We started a letter writing project today. The purpose is to persuade somebody to change something. I started off by asking the kids what was bothering them? What would they like to change? At home? At school? In the community?
At first, the kids were all centered around sibling rivalry stuff and family issues.
I want my sister to stop taking my things.
I want my mom to give me more video game time.
I want my dad to take me to Disneyland for my birthday.
The usual kid stuff. Alright, I said, we can write a letter about those things. You could write a letter to your sister asking her to stop hitting you. Or, to your Dad, for a cool birthday present. We talked about how to make a mind-map to organize our ideas and our letter. Main topic in the middle, three reasons why, and then for each reason, two examples. I sent them off to their tables to work.
And then.... THE SPARK!
One boy asked, in loud voice so everybody could hear, if he could write a letter to Mr. M in the high school asking him for more time to play Dungeons and Dragons during after school activities. An avalanche of ideas exploded out of every head in the room. They all started talking about what teacher they would write to and how they could do something to change the school. A new brainstorming session broke out, this one much more profound than the fighting with my sister conversation. Kids broke off into groups and started working together, jointly pursuing their passions and interests. Here are a couple of the ideas that are being kicked around so far:
- A letter to the headmaster asking for a class sleepover in the school
- A letter to a different teacher asking for help setting up a dance club
- A letter to me asking for more meditation time during the day
- A letter to the headmaster asking to expand our school garden
It was amazing to see the kids feel so empowered to act and make a change in their environment. They looked like little activists plotting a peaceful protest. They are writing about these things because they want them. Really want them. That passion will take you far in life.
When a spark like this explodes in your class, what do you do? How do you react? Personally, I get too excited to sit back, and I jump right in and start throwing ideas around. I try to listen to every voice and once and help as many as I can. Sometimes, I just direct traffic, and ask people to think about this, or have you ever thought about that.
The ultimate goal is, of course, to tend that spark until turns in a blazing inferno of awesome.
How do you do it?