Musings and Strategies From the Teachers Next Door

thinking-capHave you ever been so excited about a lesson that you could hardly wait  for the day to start only to have it not go smoothly?  Oh my goodness, I was pumped, I mean pumped about a project I was using to accompany our book What is a Cycle?.  We finished our book, we had covered all kinds of cycles and now my kids (1st grade) were going to get to do a STEM activity by creating a free standing doll and then creating an outfit for each season.  I had gathered awesome (I thought) building materials:  cardboard, card stock, construction paper, pipe cleaners, glue, markers, etc.  I knew they were going to love it and it was going to be their first real experience with STEM.  One minute into the project and 3 out of the 8 kids were saying, “I can’t”.  Can you visualize it? I’m pumping them up, asking questions to try to get some ideas flowing without offering them a way to do it, and reminding them that trying something and having it not work was actually good because they would still be learning something.  By the end of the first day, 2 had not only accomplished nothing, they were vocalizing how much they hated it.  Stellar lesson….UGH!!

All day, I went over how I could have set them up for success. That afternoon I shared my “epic fail” with a second grade teacher.  She laughed and couldn’t believe that I would have attempted that project without showing them how to do it first.  My gut reaction was to agree with her, but I don’t.  See, the problem with some of the kids in my reading group is that they have lost their sense of wonder.  How sad!  They had no ideas and they weren’t even willing to try.  As teachers, do we communicate to our students that OUR way is the only way, that WE are the holders of all knowledge therefore they have to wait on us to share.  Come on now…we teach – we don’t  just spit out knowledge for them to regurgitate.   Think about it, when a student graduates college, most of what they have learned is already obsolete.  If we want them to be successful, contributing members of society,we must teach them to think, to generate ideas, and to have the confidence to test them out.

“The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.” – Malcolm Gladwell from his book Blink

I know the more we do, the more comfortable they will become with attempting the unknown.  Day 2 was a big improvement.  And I won’t give up.  I’m teaching kids to THINK and it’s not a task I take lightly.





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