It is 1:15 on a Monday afternoon. Thirty weary eighth graders wander into a classroom, bellies full from lunch. The faint aroma of body odor from the mile that they ran in gym radiates around the room. They wearily sit down and proceed to stare glassy eyed at the short story that they have just been assigned to read while also filling in a graphic organizer on the Elements of Plot. Their teacher has been cheerfully frolicking around the room displaying a tremendous amount of exuberance. Much to her dismay, their blank faces appear to be staring blindly through their books and out into a land of dreams.
Suddenly, the teacher makes an announcement. “Highlighters? We can use highlighters?” chirp many eager faces. They begin to rummage through the plastic bins of supplies and debate about who will get to use the pink highlighter and who will be stuck with green. The caps come off, and the true madness begins.
Workbooks are transformed from a black and white sea of words to a rainbow of murals. The picture of Abraham Lincoln now resembles an undiscovered Picasso painting. Every-single-paragraph is filled in with alternating wisps of yellow, orange, pink, and green. One student attempts to highlight with a gray marker. He shrugs, lackadaisically, when the girl sitting next to him offers him a pink highlighter that she isn’t using. He rejects the offer. Apparently, gray is working just fine for him.
Slowly, the Elements of Plot emerge from the craziness. Highlighted terms begin to make their way to the graphic organizer and a feeling of achievement moves across the room. This unlikely motivational tool, a highlighter, has once again saved a class from a wave of afternoon dreams. It’s another victory for Team Teacher.