it as an out-of-class exercise rather than giving 25 minutes to it inside class. This will free up more time to practice Slitherlinks.

In the next post (linked below as an addendum), I'll write about our third session where we explored a puzzle called Kakuro and also played a logical reasoning quiz show!

Session 3 - Section Beta