Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday SOL What does mid-year look like?

This is a Tuesday "Slice of Life" for Two Writing Teachers. Check out their website for lots more reflections on teaching.

We are mid-year in the Big Cats. Every day, the children choose their own fun, working and exploring where they desire. There is cheerful "instigation" and coaching from teachers, guiding the children to extend what they have chosen to do, or to try something all new. Our centers are purposefully set up to reflect their interests and our "guided discovery" process from earlier in the school year allows the centers to have ample materials that are both accessible and organized. I have tried to set up a 'laboratory' or 'scientific' environment, a wondering and questioning place …we are constantly working "at" things, trying to figure things out - What can I do with this? How might I do that? What is the problem? What might we do? Why is this broken? How might I fix it? What are some ideas?

Yes, we are mid-year in the Big Cats, and I am so pleased with the kind-hearted and curious work that my preschoolers are drawn to doing. The Big Cats love to work at things, to try. They are happy with the "gray," with things not being perfect or absolute, with trying to make something work. They love exploring.

Let me share an anecdote:

Paxton was playing in the block center with the ramps and toy cars, and he found a small car with its wheel broken off. He raced over to me, in the art center, and asked to use the science tweezers to pull at the wheel, to see if he could loosen it free from the axle. Dmitry came over to investigate what Paxton was doing. Paxton worked at the car for awhile and then passed it to Dmitry, to see if Dmitry was able to remove the broken wheel.

Dmitry, using the tweezers, trying to pry the wheel loose,
Wow, I almost got it.
That's really hard.
Wow, I strong.
Almost…almost…got you off.
Oh boy.
This is.
I almost got it.
I'm getting tired.

Paxton -
Can I try, too?
I'm going to have one more turn, okay?

Dmitry -
Ok, your turn.
You have to try it.

Dmitry passes the car to Paxton.
Paxton takes the tweezers and he, again, tries to pry the wheel loose, explaining,
I think someone should snatch it off.
I'm going to be a helper.
I'm going to do it all the time.
That was a really good hard one for me, Ms. Ingram!
My Dad has some really good tools, Ms. Ingram.
He has even bigger pliers than we do.

Micah walks up and observes -
Want me to try?
I'm really strong!
You can give me a turn.

Paxton -
And I am super strong, too, Micah!
Here, try!

Micah, takes the tweezers and struggles to remove the wheel, emitting groans -
eeeeh yah!
eeeeh yah!
She is really struggling. Luke walks up to see what is going on.

Paxton -
Luke, he can try, too. He's a really good fixer.

Micah -
He's really, really strong! 

Micah gives Luke the car and the tweezers. He begins to work on the car, and Micah cheers him supportively -
Can he? Can he?

Katherine, painting a picture at the same table and observing their hard work, adds a commentary,
Daddy has a thing in the basement that fixes bikes.
But it can't fix cars.

Paxton -
Can it fix trolleys?

I love their camaraderie and good cheer, even when working hard.
I love how these kids are working with each other.
I love how they support one another.
I love their instinctive sharing.
I love how they don't shy away or flinch from the difficult, from the challenging.
I love how hard they work, how they persist, how determined they are.
I love their conversations.

Yes, I am happy.


  1. Speaking of "I love," I just loved the way this post oozed positivity! There's so much incredible learning (social, emotional, and intellectual) going on in your classroom.

    Hope you'll join us for the Unworkshop, Maureen. It's a pretty easy ride from the DC area. (Plus another DC-area Slicer is attending so perhaps the two of you could carpool.)

  2. This was so much fun to read. I love how you record their conversations like this and let us listen in. I love how you don't interrupt their work - you let them figure things out, try things. Very cool Slice. Thanks.

  3. You should be proud, what a great example of cooperative learning.

  4. Always, always love hearing about your students, especially as my youngest granddaughter is that age. She told me yesterday that she broke her arm over the weekend and the doctor fixed it "immediately". We wonder if someone at school had this happen & she wanted the attention she noticed that was given. No matter, young ones are always interesting.