It started with this need to understand charts and graphs as a reading exercise. When teachers throw out words like "fact" and "statistic" and "percentage" to students they grab pitchforks and torches and do the unthinkable... begin questioning if Lit class has turned Math.
I know, man...I know. Don't you go grabbing a pitchfork either. There's method to the madness.
Teachers all the time talk about Reading Comprehension, but just what does that mean? How many different skills are there associated with reading? Like skinning a cat, yes?
So I wanted the kids to read math... so what? Well, first, we needed to fabricate some numbers. So I waited for the rain to stop and took the kids outside to the playground and created this elaborate obstacle course for them to run.
They had to kick a ball into a soccer goal and make a basket then run 100 meters and cross this swinging rope bridge, navigate this log roll, cross the monkey bars, sprint around the big oak toward the pole climb, ascend/descend, then race toward the tape.
Well, you know how that went over... they geeked out completely. Boys threw down the gauntlet and even the girls wrapped bandannas around their heads and got after it. Laughing, falling, muddying and bloodying up their knees... it was awesome to see kids being kids.
I timed it, of course, and brought the numbers back to the chalkboard the next day for kids to sample and write sentences about.
And of course, we graphed it. This was just the opening... from here we practiced timelines... We had been reading Lorraine Hansberry's autobiography about growing up in the south side of Chicago and I'd been having the kids sketch life they see around their neighborhood, bringing it to class to share. From then we began marking the events in our life on long linear lines... creating memory poems of early childhood events... "Ian, 5 years old, sitting on bicycle handlebars eating an ice cream cone while my dad peddled..." and "Amber, age 7, holding the banjo in my lap, grandfather putting my fingers on the strings."
Just little memories... of course, but that's what makes up our life... these little pockets of keepsakes and mental souvenirs.
I know... how exactly do you get from charts and graphs to muddy rain puddle obstacle courses to poetry timelines...well, get your own classroom and find out.
I left school that day feeling exhausted, stepping out into the sunshine hearing this music in my head. Knowing for certain that I wasn't the only person dancing.