Imagine planning lessons that take a boat load of time to plan. You scour the internet and steal the greatest lessons from your personalized learning network in order to create the best learning experience you can provide. Then a student comes in your class and states they want to play __________. For the past two years, I have a student who walks into my class and wants to play their game. At first, this bothered me. I would tell the student no, I have a lesson planned and this is what we are going to do. At some point last year it occurred to me that I was crushing this young man’s creativity. I started to question myself (which I often do). If my class can’t be a place where a student can come in and play a game they created then where can they? Why was I saying no? Was it a power trip? How were his games going to align to my standards and curriculum? Was this going to be a waste of time?
I decided that I would give him the last five minutes of the class to explain and play his game as long as he followed the directions of the class. For the last five minutes of most classes, he would stand up, explain his games, and ask for helpers to demonstrate. The students would all clamor to be picked. Some of the games were interesting and worked well, while others needed a tweaking here or there to make them playable. The students loved the games and I even used one or two myself in other classes.
This year I have multiple students who are asking to play their games in my class. I tell them to create a google doc and share the game with me before the class so I can prepare any equipment that is needed. The younger students can draw a picture or write the game down the best they can.
Why am I so flexible in my teaching this year? It all goes back to creating that positive association with movement, my class, and school in general. Would you want to go to work every day where you had absolutely no input into your day? How fast can we crush a student’s creativity? It starts with the simple statement, “Not now.” It ends with the student not even attempting to contribute their original ideas after a while.
I am not saying that the students should run the class. Or that teachers don’t have valuable information that the students need to discover in some manner or another. What I am saying is that when we see someone enjoying learning, enjoying movement, and bringing something to the table don’t reflexively say no. Think about why you are saying no. There may be a legitimate reason not to allow the child to take over the class that hour or that day. I do know that if our default is no instead of I will make my best attempt to work with you, then we are slowly extinguishing our students passions for learning, creativity, and love of school.
Q1: When do you allow students to create in your class?
Q2: What do you do when students want to do an activity that you were not planning on that day?
Q3: What is your default, no or I will attempt my best? Why?