Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Grade-school dioramas: How much should a parent help?

A few weeks ago, Rosie came home from school with an assignment from her first-grade teacher: an open-ended home project. The guidance was simple, the subject was the First Thanksgiving, and it must have a written part and a visual part. It needed to be directed by the student as much as possible. And it was due today.

Rosie just turned 7, and while she draws very well and likes to write stories, I knew that I was going to be helping. A lot. I was determined to let her make the decisions and try not to influence her too much. But in the flurry to finish before bedtime last night, she was upset that I was "doing all of it." So not true!! I perked her up with this pep talk:

"Who picked the subject?" (How the Indeins Helpt the Pilgrims)
"Me," said Rosie.
"Who wrote the story?" (Two pages of prose on maize farming, Wampanaug-style)
"Me," said Rosie.
"Who drew the illustrations?" (Her two pages had four hand-drawn & -colored scenes, total.)
"Me," said Rosie.
"Who drew and cut out all the plant pieces?" (Her shoe-box diorama showed three stages of corn plant, using cut construction paper and pipe cleaners.)
"Me," said Rosie.
"Who decided to make popcorn to hand out to her classmates?"
"Me," said Rosie.
"Who wrote the title on the box and signed her name?"
"Me," said Rosie.
"See? All I did was make the box and help with the pipe cleaners! Most of it was you, sweetie."

After letting this sink in, a huge smile crept onto her face showing sincere pride in all that she'd done. For sure, I was helping every step of the way, because she needed motivating to get it all done in time, but all the work underlying the diorama's theme and basic elements came from her. So that her presentation would run more smoothly and she could face her classmates, I copied her story (that ended up taped —by her— onto the shoebox lid) onto note cards. She was so very excited about the end result, she was bouncing off the walls and kept saying, "I can't wait for Mrs. Clark to see this!" It warms my heart to see her this revved-up about school work.

I'm planning on videotaping her presentation tonight and posting it up here. Look for it! I was so focused on FINISHING IN TIME that I didn't take any photos. I know we must tonight—or soon, before her brother destroys the shoebox—her presentation's adorable.

So, how much did I actually do? I'm not telling. The way I built-out the shoebox was rather complex. But she truthfully did everything I asked about above.

UPDATE: Silly me, of course her teacher is keeping the presentation at school, set up in the school library, no less! Who knows when I'll be seeing it again at home for videotaping or otherwise?


  1. Having seen the presentation, I wonder if the teacher thinks Rosie did it all by herself...

    A prejudiced grandma

  2. That's awesome...I love they get all excited about work they've done. Hope the presentation went well!

  3. I got at note from the teacher that said, "She did a great job. Her project was very creative! The kids really liked it!"

    So, kudos to my girl!!


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