article · teaching

Paper Airplanes

This is my first time to teach Grade 10, and for our first lesson, I had to teach “Daedalus and Icarus.”

As an introduction to the lesson, I asked my students to give me the meaning of the word challenge. Although it is a common and easy word, I am surprised with various answers that my students gave. As I called students who volunteered, I published their answers on the board. I encircled the ones that were positive because many students tend to give negative meanings for challenges.

Next, I instructed them to get 1/2 sheet of intermediate paper and asked them to write the different challenges that they were facing at the moment. When I said at the moment, I emphasized that I meant “today, this time, this week, this month, or this school year.” I encouraged them to fill the entire paper with all the challenges that they were facing.

Of course, I really wanted my students to experience the introduction to our lesson in the most challenging way, so I told them to transform their paper that contained the challenges into paper airplanes. In all my four classes, I heard a lot of sighs and complaints because some of them have not made or did not know how to make paper airplanes. Nevertheless, all of them were forced to try to make one.

The challenge did not stop there.

I brought a box with a label “Challenge Box.” My ultimate challenge shocked every single soul in the classroom. I commanded them to let their paper airplanes fly into the box without drawing near the box.

They had to face the distance and overcome that challenge to think that there were electric fans on the ceiling.

In all my four classes (plus in a class where I substituted), only one, two, or none were able to succeed in my final challenge. I can’t explain my joy looking my students’ faces.

To process the activity, I asked the following questions:

  1. What did you feel in the activity?
  2. What do you think about your challenges?
  3. What do the paper airplanes symbolize?
  4. How can you relate the challenge in the activity to the challenges that you face in real life?

The insights that my students shared about the activity were as meaningful as the activity itself. A student described the difficulty of making the paper airplane and letting it fly to the difficulty of overcoming challenges in life. Another student mentioned that along the way of solving the challenges, there come more challenges such as the electric fan and distance. Meanwhile, someone shared that he felt relieved when he let wrote his challenges on the paper and let them fly; it seemed that he was letting go the things that burdened him. (I did not anticipate that answer, but I was glad to hear it)

We had not discussed the literary text yet, but I am sure that they already learned an important lesson about discovering one’s personal challenges.

As I closed, I told my students:

“In life, we will experience a lot of challenges. All of you tried to shoot the paper airplanes into the box, but only a handful did. In facing challenges, it doesn’t matter whether you make it or not. What matters most is the idea that you tried than not having tried at all.”IMG_20160623_105130


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