Post date: Aug 18, 2018 6:33:03 PM
I was considering writing a post about how powerful and joyful imagination can be in the classroom after doing my In The Clouds lab yesterday. Then I woke up to this in my news feed:
It's a short clip of Inside Out (The Greatest Movie Ever Made) with Riley as a kid playing music with her imaginary friend Bing Bong. I guess it was meant to be. So, here we go!
One of the things I realized I was missing last year after some reflection was simple joy. I focused so hard on reading strategies, vocabulary and rigorous writing tasks that I let some of the fun activities go. I had to make room somewhere and they made the most sense, at least at the time. I want to make a concerted effort to bring as much of that joy back this year as possible. So, I decided to bring back In the Clouds. This is a very simple activity to get students to form a mental picture of the shape of the continents. Most of my students can't even name them coming into 7th grade let alone recognize them visually. I'm not big on maps but I think there is value in having a general picture of what the world looks like.
In the activity students imagine the continents are clouds floating in the sky. They then imagine what they would see in them if they were clouds. Europe, for example, looks strikingly like a baby dinosaur drinking water and being picked up by his mother's very large claw. You see it right?
That's where the joy begins. There is something truly magical about imagination. When I tell students that's what I see they start turning their heads in all sorts of directions trying to see it themselves. They audibly gasp in excitement when they do. "OOOOHH I SEE IT!" "I don't..."
When they come up with their own ideas they can't wait (often literally) to tell everyone what they see. I first have them share with their shoulder partner so I know everyone got a chance to talk. They all want to. At this point a few brave kids will come up to the screen to point to what they see specifically for their partner. I then call out for a few to share with the class and a ton of hands always shoot up. Kids really want to be the one that sees something nobody else does. Then, when they point it out, they get that feeling of excitement when they hear "OOOOHH I SEE IT!" from their classmates. For such a simple, silly activity it is amazing how much energy and excitement builds in the classroom.
It also works academically. After we've gone through the 5 largely-populated continents (sorry Antarctica and Australia, we're busy) I do a lightning round where I flash the continents up on the screen and have kids yell them out by sight. What they absolutely could not have done 15 minutes ago they now cannot only do but cannot wait to do it.
We can't always create a game or simulation for everything we do but imagination is easy. We often lament how kids lose their creativity and imagination as they get old. Maybe we're to blame. We'd do an activity like In the Clouds in a heartbeat in elementary school but somehow in secondary it feels cheap and not rigorous enough. It shouldn't though. Kids are learning to communicate abstract thoughts with one another and forming a visual picture of the world. There's great value in that.
Also, there is incredible value in having fun and we should never forget that. Disney thrives on it! Walt was fond of saying entertainment is not the enemy of education and little activities like this are a perfect example.