Inside, you'll find a collection of THE BEST 365 inspirational quotes, (organized by theme for quick reference) along with a novel way to use them on a daily basis in any classroom to foster character development. This is an activity (referred to as "Birdseed") every teacher in any grade (ideally 4-12) can use to create an environment conducive to authentic learning.
Countless hours have been spent in the early morning light of my classrooms searching the internet for the perfect quotes to spark powerful conversations. There are—literally—millions of quotes to sort through on the internet (and other countless resources), but included here are the few shiny gems (365) that have served time and again as catalysts for remarkable dialogue. Some have made students laugh; some have instigated healthy debates; some have temporarily left them confused, but all have made them think.
The quotes are organized according to concepts, and many are metaphorical as I believe we learn best and remember most through metaphors. I have also made every effort to give credit where it’s due by including a brief biographical snippet about each contributor in the index, should you decide to share this. Often, learning about the lives of these visionaries serves as a lesson in itself.
There are several ways you can put Birdseed into practice. You might randomly choose a daily quote for discussion and written reflection, or you can choose a quote based on its theme and relate it to curriculum you are currently studying. Allowing a different student each day to open the book to a random page and choose a “message from the universe” is also a fun way to get the kids involved.
I prefer to have Birdseed written on the board before students walk into class, which makes for a calm, smooth transition. They enter the room, grab their journals, look to the stick-bird on the board and begin copying the quote. This gives me a few peaceful minutes to take attendance and gear up for the lesson ahead.
Once everyone has written down the day’s Birdseed, I start asking questions to generate discussion. (After this procedure has been in place for a while, you’ll see the hands start flying up before you even prompt them.) After reading the day’s quote aloud, I ask questions like:
What does this mean?
What does this remind you of?
Do you agree or disagree?
How might this be true?
How might this be a metaphor for life?
How does this apply to you?
Students are always more than eager to share their thoughts and connections, and after 3–4 minutes of whole group discussion, followed by my own thoughts on the quote, they are able to write independently on the topic with ease for 2–3 minutes. When there’s time, I let a few share their reflections with the class.
Allowing students the opportunity to lead the Birdseed activity on occasion is a fabulous idea. In my classroom, every Friday I offer the spotlight to a student who can choose his or her own quote, write it on the board, and lead the whole-group discussion. They enjoy this so much they practically argue over the chance to do it, so to avoid conflict, I randomly draw a name out of a jar at the beginning of each week.
*Accommodations: Students with exceptional needs may benefit from having the daily quotes already written down for them. If they struggle with the first step of copying Birdseed from the board in a timely manner, they have less time to think about the meaning behind it and miss out on the opportunity to participate in discussion. For these students, it’s a good idea to have the day’s (or the week’s) Birdseed typed up and discreetly placed in their journals, which are always left in the classroom. Then, they can focus their attention on the discussion and written reflections.
At the end of every week, I collect students’ journals and read through their entries, always making an effort to write thoughtful comments in response to at least one of their reflections so they feel validated. I never grade their mechanics or grammar, as I don’t want the flow of their thoughts interrupted by the fear of criticism. Instead, I give “completion” or “participation” points, which factor into their final grades.
Obviously, you can shorten, stretch, or alter this activity however you choose to make it work best for you and your students. This is simply one more tool to add to your box of tricks that will hopefully leave you as inspired as those you share it with.
However you choose to use Birdseed, I commend you for your commitment and devotion to the Higher Calling of educating, empowering, and inspiring the world’s children.
In the words of Zig Ziglar: “Motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily.”
Let the magic begin…
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