I had an incredible first grade teacher. It was Mrs. Hebert’s first year of teaching and she had just been married. I thought she was beautiful. I remember being excited to be in her classroom, from the first day of class there was a sense of adventure and fun.
One Monday morning, we all trooped into a darkened classroom to find glowing stars all over the room and a giant UFO made out of cardboard and egg crates, spray painted silver, glowing in the center. There were purple rocks (dried purple play-dough) hidden in bookshelves and desks around the classroom. We were immediately drawn into play, I don’t think that our backpacks and coats made it to the hooks that day. Mrs. Hebert was peppered with questions, “What are we doing today?”, “Is that a spaceship?”, “What are all those purple rocks all over?”, “Cool, what happened?” She answered us with complete surprise, “I’m not sure what happened, I came in this morning and there was a UFO in the room, what do you think happened? Maybe we can find some clues.” We all set out on a hunt for clues. We started collecting the purple rocks and putting them in a pile next to the UFO. One student found a book called “Space Rock” and suggested we read it for clues. Mrs. Hebert produced enough copies of the book for the whole class. We all agreed that the book would probably give us clues about what happened. We sat in a big circle around the UFO and took turns reading. As the story unfolded, we learned that the purple “rocks” were not ordinary rocks, they were pet space rocks. We also discovered that each of the space rocks had our names on the bottom. They were our pet space rocks.
That day we read a very basic, first grade level, leveled reader. Every member of the class was engaged and excited about that leveled reader. Good readers, struggling readers, and advanced readers read together and all enjoyed it. We learned that books can be fun, that they can help us discover things, that they can lead to adventure. We all wanted to learn more about space, UFO’s, space rocks, and spaceships. This was just the beginning for us, we had many adventures of learning that year. The next week Mrs. Hebert had us each act out a planet, star, or moon. We practiced being a solar system, orbiting and rotating around the room.
Mrs. Hebert taught in a public school, she had to administer the ITBS test every year, I am sure she had set curriculum that had to be taught. What I love about Mrs. Hebert, is that she wasn’t willing to just teach us from a scripted curriculum. She was determined to make us a part of our learning and include us in the adventure of learning. I am so thankful for her approach to learning. This is the reason, 21 years later, I can still remember the name of that silly leveled reader. How many of you can name a leveled reader from first grade? How many of our students could?
I am beginning the Stories of Learning blog because I am surrounded by amazing educators like Mrs. Hebert every day. My PLN is made up of creative, innovative educators who are daily taking their students on adventures in learning. This blog will not be mine, it will be ours. My hope is that all of you incredible educators will help me to build it. I want your stories of learning. I want your guest posts and your cross posts. The goal here is to get a collection of excellent stories of learning from teachers around the world. I want to give teachers who are feeling uninspired, inspiration and ideas to borrow from. Please share your stories, I will post them here with a link back to your blog or website. If you are interested in participating, please contact me with your story attached.