The variety pack of cereal. As a kid, there wasn’t a more exciting way to start my mornings. You see, on most days, my mom set out breakfast for my sister, brother, and me in the rushed minutes before the bus came, and I was forced to gulp down whatever was put in front of me.
But...on variety pack mornings, I was the master of my own breakfast destiny. I could choose what I wanted and wasn't forced to eat the bowlful of bran flakes that sat--soggy and listless--after being hastily poured from the family-sized box in the cabinet.
The variety pack had a little bit of everything for everybody. In need of a morning pep talk? Rice Krispies answered back with the snap, crackle and pop that you craved. Looking for a sugar boost? Frosted Flakes were g-r-r-reat. Feeling a bit wacky? Nothing said kooky like a colorful bowl of Froot Loops.
But...was the variety pack of cereal that much of a morning game changer?
We were still starting our morning together.
We were still eating breakfast.
It was just...different.
For once, I had an actual say in how I wanted to start my day. My voice mattered. And, I can’t imagine that I was the only kid in the world who felt this way. So, if we think about what the variety pack could do for breakfast--the variety, the choice, the fun--what could an actual variety pack philosophy bring to our classroom?
The Variety Pack Philosophy
Variety: The best part of the variety pack is the number of different cereals that make up the lineup. Offering a variety of ways for students to show their learning can help us to meet our students’ strengths and learning styles, while keeping them engaged and excited about what we are teaching. Think about it: when we give our students the same options, we get the same products. Variety can help to keep things fresh.
Choice: What would be the fun in having a variety pack if someone told you what cereal you had to eat? When creating assignments, we need to give our students the freedom to make some of their own decisions. By giving students a choice in how they want to show their learning, we are giving them a voice and helping to create independent thinkers.
Single Serving Size: In a variety pack, the cereal boxes are just the right size for a hassle-free breakfast. In the classroom, create assignments that are just the perfect portion for your students. Work shouldn’t require hours upon hours outside of the classroom to complete, nor should students be able to finish a task without much thought in a matter of minutes.
Nutrition Facts: On a box of cereal, the nutrition facts are printed as plain as day. Kids and parents know what’s on the inside of the box and can make decisions based on the information printed on the label. Think about your expectations like a nutrition label. There should be no surprises when it comes to grading.
Fun: While all variety packs include some nutritionally sound options, most kids would say that the too-sugary cereal choices are the best parts of the package. My mom never would have purchased an entire Costco-sized box of Froot Loops, but on occasion, she was OK with a frosted start to our day. Keep this in mind when planning new activities for your students. School should be fun. Don’t be afraid to bring in props, break out in song, or jump on a desk. Create experiences that students will remember. And create memories that (snap, crackle, and) pop.
The Variety Pack Sketchnote
Every Monday, my week begins with a Weekly Thought Starter from Think with Google. Some of these ideas are motivational in nature, some challenge me to look at things in new ways, and some just get my mind racing about the great things that can happen in our schools if we just give our students a chance to think differently.
This week's thought starter described what happened when, as part of a YouTube challenge, Google asked seven agency creatives and filmmakers to tell a video story in 6 seconds. 6. Seconds. The result? Seven thought-provoking, boundary-pushing videos that told a story in, you guessed it... 6 seconds.
So, here's my own thought starter: How can we take the same idea, and challenge our students to tell their stories? What will happen if we give our students six seconds? Will they change a mind? Change a perspective? Change the world?
Six seconds is all it takes.
Six seconds to share.
Six seconds to inspire.
Six seconds to be heard.
Share your students’ stories using the hashtag #6SecStory.
Jennifer Fischer is a former middle school English teacher, full-time instructional coach, and part-time edtech nerd, who strives to help next JENeration educators transform learning for all students.