A Reflection on Teaching and Learning, According to My 5-Year-Old

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Jan 21, 2020
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Teaching Strategies

My oldest daughter is in Transitional Kindergarten, a class full of five-year-olds with fall birthdays who were too young to start actual kindergarten in September. Each day this week, when I picked her up from extended care, she hit me with some new details of their learning about Martin Luther King Jr -- timely, with the holiday approaching and all. Now, I haven't requested to view any lesson plans or asked the teacher for details about learning objectives so I can't tell if the students learned the intended outcomes, but first and foremost Vera was abuzz because they used yarn and pipe cleaners to each make a dreamcatcher (get it? I Have a Dream...). Not only did she create one, but in her telling, she also had the opportunity to help two other students at her table create theirs; she regaled me with minute details of this project and showed off her finished product with pride. Then, by Wednesday my daughter shared that the music teacher -- "She knows a LOT about Martin Luther King. She's, like, an expert!" -- read them a book, and Vera's main takeaway was that not only would school be closed for the holiday, but banks and some restaurants and stores might also be closed, so if we needed to do any errands, we should do them before Monday. Practical. When I asked if they'd learned anything else, the reply was pure excitement: "The whole class sang Happy Birthday to Martin Luther King, with the Cha Cha Chas!"

Recall she's only five, so her storytelling is haphazard, but what's crystal clear is that in a week of MLK-themed lessons, here are the qualities that her brain retained most: An activity where they were doing and creating something, which included the opportunity to collaborate with table friends; practical information about closures that could impact her day-to-day life; and an opportunity for joy and celebration. As one of NGPF's curriculum team members, we use these same considerations every time we write a lesson or create an activity -- what are the students going to do and how will they use this right away or down the road in their lives? What makes this piece of curriculum meaningful and what can we plan to help it stick? But the joy and celebration, that's on you, teachers, so don't forget to add the Cha Cha Chas

About the Author

Jessica Endlich

When I started working at Next Gen Personal Finance, it's as though my undergraduate degree in finance, followed by ten years as an educator in an NYC public high school, suddenly all made sense.