Thursday, May 14, 2009
Improvising Lessons When Needed
Photo by Mykl Roventine
Hey teachers, mommas, librarians, educators of all kinds: how often do things go exactly as planned for you with your students or children? If you're like me, then probably not as often as you would like. I wish I had the excuse of "pregnancy-brain" or something for all my forgetfulness lately. Does momma-brain count as an excuse?
When it comes to gathering my lessons together, my brain just hasn't been at its sharpest. Last week I bought topsoil to use with a gardening story, not realizing how stinky and gross the stuff is to dig around in till I was dumping it into my sensory table (actually, I had more of a sensory bucket, but whatever) and the strong aroma of poop was filling the classroom air. Then this week, I spent quite a bit of time organizing, ordering, and picking up beautiful, glossy photos of all my students to use in my clever little Literacy Launchpad activity. Then left all those beautiful, glossy photos at home on my desk. Ugh!
Wish I could say that this kind of thing rarely happens to me, but that would be a lie. Unfortunately this stuff is pretty standard occurrence when you do the kind of thing I do, and basically have a traveling classroom.
What I have learned is that lesson snafus seem to happen for a reason, and can often lead to a better lesson that what was originally planned.
When I wound up with stinky topsoil, I improvised by laying the vegetables we were using with the activity out a tarp, and letting my students pretend to dig them up, instead of actually digging them up. The students had so much fun. Their eyes lit up when I revealed the vegetables to them. I'm not sure the bucket of dirt would have elicited the same reaction. Plus, we ended up being shorter on time than I anticipated and digging in messy the dirt (especially with the extra clean-up and such) would have exaggerated that problem even further.
This week, we did an activity where we made our own gardens (after reading Whose Garden Is It?). I wanted the students to make claim to their garden by attaching their photo to it, but since I forgot the photos, I asked them to draw a picture of themselves instead. Turned out that most of my students didn't want to claim their garden as their own. Instead, they drew pictures of creatures from the story, or from their imaginations, claiming that the garden they created belonged to them! If they only had the option of gluing on a photo, I would have been stifling those amazing imaginations!
Lesson mess-ups have turned into opportunities for me to stretch my own creativity, to re-imagine what my students are capable of, and to give my students the opportunity to be more creative too. I'm always frustrated my these mess-ups to begin with, but have never been disappointed in the way they ultimately turn out.
Have any of your own mess-ups turned into something wonderful?