Extending upon last weeks blogpost ‘The possibilities of a stick’, we have continued to notice the different ways we use sticks within our programme at Mairtown.
Walking around my orchard at the weekend I came across some ‘y’ shaped sticks. After collecting several and introducing them to the children, we decided to make a percussion instrument - an Egyptian sistrum.
The pictures we looked at of sistrums, to be honest, did not look like they were made from sticks – so the children had to do a little bit of flexible and creative thinking.
The first thing we did as a small group was enter into some discussion. Initially we considered how we might decorate our sistrum – the general consensus was to use some paint – so we began.
Waiting for the paint to dry however required us all to be patient; we had to wait until the next day! Patience is a skill in itself, and although the children had to wait a whole day, this didn’t stop several checking to see if they were dry every few minutes!
The next day, we got together again and discussed how to add a handle. There was lots of ideas, sharing of thoughts and thinking in our discussions. Some children considered the possibility of painting a handle in a different colour, some felt we didn’t even need a handle, whilst others thought about wrapping something around the wood. The more we talked and contemplated our theories, the more we felt comfortable with questioning each others ideas, recognising other peoples views and finally negotiating what our plans would be.
In the end we decided to wrap some different coloured thread around the base of our sticks to indicate that this is where we would hold our instrument. This in itself required more problem solving – how do we attach the thread? Tying a knot looked bulky, wrapping the thread without a knot didn’t work either as the thread kept falling off. Through our collaborative efforts however, we came up with the idea of one person wrapping the thread onto the stick, whilst someone else painted on a dab of pva glue to hold it altogether.
Collaborative learning in small groups aids the exchange of ideas, increases interest among the participants and also promotes critical thinking (Gokhale, 1995).
A whole day later – as we waited for the glue to dry – it was time to add the musical element to our sistrum. Using wire we carefully threaded on some bells, buttons and beads then attached the wire firmly at both ends.
After all this hard work, and all the waiting, it was eventually time to try the instruments out. Time for a sing-a-long!
Students that work together achieve higher levels of thought and retain information longer than students who work quietly as individuals. Shared learning gives students an opportunity to engage in discussion, take responsibility for their own learning, and thus become critical thinkers (Johnson and Johnson,1986; Totten, Sills, Digby, & Russ, 1991).