“Little dreams, big dreams, each a hope looking for a life to make it real . . . a life like yours.”
It is the New Year and with it comes new resolutions, hopes, and dreams for the future. January is the perfect time to start fresh. Despite being halfway into the school year, there is plenty of time for students, and teachers, to begin with a clean slate. Now is the time to teach the difference between what is and what can be. Here are some examples of how you can utilize this tremendous learning opportunity in your classrooms.
I begin this unit by reading Dream: A Tale of Wonder, Wisdom, and Wishes by Susan V. Bosak. This beautifully illustrated book examines the power of dreams, and how we find the courage to achieve what we wish for. It is filled with inspirational quotes and poems about pursuing your dreams, no matter how big or small. Listen to your middle school students' conversations, and you will hear of aspirations to become the next big NFL star, famous actor or actress, or even president of the United States. However, you may also hear of goals that will touch your heart. I posed this question to my students and was moved to hear that one of them wanted to “meet my mom for the first time” and another yearned to “have a quiet room where I don’t hear any fighting.” It is important to recognize whatever our students desire within their hearts. Since many thoughts are private, you may want to come up with several activities that will allow for confidentiality. Give your students several slips of paper to write their hopes and dreams on. Have them set aside ones they prefer to keep to themselves while the others are shared with the class using the following activities.
Since most students are still riding the high of having a week or two off for the holidays, include activities in your unit that allow for movement. While reading each section of Dream, ask your students to find the hidden stars on each page. After they have identified a few, ask them to “wish upon a star.” At the end of Dream, the author describes the Legacy Project (www.legacyproject.org) and suggests that students participate by creating 3-D dream stars with a special wish written inside. Since many of the boys and girls in my class excel at hands-on learning projects, we decided to create origami creations to hold our wishes. Each student read out loud an end-of-the-year goal that they had written on the paper for their origami animal. This way, their figurine will serve as a reminder throughout the year. You may choose to display your wishes in the form of a dream board, filled jars, or mobiles that will add vibrancy and inspiration to any classroom. Best of all, since the wishes were said aloud, students can help their classmates reach their goals with words of encouragement if they see them struggling. Once the goal has been attained, the student may take their origami piece home.
As I mentioned before, Dream is filled with profound quotes about the power of wishes. These can serve as a writing prompt or as a topic for an extension narrative essay. This Christmas my son Fisher made me a beautiful cover for my journal, which I promptly brought to my classroom to share. I was surprised by how many students coveted its beautiful tapestry and asked if they could “upgrade” their own. I went to my local craft store and was able to find inexpensive fabric remnants and trimmings for their use. The results were original and unique, and the students couldn’t wait for our next writing assignment so that they could show off their creations!
The crux of making a wish is believing that your wish will somehow come true. For students to acknowledge that this is possible, they must first have faith in themselves. “I Am” poems require quite a bit of self-reflection, but serve as a wonderful visual representation of what a student feels and thinks about themselves. Since this type of poem is a bit challenging for struggling learners, you may want to create a sample poster for them to emulate. Finally, turn your classroom walls into an art gallery of poems for students to walk through. This is a powerful way for peers to learn about each other and the perfect end to your unit. It will also complement any Martin Luther King Jr. thematic unit using the famous “I Have a Dream” speech as a platform.
What are your dreams?