Friday, July 27, 2012

Teaching Should Look More Like Calvinball #EdChat

I have always been a huge Calvin and Hobbes fan. Bill Watterson created these amazing characters that I was able to connect with and enjoy their (mis)adventures. Their final comic is one of my all-time favorites. I try to look at each day like Calvin and Hobbes did in this strip.

I want to focus on the iconic game of Calvinball for this post. Here is one strip that summarizes Calvinball:

You can find the specific rules to Calvinball here

I have one big question, 

Shouldn't our classes look more like Calvinball?

This might seem like a ridiculous statement, but I firmly believe in it. We are moving more and more toward standardized, cookie-cutter instruction, I think a nice dose of Calvinball (AKA Creativity) is exactly what our classrooms need. Giving the students to freedom to explore and create can be a scary idea to teachers, administrators and "experts" that like to control things, but we all know the power of empowering children. Letting go of the control and allowing students to explore is such an amazing thing to witness. I didn't "let go" all at once. I'm still "letting go" a little bit more each year. When the unit ends, I'm always glad I let the students create their rules and design their own projects. 

The more control I have given to my students the past couple of years has been amazing. I have seen engagement soar through the roof and I have seen kids have more fun in the classroom. Not every student jumps on board to this plan, but more do now than in years past when I used the lecture/discussion model exclusively. Having a classroom that more closely resembles Calvinball would allow for many different types of learned to enjoy and and engage in the learning process. 

Calvin and Hobbes will always have a special place in my heart. Even after the last comic years ago, I can always return to these good friends and learn a lesson or two. Calvinball is just one of many different ones I will take into my classroom. 

Do you think Education needs to be more like Calvinball? Share your thoughts in the comment section. 

- The Nerdy Teacher


  1. I got your Calvinball analogy as soon as I saw the title in my Google Reader! As we're getting closer to the beginning of school, this post was a great reminder for more creativity and allowing students "more control" in the classroom. Thanks for the post, and thanks for the Calvin and Hobbes memories.

  2. Calvin and Hobbes has always been my favorite. I like the idea of Calvinball in the class. I play a game with my students where I can change the rules at any time. It definitely makes things interesting.

    I am curious as you stated since you have turned more control over to your class the engagement goes up. What types of things are you talking about? As far as what is going on in your class that you allow more student choice, how does this look in reality. Thanks

  3. @Jared

    Instead of giving specific project guidelines, I tell kids what I want them to demonstrate and they get to pick the presentation method.

    ex - I want them to show me they can identify and explain the themes and symbols of a book we read in class. The students can choose whatever means they are comfortable with to show me they understand those concepts.

    To change it up, I will often tell them they can not use the same presentation method as the last project. This way, students are pushed to explore other ways of expressing themselves and their ideas.

    Students create their own rubric, with teacher guidance, and have real ownership fo their work. If a student cannot complete an assignment they created, they have nobody to blame but themselves.

    Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.


  4. Hello,
    I also enjoy Calvin and always look for ways to use some fun comics in class. I totally agree with giving students choices on showing thier learning in project choices. I would like to know more about how your students create their own rubrics, as right now I use a basic rubric for most projects. Would you be able to give me some suggestions on involving my students more?
    Thank you.

  5. I like this a lot. I am currently trying to add more inquiry based student projects like this in my own class. I would like to see more of the particulars and what a unit looks like and what students come up with. I added you to my blog roll at Feel free to check it out. I currently have a post about using projects in class. You can contact me through the site, my email is there or on twitter @MrJFawson
    Thanks again

  6. @Deanna - Search Rubistar on google and this great site pops up that lets people create their own rubrics. I show this to the students and guide them through creating their own rubric. After having been in school for a number of years, they know what teachers are looking for in rubrics. If they are missing something, I lead them in the right direction. It's a guided process in the beginning, but after a while, students know what I'm looking for in a rubric.


    Thanks for reading my blog and adding me to your roll. It's always nice to hear from other teachers. I will be checking out your blog for sure!

  7. Great blog. Will check out suggested sites. Am a third grade teacher in an inner city setting. My students are engaged by small group projects and independent choices. I need to incorporate more of same. Keep posting.


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