Start a fire in the classroom? Go for it! | Mentoring in the Middle

Start a fire in the classroom? Go for it!

Since it's already Saturday evening, I've decided to link up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for a late Five for Friday and Head Over Heels for Teaching for her Spark Student Motivation Saturday.  Maybe I'll get this posted before Sunday!

One of the things I love about teaching kids is their unbridled enthusiasm.  And nowhere is that apparent than when I have them working in groups to show me how they would survive if they crash-landed in a certain location.

They all have the same circumstances (four additional people, small amounts of food and water, a suitcase full of size 12 clothing, etc.)  The only thing that's different is where they are.  It's fun to see how they work together!


They're very quick to tell me that they're going to cook some of the food they have with them.  When I ask how they're going to do that, they always respond, "Oh.  Well, we'll start a fire."  And of course, I'm always curious about how they're going to do that since they haven't mentioned matches, kindling, or firewood.  And they don't have matches.  Hmmmm.....

"Well, we'll rub two sticks together!"  Really?  "Can you show me how?"  They're usually shocked and a little excited when I tell them that I have sticks, and to go ahead and try.  "Right here in the classroom?"  "Uh-huh."

Oh, do they want to be the first kid to make a fire in the room!  (Now, lest you think me crazy, in three or four years of doing this, the most I've ever seen is a warm stick.  We're not talking hot.  Just warm.)  Here they are, trying.

Then, one boy decided that you needed to rub a stick against a rock.  So he tried that.  Still no success.  By now other kids wanted to try.   After two days of working on posters and trying to build a fire, they realized how challenging it is!  Which is a great segue into the first excerpt we read in our anthology, the part of Hatchet where Brian is trying to start a fire.

This picture is a little blurry because he was rubbing the stick so rapidly.

In the writing workshop part of my class, earlier this week I asked my students to write down something from the book they were reading independently.  Then I asked them to circle the nouns and underline the verbs.  Oh. My. Word. They struggled mightily!  I was pretty freaked out that day, wondering how I was going to fit in basic grammar along with everything else we have to do.  These are sixth graders.  They should know this stuff.

But later in the week, after this group poster creating session, I asked them to write about a time when they had felt courageous.  And boy oh boy, they may not know their nouns from their verbs, but they do write well.  It was really sweet to read their stories, and I breathed a little more easily.

Outside of school, last weekend, my husband and I drove down to Delaware to kayak in a state park we'd heard about.  It has cypress trees (you southern people are very familiar with them, but those of us northerners don't usually see them) in the middle of the pond.  It was so cool - one minute you were out in the sunshine and the next, you were kayaking through a grove of trees so thick it felt like you were walking in the forest.  How cool is that?
And then we tried to take a picture of ourselves.  In separate kayaks.With a camera. We were laughing so hard we almost capsized!  But we finally got one!

Here's to fun times that feed your soul in the great outdoors!

And finally, a special shout-out to Erin at I'm Lovin' Lit who's come up with YET ANOTHER amazing interactive notebook product - this one for writing.  Way to go, girl!  Now, pick me to win a free copy :)

Here's hoping you have a great weekend, and another good week at school!


  1. Great Idea! Sixth graders love a challenge. Maybe you need a noun and verb challenge for them. We all love Hatchet so thanks for sharing this fabulous activity and awesome kayaking photos. What Fun! Heather

    1. I never thought about creating a noun and verb challenge. Hmmmm....maybe combined with a scavenger hunt? I have to think about this one! Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. My kiddos would love this activity. It is a great idea. What a wonderful way to help them appreciate what they already have as well.

    Hunter's Teaching Tales
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    1. Good point, Bethany. We did talk about how what they show on TV has a lot cut out of it - everything seems to easy there! And yes, having water fountains and sinks, and simple things like matches for fire are things we do take for granted.