Who would ever think we’d be sitting in Paneras with Kim Yaris or be collaborating with a colleague in Minnesota as though we worked just down the hall from each other. When really, we work on Long Island NY, and our colleague, Kathryn works on an Indian reservation in Minnesota. True story. These events really happened! Being a connected educator affords us these great opportunities. We are working alongside Kathryn, Kim, and Jan to launch our Biography Unit of Study in a totally new way. We will be integrating Burkins & Yaris’ book Reading Wellness as we explore Biography. What’s even better, Kim Yaris will be coming into our classroom to help with the launch.
Part of this work includes a device called: Heart Head Hands & Feet (HHHF). It’s a tool that enables students to name and record the driving forces that make people truly great. It provides a context for children to understand all that goes into a life of devotion for a cause or an idea. Its aim is to help students conceptualize the accomplishments that lead people from everyday interests, or daring new ideas to an extraordinary life. They see how these remarkable people, like Jane Goodall or Carl Sagan, started on a path to excellence from childhood interests to exceptional achievements in their fields of study. That’s just the beginning.
Using this learning as a scaffold, students can begin to evaluate their own hopes and dreams and think about what holds true in their hearts. They can try on these identities of greatness and begin to make their plans to consider what actions they can take to learn more to begin their own search. This is all done with the hopes they will experience enthusiastic and engaged learning that lights a fire for a personal pursuit of knowledge. This a form of self actualized learning that offers us something special. We are going to give our students this gift of our ardent belief in their real hopes and dreams. We are doing this and attempting to make their interests relevant to their own learning.
Biography offers a chance to read through text sets that provide a deeper understanding for time periods and how the times people live in create openings for greatness. We can open children’s eyes to the interconnectedness between people and events in a person’s life that guides them on their path to success. This journey is usually not easy and involves problems and struggles that require perseverance and resilience. These are life lessons for our children to take with them as they set goals for their future. Start with something that you love, dedicate your efforts and find people who share an optimistic lens. If you do that, you too can achieve greatness, even if it’s just right now in a third grade classroom on Long Island or in a fifth grade classroom on an Indian reservation in Minnesota.
This is how we envision the work to come:
- Immerse children in biographies (read aloud, independent reading, small groups) using HHHF
- Build time in for personal reflection as children explore their own interests, e.g. I love apes. I’m going to “Read like Jane.” (Burkins & Yaris) just as Jane Goodall read with zeal and vivacious pursuits of knowledge
- Schedule a virtual trip to Minnesota so that children can connect with others who are doing this same work – expand their view of the world!
- Plan a celebration where students create their biography coat and take on the persona of their historical figure. They are going to also dare to dream about how they make their mark in history.