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Connecting and Learning through World Cup Stickers

You may have noticed students carrying some extra items with them last spring: World Cup sticker albums and stickers to trade. Yes, it was that time once again when many children (of any age!) became a bit obsessed with filling the blue FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 sticker album. Did you have one? Did you know someone who had one? The answer is likely YES to one or both of these questions.

I would like to make the case that trading World Cup stickers was a great learning opportunity that supported student learning. There may be some who refute my evidence and perspectives by saying that kids could have lost things or that trading stickers got in the way of learning. Here are some things to consider before making a judgment:

  1. People collect things: Seashells, ornaments, cards and coins are just a few examples. This time it was stickers. The question then is, “Why do we collect stuff?” Research says that some collect for investment, some for preservation, some for study, some to feel secure, some just for the fun of the quest of completion. Collecting gives us a chance to sort, resort, arrange and rearrange at our pleasure. This single-minded task can be therapeutic. In short, it is in our nature to collect and is arguably a healthy endeavor.

  2. Building Responsibility: A value that is so very important in the lives of all people. Responsibility is with us everywhere. In this case, students needed to properly house their stickers, album and want-list in a place that was safe and secure.

  3. Organization and Planning: The true sticker trader had a list of needs and had ordered her or his stickers from least to greatest or greatest to least.

  4. Self-Management: Students in Kindergarten to Grade 5 were given clear guidelines for times to trade and times not to trade. Before school, recess, lunch, after school before athletics. As tempting as it may have been to want that last trade, when the bell rang or an adult called on a student, time was up! Self-regulation can be a challenge.

  5. Relationship Skills and Inclusivity: Over the springtime before school concluded, I had seen students meet other students who may not have even known each other or even known someone’s name. Could a sticker initiate an acquaintance or friendship? Sure!

  6. Social-awareness: Students kept a watchful eye on how people interacted when it came to trades. Some stepped in to support where possibly needed. This was an example of empathy and a sign of emotional intelligence. Dan Goleman’s work can tell you more.

  7. Self-awareness: Trading a sticker was something that could have seemed simple. Some got attached to collections and then doubted upcoming choices. Knowing how to handle feelings and then linking decisions with actions or words could have been complex. Put yourself in this situation: You’ve got an extra shiny shield sticker. It meant something to you, right? Were you willing to just trade it away? That was being self-aware.

  8. Responsible Decision-making: Bartering and trading is part of life. I was confident that someone with a duplicate LEGENDS STICKER (the most difficult to find) traded it for more than one sticker. The deal was though that both parties needed to agree on the deal. Handshakes were taking place to signal a transaction had been made.

  9. Building Skills, Memory and Knowledge: Incredibly, some students had visualized their albums and only needed to see the face of a player. These students thought to themselves, “Got it. Got it. Got it. I need that one!” For our youngest learners, concepts such as counting and ordering of numbers were prevalent. Lastly, if you took a close look, the album was full of information about countries, names of players, regions of the world and other languages. Imagine the possibilities!

  10. Debunking Bias: Just take a look at the photos included here. These stickers had no gender barriers.

At ASFM, we encourage teachers to tap into the interests of students and harness this toward learning. Sure, some days were challenging and things got lost. These things happen. Yet all teachers should seek out ways to bring authenticity toward learning and to support social and emotional learning (SEL). Numbers four through eight are directly related to SEL. For anyone, teacher or parent, this past World Cup tradition was an opportunity to connect, challenge and engage. In fact, in one grade four homeroom class, when asked who had a sticker album, 15 out of 22 students raised their hands. The trading of stickers was as real and authentic as life gets for young minds. I think I have made my case, however, I am confident that I have missed something in my supportive argument list. If you think of another learning opportunity that came from trading stickers or you know of another idea linked to this topic, let me know. If you were one of the ones who collected and you still find yourself needing some stickers, be sure to take a photo and tweet it to @josephstanzione. I’ve still got plenty to trade! Now, who has an extra Panini #00 or a Paul Pogba sticker!

Joseph Stanzione

Twitter: @josephstanzione

Joe Stanzione is the Elementary Principal at The American School Foundation of Monterrey, Mexico. Previously he was a public school homeroom teacher in New Jersey, a curriculum coordinator and an assistant principal. Joe graduated from Elizabethtown College and earned his master’s degree from TCNJ. He completed the PTC Advanced Certificate of International School Leadership. His accomplishments include integrating RTI, opening an elementary makerspace, focusing on distributed leadership and implementing social/emotional learning at ASFM. He has presented at the NAESP Conference and the Tri-Association Conference. Joe was the recipient of the NAESP National Distinguished Principal Award in 2016. Twitter @josephstanzione.

This article was previously printed in the Tri-Association Fall 2018 issue.

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