Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Is Ketchup a Jelly or a Jam?

Today, the students in my two afternoon classes asked 3700 questions, almost simultaneously.  

While this may seem a tad confusing, and a lot deafening, it might help to clarify that they were writing the questions in their Whitebooks, and not actually shouting -- or even whispering -- them aloud.  I spent the time giving the class some space, and then quietly circulated and chatted with some individually.

"Is ketchup a jelly or a jam?"

Honestly, not a question I had ever considered, and almost dismissed the thought, until the questioner chatted a bit about the confusion the world has over whether tomatoes are fruits or vegetables.

Now the goal of this exercise is to randomly write, freeing your mind, and generate 100 questions.  In past years, we encouraged this by creating dice with WHO-WHAT-WHEN-WHERE-WHY-HOW, helping to keep the questions flowing.  That proved to be more of a distraction -- especially when 20 kids were simultaneously tossing wooden dice on a table.  Not exactly conducive to free-thinking creativity.

I encourage you to try this activity for yourself.  Ask 100 questions, but think about none of them.  Just write them down in a list, all in one sitting.  (If you want to play along, STOP reading this blog now, and go do it. ) 

This semester's topic in Themes in Literature is "Think Like da Vinci," and loosely based on Michael Gelb's book by the same name.  The first exploration is a focus on "Curiosita," (with an accent over the "a" that I have no idea how to insert in this platform), or a study of how curious one might be.  The most difficult part of teaching this class -- and there really is very little that is difficult once the "teacher of the gifted" succumbs to the idea that he/she will NEVER be the smartest person in the classroom, so "sit back and enjoy the ride...", is wanting to chat and explore fascinating scenarios about condiments, and the like.  

I am proud to say that NO ONE in my class was entertained by my knowledge of the difference between jelly and jam today.  (You, however, may not be as fortunate.  One has chunks of fruit, while the other is strained before canning.)  I simply moved on to the next student, leaving the questions on fruits vs. vegetables percolating in the head of the questioner.

For those of you playing along:  Choose eight colored markers, and sort your 100 questions through the following lenses:


What causes you to think the hardest?  Are you a philosopher or a sociologist?  A scientist or a politician?  Just like da Vinci, these kids are all over the map, subconsciously, and consciously, asking questions through nearly every lens.  Next week, we'll examine the areas of fascination, and collectively consider, just like da Vinci, a little bit more about how we think.  The Environmentalists will go head to head with the Economists.  The Futuristic folks may just clash with the Historians.

While I can definitively defend my position that ketchup is neither a jam or a jelly, there is little else that is that black and white in Themes in Lit.

And that's exactly the way it should be.  Every day should leave them wondering, asking questions, and wondering why everything that they knew is no longer black or white, but actually a confusing gray -- scratching their grey matter for a greater quest, and another da Vinci exploration day.

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