Celebrate the talents and joy of your students by shining a light on their superpowers. Allow students to share their passion and create a personalized learning environment based on what they believe their strengths are.
In Top Teacher Blogger Brian Smith’s post about celebrating differences, Brian shared the notion of taking time to get to know your students so you can understand how much of a difference you can make in their school experiences. I agree with Brian and wanted to share a lesson I found useful for my students.
I asked my students what they knew about superpowers. We brainstormed on chart paper what superpowers are. We wrote down how they are strengths that superheroes use. I wanted them to think about the superpowers inside themselves. What is the strength that drives their learning? What is something they feel they are great at? These are superpowers. These are things they feel confident in (art, drawing, football, music, cooking, etc.) — an area where they would want to explore all day long.
We shared one at a time as a class, allowing every student to say one superpower. When we were finished, students went to their writer’s notebooks and brainstormed what other superpowers they had. I asked them to think about their drive and their passion. Where does this passion come from?
I extended their thinking into taking the superpowers they listed and creating a narrative.The prompt was, "Write about a day in your life where you used only your superpowers." The key to this prompt was having my students imagine the "What if?" What if your class met at a basketball game because basketball was one of your superpowers? What would you learn there? Where would your learning go from there?
We extend our superpower discovery with an art lesson. I saw this fabulous Smart Art lesson on a teacher blog. I wanted my class to do the same thing, only I wanted them to highlight their superpowers. Instead of writing “I am” at the top, I had my students write their names. The next group of lines were used to write down their superpowers. I opened up the activity to student choice — meaning they could write it and design it their own way. The parameters were they had to have their name at the top and they had to have their superpowers written somewhere on the paper. We did crayon resist. This is where the kids outline all of their writing and the lines in black crayon and then used watercolors to paint over the top.
They turned out beautifully. They are a great reminder of who my students are. It is a project that students can look up at and not only be reminded of their unique qualities and differences, but also gives them a go-to for talents that they may need help with. For example, if I had a student that wanted to know more about basketball, they can look to see that basketball is one of Michael's superpowers and he would be a great person to go to for help.
A colleague introduced to me a blog post written by a parent that describes an amazing strategy a teacher started to use in her classroom immediately after the tragic Columbine shootings. In it, the educator looks for ways to identify students who might feel isolated and then takes steps to address the issue in the classroom. It's a simple strategy that I now employ. At the end of the day, I ask my students to write down the names of three students they would like to sit next to and why. I look over their responses to see who is always being chosen and who is never being chosen. If I see that a child's name is not showing up, I know that there is a disconnect in the classroom that I need to take care of. The idea is to make sure everyone in the classroom feels respected as an important piece of the puzzle.
The superpowers lesson for me is an opportunity to remind my students that they are all good at something. For the individual, acknowledging their personal assets can be a source of inner strength when a challenge is upon them. For the group to understand each other's strengths helps build our community and ensure no child is left feeling isolated and all children feel their own sense of worth.
What is your superpower? How do you share this idea with your students? I’d love to hear from you!
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