Monday, June 22, 2015

The Power to Create

Have you ever had a plan for kids that just did not go the way you expected? The real question is how did you handle it? Sometimes we have a natural inclination to direct kids to complete a task in the way that we expect, but instead we need to give them the freedom to create on their own.

Back in March, my 7 year old niece was with me when I purchased my new sewing machine. At the time, I was so surprised at her interest in using the sewing machine. In fact, I thought it was a fascination that would wane. That night we went out to dinner, and I asked what she wanted to do when we got back. She said to me, "I thought we were going to go home and use the sewing machine." So that is just what we did. Her first project was creating a small pillow that would match the quilt that I was making my mom. She even did the hand-stitching to close the pillow. After this, we made a plan to make a quilt for her American Girl doll the next time she came to visit.

Well, last week she came to visit. We selected some fabric, and we looked at making half-square triangles. After talking about all of our different pattern options, she decided she wanted to make pinwheels. We started sewing the basic pieces together, but her attention was fleeting during the cutting and measuring. For those of you who don't know, quilting requires a lot of measuring, as well as squaring up of quilting blocks. Since I was using a rotary cutter, I did not let my niece help with this step. This, of course, meant that she quickly lost focus during these in-between stages. So what happened?

Basically, she started working with fabric while she waited on me. She did some practice sewing, then on her own she created a pocket for me. As I watched her create this pocket, it was interesting how my thoughts emerged. To be honest, my first instinct was to redirect her back to our original project. In fact the words were right on the tip of my tongue, and I had to catch myself from uttering those words. What was really important here? Was it important that she make this quilt? No, that definitely shouldn't be the objective for our day. What mattered was that she wanted to explore and create! Instead, I just let her design and develop her own project.

Next time you are faced with a similar dilemma with your students, really think about what your objective is for your students? Do you want a cookie cutter product or something that students had to problem solve to create? Just sit back and let students explore the endless possibilities.

Monday, June 8, 2015

#2jennsbookclub Come Chat with Us!

The great thing about Voxer is it allows me to talk with my good friend, Jennifer LaGarde, on a fairly regular basis. Now that we no longer work together it allows me to hear her voice with the touch of a button. What makes this even better is when the mention of an idea can lead to something that I can only describe as awesome.

One day, as I walked the dog, I was listening to a Vox from Jennifer. I remember that I was walking the dog simply because I was climbing a particularly challenging hill in my neighborhood. That was the exact moment that Jennifer mentioned that she would really like to read for pleasure more, and she really wanted to start a virtual book club. I replied back (a message that probably had a lot of huffing and puffing as I tried to breathe and walk up the hill), and emphatically declared that I was all in on this idea.

Like Jennifer mentioned in her blog post on the #2jennsbookclub, leaving the library often means you don't read like you used to. I have been out of the library for 2.5 years now, and while I still read for pleasure, it is rare. There is no one asking for book suggestions, there is no need to keep abreast of the latest trends, so basically I just stopped. This is truly a travesty, because I love to read YA literature, not only because of students, but simply because I truly enjoy it.

Jennifer started us off on a list of newly published YA books. As I looked at this list, I was devastated to realize that I had heard of none of these. How did this happen? Reading the newest titles used to be something I truly embraced. I would go to the book store and scan for new titles that I wanted to read, and titles I wanted to recommend to my students. To be honest, it was disheartening to learn that I had lost a part of myself. Now I am excited about reading, but more than anything I get to talk about books with others that care about reading as much as I do. I hope you will check out the schedule and join in. We can't wait to chat with you!