Friday, August 19, 2016

Tower of Babel: First Grade

Tower of Babel
Lesson Plan for Grade 1, Collaboration and Communication
Prepared by Julie Davis and Jessica Yandell


Introduce STEAM to first graders by way of building towers with solo cups. The purpose of this lesson is to show students that they each have different ideas in their head and they have to work within teams to collaborate and communicate kindly and effectively to get the job done.


  1. 21st century collaboration skills
  2. 21st century communication skills


  1. Introduce student contract ideas.
  2. How to share responsibility in the engineering design process.
  3. Being respectful of our words
  4. Understanding the good of the team over their own viewpoint- how to compromise
  5. How to encourage others
  6. When you don’t do your part, it let’s the whole team down


  1. Video clip about the Tower of Babel
  2. Multiple red Solo cups
  3. 2 pictures of differing towers (see below)
  4. Two file folders
  5. Conflict resolution baggy that includes: dice, coin, card
  6. Student Contract (click here)

    Steps to check for student understanding
    1. After towers are done recap with the following questions:
      1. Did your team work well together today?
        1. Why or why not?
      2. Did you both work on the tower?
      3. Did you listen to each other?
      4. Were your ideas listened to?
      5. Did your team ask for help when you needed it?
      6. Did you follow your student contract page?
      7. Did your team finish the day’s assignment to your satisfaction?
        1. Why? Why not?


    Start activity with showing the movie clip about the Tower of Babel and talk about why being able to communicate with people you work with is an important part of getting jobs done. One word on the board: TOWER.  Students are told they have to build a model of what they saw with a partner.
    Use a wide open space. Students will sit on the floor with cups between them, facing a partner across the cups from them. Behind each line of students sits a file folder standing up on the end, hiding a picture of a tower. Both pictures will portray different towers on each side of the room. Students will go look at their prospective picture and come back and describe to their partner what they saw. Students don’t realize they are looking at two different pictures and they end up building a model that is a compromise of the two different ideas.

    (This lesson was adapted from STEM-Infusing the Elementary Classroom by Miranda Reagan)

Lesson recap written by Jessica Yandell:

First grade STEAM project recap

This week has been fun.  Another awesome STEAM project down in the books! The first project lesson of the year for our first graders was called Tower of Babel: Communication & Collaboration.  The focus of this project was teaching the students about the importance of good teamwork and communication.  

When I entered the room, I started by asking, “what is teamwork?”  Most of the kids responded by saying, “working together and sharing ideas.”  I was relieved to hear those responses, to me, that meant I had caught their attention that today's focus was all about collaboration!  I then shared a video with the class on the Tower of Babel, Genesis 11 (  Talk about a great way to share the gospel with young children! The children were engaged, and excited.

Before starting the project, I asked the children what they learned from the story.  Many responded, “they were not able to talk to each other,” “they left, and didn’t build the tower.”  This is where I was able to bring it all together! I told the kids that in order to finish this project they are going to have to talk with each other and also be very good listeners to one another, or else they will have a hard time working together.  

During the project, most of the students referred back to their student contract, which is playing a game of rock paper scissors to resolve their conflicting ideas.  It was hard for the groups to agree on how to build the tower, because each partner was shown a different picture of how the towers should look.  I took the opportunity to walk around to each group and watch their interactions and listen how they managed conflict.

I wrapped up the project by asking the students reflection question, such as, “did your group work well together,” and “did your tower turn out the way you wanted,” and “how did your group resolve conflict?”  I had many groups tell me that the project was hard because they had different ideas, but  they worked well together because they were able to put their ideas together to make a great tower.  After the class reflection I was able to share with the class, that each partner was shown a different picture of how the tower should look, which meant they had different ideas in their heads. I closed by reinforcing that good teamwork means sharing ideas, being good listeners, and having fun!

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