Do you notice anything significantly different in the picture below?
My 1st graders are studying different countries. After talking about Japan, we did an origami lesson. Last year, I discovered that origami is a great vehicle for teaching about Growth Mindset. I decided to do the same this year. I talked to the students about things that are hard and easy for them, and how practice can help. I also gave them examples of “scaffolding” – not jumping right to the most difficult challenges right away, but working your way up to them. “It’s important to know when something is too easy for you, but also to know when it’s too hard and that you need more practice.”
After doing a sample origami activity together, I set them loose on some origami websites to try some on their own. They self-differentiated by choosing the activities that suited their experience levels. I told them that I would help them with reading directions, but that I wouldn’t do anything for them.
One of my 1st graders kept trying to coax me into helping her. She grew more and more frantic, and finally dissolved into tears.
I was at a crossroads. I certainly don’t like to see my students hurting, but I also don’t want them to get in the habit of giving up. This student said she had already tried every “easy” origami lesson, and she just couldn’t do them.
This student also happens to be an excellent artist, and I suddenly realized this was an opportunity for another lesson that I want all of my students to learn.
“Just make up your own,” I said.
She looked at me doubtfully.
“Origami is art. Art is about being creative – not following directions. If you want to make butterfly, make up your own butterfly. Who cares if it’s not the same as the one in the picture?”
Everyone in the class was looking at me then. I had just spent 10 minutes telling them to not give up in the face of a challenge, and here I was announcing that this student could give up and do what she wanted. Even I was confused by my own mixed messages.
A little later, the little girl proudly presented her creation to me.
“It’s an origami blanket,” she declared.
The rest of the class watched me carefully for my reaction.
“I love that you came up with your own idea. All origami art had to be thought up by someone originally. Maybe someday people will try to make your origami blanket.”
Earlier this year, I read a book to my class called, Beautiful Oops. This was my student’s version.
I still don’t know if I handled this the right way. But I do know one thing. We spend far too much time teaching our students to follow directions, and then we are flummoxed when they seem to be at a loss when asked to do something creative.
I refuse to be the person who stifles a young artist just because she would rather draw on a piece of paper than fold it.