Detracting Distraction

By Audrey Gagnaire, August 1, 2008

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • School Design

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Technology

Lesson Time

three 90-minute class periods


In our classroom, there's a big window that shows the staircase. It is very disrupting when classes go by as my students stop what they are doing to watch. Students will identify what the problem is (too much distraction, no privacy, not enough beauty in the stairways...). Students will brainstorm ideas to solve the problem, and figure out what solutions are feasible in the classroom.

National Standards

Standard 1. Level II. Uses a variety of strategies in the problem-solving process
1.  Uses a variety of strategies to understand problem situations (e.g., discussing with peers, stating problems in own words, modeling a problem with diagrams or physical objects, identifying a pattern)
2.  Represents problem situations in a variety of forms (e.g., translates from a diagram to a number or symbolic expression)
3.  Understands that some ways of representing a problem are more helpful than others
4.  Uses trial and error and the process of elimination to solve problems




Students will be able to:

  • brainstorm ideas to make our classroom less distracted by the outside
  • identify different solutions, then narrow them down based on feasibility and accessibility to materials
  • communicate, collaborate in small groups
  • decide what steps they need to take in order to realize their project


Dependent on student’s design solutions


1.  The teacher will lead a discussion on why the window to the staircase may be distracting to students in the adjoining classroom.
2.  Students will brainstorm ideas to make our classroom less distracted by the outside.
3.  Students will identify different solutions, then narrow them down based on feasibility and accessibility to materials.
4.  Students will be able to communicate and collaborate in small groups through brainstorming to come up with design solutions to minimize the distraction of the window.
5.  Each group will then present their best ideas to the class.  They should address how their design solves the problem and how it would be implemented.
6.  As a whole class, students will decide on which idea to pursue after reviewing all the ideas.  The teacher will then lead a discussion and brainstorming session on how to take this design to the “next step.”
7.  Students will define the different steps to take in order to fully realize their design solution.
8.  Students will decide according to level of interest which group they want to be a part of.
9.  Some students will work on a technology piece to be presented at the technology showcase. They will create a PowerPoint presentation showing the different steps that the class took to get our final product. They will take photos, write a description of the different steps taken, and produce the final PowerPoint.
10.  Students will do any necessary research to implement the chosen design (for example, measuring the classroom or window, observing the traffic in the stairwell, experimenting with materials or desk arrangements).  They will make sketches or models, or write proposals (depending on the scope of the final design).
11.  Students will then work as a team to develop the final product or presentation.  Remind students that they must address how this design solved their solution, how they came to their final product, and ask them to think about what they would do next if they had more time.
12.  At the end of the project, students will celebrate their creation by inviting other classes to look at their wall.  If possible, invite a designer or school administrators to the class to see the final presentation.
13.  The class will have a party after watching the PowerPoint presentation on a later day.
14.  Finally, lead a discussion with the class asking them what they learned from the process.  Discuss what worked best, what didn’t work, and how the design could then be improved.




  • student involvement in the group
  • self-assessment
  • assessment of their own group
  • final project
  • PowerPoint presentation



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