I had my 5th graders blog about our classroom and school being broken into this week. I got to school and the police car was already their â€“ one of my classroomâ€™s windows was smashed in (and another classroom experienced the same fate in another wing), and there was some damage to our world globe and glass was everywhere as well as that feeling of being violated. It really got my emotions flaring and with encouragement from my principal and others I decided that I would have my students write about the experience.
My thinking was that they would be emotional about their classroom being invaded and we would channel that into their writing. Before the mess was cleaned up I quickly ran around and took photos so students could see what it had really looked like. I met them outside the room before they entered and explained what had happened and then using the photos and other pieces of evidence (broken globe, the rock that had smashed the glass and glass still present on our carpet) I walked them through what probably had happened. I involved them like detectives as we looked at the clues and had them help come up with a plausible sequence of events.
Next we took notes about what different things â€œlooked likeâ€ â€¦ a student offered a description of the pile of broken glass outside our room as â€œâ€¦blue ice broken from a puddle,â€ for example. Most students had a page and a half of notes about what they saw, how they felt about the situation and some words we had brainstormed on the board. They were well prepared to write and I set them to their task of drafting, editing, word processing and eventually posting a blog post about their experience. Boy, was I good or what? This was going to be great!
Instead, it was only OK. Everyone got right to drafting and editing â€“ they were all on task â€¦ they seemed to be working hard – but as they got far enough along that there was something to look at I noted their writing was not as full of emotion as I had expected.
After lunch I was missing about a third of my class thanks to lunch helper duty and a Read 180 class. So I took that time to question the students in the room about the dayâ€™s events. With the exception of 3 students they didnâ€™t perceive the break-in as a big deal. â€œNothing important was taken.â€ â€œOur laptops are all still here.â€ A digital camera was missing in one room and a teachers PDA was gone in another but â€œbig dealâ€ was the overall attitude of the vast majority.
Then I asked them to raise their hand if they had ever had the police come to their house, or if they had ever watched the police arrest someone outside their house. EVERY HAND WENT UP. I said, â€œKeep your hand up if this happened more than once.â€ 2 hands went down. â€œMore than 2 times,â€ 2 more hands went down. Then students started sharing all their â€œarrest experiences.â€ I had to cut that off because what they were sharing was a bit too personal. UPDATE: My wife asked her middle to high socio-economic 4th graders how many of them had seen the police arrest someone at or near their home. 3 raised their hands. Food for thought.
I told them that the windows that were broken would probably cost close to and probably more than $1,000 to fix and that this was not something that they should put up with â€¦ that even if they just came in and walked around and left (without breaking a window) it was wrong.
They hadnâ€™t thought about it that way â€¦ NOW they were all riled up wanting to discuss things â€¦ and a few made changes to what they wrote earlier reflecting their new found disdain for the whole thing.
But, I screwed up by not having THAT discussion earlier. I donâ€™t feel I exactly â€œhurriedâ€, we pre-wrote for an hour and discussed things some, but obviously I didnâ€™t have THE STUDENTS express themselves verbally enough before they wrote.
And that is why â€¦ Learning Is Messy!
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