Our district recently implemented Think Tanks. I had heard that name been tossed around all year, and once I finally found out what it was, I was hooked!
We have a 50 minute block built in to our schedule for small group intervention every day. I sit at a table in my classroom and work with 2-6 kids in a small group on a specific topic we have been working on that they are struggling with. While this is going on, I may have anywhere between 15-24 kids still in my room who need something meaningful to work on for that hour, not just a worksheet or study hall.
Enter Think Tanks!
The students not in small groups will work on a 4 day project that centers around a reading selection (book, article, how to manual, problem, whatever you have or want), asks them to recall information (usually in a graphic organizer), and then they get to create a meaningful product and extend on it, like write a song, then make a music video, or create a story then present it as part of the 6 o'clock newscast. All of it centers around a reading selection that focuses on the standard you want them to focus on. Do you want them to extend on rock formation? Read a book on rock formation, illustrate the process in a sequence graphic organizer, create 3D models of sedimentary rock formation then turn that into an advertisement for different uses of sedimentary rocks! Presto chango - a meaningful project that student can do in small 2-4 people groups INDEPENDENT of the teacher (since you are busy with your own small group).
The think tanks work like so. We have 50 minutes for 5 days.
Day 1: Read and Recall. Students read a book of your choice, one of a variety you have selected for them (leveled, perhaps?), or a section from a book. I have modeled most of my latest ones after books from the Let's Read Science Series. It is at a good level for most of my kids and I find the information factual to what we learn at this level.
They are reading aloud together, or to themselves, based on how many copies you have of each book. Then they each complete the graphic organizer or questions. You can dictate if this should be together or alone.
Day 2-4: Create and Extend. Students now get to create a physical product. It could be a craftivity (oh, Pintrest!), write a story/play/poem/commercial/advertisement/brochure or whatever else it may be. Again, they can produce one per group or each group member make one. It's up to you! Then they take that product and extend on it. This could be another product, it could be a presentation, or it could be something using technology (if you have that available).
Day 5: Evaluate It! We don't have small groups on Fridays, but we still have the time (this is so our reading/ESL/SPED/Math specialists can go through their data). Instead, students present what they learned and created, especially if they were making a music video, newscast, tv show, commercial, technology presentation, etc.,.... They can get rewards for putting as much into it as possible, or they can redo what they did not quite put as much effort as they could have while those who did play games to the side.
I have my Think Tanks in folders these containers for easy organization.
All the materials they need are inside the container, so I needed one that was big enough to put papers, books, and supplies. Since it takes one week to do one think tank, and I can easily divide 15-24 kids into 6 or less groups of 4, I only need 6 every six weeks. The kids can easily rotate them themselves each week. I will have one of the incentive posters on the wall with each think tank on it and the kids names so they can keep track of which ones they do. It is that simple!
Are you using think tanks at your school? How do you like them?