A few weeks ago, Flannery noticed on the back of one of her Barbie books that there were some books we didn't own that weren't illustrated, but that instead had photos of Barbies in different settings to create scenes for the book. That was all it took for her to dream up her own book, with her own photos of different scenes.
To make her dream a reality, I took my camera, set it to "digital macro" mode (whatever that means--good for close-ups of small things), and took photos of each "scene" she wanted us to capture. We set the stage on her bed in her room, and she adjusted the Barbies until they were "just right" before I took each photo. She was so cute--like a little director--telling me just how she wanted the scene to look and often wanting us to take several shots so she could choose just the right one. In the end, we chose the best photos from the ones we had taken, and I printed them with lines below them (just using Power Point) so that she could write in the story later. It took her about a week to finish her story (working before and after school), and she fussed over and edited the order and flow of the photos several times until it seemed perfect to her.
In the end, I think her story was pretty cohesive and interesting. It was about a couple who loved their dog so much that they had him in their wedding. Then, he got sick, had to go to the vet, was cured by eating a special type of dog food, and went running with some horses once he was better.
I think if I had dreamed up this activity on my own, and tried to get her interested in writing her own little book, she probably would've never worked so diligently on it. But this was her own idea, her own vision, her own little dream--and she was so motivated to see it to fruition.
So, there you go. The researchers are right when they say, "Follow the child's lead" in learning. When they say, "Build upon their interests," it really does lead to a whole new level of focus and motivation.
So, start with their interests! And see what beautiful surprise you will get.
How have you "followed a child's lead" this week?