Remembering the Why

“It’s hard!”
“They layout is weird.”
“We have to write in first-person from the viewpoint of a historical figure and it is really hard to do that.”
“Can’t we just take a written test instead?”

We could take a written test instead, but we enjoy torturing you kids. 😉

The quotes above were just a few of the complaints we heard from our 7th graders after their first few posts on their blog. A few months ago I blogged about a Cross-Divisional Blogging activity occurring between our 4th and 7th grade students. You can read that blog here.

When we introduced the lesson, Mr. Millians, the 7th grade history teacher, and I were so pumped to create this relationship between two grade levels and were also excited to challenge our students to think differently than the traditional “let’s read section 2, complete a worksheet, and take a test” history class. But… man oh man did the kids challenge us! When we started to feel their frustrations and push back, we questioned ourselves as teachers. “Is this worth it? Should we continue? Are the kids right?” Anytime your students act as though they do not enjoy a lesson, you always reflect and take a few moments to really figure out what is going on in their minds and how we can comfort them. After reflecting upon a class period where the students shared their emotions with us (and good grief, 7th graders will be honest with you about their emotions!), Mr. Millians and I felt as though this activity was more necessary to continue than ever before. What we realized they were saying was, “Ugh! Why are you making us think differently? For years, you have taught us to sit and listen, complete a worksheet, take a written test, and move on to the next chapter. Now, you want us to actually think and apply?!” The kids were frustrated with the concept of application. Not the concept of a blog. At first, I thought they were frustrated with the platform we were using, but then I quickly realized they were frustrated that we were breaking a cycle that we, as teachers, have engrained in them for so long. We were adding depth and application to a history class. (Insert audible gasp from students here.)

Looking back, I wish we would have added in the “why” when we introduced the idea of the blog and collaboration project. I wish we would have held a detailed conversation about why were doing this activity and been 100% honest with the kids. I wish we would have talked about things like:

  • Research a blog and look at their style of writing
  • What is the purpose of this activity?
  • Why are we having you write from the first person point of view of a historical figure?
  • Why are we not simply having you read chapter 1, and summarize on a blog post?
  • Why is it important to write from that person’s perspective?
I truly think adding in the “why” into our preliminary conversation with the students, could have helped with some of the frustrations the students were feeling. Would it truly have avoided these feelings? No. Why? Because 7th graders like to (insert word deleted as a wonderful, former teacher use to always say) complain. However, it would have at least shared with them the reason behind us challenging them as thinkers. 

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