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Showcasing Gwynne Isaacs and "We Have Bright Ideas"

On a wall in Isaacs' kindergarten classroom at Spring Garden Elementary School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, rests a display area labeled "We Have Bright Ideas!" Inside the display is hung a mobile light device (tap light) that turns on when it is pressed.

"The light" hangs in its display in Isaacs' classroom. A student with a "bright idea" presses the light.

"The idea came into my mind when I saw the light on the store shelf," Gwynne Isaacs told Education World. "Bright light...bright idea...another way to positively reinforce contributions by the children! I'll try it!"

Brighten Your Classroom Too

Isaacs recommends a few good practices for using her light reward in the classroom:

* Define a "bright idea" and the criteria for it.

* When a child demonstrates a great idea, repeat it.

* Allow a child to tap the light as often as is reasonable.

* At times when great ideas flourish and the light isn't feasible, have an alternative, such as a handshake or a special sticker.

* Be prepared to violate the criteria for students with unique needs, but have a plausible explanation ready.

* Keep a list of student names so everyone receives recognition within a reasonable period of time.

* Hang the light high enough to avoid the undeserved tap.

* Raise the stakes for more skilled learners.

* When you or another adult has a bright idea, tap the light for yourself!

"I explain to the class at the outset that there are many ways to answer many different questions," continued Isaacs. "Some are just yes or no answers. Some are answers that ask for facts, such as What color is the bear? Then there are questions that make you think; many of those start with What if..., or What do you think.... I tell the children that the light is going to be used when they answer the What if... kinds of questions or show evidence of higher order thinking."

When those moments arrive, Isaacs takes the light down, recaps the "bright idea," allows the child to press the device to turn it on, and returns it to its post. As the year progresses, she takes opportunities to "up the ante" for some children, by asking them to expand on their ideas before she shares "the light." She also encourages students to make connections to previous work and predictions about what is to come. After a few minutes, Isaacs turns off the light to preserve its batteries.

"Students who get the chance to tap are delighted," reports Isaacs. "Those who witness the event are supportive. I explain that everyone has bright ideas and that everyone will have a chance to tap the light when these thoughts are shared."

"After 29 years of teaching kindergarten, I knew before I tried this activity that it would work superbly well," Isaacs admitted. "Children need many chances to be rewarded, to be out of their seats briefly, to be in the spotlight, to have multi-sensory experiences, to learn from others, and to have strong motivators."

Photos courtesy of Gwynne Isaacs.

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If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected]

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
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