For the Magical Minds, setting the scene occurred alongside their character descriptions. Who their characters were was very much tied to where and how they lived.
As we sat around the table brainstorming details about their characters, the Magical Minds began to doodle images of homes.
But doodling a setting is not the same as creating a set. The most difficult task in this process is agreeing which image(s) to go with, and dividing the labor amongst each other. The kids decided to build two sets (we had a deadline to meet), as well as a few vital props (a sign to Candy Town, a carton of chocolate milk, etc…). Two kids desperately wanted to work on creating Candy Town, and with a bunch of colored paper they independently headed off to the Assembly Area. Notice how this team is working together. We are cooperative!
Two of the girls were excited to work on creating a forest for the travelers to move through. To help them get their design juices flowing, I showed them how I use Google to search images of forest. Following the writing process, the girls first made a rough draft. I was particularly wowed when the girls returned to Google and searched for “Forest Plants,” narrowing their search to specific colors. This inspired a bevy of colorful flowers, mushrooms and plants on their backdrop.
When the kids got stuck on what to do about the pathway(s) that lead up to the forest, I suggested ripping paper to make a textured grass. I was happy to get down on the floor and help with ripping and glueing. This is why I got into teaching – to play with kids!
Thus, a good day was spent just on backdrops and props. We cranked the music, took occasional dance and snack breaks and cheered each other on. As often happens, it took one last group effort to finish things up.
Sometimes I worry that these kinds of days are not addressing our standards and benchmarks, but then I remember my essential three. The “Essential Three” are the most important things to me as a teacher:
- The kids like coming to school.
- The kids like learning.
- The kids feel empowered to make things happen
Not only did a day spent on backdrops meet the Essential Three, but it was also a lesson on team work, cooperation, drafting and designing, quality of presentation and visual communication.