Archive for January, 2020

Exhibit Q, R, S

January 10, 2020

“So, Lainie. How do you know you’re working with gifted kids?”

I present to you an obituary for…wait for it…

an EXPO marker.

Note the many fine text features, accurately applied

People, I can’t make this stuff up.

Earlier this week, we read Leo Lionni’s obituary to learn more about him as an artist and as a person. To understand that text, we had to discuss what exactly an obituary is. It just so happened that day we had to deep-six an EXPO marker that had gone south.

Today, my kiddos surprised me with the above gem. What do I love so very much about this? How do I know my fourth graders have already won 2020?

For starters, they’re completely true to form. I mean, c’mon. After a single day of exposure, they included the ACTUAL TEXT FEATURES of an obit:

  • “Photos” of the deceased
  • *”Send flowers/Send a letter”
  • *Information about his life
  • *”He was survived by”

And did you catch the “skinny purple” adopted child?

Or maybe you’d like to see how the “funeral” went down:

Please note the crocodile tear sketched in to the photo

Or, if you are in our classroom, you’d like to visit poor Purple Expo’s grave:

Alas, Poor Expo! We knew him…

Days like these, I am immeasurably grateful for my students.

Know who else I’m grateful for?

Their homeroom teacher.

Their classroom teacher actually allowed all of these hijinks to take place, trusting her instincts that they were up to something interesting. She is the one who knew that even though the kids were a little noisy, even though the kids were a little giggly, even though the kids were a little silly, that they were up to something good.

We know they were.

And stuff like this is 100% worth the price of admission.

So Much for a Soft Landing

January 6, 2020

I meant to take it easy on my kiddos today. I really did. They’re just coming back from break, and I was fully prepared for a slow start to ease them back into big ideas, big thinking.

Photo Credit: Paul Cooper

It all started when I realized we needed to finish up our conversation about Dr. Seuss’s allegory Yertle the Turtle.* I asked the kids to discuss what Seuss was trying to say about the world through the story. You know…we need fewer Yertles and more Macks in this world. I thought it would be a five-minute wrap-up.

I thought wrong.

We started as a whole group but I quickly saw most kids had more to say than they were getting the chance to share. We used a partnering activity to encourage conversation.

What followed was astounding.

At the end of our time, I asked kids to reflect on a thought they’re feeling most strongly. Here’s a sampling:
*Do dictators realize it when they become a dictator? If they do, then why do they want to be one?
*If becoming a dictator is a transformation, how do these people not realize that they will be more accepted as a leader if they change their ways?
*Why do people get greedy in power and turn allies into enemies?
*Power is often built off of emotion.
*There needs to be someone who will say, “enough is enough.”
*Why does America not let as many refugees in, though they deserve it because it is dictators that force or drive them away?
*Are we (the United States) better than our others?
*Who is our friend? What don’t we know about our enemies?
*So far the world has never come up with a solution that gives us complete world peace. Human greed has made it so that many of the problems will be extremely hard to solve.
*Sometimes it feels like the people have no voice. They have to listen. And to me, it feels meaningful. I wonder why such terrible things must happen, and they keep going on. We can’t just live in peace. Why?

How on earth did a brief task develop into a discussion of dictators past and present, of power dynamics, of why those in power abuse it, of why citizens elect dictators in the first place, and of what we can do to notice and fight abuse of power?

It’s easier than you think.

Simply put, I noticed my children NEEDED to talk about these big ideas. They watch this world. They think about this world, and they have more to say about it than they (or the people around them) give them credit for. They just need someone to hear them out.

I don’t know quite exactly how we got to these places, but BOY am I grateful we took the detour.

So much perspective and wisdom wrapped up in the minds of ten- and eleven-year-olds. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

*YES, I do know how very problematic Dr. Seuss is, especially when juxtaposed with conversation around social issues. I promise we’ll get there =)