Move to Higher Ground – 5

What is this new idea that might help us get rid of the feeling, born of the need of the few, usually white, kids to compete with and dominate the many? I call it, and it is almost a game, “Gimme an Object”.

It is important to know that this is nothing new .We already do it. It is how we begin a One Word Image. The first thing we do when we start a OWI is to simply ask for an object in English Again, we do that already. We just ask for a word as per the OWI recommendations that it be simple to draw, not a lot of moving parts, food is best, etc.

We might even consider only taking the suggestions of the non-involved kids. This gets them involved. Once a child has their “hat in the ring” for that class, they and the other disenfranchised students around them will feel more inclined to get into the creation of the image.

Why should the dominant few get to have their ideas accepted in school all the time? We’re talking about choosing between a pineapple and a bowling ball, or a pair of glasses and a corn nut. Of course, we do want to choose the object that most “speaks” to us in the moment as well, so there is that. That’s probably the most important thing*.

But the point being made here is that if we were to do that as much as we can to start our input after SSR, do you see what that does? It completely eliminates the psychological edge of the few and gives it to all. It levels the playing field. It is because we accept the suggestions of all our students when we do this.

How does this change things? It takes the lead positions at the start of class away from the stars who are used to grabbing it when the gun goes off. It ties the group tegether around a big rope – because it is in English and is a fun activity. Doing this makes them all start running together as a group.

This lasts for awhile, at least before the roped-together group of kids get around to the other side of the track, and maybe through the entire Invisibles Star Sequence process, then at that point the entire class has full ownership of the image. This what this does for the story to follow!

Now, the rest of the kids are involved in ways in which they would never have been had the fast processors not been attached to them at the start of class and thus slowed down at the beginning of class. It’s an equity move and in my view a big one.

So the idea is not new, it’s about how we use the first part of OWI – the getting-the-object part there after SSR, to keep the class together, to build equity, to build community, to respect the learning needs of the slower-processing students, by not trying stuff that is semi fake and lame and going right to this technique that really does – depending on what you tell me – level the playing field.

I would love to hear the feedback on this idea.

*I usually say, “Thank you for playing” in a kind Michael Myers voice, or “I’m not feeling an artichoke today but thank you of playing.” or “That might be good on another day but I’m not feeling it today.” etc. We reject their suggestions in a nice, playful way (they are so sensitive!) and we keep it feeling like a game. But really, who wants to do an entire Invisibles Star Sequence of activities though a reading and through the two extension activities (could go for five days) on an object that we aren’t feelin’?

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6 thoughts on “Move to Higher Ground – 5”

  1. Absolutely! When I started taking ideas (whether it be the object or something in the plot line) from the kids who came in “not liking French”, the next class, they jumped right in and have been participating non-stop since then. They feel valued and important because their ideas mean something, even though they don’t know much French.

    I intentionally started taking ideas from the disinterested kids, and it worked like a charm. The Invisibles is beautiful for this.

  2. Ben et all, haven’t posted in a while, just lurking here and CI Liftoff facebook. I always check in when I’m in a rut, as I am now…

    I see what you are saying and I have mixed feelings as well. It’s easy for US as teachers to fall back on that crutch, ie a student that is naturally outgoing, creative and loves OUR class or OUR personality. I’m loud, energetic, off the walls, and sometimes I neglect those more reserved students that maybe are washed out by the white noise of other students with personalities similar to mine.

    This year I have all Spanish 2, dominated mostly by my students from last year. Of course, because my former students already know how “to play the game” of Invisibles, ie great drawing, complex/creative problem, unique character ideas, I typically roll with those Invisibles. At times I feel terrible because new students from a different Span 1 teacher or school have moved into our already established neighborhood and maybe I wasn’t inviting enough to our fun block party. I think my “new” students need more training, and it’s up to me to do that.

    I suppose the best way to do that is through more OWI and slowing down on vocab that I know my former students already have on lock down. Any other ideas on teaching/training new crops of kids to play the game/get creative?

  3. It’s freaky for those new ones at first, that’s for sure. Many mid-year transfers have had bad experiences at their former schools and so have fears about fitting in in the first place. Just let them be. They need time to get the Scotty vibe, adjust to it. I don’t think there’s anything you can do. Talk to them privately*, of course. Give them a LONG rope on getting involved. Slowly they will come around. There is no rushing the trust game.

    *I used to tell them that I would make up term grades above C+ if they would only do everything I ask and try to understand and that I wouldn’t start actually grading them until I felt that they were ready to be graded (had made the adjustment to my way of teaching) and so they could succeed by merely trying. I think it’s a fair deal, and they always came around.

  4. Julie Quenneville

    A fantastic idea to get those quiet voices involved. We all know the look on a kid’s face when their idea drives the story along. The louder voices need to be silenced in these importent moments, I find. Yes, they will have their say, but then ignore them. Answer other raised hands instead. The loudmouths will have 102 chances throughout the rest of the day to be heard. It’s the quiet ones who may have the most fantastic ideas anyway…they’ve been observing and processing while others simply flap their gums.

  5. Of course, Julie, there is also the Word Chunk Team Game. Nothing exists that will include the quiet disenfranchised kids and make them shine more than that game. I do think that the secret formula, if there is one, to teacher burnout lies in this topic of inclusion of all the kids.

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