Think Inside the Box

enochmartianDuct tape has a lot of cool uses.

Getting a kid to speak English is one of them.

A new business moved right next to a school, a paint ball court. Yeah, just a slight distraction. But last week after installing the air ducts, the workers dumped  a gazillion huge boxes into the trash. I’m talking larger than life boxes–well,  at least larger than second grader–sized boxes.  I grabbed as many as I could and brought them to my classroom.

And my lesson plans? Well, I put them in the trash.

The class went wherever the students’ imagination brought them. To the future with a multi color rocket, back in time to Medieval weaponry, and of course, every Minecraft setting.


All of their unique creations were held together with one thing:

Duct tape.

But this was the deal.

If a student wanted duct tape or super tape as they called it, they’d have to ask for it using a complete sentence.

Let the learning begin.


“Mrs. Mac, I need more tape to fix my sword!” a fourth grader ordered.

“Do you want a long piece or short piece?” I asked.

“Short piece.”

“A complete sentence, please.”

“Mrs. Mac, I want a short piece.”


I felt another tug. It came from sweet little Sarah, who was holding a Braveheart hatchet that was slightly larger than Mel Gibson.



“Mrs. Mac, more super tape!”

“I want more super tape,” I had her repeat before handing her a tiny strip.

Her face broke out in a big smile, “You kid me. I want bigger piece please!”


A few more inches off the shrinking role.

Then I felt another tug. It was from Mike, who used to be shy. He was running in place wearing full body armor.


“Mike, what do you want?”

“Quickly, quickly, teacher! Put tape  here…and here,” he requested, pointing to his sides. “Quickly! Quickly!”

“But Mike,” I explained, “If I put tape there,  you can’t put your arms down.”

“Me don’t care,” he declared. “More tape. Quickly! Quickly!”


I went through two rolls in thirty minutes, more duct tape than I’ve used in my entire life.

And the students? They used more English than they had all year.

Next week, we’ll put together a castle, which I’m quite sure the fourth graders–AKA– the Chinese version of the Lord of the Flies– will use as a torture chamber for the second graders.

I’m also quite sure that not every teacher would agree with my methodology. They’d slap my wrist with their rulers and  make me write,  “I will not bring duct tape to class”  on the board hundred times.

But I don’t care.

My job is to do whatever it takes to get a kid to speak English. And if that means repairing daggers with duct tape until my fingers blister, I’ll do it.

Actually, I did it.

And the lesson learned?

Not even the best technology can compete with an empty box when it comes to igniting a kid’s imagination.

Except for the seventh graders.


They prefer putting foaming Vitamin C tablets straight in their mouths.



4 comments to “Think Inside the Box”
  1. Yep and good job! Incidentally, I roasted a retiring colleague a few years ago and presented him with a retirement tool box. It contained WD40 and duct tape. “If it should move and does not, use the WD40.
    If it should not move but does, use the duct tape.”

    • LOL. Miss you and your jokes! And…your patented Flaming Fury TM peaches. It’s one thing that China hasn’t been able to counterfeit!

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