The greatest compliment that a teacher can receive from their students is to hear multiple utterances of the word "Wow" as students exit their room at the conclusion of that days lesson. One might even say that the word "Wow", when uttered by students is music to the teacher's ears.
Over 17 of the past 19 years I have been fortunate to teach an Ancient Civilizations curriculum to enthusiastic and passionate sixth grade students. Traditionally the unit that creates the greatest excitement and interest from my students is the one that focuses on ancient Egypt. There are many reasons for this, but one stands out above all others. The development of their culture and history is full of "Wow" moments. From the construction of the Pyramids! To the role of the Pharaoh's! To the mummification process!, this civilization is one that continues to fascinate.
This week in an effort to launch the unit on ancient Egypt in an "engaging and exciting" manner, the first annual " Day of Wow" was born. Prior to the launch of the unit, students were asked to contemplate and then record moments that they considered "Wow" worthy. They could have been events of the distant past, the recent past or something of a personal nature that the students considered remarkable. While the students were busy constructing their moments, I was busy contemplating an environment that would help ensure what I hoped, would be an inspiring and engaging learning experience.
Upon their arrival on the "Day of Wow", tickets were handed out at the door along with a welcome greeting for each individual student. Festive music was played. Balloons were placed throughout the room, and a starry background spanned the length of the back of the room. The highlight though, was the "red carpet',"where the students would deliver their " Wow" moments. (Watching various students strut up and down on this staging area was priceless) The reaction from the students was awesome as I heard the word "wow" echoing throughout the room for the first several minutes of class that day. Needless to say they were impressed, engaged and ready to learn. There was an exciting anticipation awaiting the next moment.
Next it was my turn to be "wowed" by them. They did not disappoint. The moments that they presented over the course of the next two days reflected a passionate effort in both preparation and presentation. The presentations were varied and rarely were duplicate moments presented. Some of the moments were inspiring, some were of a tragic nature and some reflected a personal triumph. All were meaningful! Throughout the two days, we all learned a great deal about each others, passions and interests.
The last presenter in each class held a secret that successfully and officially launched the unit on Ancient Egypt . They delivered a story that would " wow" the students yet again, leaving them wide eyed and fascinated. After launching the unit we reflected upon the ability of humans throughout history to create these "wow" moments and how engaging and exciting history could be if we viewed it from this perspective.
The last thing I told the students was the story of the Pharaoh's, the "living gods', in an effort to leave them with one final " wow" moment as we brought the experience to conclusion. I have every reason believe that they left that day "hooked" on what they had learned and on what was yet to be learned in the upcoming days. As they left I reflected upon the tremendous success of the past two days with great pride, recalling the progress that they all had made in developing into more passionate, enthusiastic and mature learners.
When asked about words that would be synonymous with "wow" my students used words like, awesome, spectacular, overwhelming, fantastic, tremendous and phenomenal. Isn't that exactly what we want all learning experiences to be?