Monday, January 14, 2008

Lobbing Discussion Bombs

Teachers are forever throwing discussion bombs out into the middle of the classroom floor hoping to ignite some type of viable conversation to help students connect to prior knowledge, connect to new knowledge, and create even more questions for future lessons.

So, one day last year found me sitting on my classroom stool waiting for conversations to stop, papers to stop rustling, and 3-ring binders to stop their incessant clicking. I finally lobbed my discussion bomb. I direct students, “Tell me about a time your mother embarrassed you.” Instantly every hand in the room goes up including my own.

Parental embarrassment of any kind seems to be the great equalizer in a very diverse group of people including my young students. For the next several minutes I’m regaled with tales of mothers who like to show baby pictures (especially the naked type) to friends and family, mom’s who go out in public with curlers in their hair, and mom’s who laugh or talk too loud. In my own case my mother was notorious for taking up with virtual strangers in waiting rooms and grocery store lines, and in the course of five minutes she would be telling them all sorts of personal and private things about my sister and I while we looked on in horrified fashion.

I’m a huge embarrassment to my own children at times. I even know what it is I do to elicit the eyerolling and the exasperated exclamations of “Oh, Mother!”, but I can’t help myself. Perhaps it all stems from some type of hormone that is present during pregnancy and never goes away. At any rate it would seem that if there are children mothers who embarrass them are never far away.

Now I don’t merely bring up embarrassing mother stories just for the heck of it. I usually do it as an introduction to a read aloud I use in my classroom by Jean Fritz titled George Washington's Mother. It is a wonderfully researched tale of Mary Ball Washington and some of her interactions with her famous son especially those of the embarrassing kind. Students instantly connect to our first president as they realize they have something in common.

To find out more about my wordless image from last week and more about the relationship between George Washington and his mother head over to American Presidents.

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