Pilot - U1L02 - The Problem Solving Process

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Forgot to set the context in my Lesson 1 post.

Class of 35 students with enough desktops for pair programming. Students also have 1:1 Chromebooks that they use throughout the day. This is a semester long elective class.

Lesson 2 was a good walk through of the Problem Solving Process. I second my own previous suggestion (can you do that?) that this be placed before the foil boat design challenge so that students can learn and discuss the problem solving process before putting it into action. The activity guide could then more closely match the problem solving process.

Student were antsy toward the end of this lesson. It took the whole 59 minute period to work through the discussions, activity guide, and listing the student suggested strategies. To be frank, I think the kids were getting tired of the cycle by the end of the lesson, but they were good sports about it.

My only real deviation from the plan was instead of using posters, I made separate google docs for each part of the problem solving process and listed student suggestions on them. I then shared those strategies on my Google Classroom page. I tend to lose anything in paper form.

Hi @krisaturner

Thanks so much for sharing how things went in your class! I’m interested to hear more about students getting tired of the cycle by the end of class. Any ideas on what might help with this in the future?


I used Padlet for the poster section of this lesson. Similar approach to the Google Docs. Docs might even be a better choice since it records who said what (just in case!)

Quick follow up…
Padlet was NOT a success. I also tried the shared Google Doc… didn’t work for me either. I think I should’ve stuck with plain old posters. The tech answer for this one really included more hoops to jump through and toys to play with for the students to really focus on the task at hand. Live and learn, I guess! :slight_smile:

Thanks for updating everyone on how it went @edavis. Its good to hear more about your experiences.

I don’t think that I would change the order of lessons one and two. Having made the boats with the guidance of the activity sheet first, I was able to refer back to the activity as we discussed the 4 steps in the problem solving process. This forced them to reflect on the previous activity and apply what they had experienced to this new set of guidelines - which is what I want them to do - apply the process to any problem they need to solve. I took a couple of minutes to show an example of solving a multi-step Algebra problem, and how these steps applied even to this. They had been using the process in their math class all along - also in their Language Arts class writing assignments. These were a couple of real life areas they could relate to. I am including a link to the Google slide presentation I used for this lesson. This lesson took over 2 hours to complete. One 90 minute class that stopped before we got to having students think of a problem they were good at solving. The second day was a 40 minute class where we worked on completing the process for problems they are good at solving and one that they would like to be better at solving.
Students keep their work in their notebook and reflect on the work for the day as homework.


Hey Debbie,

Glad to hear things went well and that you’re seeing connections to what students are learning in other classes. I noticed you forgot to post that link to your slides if you still wanted to share that with the group. I’d be interested to see what you made.

Thanks as always for sharing!

FYI At my school we refer to students as scholars. I am going to use that term, since by now I have to consciously think about using the word student.

This week I worked on Lesson 2 and started Lesson 3.

The scholars had trouble brainstorming problems they had, even when I gave them several examples. I was able to write a short list on the board, but overall I don’t think they understood. They did understand how to evaluate their Aluminum Boat Activity through the lens of the Problem Solving Process, but their answers ranged from very specific and detailed to very vague. The next day I had all the scholars copy the best response so they could practice writing an ‘A’ answer. A lot of my scholars have a limited English vocabulary, and that is reflected in their writing. The class then continued on to the second page, which they completed. They are generally used to writing as little as possible. Some of my SpEd scholars’ handwriting is illegible. I am working with their SpEd teacher to arrive at a grade.

I will revisit the Problem Solving Process several more times.

This week I dealt with scholars who do not normally bring supplies to class, and who don’t normally do much work. I posted the supply list on the wall to remind scholars who would otherwise claim they didn’t know they had to bring anything. This afternoon, during class, several scholars asked to go to the library to buy spiral notebooks. The school has a color poster-maker and laminator which is much appreciated. I am making posters for the room.

I also made a seating chart to create heterogenous groups, which took some time as I reviewed their fall semester grades. Each group now has an ‘A’ scholar, a Special Ed scholar, and two from the middle. I was surprised that it worked out, given 36 random individuals.

I am pushing forward at what I think is a reasonable pace, but I have scholars who are used to not putting in a whole lot of effort, and try to make up the work before progress reports or report cards. I am always watching the clock, and how much work is getting done, but I am not going to slow to a snail’s pace, which would happen if I let it.

I took a look at Lesson 3. I knew the scholars would not understand the point of the word search, and will insist on finishing it, even when I tell them to put down their pencils. Instead, I discussed the fact that when they complete a task, even a basic one, they don’t think about it in terms of a series of steps. A computer does, however. I assigned the groups the task of listing at least 10 – 15 detailed steps required to eat an Oreo cookie, starting them off. I will have cookies on Monday to have them compare what they wrote to what is required. THEN, 5 minutes before the end of the period, I passed out the word searches, which only a few were able to complete. On Monday, they will come up with a system for completing a word search more efficiently, and continue with Lesson 3.

I am very happy with how this week went.


Sorry about the missing link. I added it to this section of the forum. Would love feedback.

@sfollansbee08 Thanks for sharing so much about your classes experience. I like the use of the word scholar for students. It sounds like many of the challenges you are running into I’m sure are shared by other teachers. Its great that you shared some strategies you used to help bring the material to a more accessible place for your students. I’m interested to see how the word search example went yesterday.

I know this should be under Lesson 3, but this is a follow-up to my long post. Background: The first two weeks the class tested how serious I am. I could get them silent, but scholars did not bring any supplies (or claimed not to have them). So I told them that quizzes would be open-note, but done individually. I usually don’t do that, but this is a lot of totally new information presented rather quickly. It’s amazing how many scholars have a planner and notebook now. I always post the agenda, but now I started having the class copy definitions and other things they need to know, and refer to, as their do-now. I hope to get them to where the do-now can be a short activity or response to a discussion question. They are not there yet.

I did the word search activity Friday. I gave it out at the end of the period. Almost everyone either finished it or almost did in 5 minutes. I had given them several process / strategies to try, but the response was that they just looked for the words, ignoring the directions. The words search was too easy.

Monday I made a word search for yesterday with more words. I put several strategies on the board, and told them they must try one, and write down which one their table selected. With a longer word bank, the groups saw the necessity of trying strategies. Two groups wrote “working with their table group” as their strategy. Today I am going to explain why they get credit for their response, but it does not meet the definition of a process.

My follow-up activity, Friday and Monday, to help teach process was to ask the class to write down the steps involved in eating an Oreo with a picture on the board, versus having a cookie in hand was VERY successful. Some of the steps written were very clever, like “inspect the cookie” or writing “chew” 25 times to indicate 25 steps. Much better than the first time, which was the point.

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The Oreo activity sounds fun, glad to hear it went so well for you! Would you mind sharing the additional word search you created, I’m sure others would find it useful.

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Thank you for the kind comment on the Oreo activity.

This is an excellent free online Word Search maker that you can use any time.

I used the following words: administrator, application, bit, byte, code, computer, define, disc, kilobyte, language, monitor, platform, process, program, reflect, sequence, try, webmaster



This is being taught to a semester 8th grade class with 56 minute periods. I just started teaching this on Wednesday as that was when our semester started. I’m late to the party with my posts, but I am grateful for the forum, as I’ve been able to read your posts before I teach the lesson. With Lesson 2 I ended doing alot of it with them. They just were not grasping how to define a problem. They were content with just listing a topic like, Time Management, as their definition of the problem. We ended upgoing through multiple examples not related to to the boats or anything. One example that helped my students was going through process with the problem being “I’m a bad cook.” It was easy to define, prepare, try, and reflect. They started to catch on after that. Doing the word search, and birthday party activities today .We will see how it goes.

Glad to hear the forum’s proving helpful Jay and also to hear that students are starting to grasp the problem solving process. If you have a chance let us know what finally makes the connections for your students. Especially if you’re finding you need to supplement it’s always valuable to hear how.

Good luck in Lesson 3!

Class of 20 students, 9 girls, 11 boys, 4 IEP, 70% FARM. 43 minute periods every other day.
U1L2, took almost 2 days. The first day we talked about different problems. With them making a list at the beginning, I feel it was helpful for them to make a connection when we were going over the process. Due to time, I typed the list of problems on the screen instead of the posters and discussed a few of them using the problem solving process. The 2nd day we finished up the activity sheet and began the first activity for lesson 3. Time is the problem here. This class really needs to be held daily if I only see them for 42 minutes. And if they’re absent, they might only have my class once during the week. Tomorrow we will finish the word search and birthday party activities.

With my classes as 80 minutes, I had a chance to introduce the Problem Solving Process and brought up the diagram on the board at the end of my last class. We briefly talked through it and I asked them to keep it in mind the next time they solved a problem (big or small) and that we would reflect.

U1L2 - The Problem Solving Process
This lesson went well, they were still in the “first days” mode and figuring out the structure of the class. They worked on the reflection problems on the activity guide individually, then worked in pairs to create a presentation for the “problem to solve”. I’m a nomad and I didn’t have poster paper and couldn’t leave them on the walls so I assigned the “presentations” through shared Google Slides and got some really creative designs (I also shared the Problem Solving Process graphic with them). We had a huge range of “problems to solve” from eating a healthy breakfast to solving world hunger. Students were engaged although they were seated.
The only drawback was the lack of movement due to my changing of the lesson, other than that the lesson was a nice reflection opportunity from the day before.
With 80 minute blocks I jumped into the next lesson by handing out the word search packets (followed up in another post).
Again stayed close to the script, will try to as much as possible with only adding activities if needed.

Unit 1 - Lesson 2:

Slideshow for presentation

Reflection: I felt that there was not a lot of substantiveness to this lesson and a whole period of “what-ifs” was hard for my students. A problem that they are already good at didn’t allow a lot of reflection on their part. Since they already had the “define, try and prepare” part of their successes it was hard to pinpoint their reflections when they had actually already achieved in that endeavor.

Modification that I made: We needed to being “doing” something with this info. Most students were already able to define some type of problem solving process. Whether it was an engineering model or the hypothesis scientific model, they generally had a previous background. The students were asked to create their own representation of the problem solving process in a tool of their choice on the computer. I did initiate the stipulation that it had to indicate the cyclical nature of the process. Some of the creations I saw were: “Paint”, Google Drawings or Slides, Microsoft Publisher or Powerpoint and some chose paper and colored pencils. I left this really loose-ended as I no predescribed notions about how they had to represent their understanding of the process. I think this added internalization of what their processes meant to them.

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