In our first week of school our third grade students participated in an engaging object lesson. The Free Dictionary defines an object lesson as “a concrete illustration of a moral or principle,” as well as “a lesson taught by using a material object.” Our object lesson focused on the words we use to speak to each other, along with some squishy items.
Pairs of students were given the option to choose a container of toothpaste, hair gel, or lotion. They were also given a plate and a spoon. Students were encouraged to squeeze out as much “stuff” as possible onto the plate in five minutes. Their plates were instantly covered with a sticky or oozy mess.
Next, all partners were given five minutes to put their “goo” back into their tubes. Despite working hard, students became quickly discouraged with the seemingly impossible task. Some students did come up with some clever ways to attempt to put their mess back in its place, but alas, the plates remained full of glop.
After a much needed cleanup time, students were asked, “What was the point of wasting some perfectly good Dollar Tree toothpaste, hair gel, and lotion?” A few came up with some good, yet incorrect suggestions. One student came up with a reason that was not intended but made a lot of sense – “Keep trying until you figure out a way to solve a problem.” We had to take the time to discuss the merits of this wisdom!
I then revealed then main purpose of the object lesson:
- When words are quickly squeezed out of our mouths they often create a mess.
- When we speak a mess of words it is difficult to take back what was said.
For the rest of this year our students will be reminded to be careful not to squeeze their words out too quickly, and that what we say to each other should be encouraging, not discouraging.