Saturday, September 22, 2007

How creative can you be in 2nd Grade?

This week, I just finished doing a great and simple activity with my 2nd Grade students. We discussed physical properties of objects and how they can be altered/changed. This engagement lesson is the starting point of another lesson in which the students create a paper puppet from an ordinary paper lunch bag.

This is how it goes...

I start by listing physical properties of myself. I ask them to start chiming in. We talk about some physical properties of other items in the room and they begin to catch on. Before you know it, the students can define the term physical properties. They have to be helped a little to get the word "describe" added in there.
Any way, after you talk about physical properties, hand out a quarter sheet of notebook paper. You tell them that they are going to use their creative minds to change the physical properties of this piece of paper. We then discuss the properties as the paper appears now. We purposefully do not discuss the ways in which we can change the physical properties (they would use all of the ideas discussed, that is how they have been trained). I tell them that they can use a pencil, some crayons, and their hands to change the properties of the paper any way they want.
When I tell them to begin, almost on cue, I have hands flying up in the air. The students all want to ask me permission to do certain things to their paper. They are deathly afraid to alter the paper any way that would get them in trouble. They need someone to hold their hand through the process. Even though I have told them repeatedly that they could do anything to the paper, they still do not understand that concept. I continue to just say to them "You can change any properties of the paper that you wish". I do not answer their questions.

How I look at this situation...

These students, at the age of 7, have what I like to call learned helplessness. They have been taught and have learned to be completely helpless in this situation. Out of 3 classes of 2nd grade students (95 students), only about 5 or 6 students had the ability to use their complete imaginations and do this assignment with a creative and unique agenda. One student balled up the paper and colored it. When I asked him what properties he changed? he said " I changed the shape, the color, and the texture". Yes, he used these exact words! Only about 4-5 students ripped the paper into pieces. The thought of altering this perfectly good paper seemed almost taboo for these kids.

The final product was eye opening, and I think we actually had some reversal of the learned helplessness. These kids can learn to be self-sufficient learners. This is a concept that needs to be looked at in a beginning of the year professional development course.

1 comment:

comoprozac said...

Fantastic! I have always taught intermediate grades, and it is amazing how helpless they are at that age...and this was in a supposedly constructivist-based school.