I am writing this blog post from a coma. It’s been one of those days.
It started yesterday, when I decided to try something new. Another teacher had come up with the idea of having students take on different personas and then battling one another in a March Madness style tournament. In doing so, students could practice making claims, supporting their claims with evidence, and using counter claims and rebuttals. It sounded crazy, but I went ahead and threw caution to the wind and set it up for today before I left work yesterday afternoon.
As I drove in to work, I debated doing it at all. I still had my original lesson plan for today–the one I had put together over the weekend. It practiced these same skills… in a much calmer environment.
But then, once I got to work, I decided to go with the battles. After all, if my lesson failed miserably, I’d have the entire weekend to start looking for a new career.
I began the lesson tentatively. My first period class makes for good guinea pigs, and when they rose to the occasion I decided to use the battles in my next two classes as well. My second class also enjoyed the lesson, backing claims with excellent evidence, and providing counter claims and rebuttals, before leaving the room with smiles on the faces…lessons learned, in a fun, new way. What could be better?
And then my final class came into the room. Two students tried to get out of the assignment, claiming they’d rather do the original paper and pencil task. When I had them draw “characters” from a container, the first student changed his mind. He had drawn “shark” and that was a character he was sure could win in a battle.
The second student, however, drew “a class of kindergarten students” as his character. He argued that he should be able to draw again, and I considered letting him. But I knew that if I bent the rules for him, my day would be over. So, I insisted he play with the character he had drawn. “If you lose in the first round,” I told him, “you can help one of your friends in his battles.”
This placated him enough to get him to stand up in the first round–a battle against Barney. When he came out of this first battle victorious, he changed his mind. It probably helped that his friend “shark” had lost in his first round, and now “shark” was helping the kindergartners with their battles. Throughout the two classes, the class of kindergarten students battled and won against a varied group of opponents: kittens, turtles, and Girl Scouts. Finally, it was time for the last battle–a battle between the group of kindergarten students and an eagle.
Frankly, it didn’t look good for the kindergarten students. The eagle had faced what seemed to be a more intense group of opponents. Time and time again the eagle had provided sound and compelling evidence, had countered intense claims, and had rebutted well-stated counter arguments.
Standing across from each other, the two began to argue. The rest of the class cheered and gasped as they argued about how a group of kindergarteners and an eagle would approach, carry out, and win a battle.
You know where this is going, right? In the end, it was the kindergarten students who emerged victorious.
But, of course, it wasn’t just the kindergarteners who won. My students who learned in a fun way today won, because they acquired new knowledge or practiced what they already knew it a new way. One student in particular won, because he learned that sometimes when you try something you don’t think you’re going to like, you learn that you like it, after all. And, of course, I won, because I took a chance today. And I learned that taking chances can pay off in smiles, and laughter, and learning.
Yes, it’s been one of those days–one of those great ones!