Over the past few weeks third graders in Mrs. Cupit’s class have been hard at work on their Hack Your School Design Challenge that is tied to their narrative writing. As I mentioned, one area that I want to spend some time reflecting on is groupings of students. While nearly all groups were able to come together and work toward a common goal, others had more of a problem. One had a friend who kind of took over without delegating. Another had a group member who felt his ideas were not being heard. He had wanted to solve a different problem, and was having trouble getting on board.

That’s where Sam and Eva come in. Sam & Eva is a terrific new picture book written and illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi. You can take a sneak peek here:

Sam is drawing, and Eva wants to collaborate. Sam doesn’t want her help, so they get into a drawing battle until their art takes over the wall and the story. They escape and start over, but there are hints their disagreements may continue. I asked my third graders what advice they would give Sam & Eva.

At first the suggestions were of different things they could draw. So I asked, “How could they work together on a drawing?”

“They could draw a line down the paper,” one suggested. I replied that then they weren’t really collaborating, were they? That seemed to get the ball rolling. One boy suggested they each make a list of what they wanted to draw and then see if there was any overlap. Maybe neither one would be drawing their first choice, but at least they were drawing something they wanted. Another suggested rock, paper, scissors could make the determination.

Then my friend who was opting out of his group raised his hand, “If she wants to draw a unicorn, and he wants to draw a dinosaur, they could draw a unicorn on a dinosaur,” he suggested.

“Combining ideas! What a great suggestion!” I replied.

“They could combine the dinosaur and the unicorn,” another student chimed in.

“A Unisaur!” my friend said. We talked more as a class about how to combine ideas. Mrs. Cupit helped them to come to the realization that each person needs to be willing to share their thoughts, and the other group members needed to listen.

With new ideas for collaboration in mind, we went back to the makerspace where my friend … continued to say he was left out. So, I gathered the group together. “Remember what we were just talking about? How you could have the unicorn and the dinosaur in the picture? What’s your unicorn that could go along with their dinosaur?”

I have to admit, “What’s your unicorn that could go along with their dinosaur?” is one of the most delightful questions I’ve had the privilege to ask as an educator. It was met with some blank stares, but we noodled it around for a bit, and then my friend started to talk more about his ideas and the other members of his group explained how they were or could be incorporated into their design.

I can’t say the group’s work was smooth sailing after that, but the seas were far more calm and my friend was actively participating. All thanks to Sam & Eva.

Sam & Eva to the Rescue

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