Saturday, May 18, 2013

Why do you sit in a chair?

We've started a new fun ritual at the start of our day, wherein the students themselves take turns asking the question of the day on the whiteboard.  I've seen this done in older classes but I hadn't tried it at the preschool level. Laura McCarthy (Teaching Resident) decided to give it a try with our class and I have really enjoyed seeing how excited the children are about this daily pastime.

We invite the children to consider what they want to learn from their peers or what they want to know about their peers.

Most of the questions have been fairly predictable..."small" wonderings, such as

Do you have a pet? Yes or No?
What is your favorite food - macaroni and cheese, pizza, spaghetti, other?
What is your favorite - airplanes, helicopters, or trains?
What do you like for breakfast - oatmeal, muffin, cereal, other?
Do you like princesses? Yes or No?

This past week, Harper's question was open-ended:

Why do you sit in a chair?

I was delighted to see how the children answered.

Many were stumped.
"I don't know," being their immediate response.

Others puzzled long enough to reframe the original question, to make their answer fit their needs -
I like that chair! [points to a student chair] (Ferdinand)
That chair! [points to teacher chair] (Nolan)

For many, a chair was for sitting down for meals:
"So, you can eat lunch." (Soren)
"So, you don't spill food." (Sayid)
"That means you have to eat." (Ben)
"Because we eat." (Emma)
"Because we got to sit down eating." (Ellington)

Reia noted another favorite activity for chairs:
"Because we read books."

Dillon's response made me think of "rules" about chairs -
"Because we sit in a chair all the time." (Dillon)
[He is perhaps remembering adult voices, reminding him to sit in the chair.]

Other responses seemed to wrestle philosophically with the purpose of a chair -

"Because I don't want to stand up." (Harper)
"So, if there is something lower, you can reach it." (Sarah Lydia)
"So, we won't fall." (Anya)
"If it disappears, you fall off and hit your bottom." (Jamie)
"If you want to relax, you go to a chair or a bed." (Charlie)

I loved this question! I loved how one simple question gave me a window into children's cognitive they think.


  1. I have never heard of having a 'question of the day', Maureen. What fun for the younger ones. I'll ask my primary teachers if they ever do it. I don't think so. The very premise of our school is asking questions, because of their individual topic studies, but to find out "things" as you've described is different. Thanks for telling all about it!

    1. Linda, I believe "question of the day" is a Responsive Classroom idea. I have been doing this as a morning arrival ritual for years, where children look for today's question and then place their name (magnetized, to stick to our whiteboard) to the response they choose. It is a simple way to build community - to encourage children's interest in and understanding of one another. Also great for pre-literacy, helping them to spell their names!