I think we sometimes forget that we are the key to unlocking the magic for kids.
Today was a logistical day with my 3rd graders, and by all measures, it should have been less-engaging than usual. They’ve been close-reading informational texts and taking notes, first starting with small details, then grouping them into common themes, then labeling the categories they had created. So today was a bridging day from notes to crafting on their Chromes.
As they’re 3rd graders, typing is often laborious, and they’re not all that familiar with navigating Google Slides. Today we were walking through each step, bit by bit, practicing the vocabulary so that when it is used in their gen. ed. classroom, they won’t be thrown.
In the last 5 minutes of class, I pulled my 4 students to one table, to quickly record facts I knew about sugar gliders.
→ white, black and grey fur
→ big black eyes
“What’s nocturnal”? Jaime asked.
“Oh! Oh! Um… isn’t that… I think that’s when…” Fredy hesitated as he tried to gather his thoughts. I held up a hand so no one would cut him off. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s when animals aren’t awake during the day. And then they don’t sleep at night.”
“Exactly!” I said exchanging a high-five. “Nocturnal means an animal is usually awake during the night and sleeps during the day.”
“Like bats!” said Maria, as Melissa shuddered next to her.
“Just like bats,” I confirmed. “And that’s one of the reasons their eyes are big - to help them see better at night.”
Blank stares. I smiled and stood up. I flicked off the light switch, grabbed my phone and turned on the flashlight feature.
“Let me show you how your pupils work.”
Amidst oohs, aahs, and eews, I proceeded to demonstrate on my own eyes how the human pupil dilates. They were enraptured. This part of the lesson was unplanned, unexpected, and cost me less than 2 minutes. And yet, it had the biggest impact.
It strikes me as ironic, this day that I was sure would be unremarkable, is most likely the one that will be seared in their memories for all of time.