Sunday, April 7, 2019

A Twist You Can Do

For me, inspiration comes from all places. While I sometimes have a very clear idea of what I want to share, other times, it's blurry. Today, it was blurry, border-line non-existent - but I found inspiration as I was helping my youngest do a project for homework.

She brought a project home a week ago, but with soccer practices and regular homework, we hadn't yet touched it. It's a scavenger hunt focused on finding math in our everyday lives. [A really good idea to help little learners that math IS all around us.] The directions stated we could do this as a family and as the complaining mounted about how much work this was going to be (from my daughter, not me 😁), I threw out the idea to use snack sized baggies to collect each item. That was met with a quick, "No!".

I didn't give up and suggested she make a small book to display her findings. She stopped, quickly agreed, and asked, "On the computer?" - because she knows I like to "tech things up". Nope, instead I suggested we find some card stock and cut the pieces to make a small booklet. She lit up and happily started thinking how to make this happen.

Working on her scavenger hunt booklet.
Oh, how this little suggestion went a LONG way in changing the mindset of my youngest! She excitedly helped me pick out the colors for the inside pages, as well as papers for the covers. We looked through some of my scraps from years ago when I did scrapbooking and she chose ones that she liked. She helped me cut them to size. Then we talked through options on how to bind it together. We settled on hole-punching and using ribbon. When we had the book put together, she got to work crossing off the 12 items she needed to find.

She wasn't in favor of putting them on pages in order - she clearly thinks a little more creatively than I ! - and then had to figure out how to label them so her teacher knew which item was which. She's pretty clever, and suggested writing a sentence about each item. She even wrote each sentence in a different color pen, to "jazz it up" (her words). She worked on it next to me, stopping every so often to talk through a thought or problem as she created her book. At this point, she isn't 100% finished, but she still has several days  until it's due and she will have no problem completing it. 

The whole point in sharing this with you today, is to share how sometimes a twist - or a little freedom - can provide an avenue of success to a project or activity. My youngest loves school & does very well, but tends to get frustrated quickly. I know she's not the only student like this ... and when I did something as small as give her permission to do more than simply tick off each item of the scavenger hunt, her whole attitude changed and it became something fun to do. 

She needed that permission. She needed a little bit of encouragement. And part way through, she turned and said to me, "Mom, I really like when you say 'how about we make ...' when I have a project to do." THIS is why I had to share this story with you. Even a small change can make a huge difference. 

This project isn't a fight ... it's not an argument ... it's not a hurry up and complete to be done ... she's already thinking about how her teacher can hang it up in the hallway by the ribbon used to bind the pages together - "She really likes to hang up the things we do, Mom." She's proud of her work. She's excited to complete this. She's creating. And that is about the best reward I can hope for.

I encourage you to take a minute and think about the next project or activity you do with your students (or send home) and give your students the permission to DO the activity with a little freedom. I'm happy I can provide that for my girls, but I know not every student will have that at home. If you can have that conversation with them before they go home, if you can give them the permission, the freedom, they can embark on the project/activity with the mindset of creation ... rather than just completion.

P.S. Because I know there are teachers out there who may be a little nervous, I do not push the boundaries of the assignment into being something it's not. I make sure we follow the directions. And if my girls want to do something a bit further outside the written directions, I make them ask first. And because they are invested in the project, I do very little - I am there to support them, IF/when they ask questions. 

Have a question or comment? Feel free to comment below, reach out to me on Twitter @kiefersj, or email me at


  1. Sarah--this is a great reminder that we all think differently and go about expressing our learning and understanding differently. Students need to be given opportunities to showcase their understanding in various fashions. Thank you for posting about this!

  2. Thank you for taking the time to read it and comment. I believe our students are limited only by our constraints.