The following is a reflection on Lesson 3 of the RD Program that I have started in a Grade 4 classroom at my school. Read more about the program here, as well as my reflections on each lesson:
While Lesson 2 involves students self-reflecting and identifying their own strengths, challenges, and interests, Lesson 3 focuses more on the classroom community and team interdependence. It gives the message that all students have strengths and challenges. They can all be helpers sometimes, and they will all need help sometimes too. It fosters inclusion and a real sense of community.
My plan for Lesson 3 mostly followed the process recommended in the book. With a lot to cover, I planned on it taking two sessions to complete. It would go as follows:
- Have a meeting on the carpet to share some of their bar graphs on the whiteboard.
- Allow time for reflection and discussion.
- Create the snakes (or brain parts) out of plasticine.
- Send a small group of students off to create the brain while the rest of the students create their flags.
- Have the small group present the community brain to the rest of the class.
- Discuss with the group what the community brain represents.
- Have a community commitment ceremony.
I wanted to start Lesson 3 at the carpet to share some of their bar graphs. Part of this was to show them how to read the bar graph, but also out of interest to show how different all their bar graphs looked.
Following this, I had the students reflect on their results and compare them to the predictions they had made in Lesson 1. Some had already done this at the end of the last lesson, so this didn’t take much time, and was done through discussion as a whole group at the carpet.
It was fun to get started on the next step, which involved the kids rolling out a chunk of platicine in the shape of a snake. To add an element of surprise, I didn’t tell them why we were doing this. This took about 10 minutes at the end of which I collected all of their snakes into a container.
Normally, the next step would involve the students individually placing their snakes in a mound to build the community brain together. Knowing my students, I decided to modify this step of the process to ensure that all students remained engaged and involved in the lesson in some way. While lengthy lessons with the whole group are challenging for some students in the class, I was pretty sure I could keep these students interested by giving them an important job to do. I tasked them (a group of 4) with building the brain, using the 24 snakes of plasticine. Their job remained a surprise for the other students, in hopes of keeping everyone intrigued. While they left the classroom with the EA to get started, the rest of the students continued with the next step – flag making.
The flag making step had students creating a flag with their name on it, as well as their strongest “smart.” I thought about getting the kids to simply write these details on their flag. This would have involved the least amount of work for me, but I really wanted the brain to be a clear visual representation of the classes intelligence profile. I decided to print sticky labels with the symbols for each of the intelligences (the ones that we had used on our mindmap). This would add a more visual aspect and allow us to easily pick out the different strengths within the group without having to read all of the flags. All the students had to do was select the label that corresponded to their strongest “smart,” stick it on the cardstock flag I had created ahead of time, and add their name. I added the flag sticks (from Dollarama) afterwards, to save us time. The flag making part of the lesson was seamless and went as planned.
Next, was the exciting reveal. The small group that had left the class to build the brain were ready to share their creation. They revelled in being part of this special job, and it was nice to see students who often easily disengage and have trouble staying with the group, contribute something special to the activity.
I ended the first part of lesson 3 by briefly sharing what our community brain represents and reinforced the fact that they all have strengths to bring to the team.
Because I slightly changed the brain making part of lesson 3, I wanted to find a way to give every student the chance to symbolically share and add their strength to the community brain. Because this is possibly the most important part of the whole program, I really wanted to make it special and a big deal.
To reinforce how special this part of the process is, I decided that for the second session of Lesson 3, we would have a “Community Commitment Ceremony!” I set up a special table at the front of the room, complete with a table cloth, candles (flameless of course), flowers, our community brain, our flags, and the community commitment pledge on a poster (created ahead of time).
At the beginning of the ceremony, I reiterated what the community brain represents in a more formal, ceremony speech kind of way. It was something along these lines.
Everyone in this room has something to contribute to the class community, something to be proud of. During the school day, we come together as a family to learn and work with each other. We all have strengths and challenges. This means that we are all helpers sometimes, and we all need help sometimes too. Once we have shared our strengths with each other, we will easily be able to find out who can help us when we need help, just by checking the community brain.
Part of being a family and coming together during the day, means also being willing to help and support each other. Let’s make that commitment today. Signing the Community Commitment pledge, means that when someone asks us for help with a task that is hard for them, we will not make fun of them, nor will we do the task for them. Instead, we will help them to better understand, and learn how to do the task.
I invite each of you today to symbolically share your strength with the class community by placing your flag in our community brain. I also in invite you to commit to helping others by signing the Community Commitment pledge.
Following this, the students came up and individually placed their flags in the class brain, and then signed the community commitment pledge. And because everything is better with music, I had to find us a theme song. See the short clip below of the students placing their flags and signing the commitment while listening to “our” song.
We finished the ceremony with a group picture including the signed pledge and the community brain.
Overall, I am very happy with how Lesson 3 went. The students seemed really engaged throughout both sessions. This was not surprising, since both sessions of the lesson involved more hands-on work, which this group seems to enjoy. I will be looking for other ways to add more tactile work to the upcoming lessons. In the meantime, I leave you with a nice photo of our community brain! What a smart bunch!
Katz, J. (2012). Teaching to Diversity: The Three-Block Model of Universal Design for Learning. Winnipeg: Portage & Main Press.