Chester O’Brien teaches sixth grade in an elementary school in California. His class is comprised of youngsters who have not always been successful in school or in life. To help them see visual proof of themselves as successful human beings, he had them bring in or create what he calls “success objects.” Success objects are materials that are tangible proof that a person has had a success. Examples include trophies, awards, ribbons, certificates, photographs, and newspaper articles.
Chester asked his students to bring a success object from home that reveals some of their successfulness. Objects could include something they made (model airplane), won (third place in horseback riding), or had presented to them (certificate for being a successful soccer player). Some students didn’t have one so he gave them time (the voice of structure) and encouraged them to make one in school.
When everyone had a success object at school, Chester had the children take turns sharing orally about their success objects, telling the class how they got them, how they felt, and anything else they would like to add. The class then interviewed the presenter, asking questions and showing interest in his or her success. Applause followed each presentation. Three students took a turn at being the focus person each day.
After all students had an opportunity to talk about their object and their success, this teacher expanded the theme of success ever further using the voice of debriefing. Students made a class list of what all the successes had in common. They talked about one way that theirs was different than everyone else’s success. He challenged them to write about success. Students brought in pictures of successful people and made a success collage. They collected success quotes and put them on display around the room.
When the winter Olympics arrived, Chester had students design gold medals for themselves. Students were asked to identify something they were good at in winter. Gold medals that students designed for themselves celebrated figure skating, skiing, sledding, shoveling snow, throwing snowballs, and sitting indoors reading books. Those medals were on display in his classroom for a month. They were then added to the portfolios he would be sharing with parents at parent-teacher conference time.
We don’t know if Chester O’Brien made a gold medal for himself or not. If he had, it might have included a citation for successfully using his structure, teaching, and debriefing voice to help his students learn about and value success!
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the coauthors of The Teacher Talk Advantage: Five Voices of Effective Teaching.They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for educators and another for parents. To sign up for the newsletters or learn more about the seminars they offer teachers and parents, visit their websites today: www.chickmoorman.com and www.thomashaller.com
Back to Articles.