Many of us have begun our school years, and many are enjoying the last few days or weeks of summer.
I must first give a big shout out to all of my friends who work in year round schools here in Denver. We started back on July 7!
This idea my not be new to many of you, but it is one that has worked for me in the past, and I also witnessed its success recently with a team of fourth graders.
On the first day of school, ask students to bring three to five objects in a lunch bag to share with the class. The objects should hold some type of meaning, or represent a student’s hobby or interest. (A quick warning: the first year I tried this with a group of 3rd graders, one of my students brought his grandmother’s diamond ring! So now, I tell students to make sure the object has meaning, but also to make sure it is okay to bring the object from home. A drawing of the object will suffice if it is very valuable).
The purpose of this exercise is typically to ask students to share their objects in order to build community. This is what the fourth graders did at Eastridge Elementary – but, then, the teachers decided the students could write about each object. They chose different reasons for the students to write, and before long, each student had two to three pages of writing they could not wait to share with peers and family members.
1.) Ask students to pick an object to describe.
2.) Ask students to pick an object to tell a story about.
3.) Ask students to pick an object and then explain why this object represents something important in their lives
4.) Ask students to pick an object to write a poem about.
As the teacher, you should bring in objects as well, and then you can model your own thinking and writing for different purposes as you consider the best way to write about your objects.
This exercise worked with all students, and was especially effective with our English Language Learners at Eastridge – the concrete nature of the object made it much easier for students to develop the background knowledge and the language for writing.
So, whether you have started, are about to start, or still have some time, I hope this idea is helpful!