We recently made the decision to pull my daughter from school and do “distance learning” for a short time because we had a new virus or sickness in our home every week and it wasn’t sustainable anymore (more on that story to come later).
Luckily, the school was able to work with us to make her a “distance learner” because of Covid protocols still in place, instead of unenrolling and re-enrolling her when she’s ready to head back.
She is in kindergarten, so the workload is fairly easy and somewhat hands-on. However, one worksheet for social studies looked like this:
Photo: A group of neighbors with adults and children standing around, laughing, and talking. Food is being exchanged.
Text on photo: Talk About It: Essential Question. Who are your neighbors?
Text: Talk about how these people are being good neighbors. Draw and write about one way you can be a good neighbor.
Writing prompt: I can be a good neighbor by
I am sure this worksheet sparks great conversations in classrooms and it gives the students a chance to draw and write about what they’re talking about.
The only requirement for my daughter was to do everything this page said. Talk about it, write about it, and draw a picture. Then she would have been done with the assignment and moved on.
But what did she learn from that interaction?
Are we really learning social studies with this worksheet, or are we learning conversation skills, writing, and drawing?
How can we do this… better?
We started with a picture book.
Good Morning Neighbor by Davide Cali and Maria Dek
I highly recommend keeping this one in your personal library, it’s a good one with many applications.
After reading the book, the discussion started.
Who are our neighbors? What nice things have they done for us? What nice things have we done for them? Why is it important to be a good neighbor?
And then we took it one step further, what can we do for one of our neighbors today?
This led us to making and delivering dinner and cookies for a neighbor that we knew was sick. We also stopped next door to an elderly widow and chatted with her for a while, asking her if she needed anything. On our way out, we quickly shoveled her driveway and cleared her car of snow and ice.
On our walk home, we noticed that another neighbor near us had some rugs left outside on their doorstep that had blown into the yard from the high winds. We spent a few minutes gathering them up and stacking them on the doorstep since they were not home to take them inside.
Once we were finally home, we pulled out the worksheet, and my daughter felt like she was ready to write a whole paper on ways she could be a good neighbor. She wanted to give the full story of everything we accomplished in our afternoon of service. Instead, we settled on a simple few-word sentence, and then she was able to tell her teacher the whole story the next time we went into the school to bring back her finished schoolwork.
Looking at it overall, how much would she have taken away if we would have had the discussion and written the sentence? She would have practice in writing, that’s for sure. But the whole point was to focus on social studies. What did she take away from a social studies standpoint?
She would probably know that she needs to be a good neighbor. And maybe have some ideas on how she can be that will stick around in her mind for a few weeks, maybe up to a month. Nothing would stick around long-term.
But after spending an hour serving our own neighbors, the lesson will engrain itself in her mind more than a light discussion and sentence writing ever would.
Now I know delivering dinner and sitting down to an afternoon chat with everyone’s neighbor isn’t doable in a full classroom. So what can we do in a classroom of 25+ students to give them a similar experience?
Talk about neighbors within the classroom. Our neighbors in a classroom are our friends sitting by us, but all together, we are a full community. Discuss ways we can be a good neighbor within our own classroom.
Give them opportunities to draw pictures or notes for their neighbors. Maybe create crafts or pick treats for their neighbors. Let them practice helping their neighbor when zipping up coats to go outside, or picking up trash around their desk during messy play.
If you’re creating an uplifting, teamwork environment in the small community of your classroom, it will eventually translate itself into their daily life and show in small ways around the school and in their neighborhoods.
Can filling out a worksheet accomplish that?
Photo by Katerina Holmes