There is one in every bunch. You know the one. No matter how hard you work to build rapport, no matter what incentive you offer, he (or she) just doesn't feel the need to do what is asked. If we dig deep, we can learn something from kids like these...
I was working with a group of fifth grade boys. We had been writing hard and were just about ready to publish our work. Woo Hoo! We were going to use the shiny, new NEOs. Most of the boys had three solid paragraphs, if not more. All was right in our little corner of the universe.
There was one boy, however, who did not have anything written for his story. Not. One. Word. My first instinct was to say, "I'm sorry you aren't going to get to use a NEO today. When you get your rough draft finished, you can begin your final copy on the NEO. Let's get to work!"
But before I opened my mouth, I had an inner conversation. What was my goal for this child? My goal for him was to learn to write well. Was he reaching that goal by not writing anything on his paper? No. Might he work toward that goal if I handed him a NEO? Maybe. Only one way to find out.
"Do you think your creative juices might flow a little better if you worked on this?" I asked as I held up the NEO. He looked up at me and nodded, a look of bewilderment on his face. I gave him the keyboard and he plucked away at the keys for the next 25 minutes.
Did he move toward the goal of becoming a better writer that day? Yep. Did I have to let go of some control in order for that to happen? You bet.