Monday, March 25, 2013

SOLSC #25 and done for this year

Two Writing TeachersSlice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC)

I am unexpectedly and abruptly ending this joyous writing challenge.
My Mom has had a severe stroke.
My brother and I are traveling to South Carolina today,
to "shore up" my Dad, to give comfort to my Mom, to be at her bedside.

I am missing the Big Cats,
my first day absent this year, and,
sadly, I am probably gone all week.

I know they are in fantastic hands with Laura.

Funny to be posting this blogpost just before my journey south.
Writing soothes me.

One last slice - 

My cousin Paul writes,
"Did you know my very first memory was your Mom talking to my Mom at my house? I was still in a crib and wanting to be downstairs with them."

A lovely message, today.
A lovely thought, that one's earliest memory is happy chatter.

What is your earliest memory?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

SOLSC #24 Shall I get the broom?

Two Writing TeachersSlice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC)

This photo makes me chuckle.

I'm never quite sure if the mess from the sensory table - 
in this case, birdseed on the floor - 
occurs by accident or on purpose.
My preschoolers love these little brooms and dustpans.
They love that they are expected to clean up the mess.
It is a time-consuming process,
sweeping up birdseed,
when you are only three or four years old.
But, like anything else,
much more fun with a friend.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

SOLSC #23 Heroes - the unveiling

Two Writing TeachersSlice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC)

This past Thursday night was our quarterly "Learning Showcase," an evening event for families to see what all the classes have been working on over the past many weeks.  Our school-wide focus for this night was "Imagination," with each classroom displaying creativity and art in learning. In the Big Cats' preschool classroom, it was all about heroes - as you may have guessed!

We displayed their hero figurines inside the dioramas, with their special handwritten signs. Alongside each of these, we had a printout of the "hero story" - what the child shared about their hero.

One of the "hero" displays at Learning Showcase

I am always excited by seeing the children with their families, showing off their special work. It was a very special evening! My colleague Brandi, who works with elementary students, dropped by for what she described as her "preschool fix" - "I've got to read their stories, Maureen!" She knows I always have stories to share. It is my absolute favorite thing to do with preschoolers, to catch their words, to catch their thinking.

Often, as you know, I say "How does your story begin?" and wait for their words to flow.  Laura (Teaching Resident) and I decided to be a little more "academic" and precise with these stories, with the goal of showing the real learning that can happen through a powerful "play" topic such as heroes. Thus, we asked the children to write the name of their hero. We built on their science learning about animals and asked questions about their heroes ability to protect, defend, move. We included powerful social-emotional questions that help build the community - kindness, helping the world. We decided to emphasize "math sets" of five - getting the children to work on their number sense in a meaningful way. We stretched them cognitively, asking a few questions that were inter-connected, so that their story had more of a sequence.  We developed a special "questionnaire" for the child to answer, to be certain that we were getting a complete picture of each hero and to stretch each child to really think about their hero.  Let me share this questionnaire with you -
  1. What is your superhero's name?
  2. What does your superhero do to protect others?
  3. What does she do to keep herself safe?
  4. How does your superhero move?
  5. How does your superhero show kindness?
  6. What magic superpowers does your superhero have?
  7. What are the five foods your superhero eats to be healthy and strong?
  8. What are five words to describe your superhero?
  9. What are five ways that your superhero will make the world a better place?

Over the past couple of weeks, Laura worked one-on-one with each preschooler to complete this questionnaire, which, I believe, gave each young author that very special and important feeling of their work being valued, of being listened to and respected.  The children were so delighted with these chats, sharing the most fabulous imaginative stories with us.

[Honestly, it was very difficult for me to "give" Laura the ownership and responsibility of receiving these stories from the children.  However, my bigger goal (and hope) is for Laura to teach this way throughout her career - to truly be present and listening to children - and I knew it was important for her to "own" this part of our effort. As I expected - she was hooked, absolutely stunned, thrilled, elated by the children's words. I loved watching her fall in love with this teaching technique.]

My colleague Brandi suggests that we create a book of these children's stories, because they make such "feel good" reading.  With that happy thought in mind, I'll share their answers to the last question with you here.  I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

What are five ways that your superhero will make the world a better place?


She is going to fight the bad guys and then they’re gonna go away. The children is gonna say “you saved the world!”
She is going to be perfect again.
She will run up the ladder and save the cat. And then she goes down the ladder.
She saves her friends.
She will get it perfect. And she will have superpower for the whole wide world.

Sarah Lydia

Make people see whatever they want.
Let people sit where they want to.
Bring people to the hospital.
Bring lovies.
Bring people to places where they need to go.


Go and get all of the bad guys out of the town. Out of the place.
Waters bad guys.
Gets all of the not good swimmers out of the place.
Gets all of the good swimmers into the place.
He gives good things to people.


She goes, “abra cadabra alla cazoo make that world disappear ca tooom!”
She has an animal that shoots out fires and puts out fires.
She has a magic power so she can do whatever she needs to do. If she has to get somewhere very fast and she can’t fly, she will go, “abra cadabra” and she will be there.
She has a fire truck and a monster truck and a construction truck and an ambulance to drive everywhere
She has something that can help her remember everything. She has a cape cat that tells her what has been done.


She has an ambulance, a fire truck, a police car, and a car.
She can take care of everything.
She takes care of the earth.
She sometimes forgot to put her clothes in her dirty basket, but she puts them when she comes home.
She helps people.


By defending everyone from bad guys.
Make there be more life and make there be no more mean stuff.
He can defend with all his power and defeat the bad guys and smash the enemies.
He invents things to protect people from the giant disasters.
He can flash a message that there’s a bad guy coming to the whole city and to the whole world so every person knows there’s a bad guy so he can go stop him.


Build a house.
Build a building.
Make a bridge.
Make a car and a truck.
Help people.


She flies.
She looks into the cave and hides if any bad guys are in there.
She helps the earth.
She helps the friends.
She helps the world.


By saving the earth if there’s an alien attack.
He can help kids do things that the kids can’t do.
He can also fly.
He can also draw.
He is good at getting food for animals.


He throws the balls and knocks everything down.
He saves people from fires.
He helps build roadbus.
Plays eats and drinks.
Take care of his family.


Help animals.
Helps people when they are sick.
Go to bed.
Go outside.
Make things like buildings and superheroes.


Save people.
Go home so his mom will see him.
Save his friends.
Save some animals.
He goes home and saves somebody.


Save the world.
She gives food to animals.
She hugs her friends.
She cooks eggs for her family.
She gives hugs to take care of her community.


Build a house.
Make a big wall.
Build like a fortress around him.
He can make something invisible so he can build a house.
He can make his house  invisible. If he doesn’t like it, he can make another house.


Help people get their houses fixed.
He tries to help people get their cars ready to go because the people have a hard time getting it ready to go.
He helps fire rescue man.
He makes everybody happy.
Help everybody walk.


She helps her family with her baby sister
She helps her friends if they get in trouble
She uses her magic to make her community feel better
She gives animals food and helps them if they get in trouble
She waters the flowers and the plants.


He pushes a button to make him tall and then he sees the bad guy and he fliiiies over him, and jumps him in jail.
Vacuum up all the bad guys.
He uses sharp nails or his knife to cut the stuff open that stuff needs to be opened.
He has lightning eyes to see what’s in trouble and then he knows what to do and he can zap it with a lightning bolt!
He saves everybody from the bad guys.


Help the community by saving the world.
He helps and protects animals.
He makes a cave.
He saves the world by hiding bad guys and ghosts.
He goes back home and sleeps.


Eat a plate with strawberries on it.
Aaaaaand build a house where you go anywhere in the house and fly everywhere in the house and then do some work, and then do some training exercise, and then play, and then wash your hands, and go eat and then fly out and then the phone calls them, and then play and laugh and that’s the end. Bye!
Aaaaaand do some work and play with toys and do some Legos in the house.
Aaaaand play on top of the Lego pieces and fly off and that’s the end. The End!


She can help her neighborhood and friends.
She can protect animals and stuff from poachers and bad guys and a fire, I guess.
Aaaand she can save people.
And she has a really big cape.
And she has a pink and purple and blue suit ‘cause those are her favorite colors. And she can save people. And that’s all I know.


He could save everybody. Everybody is still in trouble. He will save them from more trouble.
He could do anything! He could climb up a ladder to climb to get the people off the roof. The people are trapped on the roof. So, he could climb a ladder to grab them.
His family is going to help him. He can’t do it alone. He needs help doing the superhero power.
He helps animals get away from the fire.
He can check on his computer if he is hungry. The computer don’t work. [So, then what?] It still doesn’t work. [How does he solve this?] ‘Cause he saves things.


He puts the bad guys in a cave and tries to put them and then he puts them covered up with paper and dirt and a lot of paper and a lot of rocks, and boots, and pictures, and pencils, and chairs. With loooots of stuff.
Well, he gots some special buttons and these are the buttons that he presses. They go, “beep beep beep beep beep!” If he presses this button, it is an alarm. But it doesn’t hurt his ears. It hurts the bad guy’s ears. And he will run away.
He just makes a party and he tries do something nice for his family, he makes a cake for his Mommy and Papi and they have a nice birthday party.
He tries to do something nice with his friends- share with his toys, draw with them, build, and try to paint, and have lots of fun at centers, and make an airplane, and try to pick the bad guys.
He feeds the animals, give them a little bit of grass, and then the animals are sick, he puts the animals in bed.

Friday, March 22, 2013

SOLSC #22 Writing hero names

Two Writing TeachersSlice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC)

Each preschooler created a name for their hero figurine, and we challenged them to write this name on a special "sign" for their hero diorama.  Check these out!  I love looking at their "penmanship" - how adept they are at making those letters.  Some are becoming very skilled, whereas others are still "rising to the challenge" - these are normal developmental extremes of the preschool years. 

I was also amused by the hero names....
Many children named their hero after themselves.  

Dillon chose his nickname "Dilly."

Sarah Lydia used the first part of her name, only.



Some children named their hero after a special someone or something in their life...

Lukas named his hero after his friend, Jack.
Jamie named his hero after his big brother, Declan.
Zoe named her hero after her friend, Bella.

Hayley is Saadiq's cousin

Some children named their heroes with names that imitated comic superheroes.

Ellington named his hero "Superboy."

Ebony named her hero "Superhero Girl."

Jack named his hero "Flash."

Still other children created unique names for their heroes.

Soren named his hero "Rashton."

Reia named her hero "Pablo."

Sayid named his hero "Wareth."

Charlie's hero was very tall - and he named him thus!

Bella named her hero "Spotty"

Anya named her hero, "Meetie."

I wonder where these special name ideas came from?  
What influenced the children towards one or another?  
It was truly delightful to see them choose a name for their hero and keep it - hold on to it - over several weeks of work on their dioramas.  

Thursday, March 21, 2013

SOLSC #21 I need a cellphone!

Two Writing TeachersSlice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC)

Jamie came up to me and said, "Ms. Ingram, I need a cellphone.  I don't have one. They are using all of them!

I looked over at the dramatic play area - there were many more children there than usual. (I don't have a number restriction on my centers in the preschool classroom - I have "social" restrictions. If there is a whole lot of squabbling, we come together and discuss what needs to change and, typically, some children need to play elsewhere.) Today,  it seemed as if everything was out - the medical kits, the restaurant foods, the dress ups, and our eight cellphones - "real" phones that no longer work, donated over the years.  Yes, eight was not enough today.  Doctors need these, Moms need these, construction workers and restaurant managers, too.  Hmmm.  How to negotiate this?

"Jamie, what if we got out the engineering recyclables and created our own cellphones?" I suggested.

"Yes! Yes! I want to do that!" he exclaimed.

And he was off - tape, cardboard, markers, scissors. One by one, his classmates joined was an engineering frenzy!  Lots of engaged young minds at work.  And so much fun!!

Here are a few:

Jamie's phone - the catalyst for all others!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

SOLSC #20 What is spring?

Two Writing TeachersSlice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC)

The simple question,
What is Spring?
with the most adorable responses -

I'm not sure. (Reia, Jamie)
It gets spring again. (Saadiq)
Something when you wear short sleeves. (Soren)
The skies are blue and red, when the clouds are shiny, and we run with our wagon, because it is sunny out. (Ferdie)
Spring is when I can wear my dragon shoes. (Ben)
It's something when the leaves grow. (Harper)
All the leaves come back. (Anya)
It's my birthday. (Ellington, Sayid)
Flowers and grass. (Emma)
When the sun comes out and you get to use no jacket.
Sun. (Zoe)
Easter. (Jack)

Sayid's family came in and shared the Central Asian tradition of "Novruz," where the first day of spring is celebrated like New Year's. We ate dried fruits and sweets, examined a centerpiece of newly grown grass, and took turns jumping over pretend "fire" [orange construction paper], sharing our hopes for the future.  These were so cute, too, including -

I want to be a ballerina.
I want to learn to read.
I want to play Thomas.
I want to see a dinosaur.
I want to be just like my Mommy.

We took a short walk on a rather brisk day, to look for signs of spring.  At first, the preschoolers were pointing to every street sign.  We discussed the difference between "street signs" and "signs of spring" - funny thing, the English language!

Sweet day! 
Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

SOLSC #19 Observation time

Two Writing TeachersSlice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC)

Isn't it the strangest thing to be observed, as a teacher?

It is, for me, an "out of body" experience.
I see myself moving, I watch myself speak and gesture.
I hear the questions that I ask and
I simultaneously reflect,
making myself tongue-tied,
wanting to take back the words,
wanting to rephrase,
wanting a re-do.
I hear the children's responses and
I attend to them,
trying to dialogue,
trying to extend the discussion,
trying to instigate thought,
but I am haunted by that hope of
wanting a re-do.
My thoughts accelerate.
I am everywhere at once.
Oh, let's back this up!
Let's begin again!
I feel hyper-sensitive to the children's interactions...
Have they ever been this off-task before? 
this unengaged? 
this rambunctious?
this loud? 
Yikes, what is going on?
Am I making any sense?
Am I being engaging?
Am I being joyful?
or do I look as ill-at-ease as I feel?
Yikes, what is going on?
Is time standing still?
Is this the longest forty minutes of my life?

Finally, her computer closes and she slips out of the room.
The observation is over.

But the day stretches out painfully in front of me still.
I just want to burrow,
to think about it,
to write some notes.

To no avail.

My colleague assures me,
it's never as bad as it seems.