Friday, January 14, 2011

A Different Kind of Snow Storm

In honor of the recent snow flurries we have experienced here in the Northwest, I tried an art project that falls under that heading of, "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

Day one required a simple crayon winter scene topped with a cool-color watercolor wash. They turned out magnificent. Before heading for home, my first graders glanced proudly at the creations drying on tables, and anticipated the snowflake snowmen they would be adding the next day.

Day two…
Knowing the importance of early success, I prepared very large squares of newsprint for children to learn on and practice with before taking the graduated squares they would soon cut into snow crystals of unique and undeniable beauty.

It was early into this practicing step that a looming sense of doom filled my heart. The folding directions were trickier than I'd anticipated and my ears were soon met with frustrated pleas for help from 6 and 7 year olds. Had we been in a movie….ominous music foreshadowing defeat would have been playing in the background.

Fast forward to the end...and what I learned.

Lesson #1: It does not matter how good the instruction is…if the learner isn't developmentally ready, we are doomed. Goals and standards are all well and good…but they must be reasonable. Someone told me once, "Our goals should be overhead, but not out of reach." This little project turned out to be overhead for all and out of reach for most. Which leads to…

Lesson #2: If the ship is sinking, offer a lifeboat. Though there was evidence of cutting, there was not a successful snowflake in sight. "Boys and girls….if you are feeling frustrated right now…and you want to stick with it….I will help you every step of the way….but if you are feeling frustrated and you could not care less about cutting snowflakes…you may abandon this idea, take the white paper, and create your own snowman by drawing and cutting it out." A relieved cheer rippled through the room and almost all of them jumped ship to engage in happy creating in other parts of the room

Lesson #3: Highly motivated people will overcome obstacles and succeed. The children who stayed with me were so highly motivated that it overruled their frustration. Tenacious as pitbulls, they practiced until they got it.

Lesson #4: You can sell any job by giving it a good name and making it fun. Before leaving for the day I turned us all into "Rug Rats". We crawled on our hands and knees, and not a single snowflake scrap escaped our superhero eyes and pinching fingers.

Lesson #5: Lastly, taking a lesson from the tenacious young man in the photo who refused to give up…"if at first you don't succeed, well, you can always wear it on your head."

My thanks to Melody (known on Twitter as soingirl). She is just one of the many educators on Twitter that I love learning from. If you'd like to see what the project was supposed to look like, she was kind enough to let me link to her classroom blog where you can see the snowflake snowmen and all the other great things that are happening in her room.