Sunday, December 19, 2010

Real Life Experiences

I often spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to make the assignments my kids must do meaningful for them. If they have to write to a writing prompt, how can I make that prompt something that they will actually care about because we all know we write best when we're writing about an important topic.

We're currently working on our persuasive writing skills. To try and make that a little more meaningful, I told my class the principal wasn't sure if we could have a holiday party. It was their job to convince him we should or to explain why they agreed with his point of view. My kids latched on to this and did well with the assignment, but Friday afternoon they one-upped me big time.

Our dismissal time takes about 10 - 15 minutes, and I enjoy the last few minutes I have with the students who ride the last bus. As we were waiting for their bus to be called, I noticed that one student was chewing gum. He didn't try to hide it, and when asked he told me it was, "An amazing key lime flavor," and he just couldn't wait to get home to have some. As I opened my mouth to go through the "you know you can't chew gum in school" speech, I realized how ridiculous it sounded. We GIVE kids gum during PSSAs (our state tests for my dear readers outside of Pennsylvania) to help them concentrate, but it's forbidden during the rest of the year. Hmmmmmm.....

Well, the kids picked up on it faster than I did, and TAAAA-DAAAAAAHHHHH, a natural learning opportunity was born. Their persuasive skills immediately kicked in and, being the rule-breaker that I am, I was inclined to agree with their points: we get it during PSSAs, we can be responsible, we shouldn't all be punished because one person can't be responsible. All very valid points. But I decided to push them further. "I like your ideas," I said, "but you'll need to talk to Mr. S." If it was really important to them I thought they would stop by the office Monday morning and make an appointment to see the principal.

Clearly I underestimated my kids. By 6PM Friday evening I received notification of a new blog post from one of my last bussers. She had already addressed Mr. S. in a blog post entitled, "Bubble Gum." Now I haven't posted it yet (but I will add the link here as soon as I do!) because I want her to collaborate with her friends and make sure she has included all of the ideas they shared, but I am so proud and impressed that she went home and put her skills to use to solve a real-life problem. They may not realize it, but these kids are really starting to understand what I mean when I say there is more to life than filling in bubbles on a test!

I can't wait to see what Mr. S. has to say about all of this!

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