So, yesterday I told you all about the activity I planned on doing with my kiddos for the bulletin board. The idea was for the kids to make their own spider webs, inspired by Charlotte's Web. Well, when I told the kids about it, they were excited. They thought they were going to spend their time doing something fun, creative, and completely thoughtless and easy. Little did they know that making a web out of yarn, construction paper, and glue would be so thought inducing and a little frustrating.
I have to admit, I was very impressed with some of the words they thought up for themselves. I had kids that wanted to make webs with words such as Perseverance, Responsible, Motivated, and Fantastic. They were awesome ideas, but once the kids started messing with the yarn, they quickly discovered that it was easier said than done. Trying to make the words fit on the page was one of the biggest tasks. I had the kids have a go at trying to write the words with as little cutting as possible of the yarn. It was quite humorous watching the kids try and form the letters from the yarn, and trying to hold the letters in place.
After about fifteen minutes of some serious perseverance and motivation, the frustration level started getting a little high for my liking. So, I told the kids to just figure out the best way to make their words. I was nicely surprised to find some kids that didn't want to give up on trying to make their word from one long string, I had some kids that made a few cuts but focused on making the word look like it had been created with one string, and then I had a few kids that started chopping and cutting their yarn in to tiny pieces in order to create each letter individually.
Once the word was in place, the kids then had to make the web that went around the word. Some kids opted for making circles of yarn, but we pulled up some pictures on the SmartBoard to look at how spiders create their webs, and the shapes that are used. That gave the students a better understanding at what they were shooting for, but once again they realized that was easier said than done.
After making the words, the kids and the paper were covered in glue. They found that the yarn was sticking to them, and it was extremely difficult to get the yarn to stay where they wanted it. Anyone walking in to my room may have thought that we were in a kindergarten classroom with the mess that was scattered around the room. There were pieces of yarn everywhere, the floor, their fingers, the desks, and on their clothes. We ended up spending an hour and a half (our entire 90 minute reading block) on making the webs.
When they were finished, we had a great discussion for how hard web creating must be for a spider, and why they need eight legs in order to create a web. The kids discussed that having a couple extra sets of hands may have made their task a little easier. We also had a discussion about some of the variations the students made to their words. For example, the finished products showed words such as Persevere and Motivate instead of their original plans of perseverance and motivation. The kids were able to explain that shortening the words didn't change the meanings, it was more of a requirement in order to make the words fit.
We also connected the activity to our reading, and discussed which webs would and wouldn't work for Wilbur. The class agreed that words such as "lovable", "friendly", and "fantastic" would work, but words such as "motivate" and "neat" wouldn't work so much.
Overall the kids enjoyed the experience, and were shocked by how frustrating and hard the assignment actually was. We then discussed how sometimes the simplest of tasks can require some dedication and frustration they didn't expect. It was a good lesson to learn, and it helped them grasp the fact that they have to put in effort even when they don't expect to.
Another fantastic part of our day yesterday occurred when we got a visit from two Jr. high students. I had asked to borrow two students to come in and share with my class some insights about Jr. high and some of the stuff they wished they had paid more attention to in 4th grade. Well, to say that they did a fantastic job would be a total understatement.
The kids that came to see us started out by explaining some of the concepts they learned in 4th grade that they were still learning about. Stuff like using multiplication facts, spelling contracts, and writing and identifying nouns, subjects and predicates, and creating complete sentences. The 8th graders explained that they now realized that if they had paid more attention in 4th grade, their lives would have been much easier.
One of the 8th graders explained that she didn't take the time to learn her multiplication facts in 4th grade, which has made math pretty tough for her. She encouraged my students to do everything they could to learn the facts now, so that they wouldn't have the same struggles that she is now experiencing. She also told them that the spelling contract was necessary and really helped her learn how to spell words. The two 8th graders looked over the spelling contract I give to my kiddos, and they told the kiddos how the activities will help them become better spellers, but also better readers, writers, and how they will have a better vocabulary by learning the definitions for the words.
The discussions that took place next...well...all I can say is that they delivered speeches that neither my kids or I were expecting.
After we discussed current learning and how hard the students need to work, we shifted the focus of the discussion to the future. I asked the 8th graders if they'd thought about what they wanted to be when they grow up, and what they were doing to prepare for the future.
The male 8th grader took the floor, and delivered one of the most inspiring, motivational, and passionate talks I've ever heard.
He told my kids that his mother had always wanted to be a marine biologist, but after she had him her plans had to change. At that point, he became a little choked up. None of the kids knew what to think, but he didn't give them enough time to think. He continued on discussing how his mother now makes bean bags for a living, and that she wasn't able to follow her dreams. That was his motivation for following his own dreams. At this point, he lost it and had to take a second to compose himself through the tears. He then told my kids, in such a passionate way, that he has decided not to think about how he's going to become what he wants to become, but instead he envisions himself doing it. He wakes up every morning thinking about his future, and how everything he will do on that day will help him get there. He explained that everything his teachers say, everything they ask him to do, he does without question. He doesn't ever consider giving less than 100% effort, because it's all important. He told my students that there's nothing they are learning about that won't make them better people, and it will all be important in some way or some form to their futures.
After such a powerful and emotional discussion, the kids were dying to know what it was that he planned on being one day. I think we were all a little shocked when he told us he was going to be a singer. No matter what. He was going to sing for a living. But, he made sure to point out that his education was going to be what got him there, and learning everything he could about everything would be important to his career in some way or some form.
The female 8th grader then explained that she didn't know what she wanted to be, but she thought about it often. She explained how she was constantly talking to her mom, her teachers, and her friends about what she might want to be once she finishes school. She explained to my kiddos how it's OK not to have a decision while they are still in school, but it makes the learning even more important. She explained that, in her mind, being that she's unsure what her future holds, she has to make the most of everything she learns so that she gets all that she needs for whatever she decides. She told my kids that right now, her main focus was making good grades, giving her best effort, and making her mom proud of her. One day, she'll know what she wants to do, and she knows that her grades, her effort, and everything her teachers taught her will help her with her career.
I was completely blown away by the maturity these 8th graders showed when it came to discussing something like school and their futures. I couldn't have asked for anything better. I quickly told my principal that these two kids needed to visit every classroom in the school and deliver the same speeches, because even I was motivated to do better for them and for my kiddos.
I may have several kids in my class that don't think college to be an option, or even making it out of their small town being something they can do. But, hearing from two students about their dedication and motivation to make something of their lives was EXACTLY what my kids needed to boost their motivation and effort. I can talk at them all day long, but they needed to hear it from kids that had been in their shoes only a few years before. They needed to hear from students that were still working hard every day, and making sure they made their education count. They needed to hear that what they can do now that will help them as they get a little older.
I am so glad they came. I'm so glad they shared. And I plan on having them come back a few times throughout the year to check on my kids and give them boosts of motivation as often as possible.
What an absolutely fantastic week this has been, and it's not over yet.