Abracadabra! Put the Magic in Teaching
by Catherine Beck
Where has the fun in teaching gone? Forgotten are the days when you had time to add creative projects to great books you were reading.
When was the last time you heard a parent say, “My child would not miss a day, even when she feels bad, for she so loves school!”
Today’s classrooms are operating under the state assessment dictators. Mandates for assessments now rule the instructional school calendar. Every month has a testing window. What if we make test anxiety disappear? Let’s recapture some of the fun and spark the love of learning for our children. Let’s wave a wand and say, “Abracadabra!”
Let’s put the magic in teaching!
We used to have time for creativity and magical classroom practices. We began each year reading Charlotte’s Web. We let live spiders loose in the classroom and watched them, fed them, loved them. They were harmless garden spiders and they lived on their beautiful orbed webs that we watched them create. We caught live crickets and threw them into the web, all the while watching their spinnerets eject silk to wrap up their prey. Everything Charlotte did, our spiders did. It was simple, and it put magic in teaching!
As we were reading James and the Giant Peach a student remarked, ”I wish we could make a giant peach!” Why not? We spent time designing and creating a peach that we could explore. We made it out of chicken wire, similar to how a parade float is made. Children took turns sitting in the peach and reading. It took up our stage for weeks. Oh, and it put magic in teaching!
We taught food webs and life cycles through a unit on pumpkins. At the end of the unit our classroom turned into a pumpkin museum. The children were the ushers and they took groups of younger students through all the while explaining their learning through hands on activities. It was messy, somewhat chaotic, and the children loved it. I guarantee you that they fully understood both food chains and life cycles, both the ushers and the attendees. Learning and fun? We call this putting magic in teaching.
Recently we were won a literacy award for running an exemplary reading program. We live in the mountains of Colorado. I declared that we would stop everything and have a class snowman building contest to celebrate. What? Where is this in the standards? We have so much to do!
I say, “Abracadabra!” We stop and take a moment with the children for nothing but pure fun. Is this possible? It is in my school. We like to call it magic.
When was the last time you heard a parent say, “My child would not miss a day, even when she feels bad, for she so loves school!” Let’s use the wonder of creation for children to have magical experiences that may or may not be tied to standards, even for an hour a month? A week? A day? I guarantee my students will always remember having live spiders in the classroom, building a giant peach, and conducting a pumpkin museum. These experiences bring the magic back into learning.
And just in case you are wondering if all of this magic affected test scores? Ours were the highest in quite a large district!
Can you say it with me? Magic!
Catherine Beck is the principal of a dual language IB elementary school in Colorado. She is the co-author of the new book, Easy and Effective Professional Development. For more magic, follow @cathypetreebeck on Twitter
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