Tower Building Activity

I decided to do this because this year I am focusing on incorporating more 21st Century Skills into activities and assignments.  EdLeader21 has been a great resource for ideas.  To assess my students abilities with the 4Cs, I used a “Tower Building” task as a pre-assessment.   I had seen it at a 21st Century Learning & Teaching Workshop and done it with some fellow math teachers, and couldn’t wait to finally do it.


During the activity, I wandered around hearing conversations, and learning a lot about how my kids were going to handle a task that didn’t have a right answer or directions.

I saw who takes charge of an activity and who sits back
I learn who could be a distracting member of the group
I learn who is going to do the minimum and who is going to do more than I ask
I also learn who is going to follow directions

… and this is another task where there isn’t math- so what’s left is a student’s ability.


Goal: Students will be placed in groups of 4-6 and build a tower.  The students were given limited information to begin with and needed to decide what they needed to know to complete the task.

Grouping: Group them prior to beginning in whatever way you see fit.  You can hold off having them sit in their groups so they don’t start thinking about who they are with.

Set Up: I put all the items the students would use in a paper bag before class.

Directions: Once students are grouped, explain:

Your goal is to build the best tower in the class with your group.


What we needed: the pre-assessment packet I created so that the students could document their thinking and I could easily assess it after (this was instead of diligently monitoring the students or video taping them), and the building supplies (brown bag, spaghetti, popsicle sticks, marshmallows, dixie cup, rubber band, 1 inch sponge, 18 inches tape)

Packet the kids filled out as they worked (so I could see their thoughts)

When I did it: during the school year (1st quarter) as a pre-assessment of student’s 4C abilities

How it went: Really well.  The groups were somewhat random (I picked and attempted fair grouping), but could be picked as part of a “team” or with some planning of student abilities.  We chose to have the students build the tallest tower that could ALSO support 1 kg (needed to come up with strict rules as to what meant “support”)

How I used it: I used it as a pre-assessment of the 4Cs so that I know what I need to work on with my kids, as well as to get more information about grouping my students.

How you can use it: First day(s) activity for your class or homeroom.  Group teamwork/bonding activity at the start of a new project or when you assign new groups/teams in your class.  Collaboration lesson for students who are struggling or learning how to collaborate and work with others.



I can’t find my pictures of the final products!

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