The more I think about the learning that I want for my class, the more that I realize what I value. It’s the experience. I want them to invite others to join them in their learning. I want to teach them to make themselves vulnerable enough to grow. That sharing, however, can take on many different forms.
Computers and tech make it easy, but they’re not always the right tools.
Near my school I saw two things that got me thinking. The first was this graffiti:
Pickles Please is a book about a boy named Alec Smart who has a pickle obsession. No one gets him. No one wants to get him. One day Alec hops a cucumber truck that’s on the way to a a pickle factory. I’m not going to spoil the story for you, but let’s just say the boy makes some friends and together they make pickles cool.
We had a great talk in my class around the topic “What’s your pickle?”. Kids all shared their ideas and I put them on a big piece of banner paper:
In the middle of the banner I left instructions for people passing by:
Then it all happened.
Students, teachers, principals all came by and wrote down questions for the kids. My students got SO excited whenever they saw someone stop at the banner the hall. There were many, many requests to “use the bathroom”. They would even sneak out to check and see what new questions were written on the paper. I let it all happen. I’d be the worst teacher ever if I got mad at seven year olds for being excited about their learning.
It only took one day for the banner to fill up.
Next, I cut out all of the sections and got the students to sort their questions into “easy” and “hard” (easy = they knew the answers, hard = they didn’t).
Then we got some help from our grade six reading buddies and we went to a computer lab to see what we could learn:
When the hard questions were answered, we started to write. The kids wrote and wrote. We drafted and revised. We spent several days listening to each piece of writing and asking more questions. It was beautiful to see how keen they were to hear about their classmates’ passions. I made notes of the conversations and gave them to each presenter.
Then we re-wrote.
I was and still am floored.
You’ll notice that some things are not spot on… But they’re grade twos!!! They learned to share, to be vulnerable to criticism, to research and figure out what they don’t know.
Obviously, there are things that I would tweak.
1) We need to have a good talk about using your pictures or making sure that you have permission to use other people’s work (creative commons) .
2) I need to teach them how to double-check facts. This will be a long lesson that they will take years to get, and many teachers teaching and reteaching the same message.
But those are next steps for growth; things to be mindful of, not to dwell on. After many years of teaching, this is probably the best learning that I have been a part of.
P.S. In case you’re wondering, yes, volcano girl is for real. These are her words. She reads a lot about volcanoes and asks a lot of questions.