Monday, September 16, 2013

Conversations About Community in 3rd Grade

A big theme in our Social Studies curriculum is Community.  I kicked off the study this week, I introduced the idea of community and the idea of learning community as an introduction to this yearlong study.  I wanted to have these conversations and this thinking started before we move into the content of local government, community resources, etc.  When we started our conversation, kids shared all they knew about community. I want them to understand the citizenship part of community--that everyone does his/her part and everyone works toward community goals while individuals still have more personal goals.  At the beginning of the conversation, kids seemed to know the content stuff of community (neighborhoods, parks, people, rules and laws) at a basic level which gave us a great start to our conversation.  Then we moved on.

I shared two pieces with the students that first day.  I wanted them to reframe their thinking a bit to think about what made a community work.  I told them I was going to share two pieces as part of our discussion about community and then we'd talk about how those tied in. I wanted them to use these as ways to add to their understanding of what makes a community.  These two pieces provided an amazing conversation about community and what it means to be part of a community.

Following this video conversation, I read the picture book The Little Hummingbird (Ann Marie) by Michael Nicoll Yahgulhanaas.  (Thanks Ann Marie Corgill for this recommendation!) This is a powerful story about a little hummingbird doing his part in the community.

These two pieces provided just the right stories for a great beginning conversation to add new thinking about their understandings of community.

The next day, we read What If Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick. This was a quick read that reminds us why we have rules by taking readers into different settings, thinking about not following a rule, and asking, "What if everybody did that?"  We then talked about all of the communities we are a part of and how each had their own goals, rules, etc. Kids mentioned school, sports teams, churches, neighborhoods, our city, etc.

On Day 3 of our conversation, I paired 2 other videos to share with students. I wanted to really focus on the idea of a Learning Community and how members of a community support one another.  This conversation also included goal setting.

We watched this amazing video from Pernille Ripp's 5th grade classroom: My Students' Classroom Vision. At the end of the clip, one of my students said, "I loved that video. It was the best." It was very powerful for them. We followed up with a conversation about being brave, being part of a learning community, individual goals, and community goals. I shared my own experiences--about how it was easy for me to meet a reading goal, as it was easy for me and I loved to read. But it was brave of me to set a running goal and to put myself out there when running was something I had to work hard at.  How the book I am writing is something that has been hard for me lately and it takes some brave to not just quit.  How when we know each others' goals (as in any community) it is easier to help each other meet them.   It was all very informal but thoughtful.  

I followed up with a clip of Kristin Chenoweth which I loved (I used the one with Kellee instead but like this one better.)

We talked about how Kristen Chenoweth was so good and how she celebrated this guest who was amazing. She cheered for her and was so happy that she was so amazing. How that says a lot about Kristen--she loves seeing others do well. Kids immediately talked about ways they support others and cheer them on when they are successful. They were as interested in Kristen as they were in the friends who must have been filming and wooohoooing throughout.

Finally, on Thursday I shared The Butterfly Video.  Thanks to Steve Peterson who shared this clip with me in a blog comment last week! It is brilliant and it fit in perfectly with the week's conversations.  Again, kids were glued.

Austin's Butterfly: Building Excellence in Student Work - Models, Critique, and Descriptive Feedback from Expeditionary Learning on Vimeo.

My favorite part of the follow-up conversation was the mention that, "Mrs. Christine, our art teacher would love this clip. Has she seen it?  I wonder if she has to do more than one draft? Does she get things right on the first try?"  We decided to email her the link to the video and our question right then. Of course she emailed back to let us know that, yes, she does many drafts for lots of things, even as an art teacher:-)

This week's conversations around community were really important for many reasons. I think the kids will understand the bigger communities of city, state, world, etc. because they have thought so much about their own communities. They understand that people make up a community and that our classroom is a community, a learning community.  They have a role to play in the community--for themselves and for the good of the group.

I can already tell that these videos and books have made an impact.  They keep coming up in conversation and I imagine they will continue to. Just like Caine's arcade, I imagine a few will become anchors for the year. Glad we began our conversation like this and am looking forward to the way the conversation evolves over the next eight months.


  1. I used the "Tree" video last year with my fifth graders. It was a lesson on perspective and theme. Love using videos to make a point. So much more captivating than my mere presences :)

    Love your writing.

  2. Franki, thank you and Mary Lee for the community you have created here, with this blog! Thank you for introducing me to Pernille Ripp's blog and Mary Lee for reminding me I needed to read The Power of Habit--So many great resources out there, I appreciate you two taking time to share what you come across and use--especially on the topics of classroom community, hands-on learning and empowering students to question and contribute. Great videos!

    Happy Monday to you both!

  3. Franki--Love this post! Thanks for sharing so many wonderful ways to invite conversation and explore what it means to be a true community in the classroom! I haven't seen What If Everybody Did That? One-clicking it now!
    Miss you. Thanks to you and Mary Lee for always inspiring me!
    Ann Marie


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