Tuesday, October 19, 2010

His Eyes Lit Up

Today, I taught my class how to play a card game with pennies and nickels. It is a game that is part of our math program and one that often proves difficult for many first graders this time of year. Each player turns over a card with pictures of pennies and nickels on it. The players then count the money on their card and state the amount of money they have. Then the two students decide which of them has the most money and the one with the most cents takes both cards. For those of you who are older, it is the game of war but more politically correct.

I chose my student helpers to demonstrate how to play this game. When the game started one student was able to count the money with accuracy while the other student struggled. I helped the struggling student count the money for the first half dozen turns of the cards. The student who was less proficient was winning each round and as he won each round his eyes lit up, sparkled, and then shined. All of a sudden, he was counting the money all by himself! I stopped offering help as he counted the nickels by fives and then changed his counting to accommodate the pennies.

The entire class witnessed this student’s transformation as he struggled, tried, struggled, tried, and then met with success. His eyes and smile said it all. We felt his positive energy and cheered for him and his partner as she gracefully lost the game and applauded his success. I could not have asked for a better lesson in what perseverance looks like than what we all got to experience during that math lesson.


  1. i'm always amazed at the way little kids expect to learn how do stuff! it's almost as if they are waiting for the learning to jump out at them, so they can catch it. this is before they come up against so many obstacles and programs that aren't geared toward their developmental levels, and "learn" that they "aren't good" at school. this is one of the major problems i see with my students in high school--if they could just channel that little kid inside them and remember what it felt like to persevere instead of give up, i think their lives would be so much better!! thanks for sharing this incredible moment!

  2. I can only imagine what an experience this was for your entire class. Students love to see others succeed--something about the community it creates is magical!

  3. I witnessed a similar heartfelt lesson this week. I instructed my first grade students to cut and assemble a "tricky booklet." A student who usually struggles with directions and implementation, understood what to do and was available to help other students. The sense of pride on her face when I asked her to assist others, made my heart sing.

  4. I've never heard of that game - but it sounds like a neat one. And your story about your little guy "catching fire" has reminded me of my own story - and I'm just going to have to blog about it!