Thursday, August 15, 2013

All because of a fistumba

Michelle, an Atlanta middle school teacher, has come up with one of the best off-the-cuff lesson plans that I've heard of in a long time. I would love to meet this lady.

One of her students had answered a question correctly in class, and his buddy gave him a fist bump (apparently also known as a fist pump or a dap, depending on what part of the country you're from) and they must have been a little too enthusiastic because there was an injury as a result. Instead of getting stern and forbidding such dangerous actions in the classroom, Michelle turned the situation into a learning opportunity. She questioned the students on what the fist bump injury would be called. The children's imaginations were engaged and they began to research, looking for the answer. After looking it up in the dictionary (how do you find a word when you don't even know what word you're looking for?), using the library's resources, and googling it online, they turned to the experts at A Way with Words.

A Way with Words has become one of my favorite podcasts. It's total geekdom, tracing the etymology of various terms and words for callers and amusing the listener with riddles, puns, and other word play.

When the experts, Martha and Grant, were unable to come up with an answer, the kids made up their own word: fistumba. Martha and Grant made suggestions on how a word becomes popularized, and the kids made their plan. Their teacher, Michelle, has them writing letters, posting comments, and holding formal and informal conversations in an effort to bring their word into the general language. I love that instead of sticking to the cookie cutter, standardized test-driven plan, Michelle was able to go with the flow and give her students something that they will think about and remember.

And it all started with a minor fistumba in the classroom.

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