As my 4th graders begin their research projects we have been discussing and experimenting with keywords. Today they put together a list of questions about their topic (a famous African American) to prepare for starting their research. I gave them a choice of how they listed the questions. I modeled the list method and the ‘idea map’ (graphic organizer) method while also telling them that they could organize their questions in whatever fashion made sense to them.

As I walked around I noticed a big drawing of Michael Jordan on one of my students’ papers. This student had been asking lots of questions about the assignment, but I had been so sure that we had cleared everything up, so my hear sank when I saw the drawing. I double checked with the student as I approached to take a closer look and he looked at me and said, “You said we could do it however makes sense to us, right?” I looked closer.

He had been writing his questions inside the drawing! It made my day.

Let’s rethink our practice of making everybody do it ‘just like the teacher!’


  1. azjd


    Fantastic….giving kids the opportunity to create something that has meaning to them. Appreciate the post!

  2. Reply

    Which is one reason why I am skeptical of teaching kids strategies–which where our testing culture has brought us. Too many times teachers don't stop to consider that students have figured out their own strategies.

  3. sbteaches


    This is wonderful – my high schoolers are often too focused on what the "right way" to do something is that they wouldn't step outside the box like this – keep cultivating this creativity before it's too late!

  4. Pingback: Extend the Conversation #30GoalsEdu : Teacher Reboot Camp

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