In season 4, episode 2 of the current #IMMOOC running, Angela Watson stressed the importance of not trying to come up with some beautiful, perfect lesson every day:
“[There’s] this self-imposed pressure to reinvent the wheel. It goes back to the notion that ‘kids these days have a short attention span, and they’re so different so they need all these different things, so therefore I need to have the most exciting lesson in the world.’ I can’t possibly do the same thing with them twice or else they’ll be bored and they won’t pay attention. One of the best things we can do as teachers is to develop this core group of activities that are open-ended and naturally differentiated that you can plug into your lessons over and over. So instead of constantly trying to find something new, have a tried-and-true repertoire of maybe 5-6 things as a new teacher, and slowly you add to that over time. Things that kids really enjoy and learn from.”
When I listened to this, it was an instant “aha moment” both as a teacher and as a parent. Sometimes I think Pinterest has warped our views of success to make us think that if there aren’t rainbow sparkles emitting from our pursuits as teachers and parents every day, we’re doing it wrong.
Instead, we can think of what works, and then how we can make that more accessible to kids. And, best of all, we can invite kids in on the discussion every step of the way.
As a teacher example, when I reflect on that repertoire of 5-6 activities that usually worked really well, I think of visible learning. Protocols like:
- Chalk Talk
- Cycle of Inquiry
- Compass Points
- Feedback Carousel
- I Used to Think…Now I Think…
Once we find protocols that seem to work well in generating quality thinking, sharing, and stretching, the next step is to make sure they are well known enough that when you invite students to help plan, they can easily pick out which ones would be appropriate for upcoming concepts/content. This might come in the form of putting up posters with a summary of what each one involves, or it might simply mean posting a list in your “planning corner” where students can be reminded that they are ready to be put to use.
When I think of my parenting 5-6 go-to’s for my small kids, I think of:
- Our sensory box (bin full of pinto beans)
- Kitchen play
- Read Alongs
- Outdoor play
Just as with the teacher items, the real magic happens when we let kids in on the planning, ensuring kids remember what activities are within reach. Ownership is shared, energy is multiplied, and fervor is rekindled. I’ve seen this happen when I’ve worked to set the environment so my kids can better plan their own daily activities.
You see, there’s just no need for us to come up with it all ourselves. Maybe those burnt-out feelings are just a good reminder that we can look to the kids we serve to find the very energy we’re looking for!
featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto