Literacy support is part of my gig, which means periodic progress-monitoring responsibilities. AIMSweb maze tasks represent a flavor of the moment for that purpose. (In case they're new to you, maze tasks involve a silent reading passage with periodic words replaced by a set of three choices, from which the reader selects one that makes the most sense, thus demonstrating comprehension or a lack thereof). Students navigate one of these about every two weeks, and this morning felt like time to shake up the routine.
Inspiration struck on the cusp of students arriving, and I leverage the fact I teach in a computer lab. I searched the Internet to find an appropriate corn maze near our school. Then, I navigated to this maze in Google Earth and projected a close-up for all to see. The warm-up question for sixth graders when they came in was a little like GeoGuessr on the fly: Who can find the location of this maze? I hung back and watched.
In seconds, the resident jokers commented, "It's on Earth" or "Right up there! The location is on the screen." Meanwhile, one intrepid detective noticed tiny latitude and longitude data hidden near the corner of the image. He plugged those coordinates into a search engine, having to make trial-and-error adjustments with his notation, but he sensed progress and was motivated. A few peers followed his lead. Meanwhile, a tangle of boys shouted various keyword searches back and forth, some generating ever larger haystacks, others coming close to the needle. The prize for creative searching goes to the student who used his phone to take a picture of the maze I projected, jockeyed the file to a desktop computer, and then made use of Google's reverse image search. After about five minutes of individual and collective effort, we had an accurate address along with an enthusiastic share-out of more and less effective searching strategies. I also had an appreciation for several students' ingenuity.
Never fear, we did the comprehension task, too. It proved to be a little anticlimactic.