It is the end of the first month of school, and you have pretty much honed in on the apparent academic strengths and development opportunities for each of your students. Of course, you know that with all of the amazing programs planned for the school year, along with the developing mind, this is sure to change.
Sophie just about hyperventilates with excitement when you ask her math facts, which she is able to repeat with an ease that the average adult only has while cheating with a smartphone. Jose has already given you a poem describing your classroom showing his command of language, artistic side, and the fact that he’ll do anything to please a teacher. But, what about Selma whose voice becomes a whisper when participating in a reading conference? Or, Brandon, who appears to only light up when he is making mischief with the full attention of his peers? You may have asked yourself how your gifted mathematician can learn and love physical education with the same vigor, or how your class clown can find fulfillment in a traditionally quiet activity like reading.
The trick is to help each child identify his or her superpower. A superpower is a special skill or talent that each one of us has that makes us unique, special, and different than others. It is the part of us that we can tap into to make the things that don’t come as easily just a little bit simpler and even more bearable.
There are a few ways to identify superpowers among your students that you may find useful, depending upon the circumstances of your school or classroom.
One option is to just ask students directly. If you do conferencing with your students, use that time as an opportunity to ask simple questions: what do you love, what are you good at and why; and conversely, what do you not like so much and why? These open-ended questions are sure to yield interesting results. Alternatively, you can give students a simple questionnaire at the beginning of the school year with similar open-ended questions.
Once the feedback is in from your students, it is important to close the loop based upon that information and your classroom observation. Speak with them about their responses and help them identify their superpower. This will not only build confidence but allow you to redirect students to think about things with their superpower in mind when facing a challenging situation.
What do we mean by that? Take Sophie, who loves math and isn’t that fond of physical education. What if you spoke with Sophie and explained to her that a big part of physical education can be described as math in motion? I mean, any game has scores and statistics and geometry. It would arguably motivate Sophie to engage in a game of softball if she thought about the rules of the game as a math word problem.
Or, take Jose, so abstract in his thinking that science seems like a foreign language. What if you pointed out the patterns in nature and how they mirror the patterns in poetry? Perhaps others in the class would be able to look at science differently as well.
Shy and quiet Selma, who shrinks when reading and also interacting with her peers, has keen observation skills. Could those observation skills be used as a superpower to create inferences while reading?
And, dear Brandon who is the class clown and wants to focus on anything but academics really has a wonderful wit. Could that be used to create positive social attention and also used to unleash his creative writing skills?
We all have strengths, and we all have things we can work on, but we want to ensure that our students gain the confidence they need to overcome the tasks that don’t come as easily as others. Developing superpower awareness will help students do just that!