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I wish we could all visit each other’s classrooms. All teachers, parents, and policy makers. I am convinced that amazing things are happening in classrooms each and every day. In my classroom some days it is a perfectly organized lesson, and some days it is some crazy notion that bursts forth in my brain. This week it is the latter.
Friday I assigned a quick assessment piece while I was headed to the MRA conference. Returning to our classroom Monday morning I was a bit dismayed to see that many students did what I would consider the minimum. Technically, their assessment was complete, but there was no deeper learning evident. And something that has been nagging at me all year was staring me in the face – when students turned work in, did they feel pride in their work?
We began to talk about that idea on Monday and continued the conversation today. What does it feel like to do your best on your work? A few people shared their thoughts. How many of you have done your best on any assignment this year? Several kids kept their hands down.
What I love about my students is that they are honest with me. There is no fear that I will yell at them. I just want an honest answer. And so, shockingly, we talked. I do love to talk. I told them about times I felt I did my best and still didn’t get the grade I wanted. How it was a bit easier to take because I had put forth my best effort. They told me it was easier to put forth more effort when they cared about their teacher. (Relationships, again!) We went back and forth on ways to help them to see what they could do to improve in the classroom.
Then, the assignment. I asked them to somehow represent a character from the book they are currently reading on a piece of paper. Sketching, webs, paragraphs, etc. I shared a couple of different ways I could have done this with my book and had them critique my work. Then, I set them free.
Their assignment is due on Friday. They’ve worked on it a bit today and have more time the rest of the week. Over and over kids have come up to me, showed their paper, and asked if I thought they were “done.” Over and over I reply that there is no way for me to answer it, it is up to them to decide when they are proud of their work. This has been a fascinating struggle to watch.
I know that our overall lesson is one that I could attach standards to, but that isn’t why we are doing this. I want a deeper lesson for these kids. I want them to work at something, consider if they have put forth their best effort, and have pride in their work. I want them to feel accomplishment for something other than sports and video games. We will share our character representations on Friday and then I will ask them to write a reflection on what they have learned about themselves. It should be a fabulous day.
Here’s a quick video tour of our classroom today. You can see students working in the three different reading classes on their sketches – or catching up on their reading.