(Don’t) Fill in the blank

In a recent lesson, after kids completed their warm-up, I had this direction written on the whiteboard: “Get a ball. How many different ways can you find to toss and catch to yourself?”

Four of my 5th grade boys, after working independently for a while, found a way to collaborate, stick with the essential task, and in the process put a creative, dynamic spin on it.  They elevated tossing and catching from skill reinforcement (Ho hum) to Art in the making.  Just watch.

Did you hear that shreik of excitement? That did not come from the assignment itself. Or the use of the equipment. Or from hanging out with buddies.  All that happened because there was space.  There was some freedom.  There was cameraderie. And there was an understanding: risks are allowed, you can make up your own challenge, cooperating may lead to some very cool results.  Those were not all specified in my lesson objectives.  That’s when it occured to me: my students are expert at “fill in the blank.”  Given the opportunity they can create, demonstrate, and facilitate successes of their own making that I would scarcely venture to imagine.

The lesson: Offer more blank spaces and see what happens.  Your students may surprise you!

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