Saturday, March 23, 2013

Third Graders in Battle

If you walked past my classroom at 2:55 yesterday afternoon, you would have seen students crying and hugging each other. You would have seen ripped up pieces of scrap paper being thrown up in the air and 25 children jumping up and down like little bits of popcorn popping. You would have heard screams and shouts and high-five slaps. There were fist-pumps, yes!'s, way-to-go's, and even a spontaneous rendition of Kool and the Gang's Celebration. 

And it would have seemed like total chaos. But it wasn't.

For the first time in the history of our school, third graders placed at the annual Battle of the Books. Twice. In complete underdog fashion, two teams from my classroom took first and third place. While I don't put too much emphasis on Battle of the Books, this was our game plan from the first day of school:

Love of Reading + The Right Attitude + Collaboration = Success!

Leftover sign from our Battle of the Books (BOB) Competition
First, Battle books are notoriously hard for my third graders to read. I chose to read two of the sixteen aloud to the class (The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling), but that was it. The rest they read on their own because they were just plain good books and they love to read.

Second, we went into Battle with the attitude that a win for one third-grade team was a win for all third grade teams. The phrase "better together" became a daily mantra. Students agreed that no matter what team they were on for the event, in our classroom they were one team, united.

Third, we had to work hard. Sure, having the right attitude naturally fostered collaboration among the group, but students quickly realized they had to put in the time to practice. I helped by setting up an Edmodo group and a Google Spreadsheet. They took over from there. Students created quiz questions for each other, compiled important book information, and generally spent a lot of time just talking about the books - both in person and online. When one student didn't understand or was confused, another was there to help them comprehend. They began to show patience and trust each other's expertise. They began to really listen and learn from one another as a result of the process. This was a major breakthrough for a group of very independent, competitive, and strong-willed kids.

Seeing the joy and excitement yesterday afternoon was a great reminder of why I'm in this profession, despite all the hardships that led up to the event. It's about the process and love of learning. It's about the joy of collaborating with others. It's about celebrating successes - those that can be seen and those that can't. I hope my students never forget that feeling of 2:55 yesterday afternoon. I know I won't.

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