The first few days of school often involve review, going over rules, more review, a few more rules and, well, you get the idea. These days can feel a bit tedious for bright students with curious minds and energy to spare. That’s why I was so delighted to spend time in a few classrooms this week and witness for myself (once again!) the amazing job our staff does. In the hands of a TJ teacher, a review isn’t just a review, it’s a motivating & fun activity. New units are already being launched (and being done so in a manner which is especially appealing for a gifted mind because our staff is well versed in the needs of ALL our students). Even the establishment of classroom rules, in the hands of a TJ teacher, is taken to a whole new level! Described below are just a few of the highlights of the week:
“Fred, the gummy worm, has been spending his time boating on the lake near his home. He is not too bright (he is a worm after all). He has never learned to swim and he never wears his life preserver. The worst has finally happened! Fred’s boat has capsized and he is stuck! His life preserver is caught under the boat, but he cannot reach it without falling into the water and drowning. Can you save FRED?”
This was the dilemma faced by a group of fourth graders in Ms. Allan’s class today. With just four paperclips, the kids needed to help save Fred by getting him into his life preserver. What would you do?!
Well, here’s what the fourth graders I observed did: they demonstrated tremendous creative and critical problem solving skills, worked cooperatively, and saved a lowly sugar worm — all while reviewing the scientific method!
Meanwhile, in fifth grade, Ms. Mueller’s kids completed a similar activity (although they saved Sam, not Fred). This quick review of scientific inquiry then segued perfectly into the onset of their study of plants. Bright kids like to take control of their own learning, and Ms. Mueller is allowing just that with her approach. Her students will be guiding their own study of plants through research and observations into the aspects of plant development and structure that interest them. Rather than having every kid put the same seeds into the same cups and follow her instructions step by step, Ms. Mueller placed different seed packets around the room. The kids chose which seeds they wanted to plant, noted relevant information from the backs of the seed packets so they would know just how deep to plant their seeds and how much water to supply, posed questions for further research, and even planned for the future (those oregano kids just might be topping a pizza near you in the future!).
Establishing rules for the smooth running of a classroom is a common activity in the first few days of school. Ms. Gandy’s fourth graders approached this often mundane activity with a far reaching discussion of the responsibility we, as citizens of the world AND the classroom, bear in the promotion and protection of the rights of others. The fourth graders examined documents such as the Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and a set of rules from a kindergarten classroom. After searching for “take aways” from each document, the kids began to craft a document of their own which was both practical and meaningful.
Mrs. Skomra’s third graders took a different approach to establishing their class rules. They discussed how an ideal environment for learning begins with a teacher possessing qualities that contribute positively to that environment. According to the creative bunch in Mrs. Skomra’s room, the ideal teacher should be understanding, protective, fun, friendly, and, of course, snazzy! But no productive classroom is complete without its students. The third graders had fun as they reflected about the qualities they will be able to add to Mrs. Skomra’s room this year. Look for the “ideal” third grade students hanging in the hallway next week!