Students LOVE building solutions to problems. They don’t always love planning those designs first! It can lead to frustration when we (teachers) feel like we’re forcing students to walk through the steps of the Engineering Design Process when they really want to dive in and build. I have a few tips for you today.
1. Check in with Reality
First things first, it can be really easy to get frustrated when kids aren’t doing what is expected of them. But then again, sometimes what we’re expecting of them is to act like adults.
So check in with your patience and remember that the misfires and missteps are exactly what is to be expected. It takes time and so much practice to learn a skill like planning.
Allow some flexibility. Sometimes, I think you should just let kids dive in and build without planning. Other times, you’ll want to have them practice planning first.
And when you do have students plan, remember there’s more than one way to plan! (See below)
2. Vary the Planning Methods
A LOT of the time ( maybe all of it?) we ask students to draw their plans before they can build. Here’s the thing: that’s not everyone’s planning style.
Personally, I have a really hard time drawing my ideas. I prefer to think and discuss ideas and, ideally, either be on a walk or manipulating the materials while doing so.
Do you know I didn’t even know that walks were super important to my ability to problem-solve until I was in my late 30s? It took getting a dog that needed consistent walks for me to realize that.
How cool would it have been for me to know that fact about myself from childhood?!
Only using just one planning method could be a sticking point for students. If they had an option in the way they could plan, they may be more inclined to do so.
So watch the video above for 7 ideas (yes, one of them is sketching 🥰). Try mixing up planning methods to keep students engaged and hopefully help them learn their preferred planning methods.
3. Focus on Planning Only
I have two ideas for this. First, try separating the planning from the building by a day or more. That way, students won’t have any incentive to rush the planning.
Another option is to choose activities where the focus is all about the planning and building is either an optional extension or skipped entirely. Three of my favorite activities that focus on planning are Design Domino, STEM Improv™ and Stop the Story STEM™. I discuss all three on this blog post (posts on Oct. 1).
Want to try a free resource to help students hone their planning skills? Try STEM Improv™! Grab the back-to-school themed freebie! Don’t worry, this will work for any time of the year. 🥰