Everybody who teaches kids, I think, has gone into a class with big ideas about what's supposed to happen... and come out with something different. I consider that process to be magic. The trick is setting yourself up so the magic stuff is great and not just confusing.
I've talked before about emergent curriculum, where you let learning emerge as you pursue some area of study. That sounds like you just go with the flow, but actually you've got to set up the situation to yield the kinds of discoveries you intend. Otherwise, you've just got chaos and an hour you'll never get back.
Example: I'm working with my daughter's 3rd-grade class to design a scarecrow for their fall festival. These get auctioned off and stuff.
So, I'm the "scarecrow coordinator." Which means, I need to come up with a design that relates to their schoolwork, and that is do-able and that will look reasonably good when we are finished. You don't want the other parents shaking their heads with pitying looks on their faces as they walk past your creation.
Mistakes that can be made at this juncture:
1. Parent just goes off and makes an attractive scarecrow that looks "right," kids do nothing
2. Parent goes overboard involving the kid and ends up with chaos and a weird result
3. Parent goes overboard and then stays up all night before the festival "fixing" it
I really want the class to get to make the scarecrow, so when they see it put together they can point and say, "I did that!"
So, I need to break this down into 3rd-grade pieces that allow for success and creativity at the same time.
So here's the approach -
- I come up with the overall theme and structure for the scarecrow,
- Then I break it down into pieces that the students can do, using materials they can use in a 30-45-minute time period and that are not flammable or poisonous
- Then, we cross our fingers, go into the classroom and try to do something.
Our concept: A totem pole. The kids are talking about Native Americans, so there you are.
So, we've got craft pumpkins. And foamies. And glue. The kids are going to make faces, and decorate the owl for the top, and add some cool bats. I think.
The trick now is to help them come up with shapes to use to make foamie faces to go on the pumpkins. I will handle the pumpkin-stacking and non-tipping-over issues (structural engineering) armed with PVC pipe and a glue gun.
So above I've sketched out examples for them. I want to keep it simple. Totem pole art is bold and colorful and expressive, just like kids. So I think with some prompting they can cut out eyes and teeth and tongues and have a good time at it.
Anyway, tomorrow is the leap of faith. Mostly I just hope the glue works. I'll post what we come up with and we can see how the magic happens.