One piece of my job is to seek out things that get the kids talking or laughing or generally wanting to try something new. So my little space here at TJ is always filled with a lot of stuff. And since you can’t always be in here with your kids, I thought I’d take a minute to share with you what seems to have everyone buzzing at the moment. The top five things in my room (if number of comments or decibel level used when discussing said things are any sort of indicators):
(1) My crazy collection of pictures of the Foodnited States of America is BY FAR the most exciting thing to happen in a week’s time. Hanging around my room are 50 punny tributes to the states – think “Piedaho” or “S’moregon”. Every kid has a favorite, and almost every kid has a least favorite (sorry, Liverginia, nobody likes you…). Many of the students have roamed up and down the pictures singing the “50 Nifty United States” song, replacing the real state names with their Foodnited States names, some have come up with replacement ideas, and still others are plotting how to create a similar set of countries or planets.
(2) The second best thing since sliced bread are two little posters quietly hanging on my interior classroom door. They’re based on math puns (one about exponents, one about Roman numerals). They’re waiting for more nerdily hilarious puns to join them, but in the meantime, the kids like to drag others into the room and point them out, or, alternatively, read them to me almost as if I wasn’t the person who put them there in the first place…
(3) My three monkeys statue has been around for a while, yet every year a new batch of kids glom on to it as an object of interest. I have a lesson I do with third graders where I start off by giving the kids a paper listing the items a mystery person owned at his/her death – two pots, two spoons, a kadhi, a desk set, a pocketwatch, sandals, eyeglasses, three books, a tin bowl from prison, and three monkeys. Was the owner of the items a man or a woman? When and where might he/she have lived? What was important to him/her? Was he or she a good person or a bad person? Eventually the kids find out the owner of those possessions was Gandhi and that the three monkeys he had were in the form of a “hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil” simian trio in statue form. Well, I have a similar statue that gains great relevance after reading about Gandhi and the kids constantly pick it up, turn it around in their hands, and let me know of the places they’ve seen a version of this image.
(4) The Wanted Posters hanging in my room are also a big draw for some kids. I use them as part of a unit in 5th grade where we talk about the enemies of critical thinking. Each item on a wanted poster is something you might do that will get in the way of using reason, attending to details, using precise language, setting high personal standards, and generally engaging in strong critical thinking. But I think the kids really just like saying things like “You are really suffering from strategic ambivalence.”
(5) PEZ dispensers. I have lots and lots of PEZ dispensers.
In truth, these may be the most talked about things in my room. A random collection started years ago simply because two different kids gave me a Halloween PEZ dispenser within the same week. They were sitting on my desk, and I guess two looks like a collection, so many, many more have been added over time! Next time I’ll put two twenty dollar bills on my desk and see if I can get a new collection started….