Every night when I exit the school building, I leave perfectly planned lessons on my desk. They fit the state and federal standards, have some sort of an attention grabber, an objective, guided practice, and independent practice (homework)…except of course, for Fridays. (Who wants homework on Friday?) Anyway, by the time I get to class, my lessons have completely changed…nothing is as I had planned. Some little crumb of an idea begins irritating my brain until I finally give in and everything I had planned has completely fallen away.
Take today’s lesson for example. I was supposed to introduce exponents…you know 4 to the power of 3. Well, I had this great lesson all planned out when something on the shelf behind my desk caught my eye. (Keep in mind that I am abstract random, ADHD, and a whole series of other things that aren’t necessarily perfect teacher qualities.) Anyway, I immediately scooped two volunteers out of their chairs, grabbed a loaded brown paper bag from my shelf, and dragged both bag and “victims” into the hallway. Quickly explaining my directions to the two students…I dashed back inside to “set the stage”.
I leapt up onto the wooden box that sits in the front of my room, and grabbed a whiteboard marker (a makeshift microphone) from the ledge up front, and began shouting. “Alright you guys! We have a couple of visitors who have just flown in from across the country. Give it up for “THE BASE”! The kids, getting caught up in my spirit, clapped and hooted wildly as one of my “visitors” flew into the classroom wearing a green and silver lame’ superhero costume. He landed in the front of the classroom and in a loud and extremely low voice announced, “I am THE BASE! I am a superhero, and I am here to fight the evil-doers of the world.” Again, the kids cheered as he continued. “Periodically, I need help from my superhero brothers.” Hearing this, a second superhero flew into the room and landed next to the first.
To make a long story short…the BASE BROTHERS were the superheroes, and the “secret number” (the exponent) was the number of extra superheroes needed to destroy the evil-doers in any given situation. (The power is a secret…therefore written very small…so the enemy doesn’t know how many BASE BROTHERS will attack.)
After a few minutes, the kids completely understood how to lay the problem out and how to calculate the answer. Monday, I will introduce the Powers of 10…and the evil villain who, when multiplied by a decimal, sends us sprawling backwards a bit.
So much for my originally devised lesson plans: Exponent Baseball and Extravaganza Challenge. THE BASE superheroes stole the show.
Anyway, I was telling my husband (an elementary principal) about the impromptu powers lesson. He laughed and said, “Where in the world do these ideas come from? Do you just pull them out of your butt?” I hope that’s not where they come from, but maybe if we could just harness a little bit more teaching fun…and a lot less drill and killwhen teaching…kids might actually start seeing us (their teachers) as superheroes instead of evil villains. They might see us as fun rather than fun-suckers!
So, go out there and find a superhero costume or two. Leave it in your classroom. Wear it occasionally…the kids won’t recognize you behind that goofy mask and shiny lame’. But best of all, they might just have some fun while learning something important.
Mary…the Phat/Fat Teacher