Joined: 19 Oct 2011
Teach "Gifted" Lessons
While I was attending a professional development workshop, the trainer shared a social studies lesson he used with his class. With enthusiasm, he described how he had groups of students decorate clay pots based on the Native American tribe they were studying. Then, to the students’ dismay, the teacher placed the pots in bags and smashed them into pieces.
A few students even cried (but wait, there’s a happy ending to this story).
The teacher buried the pieces and had the students dig them up and reassemble the pots based on their knowledge of the tribes. He purposely left out pieces to help the students understand that these missing pieces represented “gaps in time,” when history and knowledge of the past was lost or unclear. To finish the project, the class wrote descriptions of their pots, which were displayed in museum-style.
While listening to this story, the teachers in the workshop “ooooed” and “ahhhhd”. They were enthralled-and impressed-with what this teacher has accomplished with his students. Immediately, I thought this is a “gifted lesson,” meaning it was based on best practices in gifted education. But I also began to ask myself why my fellow educators loved this lesson
It was as if their enthusiasm for teaching (often crushed by the system) began to reemerge. I believe it is because deep inside, teachers want to teach these kinds of lessons. It’s the reason we get into teaching, to teach the kind of lessons that students remember for years to come, the kinds of lessons that make learning meaningful and joyful.
This teacher’s story serves as a powerful reminder: we, as educators, cannot forget why we got into teaching. Despite the constant standardized testing, parent complaints, lack of pay raises, and other problems that we face every day, we have to find it within ourselves to teach the kind of lessons that make students question, think deeply, smile and laugh (and cry, in this teacher’s case).
When planning to successfully teach certain standards and Common Core, we must remind ourselves what makes lesson memorable and use our passion and creativity to make those lessons come alive. To throw away the worksheets and replace them with the clay pots we plan to smash. And in reality, we may not be able to hit a “homeroom” with every lesson—not everyone has the time or energy to do these kinds of lessons day-in and day-out- but we can focus on implementing these “clay-pot” lessons more and more, until one day, students love our classroom and are lined up at the door waiting to get in.
Where do we get these lessons? How do we pull this off? Collaborate. Share ideas and lessons with energetic, effective teachers at your school. Ask questions. Observe classrooms. Comb the Internet for great lessons. Join chat rooms and watch videos. And experiment—there’s no way you know a lesson works well until you try it, and even then, there’s always room to improve it.
So with the new school year quickly approaching, let’s remember why we got into teaching and make our lessons “gifted.”