Trying Something Different . . . Finally
For the past nine years – whoa! nearly a decade – I’ve started my year off with an activity that I used to love. To be honest, I’ve loved it since before it was my activity. The first three years I was at my school, I taught on a different team, so when I found out I was switching teams, my first thought was, “Yes! We get to do those really cool word thingys the kids hang in the hall,” only to find out that my reading partner wasn’t planning on doing them. She did, however, give me her information as well as the example that she made. “You can do it if you want,” she said, and so it became mine.
Truly, I loved the Word Splash. It was a simple concept: make a list of the things you liked, disliked, and knew to be popular. Then, take those words and creatively add them around your name on half a poster board and color code them. It took us about five days or so, and they looked amazing in the hallway . . . for about the first six weeks. After that? They just started to look sad. Last year, I left them up all year, partially because I forgot about them but partially because we stopped producing “big projects” as we started moving to a digital format. It’s rather challenging to figure out a way to get a blog post or a movie on our hanging rails (but trust me when I say that I am working on that, too).
So this year, I said sayonara to the Word Splash* and hola to Our Prints Are Everywhere** I can’t take credit for the lesson in any real sense of the matter since I purchased it from Musings from the Middle School on Teachers Pay Teachers. There are tons and tons of fingerprint images floating around out there on Pinterest, and I was 99% sure that I wanted to do it last year. I even toyed with having the students take their own fingerprints, which I would blow up, but once I tried that on myself, I quickly abandoned the idea. Plus, going home and saying, “Our English teacher took our fingerprints today!” might not have the type of optics that a teacher is looking for. This year, however, I decided to forge forward, using fingerprint clipart that I found thanks to Google. The best part about choosing clipart? The lines are thick and broad and the students didn’t have to trace the whorls before they started adding their information.
We started by making a list of things that we like and qualities – positive and negative – that we possess. After about ten minutes of brainstorming (because this was the start of our “lessons on brainstorming,” tbh), we color coded a few by indicating if they were something that had multiples like silly words (I like silly words like kerfuffle, malarkey, sacapuntas, poppycock, balderdash, and hogwash), but we also color coded the “important-est” words in our list such as our loved ones. And, yes, I’m completely aware that important-est isn’t a word . . . that’s why it’s in quotation marks, silly.
And then? Then the real fun began. Adding the words to the actual fingerprint was a good bit of psychoanalysis if you ask me. Where’s the logical place to start? Is there a logical place to start? Do you work top to bottom? Is it ok to start in the middle? Can I just add a word here and there? Whoa! After a few more questions along these lines plus establishing that if you insist on writing itsy-bitsy you just might have to add way more than you thought, we settled in for the day . . . and the next day . . . and the next day. Turns out that writing about yourself can be exhausting but quite fulfilling. I had a few kiddos shut down after they added their list (and, yes, their fingerprints looked like perhaps part had been worn away by acid), but we figured out how to add to what they had. A few started to get incredibly creative with their word placement and size. But the vast majority really stuck with the exercise and created something lovely and meaningful.
This year, instead of having the hallways adorned with our Word Splashes that were carefully color coded, now the walls in my classroom will reflect the unique spirit that my kids bring to the table. I have some who love the outdoors. A few who might perish if they lost WiFi. Still others who had a list of ten items and had to deal with Dr. Greenwood, DDS, to finish the first day. But I also had at least ten who completed their penciling and moved on to the ink pens (and quite a few in period 6 and 7 who got to use my beloved pens, all of which I got back, thank you very much). And tomorrow? Tomorrow 85% of them will be completed and added to the back wall in my room. The other 15% will have to take an oath of a most serious nature to bring their fingerprint back uncrumpled, unfolded, and unharmed . . . because, quite frankly, they are masterpieces to behold. Kind of like all of us.
* Honestly, I probably said sayonara the year before and just did them because I always did.
** Perfectly aware I’m using a different language than before. Is that a mixed metaphor?