Reflecting is a big part of teaching, and I’ve never been really good at “formally” reflecting on my teaching practice. Some of my best ideas, reflections, and brainstorms come during my car ride to and from school or when I’m out walking my dogs. So, as I was thinking about how to reach 30 bilingual 4th graders (six of which have IEPs) during my co-teaching, I came up with a great idea: POSTCARDS! You’re probably asking yourself, how is a little 3×5 piece of paper with a picture on it going to help you teach? Trust me, it will!
My 4th graders are studying the states and regions of the United States in social studies. I know that my students rarely get the chance to travel outside of the Chicago area, and if they do, they don’t take fun random trips around the country, but, rather, go to Mexico to visit their families.
My plan is to expose my students to all of the content of States and Regions through postcards. I made a quick call to my dad, who had just left that morning for a trip to North Dakota. I begged him to buy postcards wherever he stopped, once I explained it was for my students he quickly agreed.
I got to thinking, a couple postcards from North Dakota wouldn't be enough. How could I get my hands on more postcards? I remembered all of my friends and family that live throughout the United States, and knew I would need their help. And so it began: On a Thursday night after way too many caffeinated beverages, I began e-mailing.
Friend from high school? Check. Cousin in the marines stationed on the East Coast? Check. Classmates from grad school? Check. My fellow Reality 101 bloggers? Check. More than 30 e-mails later, I was done, and it was now time to wait for the responses. After hitting that final send button, I began to get nervous. What if no one responded, or thought that I was just sending out crazy e-mails?
The responses I got overwhelmed me! So many people said that it was such a great idea and they would send a postcard out right away (a big thanks to Allisence, Jessica, and Richard!) Others have offered to contact their friends and family who live in other states to send me postcards as well. I have never been so excited to check the mail before, every day I rush home excited to see what postcard will be awaiting me.
Let me tell you, the reaction from the students has been really positive. Before each social studies lesson I have been sharing a postcard or two that I've received. Each student has their own map that they color to indicate we've received a postcard from that state. I also created a large classroom display that I color and put the postcards on as well. Every day when I walk into their classroom for co-teaching, they excitedly take out their social studies notebooks and maps. It makes them so sad when I tell them it's a science day, not social studies.
I am so excited to continue this project throughout the school year. I am so thankful for the support from my friends, family, and colleagues. I cannot wait to see if we'll actually get postcards from all of the 50 states!