Thursday, March 17, 2011

First Graders Proved me Wrong - and I'm Happy About It!

I must confess - first graders proved me wrong today.  I've been working with a first grade teacher on research projects that are based solely on the topic that the child wanted to research.  One girl wanted to learn about Copernicus, so that's who she is researching!  In addition to learning how to gather information from the computer (World Book and some other kid-friendly search engines) the teacher wanted them all to create a Powerpoint presentation.  She created the 15 page template and designated where students should insert their information.  I questioned her - asking if she was sure she wanted all 15 slides in the Powerpoint - she said yes.  I asked again, "Are you sure?"  She was determined to set the bar high and see how far her students could go.  I, on the otherhand, thought, "You are crazy!"  I told her this too (we have a good relationship!).

We had 6 adults in the computer lab - the teacher, myself, and 4 parent helpers (thank goodness for parent helpers!).  Prior to the lesson, I dropped the template into each student's folder (which they had never seen before).  So at the beginning of the lesson, I had to show them how to navigate there.  Then, I modeled how to do specific things within Powerpoint - make a capital letter, put one space between each word, delete the text that says "Write your topic here,"etc. 

Once the students were sent back to their seats to start, I was amazed at how well they listened to instructions and navigated to their folder with the Powerpoint file - there were 5 steps involved!  Then, I watched students as they focused on their screens to create Powerpoint presentations for the first time (only 2 students had heard of the program before).  I assisted with capital letters, finding the apostrophe, teaching the 'undo' button (basic first grade questions) and I watched in awe as these 6 and 7 year olds navigated through a program that some of my coworkers are still unfamiliar with.

At the end of our time in the computer lab, some students had completed 1 slide and some had completed 4 (oh, did I mention we showed how to insert clipart too?!).  As the kids were lined up at the door ready to leave, I told them that they had proven me wrong (and of course they really liked that).  :)

All of this makes me think - how often do our student expectations get in the way of our lesson planning?  Our lesson plans are based off of our expectations, right?  We plan certain activities for centers because the students are 'capable of doing that activity independently.'  But what if our expectations fall short?  How would you know if your expectations could be exceeded?  I'm not sure if I phrased these questions right.  I just know that from now on, I will be looking at my lesson objectives in a more critical manner.


  1. They are amazing aren't they? Good for them and for you. Great reflective questions, which got me thinking too. Nice post

  2. Wow. That is so exciting and the children will have really loved that they could choose their topic for learning. It makes me feel challenged because I don't feel confident enough about setting up the task in the first place. Would love to see an example. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Helping students grow in the "Zone of Proximal Development" is enhanced if teachers explore that zone, too! Thanks to brooker1015 for being that "go to" collaborative partner in supporting me, as the teacher, so we can make this opportunity even possible for our students! As g.o. scan shared, there are mixed feelings associated with being "challenged." Yet the strength to "go for it" came from the support and enthusiasm of our cooperative group, making it possible and exciting...and that much more rewarding!

  4. That's an awesome experience...and I use "awe" in the purest sense. You bring up such a good point about our expectations. We all learned about the self-fulfilling prophecies, but you have reflected on how they can be broken when we create the conditions for risk-taking as you have modeled. Thanks for sharing!