In the TCI world, we make connections with our students by talking with them about their own lives. Slowly at first. Very slowly, actually. But, eventually we can begin to delve into issues of great importance.
Karen Rowan, in her Extreme Personalization workshops, will often ask what a person’s superpower would be if they had one. I remember being in her workshop in San Diego (or was it Breckenridge?) and getting very excited about the possibility of claiming a superpower! What would it be? So many choices!
As it turns out, the choices are endless. HOWEVER, it makes lots of sense to take that superpower idea ONE STEP FURTHER.
My friend Tim, an expert in cyber security, recently created this Superpower Generator with his 7 year old. He stated:
Every superhero has an origin, a power and a weakness, so [we] created a random superhero generator for all your superhero needs.
He’s absolutely right. A superpower needs an origin story and a weakness to be complete.
His superpower generator is quite silly. But the notion of including the origin story and the weakness completes the idea.
As I’m personalizing my class this fall and we determine that they have a superpower, I won’t necessarily try to discover their origin story or their weakness right away. But I’ll ponder it. We’ll come back the next day to revisit that superpower. Perhaps 2 or 3 days in a row. Then again next week. And as our class gains more and more vocabulary, perhaps one day we’ll return to the superstudent and say:
How did you get that superpower?
Who gave it to you?
Have you always been able to…
Does your father/mother/sister/brother also have this superpower?
Does your superpower work when it’s cloudy/rainy/hot/snowy/windy?
At what time of the day does your superpower start working?
If you eat garlic/raw egg/asparagus/egg shell does your superpower diminish?
Where does your superpower not work?
And we’ll explore that idea. Because, once you have a superpower, you have a story. A story that can weave in and out of your class all year long.
There’s no hurry!
You don’t have to solve it all in the same day. This type of story grows ever more detailed as the year goes on – as students’ ability increases. It allows you to reuse and recycle all that vocabulary. And coming back to the same person with the same superpower can heighten interest! Or, perhaps it’s changed slightly?
Allowing that student to become that superhero and accepting (and respecting) their responses to your follow up questions can raise buy-in from the most reticent of learners. Being willing to allow superpowers that aren’t necessarily superpowers can show you’re willing to allow students to be who they really are.
BUT: Be sure to hold your ground swiftly and decisively if someone tries to push boundaries of acceptability!
Be on the lookout. When you find the right kid, with the right energy and she/he gives you the right superpower… Explore (eventually) all that it entails! It can provide tons and tons of compelling comprehensible input!