Kid-driven Traditions

**After months of dragging my feet, I am finally starting a blog!  Thank you #nerdlution for the inspiration and final push.**

Every Thanksgiving I wake up in my parent’s house, slightly “under-the-weather” from seeing high school friends the night before and I start the day by making a pumpkin roll for my family.  This year, as they smell of cinnamon filled the kitchen and my arm started to get sore from mixing, I began to think about this tradition and why it fills my heart with warmth.  Here is what I came up with:

1.  It is reliable.  I know that every year, the ingredients will be bought by my mom and sitting out on the kitchen counter.  I know that however we decide to spend Thanksgiving, whether it be around our dining room table or at a Jets game, I will make a pumpkin roll- no questions asked.

2.  It is shared with people I care about.  It is made with the people I love the most in the world in mind.

  3.  Maybe the most important reason why this tradition is important to me is I created it.

There are other Geschwind family traditions that I hold close to my heart- receiving a Halloween package from my parents, eating baked ziti on birthdays, playing Phase 10 on vacations- but this tradition is one that I started.  I chose to bake this specific dessert for my family and I continue to do it because it is my way of showing my family how thankful I am for them.

In our classrooms, we as teachers are great at creating ‘traditions’ for our students.  We have reliability and sharing with peers down.  We do this by sharing student work at the end of reading, writing, and math lessons each day.  Kids get to be superstars in those moments as their friends learn from their work.  We create exciting publishing celebrations for student’s to share their writing.  We may even plan celebrations around special times of the year, but how often do we let kids create the traditions in our classroom? Here are some ways that I have been trying to give my students’ ownership over our classroom traditions.

  • Make ‘sharing’ a job.

This year, I couldn’t think of enough meaningful classroom jobs so that every student had one.  Being that my kindergartners are often smarter than I am, I asked them, what jobs do you think we should have in our classroom this year?  Many said, clean the floor, close the closets, lead the lines, and all of the jobs that kids typically have in a classroom.  Mikey said, “One job can be telling kids what you know how to do.”   This is how the  ‘expert sharer’ job was born.  The expert sharer gets to share anything they want with us on Friday.  They get to choose when on the schedule they will share and what they will share.  It may be a piece of work they are especially proud of such as a book they have been learning to read or a story they have been writing.  Many times it is something else they are proud of- a lego structure they built or a painting they made in choice time.  My students get to think about what they are good at, what they have put effort into, and what they could teach others.  They get to choose instead of me doing the choosing for them as it often happens at the end of lessons.

  • Invite families in and let kids learn about them.

My brilliant colleague, Kristi Mraz, posted a calendar allowing families to sign-up to come into the classroom to read a book, join choice time, do a craft, or share something they love.  I promptly stole this idea.   The first few times, my kids would barrage the parents with questions, “Where do you live?”  “What’s your favorite color?”  “What games do you play?”  I thought, why not set up an interview time when a new parent comes in?

And with that, our interview time was born.  Kids get to teach about their family while the rest of the class gets to ask whatever they are curious about.  This part of the parent visits has become their absolute favorite. From the first interview to now, my kids have learned so many more questions to ask.  We’ve moved from, “What kind of skin do you have?  Indian?  Italian? to “What’s your ethnicity?  We also have a lot more information about each other making it easy to compare families.  Ben and Anne both play baseball with their dads on the weekend.  Lots of moms love the color purple!  Jared and TJ both have a baby sister who chews on their toys.

  • Kid-chosen Read Alouds

This one has been is easy and has been a favorite!  Every week, one student gets to choose their favorite book, from home or school, for me to read. Kids also get to tell everyone why it is their favorite book and then write the book title on a list next to their name.  Once we get through every student, I am planning to send the favorites list home so all of the families can have it.

It has been exciting for me to allow kid-created traditions to influence our community.  What kid-driven traditions do you have in your classroom?


And for those who now have a hankering for a pumpkin roll, here is the recipe:

Thanks Kirsten Myers-Blake for introducing me to this delicious dessert!