Less Can be More


Joan Moser

May 21, 2009

May 22, 2009

A few weeks ago, we had a full-day staff meeting and were anticipating a culminating activity as the day drew to a close. As a teacher and presenter, I know the potential power of these closing activities, yet after a long day, reflecting and recording my thoughts wasn't something I was looking forward to. Our principal surprised us by beginning our closure with a short video clip entitled-- "Your Three Words."

If you haven't seen a week in review by ABC news called "Your Three Words", you'll want to peek at this example. ABC News Your Three Words

After watching the brief clip, we were given a marker and a blank sheet of paper and asked to quickly and quietly jot down three words describing where we saw ourselves right then. That was it. We received no more direction than that.

Once people had completed the task, we formed a circle around the room and were told to hold our papers up, one at a time, in complete silence. It was a remarkable ending to an already great day. Some of the three-word testimonies were directly related to our work that day. Others were funny, heartfelt, tearful, or achingly transparent glimpses into each others' lives. Instead of leaving our day together feeling overwhelmed and drained, we all walked away with a greater sense of camaraderie and connection to each other and the work we do together on behalf of kids.

After that staff meeting, I wanted to try the 'Your Three Words' activity in the company of my young learners. I showed them a video clip example and we tried it. Being kindergartners, it was a bit bumpy and uncomfortable at first, but now they ask for 'Three Words' as an end to our day. We started by using white boards, but then moved to paper because some wanted to take their three words home.

Just as with our staff, sometimes their words are directly related to the day's learning or even a newly tackled strategy. Yet other times the words are so poignant and honest they have me fighting back tears. The opportunity for children to see into the windows of each others' hearts has also brought them closer together.

So much of our writing instruction is geared to writing more, expand that idea, add details, and flesh that out. There is something to be said though for a simple activity like this, that makes us think, reflect, and distill to the heart of the matter. It certainly confirms the old adage that "less is more".

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