When I arrived home from work this evening I did what I always do, I asked my kids about their day at school. I looked through the piles of worksheets and homework papers that they bring home each and every day. As usual, I sighed as I tossed the stack into the garbage can. Then I opened my 4th grader’s homework binder to find more worksheets and a dreaded BOOK PROJECT. I turned through the packet and read the directions which included spending the next week or so reading a book of his choice and then choosing one of 7or 8 ways to report about the book.
The choices included:
-creating a suitcase that includes things the main character would pack for a trip
-decorating a bottle with symbols that represent the themes of the book
-making a scrapbook that displays the characters personality or style and pages that illustrate a few scenes from the book
-decorating a cereal box and include information about the book on all sides
-making a map of where the action happened in the book and labeling it
And…wait for it…
-making a diorama with pop up pieces related to the book
The dreaded diorama…
As I stood in my kitchen and felt my blood pressure rising, I couldn’t help but think that absolutely none of the work that my child was being asked to do actually mattered. Think about it, have you ever read a book and thought,
“You know what, I’m inspired to grab and old shoe box and some construction paper and make a scene from the book”?
Or, have you ever read a blog post or professional book and said,
“Hey I have an idea, I’m going to decorate a bottle with symbols that represent the themes in what I’ve just read”?
I doubt it.
But, I bet you have read something and then called a friend on the phone to discuss your thinking. You’ve probably tweeted about what you read or even written a blog post about it. I bet it’s even possible that you have emailed a link to people and then shared a few emails back and forth about your thinking.
Why have you done these things?
Because, you’re sharing your thinking with a real audience and you get instant feedback when you tweet, email, blog and talk about what you’ve read! When engaging in dialogue with others about our thinking we see first hand that OUR WORDS MATTER!
So, I couldn't help but ask myself why my son was being asked to fill a shoe box with construction paper and decorate a bottle?
Later on, I sat down to check my Twitter feed and found that a friend had shared A.J. Juliani’s lastest blog post entitled “Your Words Matter”. A.J. writes about the importance of providing students with authentic experiences so they can share their words with real audiences. Amen to that!
Educators, we have to remember that we have the power to help children realize that their words matter and their thinking matters and their learning matters. We have to think carefully about how we are asking them to spend their precious time.
Do what matters.
I hope my blog posts inspire risk taking and new ways of thinking. I hope to connect with other educators on our journey to always do what's best for children.