Why is Joy doing the Cardboard Challenge again this year? She teaches ELA. What do cardboard creations have to do with ELA??!!
I never heard the words, but I imagined them. Was I feeling guilty for not teaching reading or writing this day? Maybe. Guilt is ingrained in me. It didn't matter if I didn't hear the words coming out of teachers' mouths. What I did NOT hear --> support for this endeavor from coworkers after I sent out the all-staff email inviting them and their students to come for a visit (I even sent them "fun passes"). What I did NOT see --> coworkers coming down to visit and play with us. That speaks volumes to me.
So I'm laying it on the line here. If you don't agree with me - that's fine. I'm not writing for your approval. I'm writing to reflect on the day and why I spend one class from my students' year asking them to design cardboard creations. Really, what is eighty minutes in the scheme of things?
What I noticed:
- Eleven students (17%) had prepared and finished their project at home, and were ready to play today!
- Students worked hard for 80 minutes - without any grade incentive.
- The library was alive with noise and action.
- Nobody was sitting down (unless it was on the floor to plan or create).
- There was constant movement.
- There were no arguments.
- Students learned to use what they have in the time allotted, & change as necessary.
- Students shared space & loaned or shared supplies.
- They suffered natural consequences when they were not prepared.
- Discussions about engineering & design were abundant.
- Students were able to bounce around from one activity to another.
- A very lively atmosphere, with smiles, laughter, shouts of excitement...
- I was going to make a list of "What I heard," but it got too long for this blog post!
The genius "habitudes" students experienced today:
- Imagination - Need I explain?
- Curiosity - What is everyone else doing? How did they DO that? How can I change my own?
- Self Awareness - Students KNEW what skills they had and what they didn't, and called on friends for help.
- Perseverance - oh, so much trial and error! So much failing happening today!
- Courage to display their work - completed or not.
- Passion - Oh, the exclamations shouted today! They were INTO their creations!
- Adaptability - When one thing wouldn't work, they readily changed the process.
We talk about these habitudes weekly during Genius Hour (thank you, Angela Maiers!), and throughout the week when I commend students for demonstrating these habitudes during guided lessons.
This ties right in with lessons I'm trying to teach this year regarding the Four Cs of 21st Century Learning: creativity, innovation, critical thinking, problem solving, communication & collaboration. Do we not need these to thrive in life? Do we not need these when we attack a complex text or a challenging writing prompt? Will students not need these skills when they are figuring out their genius hour project for fourth quarter? Today's lessons will help us make those connections.
What I learned:
- Seventh graders are C-R-E-A-T-I-V-E! Was I ever that creative??
- Next year, the sign I make for the outside should say, "Come in and design, create, and PLAY," because students did a lot more planning and creating than they did actually playing.
- Because sixteen students (24% = way too many!!) were not prepared, I'll need to have some activities I choose for them to do. These students did not bring ANY materials. I felt as if they'd been sleeping under a ROCK. I'll also prepare them better - instead of asking them to write the "homework" of bringing materials to class, I'm going to give them colorful reminder slips, with a checklist on it for them to bring WITH their materials. Is this spoon-feeding? Maybe. But 24% is just too many for me. Those 16 students didn't learn all that the rest of the students did. They didn't just sit around doing nothing, but they didn't all create, either. Seven of these (still 10.5%) wandered around, playing other people's games, and then chatting until I chased them off to do something else... Suggestions?
- Gosh darn it - at what other time in the school year is learning so ultimately open and FREE in seventh grade? At what other time in your plans do you give students the direction, "Create," and then step back entirely? I don't think they're given this direction at home, and there are many distractions from this type of learning - their afternoons and weekends are already planned for them, and if they're not, how many of them revert to the old standby of television or video games?
- Sometimes I feel like I'm on the "lunatic fringe" at my school (thanks for the great phrase, Karl!). But you know what?! I'm not at school to please (or appease) other teachers. I teach because of children. Lessons learned today, whether consciously or unconsciously, will help these children with the rest of our lessons throughout the year - in any teacher's class.
Here is a 15 minute glimpse into our day of learning...
Many thanks to the two teachers and three administrators who showed their support, and to Mr. Todd Hillmer for letting us make a mess in the LMC! The students noticed it, and we had room to breathe, share and flex our creative muscles...