Unstructured time and Self-Directed space.

When we are encouraged to self-motivate and self-direct, wonderful things can happen. Connection and empowerment becomes the foundation of learning rather than obligation or resentment. When we learn through our own initiation and inspiration the learning becomes so much more memorable. When we create time and space to self-direct we create a space for passionate growth.  Not only should we value that kind of space for young people as learners but for ourselves as adults learning.  It is in these unstructured and supportive spaces that ideas and curriculum emerge for all.

Although this video is not an example of a class wide curriculum emerging, it is a great example of a child naturally discovering the wonders of learning. Here Salvadore is investigating a letter. Its sounds, its shape, its meaning and how it connects to our lives! Because the rest of the room is self-directed and engaged Salvadore and I were able to dive head first in the world of the letter T!

Minutes before this video started Salvadore had started alliterating with the letter T.  “T-oes! T-iny Toes!” A smile plastered to his face! Spinning in his chair, his hands raised high, emphasizing the powerful “TUH” sound at the beginning of each word!  “T-ouching T-iny T-oes!” Knowing that Salvadore is akin to drawing the subjects he’s thinking about, I placed a sharpie in his hand and large paper in front of him and asked him to draw the T words he was thinking of. With a handful of playful and child-centered redirection we embraced a powerful emerging idea that would later inspire everyone around us!

Salvadore really knows how to reflect on ideas via drawing! What a useful thing to know about Salvadore! I especially adore his reflection on the size of Terry’s legs to Tim’s legs! So astute!

I mentioned Salvadore’s project to our Literacy Teacher, Jen and they happened to be discovering lower case T in the following handwriting lesson. What a wonderfully helpful coincidence. Jen invited Salvadore to teach the lesson! Check it out!

Days after our encounter with the letter T, Salvadore’s enthusiasm for the “TUH” sound was bountiful! Classmates and peers recognized his enthusiasm and proceeded to encourage his excitement! The raw passion of learning is contagious and may we always have the clarity to see the opportunities to kindle it and enable it to spread like wild fire amongst us all.


– Jaala Smith






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