. Regurgitated Alpha Bits: May I Have the Definition, Please?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

May I Have the Definition, Please?

There are many things my students do not have a great concept of. A few examples might be:

  • The Trash Can

    • Concept – A can-like receptacle INTO which we place our trash .

    • Students' Concept – A can-like receptacle NEAR which we place our trash. In our room, it's like a monument to trash, surrounded by trash, but void of trash on the inside. Close is good enough for these kids. They'd make stellar horseshoe players.

  • Asking Questions

    • Concept – When the teacher says, "Raise your hand if you have a question" students should raise their hands if they have question.

    • Students' Concept – When the teacher says, "Raise your hand if you have a question" students should raise their hands and share inane stories that are completely unrelated to the lesson being taught and generally start with the words, "One time…"

  • "Balls Bucket"
    • Concept – The blue equipment container in my room used to store basketballs, soccer balls, and playground balls for use during PE and recess, once referred to as the "balls bucket" by a new student. When another kid asked him to repeat what he'd said just for the giggle factor, he said, "You know, the blue balls bucket." Now that one got a good giggle out of the teachers in the lounge at recess.

    • Students' Concept – Use your imagination on this one. If I have to spell it out for you, maybe you shouldn't work with children.

  • Jackass

    • Concept – A male donkey. Also referred to as a mountain canary during the gold rush. "Jackass" is found repeatedly in the story By the Great Horn Spoon which we recently read.

    • Students' Concept – NOT a male donkey, but merely a "jackass." No matter how many times I tell them it is not a bad word, it's still just "jackass" to them. Actually, it's pronounced "Jackass…(gasp)."

But, to their credit, there is one concept they have a beautiful and heartwarming understanding of.

I'm not much for the sappy stuff, but that got to me.

By the Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleischman is a novel set during the California Gold Rush period. While it nicely intertwines language arts and social studies, it also encourages students to think more deeply about other concepts as well such as the definition of what constitutes a family. Just before we got to the end of the novel, where a new "family" is created, I asked the kids to write their own definitions of the word "family."

While not one child mentioned parents or children, every single kid wrote something about love. We started talking about this and I told them of my surprise that no one mentioned parents as I expected they would. As it turns out, they have life experiences that have redefined "family" for them.

Many of my students are being raised by people other than their parents; be it aunts, uncles, grandparents, or foster parents, and they have found that all those various relationships make for great "families" simply because they have love. Of course, they agreed, you love your parents but they were very clear that you don't have to limit who you can call "family."

They even suggested that our class was a "family," but groaned when I exclaimed, "Then you DO love each other after all!"


Wamblings said...

*note to self: closing lid on laptop causes disruption of internet service*

If the adults of this world would adopt your students' understanding of family, the world would be a happier place.

lalanab88 said...

haha! I love this post! Especially the part about asking questions. This is my first year teaching 3rd/4th grade and the kids did the exact same thing to me all year long!