Put a Little Heart into Your Classroom

My dream has always been to have kids talk about what they are learning outside of class, at the dinner table, on the bus. To be so passionate about what they are learning that they go home and watch a documentary, binge onNetflix, or continue reading more books about what we are learning long after the curriculum has asked us to move on. Sometimes that happens, and sometimes it does not. I have grown to learn that when they do continue their learning outside of the classroom, it is almost always when they are captivated by people’s stories. Whether it be Andrew Jackson’s childhood, Samuel Cloud on the trail of tears, or Emmanuele who became a child soldier in the Republic of Congo and was the same age as my students. We need to focus on stories in class. We need to tell those stories with the heart that they deserve.

I believe that great classrooms can change the world. When classrooms include powerful stories, when those stories are told with heart the way they deserve to be told, kids thought patterns can change, they can be moved, fires are lit, and they will be inspired.

Great classrooms just don’t just focus on content. They use the content in their course to deliver a story that has heart.

Most units are built upon one of four pillars
The first is People — that’s focusing on historical and current characters.
The second is places — that’s the big picture and details of an event.
The third pillar is plot — the overall arch and structure of the unit
And last is purpose — the intention, the big why behind the unit

The p that you put first will determine what type of class you will have
If you focus on Plot, you’ll have a class with lots of action.
If you focus on places, you’ll have a class that seems like a travel video
If you focus on purpose, your class will come across as a commercial.
But when you put people first, well that gives you a class that is character driven

So what does that all that mean?

If you give your kids one character to root for,
someone they can invest in,
the student forms a powerful connection with the content.

If purpose drives your unit
and you want to show how challenging it was during the time period,
how tough it was,
why reforms were made.
Sure, they might consider what it was like,
but when it’s over,
they’re relieved because it just made them uncomfortable.

Focusing on places is common especially in geography classes.
Beautiful environment,
analyzing pictures of homes,
videos of the Amazon basin.
It might hold their interest,
but ultimately there is nothing to root for, there is nothing to feel strongly about.

Often plot drives social studies classes.
Those classrooms focus on battles,
the inventions,
the routes of the explorers.
When plot drives a class
they don’t really get to know the people in the battles
or the men and women who stayed up late in their workshops.
They can’t form an emotional connection to the people involved,
they can’t get to know the people.
It keeps their attention,
but it doesn’t change the way they think or feel about anything.

That leaves us with People–
when people become the heart of your class
they’ll will stay with a lesson a little bit longer,
they want to know what happens to the character next.
Putting people first gives kids the ability to engage with someone else,
they can dig below the surface to the heart of what matters,
they can identify with them,
they can feel for them.
People can help them make sense of their own experiences,
of things they have gone through,
or things they imagine might come to pass.

Focusing on people is the strongest way for you to get them to connect with the story.

Too often they learn about the Cherokees on The trail of tears,
but not the individuals involved,
They learn about the life of Civil War soldiers
without ever getting to know one.
Focusing on people is the reason why they will care about your class.
It’s what will give your class heart.
You can have multiple people,
but focus on them as individuals.
People who shoes the kids can walk in.

Kids do not want to be taught,
they want to be moved.
Put a little heartinto your next lesson.

Big shout out to Stillmotion for producing a story that sparked this post.

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