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May 11, 2011

I teach in an urban middle school.  Many of my students have never been outside the city limits.  Many of them live in a daily struggle to identify where they will sleep and eat each night.  Their lives are grounded in the harsh realities of poverty.  They live in the here-and-now.  They believe what they see, and are skeptical of what they can’t.  Stretching their minds to imagine things unseen has proven to be one of my greatest challenges as a teacher.

This is why I was incredulous when I opened our state writing prompt to discover that my students were to “imagine they were living a day in the life of a unicorn.”  SERIOUSLY?!  I watched terror wash over their faces and hands shoot into the air as soon as they saw the prompt.

Once the responses had been turned in, we had a lengthy discussion about the nature of unicorns.  What are unicorns? Where do unicorns come from? What might unicorns do? Where might unicorns go?

Even after this discussion, I couldn’t help but feel that many of my students were still baffled by the concept of a horse with one horn on its head.  And wings (of course!).

I’ve decided to throw my outrage over this prompt aside and turn it into the catalyst for a end-of-year mission: my 5th graders will understand unicorns.

Do you know of any unicorn-related resources I can use?  Where could I find a good My Little Pony collection?  Any unicorn experts want to come speak to my lovelies?

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 11, 2011 7:44 am

    It’s probably too unlikely for kids that age, but I’d use the unicorn as a metaphor — i.e. pretend to be something you’re not (and can barely imagine) for a day. I’d go for narwhal instead. At least they’re real.

    A lack of imagination might be the worst disability of all.

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