A Challenge to Prove Intelligence

My afternoon group of 6th graders are full of questions that are sometimes… frustrating. E.g., a fill in the blank question has an ‘s’ attached at the end to hint at its verb tense or that it is plural. A student asks, “Do I need to add the ‘s’ when I write the word out, or will it be okay if I leave it out since it’s already added?”

Anyway, a couple days ago, I presented a spelling review challenge with a code-decoding exercise.  Its written instructions seemed vague, but that was part of the challenge. If you found the solution to the first code, the instructions would become clear.  I anticipated a tsunami of redundant questions, so I presented the exercise in a psychoanalytical approach.

“The instructions to this exercise will be vague at first. But take the time to see a pattern within the codes and try to solve the first problem.  Once you find the first solution, everything will be easy. If you figure it out without asking me any questions, you will prove to me that you are very intelligent.”

Even my most nettlesome students kept quiet as they pondered and pondered.  A few minutes later, I saw a head bobbing up, and the student looked at me with a smile. I knew that kid would solve it first. A few minutes later, another smile, then another, then another; smiles all around as they patted themselves on the back for proving their intelligence. They even said, “That was fun!”

I smiled too.

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