Treasure Boxes

Our final theme lesson of the year centered on what we treasure in our hearts, including what we treasure about ourselves and others. This week, students decorated shoe boxes to make their own treasure chests. Afterwards, each student wrote a short note to every peer in their class, saying what they treasure about them. The notes started with a prompt that said, “[Name], I treasure you because … “

I was a little concerned that writing 10 notes may be difficult for some of our more reluctant writers, or that students might find it hard to think of something to say about a friend with whom they may not interact with very much. I was thrilled to find out that not one single student had trouble with either of these things. There was not one complaint about how much writing was involved in this task, and there was not one instance of “I can’t think of anything about that person.”

With this culminating project, I felt good that students’ writing competence and stamina have improved over the course of the year, and that students’ kindness and graciousness regarding their peers had also blossomed. I was also thrilled to see some insightful and meaningful comments. Rather than multiple notes saying, “You are nice,” I saw notes that said things like, “You have creative ideas” or “You are good at keeping conversations going.” Students had really put thought into their notes. They also were incredibly excited to read the notes written to them: they kept asking me all day when they could open their boxes. In the spirit of simplicity and community, I was glad that the students were as excited about these nonmaterial treasures as I was.

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Melanie Berlin

is a classroom teacher on the K-2 team. Before moving to Chicago, Melanie lived in Philadelphia and worked for five years as lead kindergarten teacher at Mastery Charter Mann Elementary School. Previous to that, Melanie lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and taught at an independent school in Oakland, California. Melanie has her B.A. in psychology with a minor in urban education from the University of Pennsylvania. She earned her teaching degree from San Francisco State University with a focus on social justice in education.

In her free time, Melanie loves playing ultimate Frisbee, drinking coffee, playing board games, and spending time with her husband and baby daughter.

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