Sunday, November 10, 2013

GRA#13OOMM: A Melody-Inspired Day

image via Edutopia
It was messy. Our neighbors probably said it was loud. To an uninvited guest, it would have seemed chaotic. But for my students- it was pure bliss!

As most of you know, we have been participating in The Global Read Aloud Project. We have made some awesome connections with friends from all over the globe, as well as one another, and have had many great conversations surrounding Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper....but we wanted more.

Much can be said about a group of school children bonding over a character and her story. By reading the fictional story of Melody and her special needs, my students started to think about our own friends here at our own school who also deal with special needs on a daily basis, just as Melody and her family do. This set into motion a plan. Originally we discussed performing a play, but due to some limitations, we knew a play wouldn't work, so we gathered as a class to decide what we could do for them. This evolved into a student-created, student-delegated "day of fun" as they called it for the students of our Life Skills class at our school. I sat amazed at the computer, ready to take notes as students, one by one, volunteered to be in charge of various activities and join up with other groups already being formed. When everyone finished scurrying around and spouting ideas and what they'd like to help with, we had four committees, each with a chairman and members. There would be a skit, a puppet show, an art activity, and a games area. 

Painted pumpkins
Students had two days to plan. Groups immediately began to buzz around the room asking for different supplies. Our Publications Committee began creating invitations and a program. The Skit Committee began drafting a script. The Welcome Committee/Art Committee chairperson began delegating jobs to different people in her group. Before long, each student in a class of 21 were all working on something...with no direction from me... no lengthy dialogue from the teacher... no limits or your project "must haves"... and IT. WAS. AMAZING!

I was truly beside myself as I watched for two days as they prepped, designed, borrowed supplies, brought supplies from home they'd created, re-designed because something wasn't just right, hot glued, glittered, and rehearsed. The bottom line was- they were doing something special for someone else, and they were excited that they could give back to students at our own school for the simple reason that a book inspired them to think differently about students with special needs. 

At 8:00 when I called, "It's time! Places everyone!" there was a hushed silence as everyone got into place. As the Welcoming Committee greeted the small group of their peers- students from another class, that many had only seen but never spoken to- I could not have been prouder as a teacher. 

The puppet show was first; a creative puppet play where one puppet mysteriously (and wittingly) is turned into a Longhorn overnight by a vengeful ghost puppet. Next, was the art center. Members of this committee brought all of their supplies from home: small pumpkins to decorate, paint, brushes, stickers... they even brought a disposable table cloth so we wouldn't stain the computer table. (Oh! and glitter... LOTS of glitter!) After making art, the students rotated to games. Members of this committee had set up small bowling pins made out of empty water bottles that had been painted, and used the white board as a backdrop for "The Sticky Throw" with small, sticky gooey eye balls (pun intended). 

One student even painstakingly cut out a cardboard pumpkin, painted it, decorated the background with mini-lights for a homemade "Pin the Stem on the Pumpkin." After this, the skit was the final act. A thoughtful tale of not being too quick to judge others based on assumption or fear. When it was time to say goodbye, some looked glum. Many said they were sad our time with them was over. We began the daunting chore of cleaning up the stations they worked so hard to create and sweeping the endless amounts of glitter from the floor. (Did I mention there was A LOT of glitter?!!!?) 

Cleaning up the Art Center

In talking about this day, many of my students ask when we can do it again. They have an urge to not only create and design with no boundaries, but they have a deep desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves; to do good for others for no reason other than because they read a book about a girl who was different and suddenly they realize in many ways--- we all are.