I began writing this post months ago, and have only just returned to see it through to publication. At that time, the school year had barely begun and I had just sent home letters inviting children to apply for Board Games Club Year 2. I have to confess my nervousness – last year was the trial run for only eight weeks and making the huge transition to running through the full year had me worried. Would we get enough replies? Would I get enough suitable applicants?
It turns out that the answer to both of these questions was a yes, but I learned a few things getting there.
To really explain my epiphanies I need to go back to last year and cover a few shameful secrets. When I was putting together the trial proposal and imagining how things would turn out for the Club in my head, I pictured it as an enrichment activity primarily focused on serving above-average achievers. I thought they would get the most out of it, would be the most likely to apply, and would be the most fun to play games with! (Hey, I’m volunteering my time – don’t judge me too harshly!)
So that’s how I pulled the group together. I selected eight “best fit” children from the twenty or so forms I had returned, and we went from there. And from there, I began to reconsider. A significant proportion of the children who had applied were kids who I never expected; kids with concentration issues, kids in math and reading intervention classes, kids with social integration difficulties, and so on. As I thought about it, it became blindingly obvious that there were the exact kids who could reap the most benefit from attending.
I don’t mean to downplay the importance of providing challenging learning experiences for above-level learners, because that’s still something I believe to be vital in nurturing self-motivated, intelligent learners. I had quickly come to realize that I needed to provide for both ends of the spectrum, and why not cover the middle while I was at it. This became the focus of my first DonorsChoose campaign, where I asked for resources that would better prepare us for catering to a broader range of ability levels.
This year I was able to do that. I planned for three groups of eight kids, each attending nine weeks of Club. By the Friday when I was due to send replies back to parents, I had received thirty-one responses. I expanded each group to nine children, and still had to disappoint four kids. With only me and one other adult, ten or eleven in a group would have been just too challenging to manage.
Our first session was several weeks ago, and it was a phenomenal success. I decided to begin with what I imagined might be the more challenging group based on what I knew of their academic ability, because I find tackling the tougher task first usually produces the best results. As it happens though, I was blown away by the attitudes of all the new kids we had attending. We had no problems at all with behavior, attention, or engagement, aside from a little chattiness. Truthfully, it had me a little worried for the other groups!
I was really looking forward to the opportunity to work with that group for the following eight weeks and hoped that I could help them grow both academically and socially. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see many areas where I went wrong and created my own issues, and still more places where Mrs Clark and I really hit the target. As a follow up, I will be creating some posts that break down individual games and activities using game components over the next year, based on the things that I do both in Club and the school day. If these turn out as planned, they should prove to be a useful resource for classroom teachers and other education professionals.