Developing high standards and rigor for students should not be defined by quantity but quality. When looking at the quality of a student’s work, a test can not measure that nor endless worksheets. If at the end of day if all you have to show for your lesson is a post-it note but your students understand the lesson AND are also enthusiastically engaged..YOU DID IT! To up that one step more, you know you have hit “rockstar status” when they want do not want to stop…at this moment you have soared beyond the stars! Parents will often comment to classroom teachers that their child is not being “challenged” in the every day classroom but I truly believe that is not the case. The problems lies in how the lessons are approached. For many children choice is critical to buy in. Even as adults, we know we love and depend on choice and feel suffocated by restrictions…so why do we do it to children? Children desire to know the “why” to what they are doing and see it’s purpose.
As a GT teacher in an elementary school, my job is to tickle the brains of young students and make them think more deeply and take our lessons outward with social emotional development intertwined in. Often I find I can not get students to stop working on projects in my room or halt their enthusiastic creations! My classroom allows for this but I feel ALL classrooms should have this flexibility. I will share a lesson today that I completed last year with first grade students in celebration for Groundhog Day. It was rich in depth and each student was actively engaged from beginning to end. This lesson could be done in a classroom but also at home as a fun after school lesson with a parent.
Last February 3rd, we began a discussion about the outcome of the groundhog’s viewing of his shadow. Surprisingly, these magical traditions are slowly losing their wonder as many of my students did not know about Groundhog Day! I wish we could have had an alarm rewind with Chevy Chase! To my happiness though, those vibrant minds jumped right in as I begin to share about it and they were hooked. Fictional minds are so easily activated at a young age and come alive.
We began by reading “Groundhog Gets a Say” by . As we read, we noted and listed not only the groundhog’s strengths but also his weaknesses. The list was quite impressive! After the student’s went back to their seats and reflected about their own strengths and weaknesses inside and outside of school. I asked them to also star what they felt was their biggest weakness and kept their curiosity perked to wonder why I asked this!
The next class they came back and I told them they were going to help their groundhog find a “new groove” or in real terms a new occupation to do outside his shadowing spotting day. The students took into consideration both the groundhog’s skills and their own and decided on what he or she would do. In addition, their great weakness became the groundhog’s superpower. I think it is essential for all students to see a weakness as a gift and one to nurture. As they began to write we also took time to get to know their groundhogs personally. They molded them from air dry clay, designed their wardrobes and named each one. You could see such a spark in each of them and their personalities also come out in their groundhogs. One child even asked, “how many outfits can I make for my groundhog…2 or 3?” She might be a future fashion designer!
I have some images of our final pieces to share. The students were so very proud of their creations and each one was unique and also a reflection of the child. It is a great lesson that not only encompasses writing, reading and visual arts but social-emotional lessons as well. I know this year the groundhog did not see his shadow so get ready for an Early Spring and create your own groundhog occupation to keep him or her busy the whole year through!
Here are a few of them! Meet…