The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Celebrating Others’ Victories

It wasn’t too long ago that I found myself reflecting on the small victories we have in our classroom and the ways we find to celebrate them. My students are bright, capable, caring children, but they are still learning how to navigate social relations, which often translates into petty arguments and jealousies that have to be processed and overcome. So each time that happens, we find a way to acknowledge and celebrate the positives.

Yesterday we had the opportunity to celebrate a different kind of victory: the victory of others. We have two fourth grade classes in my building. There are some years that the two classes will do projects together and other years that we run fairly independently, although the other teacher and I spend a lot of time collaborating and planning together. So far this year, we’ve done more of the latter.

Our first big science unit was on animal adaptations, exploring an understanding that “plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction” (Next Generation Science Standard 4-LS1-1). My class did this by learning about fish in the Great Lakes. The other fourth graders learned about many different animals from around the world. My students presented their information to the class with posters, PowerPoints, and oral reports. The other class made papier-mâché models of their animals and then hosted an animal adaptations expo in their classroom.

My class was one many that was invited to visit their expo and learn about the students’ research. They had displays set up all around the room, much like a professional convention, and as my students approached, the others would stand and share what they had learned. Their project combined visual arts, research, writing, and oral speaking skills. It was really cool!

It was great to learn from other fourth graders and it is already giving me ideas for what my students will do when they finish their American colony research project that we just started this week. (They will have all of next week to work in school, then a two-week winter break, followed by one more week to finish before presentations will take place some time in the second week of January.) I am glad that we were invited to take part in their celebration of a small victory of academic success!

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