Students Got Talent!

Core scripture: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (1 Peter 4:10)

Message: (Last week on my blog, we talked about how teachers can use their talents and gifts.  This week we will explore how students can do the same!  The message below is straight from a chapter in a book I am attempting to write called The Ohana Classroom.)

Imagine this … a fish is going to school.  This little fish is an excellent swimmer.  He has perfected all his swimming skills, propelling himself through the water by whipping his fins.  But he gets an assignment from his teacher that frustrates him.  He is supposed to cross a bridge to get from one side of the lake to another, only there is one problem—he can’t survive out of the water!

The fish is heartbroken.  He knows he can get from one side to the other by swimming, but his teacher is only allowing the class to prove their ability outside of the water.  So, what does he do?  He approaches the teacher.  He explains that he would die if he tried to cross the lake on the bridge, BUT if the teacher would be so kind to allow him to swim, he could make it to the other side in no time.

This story reminds me of my first years of teaching 7th grade.  I wanted my students to be able to analyze characters.  So, I told them to draw a visual picture of a character of their choice on a sheet of construction paper.  Some of my students were like, “Let’s go!” immediately getting their markers out to begin the project.  Others, however, could not even begin.  They were so self-conscious of their artistic ability that they didn’t even try.

I soon realized my mistake.  Although some of the pictures were brilliant, others looked pitiful.  I remember one kid’s rendition of a character looked like a skyscraper building.  He turned his assignment in with a wry smile on his face, saying, “Yeah, I suck at drawing.”  It was then that I began to wonder … why was I making all my students try to draw?  Weren’t there other ways they could show me they know a character?

I started brainstorming all the different ways students could show me they know a character.  They could write a descriptive original chapter about a character.  They could write a song or a poem.  They could act out a scene.  They could write or act out a character interview.  They could make a character baseball card or a character Instagram page.  This was genius!  There were so many ways to show they knew the material!

That next school year we mixed it up.  The kids were allowed to show characterization any way they felt comfortable.  My artists drew pictures.  My writers cranked out stories.  My actors displayed their talents performing in front of the class.  There was one kid who wrote lyrics about a character like Weird Al Yankovic, parodying a popular Beatles song.  It was beautiful!  Each kid was allowed to explore learning through their own unique gift. 

As the project began, one student was bold to approach me.  He asked if he could create an animation on his device over a character using an app I had never heard of.  I asked him to show me an example of what he was thinking, and it blew my mind!  I quickly stopped class to share this kid’s idea, and a handful of others were saying, “Oh, yeah!  I can do that!”  We had just discovered a new way to prove knowledge.  Encourage students to make suggestions!

The Ohana classroom acknowledges those gifts.  If there is another way to get that fish to the other side of the pond, find it!  One size does not fit all.  Differentiate your instruction to all your students’ gifted areas.  Students love the power of choice!  And when you see kids excelling in one area, encourage them.  Cheer them on!  Their confidence will soar.  They will relish believing in themselves, and they will polish and perfect awesomeness.

Challenge: Differentiate your instruction to allow your students’ gifts to be on display!

Clint speaks: Last year a teacher in Indiana contacted me to Zoom with her students after they used my YouTube audiobook for Freak the Mighty.  We got cut short on time, so I created this video to share the Killer Kane Rap Song.  One of the options my students have this week while doing the Freak Character Analysis is to create a song or poem—just like their goofy teacher.  If you want to skip straight to the rap song, fast forward to 3:10. Enjoy the video below:

Scripture study: Read Matthew 25:14-30, and journal or discuss the following questions …

  1. What reward is there for utilizing talents?
  2. How was the servant who buried his talents treated?
  3. What message is Christ trying to get across to his audience?

Prayer points: Lift up the following areas to the Lord …

  • Praise God for the many talents He blesses students with!
  • Pray for wisdom in allowing those talents to be on display in your classroom.
  • Pray that students would feel comfortable in allowing their gifts to shine.

Just for fun: So, last Wednesday I was camped out behind my desk, grading journals while my students were reading Freak the Mighty quietly to themselves—or so I thought.  With three minutes until the bell, I looked to the corner of my room and saw a young man blowing up an inflatable monkey.  Our eyes met.  His eyes widened a bit as I gave him a disapproving glance.  I had two choices at that moment: get angry or simply laugh at his shenanigans.  I chose the latter and captured the moment with a picture.  Enjoy the picture below.  And yes, this is the same gentleman who wrote about the three monkeys dancing on the bed in my “Goodbye, Sayri!” blog post. Every day something new!

Prayer: Lord, help me encourage my students in their gifts and talents to glorify how you created each of them.  Amen.

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