I have to share this with you...I’m so excited!
In my last blog, I shared with you how Teaching With Purpose came about. I’ve been using this curriculum for three years now. I teach reading in a small school, so I have students for 3 years in a row. I’ve been so lucky to be able to watch them grow from 6th grade babies-to 8th grade mini-adults! The bonus is, I’ve gotten to see how this curriculum has changed students’ motivation to read over time.
Conner* came to me in 6th grade. He had reading struggles beginning early in his life, and as is the case with many struggling readers, his motivation and desire to read was low. He even told me the first day of 6th grade that he did not do the summer reading assignment, and he and his mom were not sorry about it. Yikes. He was definitely going to be a challenge. For a lot of the first trimester, I got a lot of eye-rolls from him in class when he was asked to read a paired nonfiction text connecting to the class read. He was the one who would yell out, “What does a dictator have to do with The Magician’s Nephew? This is stupid.” There’s one in every crowd, right??
Things started to turn around for Conner when we started researching (as a part of our Nonfiction standards) different charities, their missions, and how they were tackling a problem in our world. I introduced him to the Umhlaba Vision Foundation. This foundation tackles education shortcomings in South Africa by providing soccer experiences for the children and teens that they might not receive otherwise. Through soccer, a sport many citizens love, the foundation not only provides educational opportunities in South Africa, but encourages educational opportunities that further education so they can make a difference in their world.
You see, Conner was an AVID baseball player. He lived and breathed the sport. On the field was where his heart was, and until this curriculum, he never saw how he could take what he loved to do, apply it to what he has read, and then make a difference for his world. Conner’s wheels started turning and when he completed his first Passion Project at the end of 6th grade, he planned a foundation that would use baseball to combat hunger. He created the first stages of his website to educate the public on hunger in his area and planned what he’d like to do as his next steps. If he had to stop there, I would have still been so proud of his work and what he was able to accomplish, especially being so resistant early on.
Lucky for me (and for Connor) I had him for two more years, and he didn’t have to stop there. In grades 7 and 8, I allowed students to build upon the projects they had started in 6th grade. In 7th grade, Connor planned a baseball tournament/food drive. He made fliers for social media, he wrote letters to the Parks and Rec. in town to request access to the fields, he wrote letters to coaches asking them to put together teams and to volunteer as referees, and he planned to contact local food banks to request a list of desired food. He didn’t follow through with sending any of the letters in 7th grade, but he had it all planned out. In 8th grade, I’m so excited to report, he took action on his idea. While he wasn’t able to plan a baseball tournament due to restrictions related to COVID-19, he did still plan a neighborhood food drive and donated all the proceeds to his local food bank. I have no doubt, if he had been able, he would have planned a smashing success of a baseball tournament.
The curriculum did exactly what I had hoped it would do. Conner still learned all of the skills necessary for school, and he made deeper connections with his reading using higher-order creation skills that will hopefully provide him with life-time, world-changing value.
It was so nice to have the curriculum all worked out, so I could really focus a lot of my attention on helping the students research and develop their ideas into manageable projects.
I’m one happy teacher. :)
*Name changed for student-confidentiality reasons...