Updated: Jul 22, 2022
As a little, rambunctious boy I used to love climbing trees. It was challenging and exhilarating; the higher the better. More often than not, I take this same "going out on a limb" notion into my own teaching practices.
As an example, in my educational realm, for my students last novel study of the year, I bought a class set of "Oogy" by Larry Levin.
My reasoning was simply that this story was so inspirational and heartwarming. I figured after these past two years, the students could use something uplifting.
Essentially, "Oogy" is the story of the man who was determined to rescue this dog against all odds, and of the family who took him home, named him "Oogy" (an affectionate derivative of ugly), and made him one of their own.
The "out on a limb" part is that my students were surprised when they heard they only had one response/comprehension question per chapter. That's it! The twist is that they had to answer each question verbally and in sign language on Flipgrid. Why? A couple reasons:
1. Sign language is a form of communication is it not?
2. It takes my students out of their comfort zone and forces their brains to do something they're not comfortable with, yet.
In essence, let's say a typical day's work for a novel is to . . .
a. read a chapter
b. define key vocabulary
c. answer some form of response question(s)
Their teenage brains are used to this. So, while there may be more contextual work with a, b, c; my teenagers have to challenge their brain (thereby creating new synapse connections, strengthening neurons); in essence, their brains are working harder for one question (in the sign language manner) than they would be doing work they're used to (a, b, c).
So, what is the point? Let's use our arm muscles for an analogy. If you have strong biceps, but your triceps are weak; do not keep working your biceps as they'll plateau and eventually stagnate. Sure working biceps feels good, cause they're strong and you look cool while doing these exercises, because you're good at it.
However, here's the rub: humans don't usually like to work at or practice their weaknesses (cause the ego hates that); I alluded to this in my podcast episode, The Battle of You. It's imperative to go out of your comfort zone to truly grow, remain balanced, and thrive.
My students have (and are still) learning this from me this year, and I know they're thankful for it. See some examples of their work below!