Friday, March 13, 2015

SOLSC 2015 #13: What do you ask?

Each day during March, I am participating in the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC). All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day for thirty-one days. My slices will be primarily about teaching preschoolers. Check out the Two Writing Teachers  website for lots more reflections on teaching. Thanks especially to Stacey, Tara, Anna, Beth, Dana, and Betsy for hosting this writing challenge. 

We are a demonstration school, with frequent visitors. This week, visitors entered our room while the children were immersed in building "Three Little Pigs" houses out of recyclables and found objects. Kaelyn had just found a piece of turquoise netting and had created an amazing roof for her house. A visitor appeared at her elbow, watching her, and said, kindly, "Oh, my, you have built a beautiful boat! What a lovely sail!

I wish you could have seen Kaelyn - her lips tersed, her face scrunched, her shoulders tightened. 

How often do we as adults, however well-intentioned, disregard the work of children? 
Why do we assume we know? 
Why don't we take a moment to ask?

I witnessed the whole exchange (one side with words, other side with body language) and quickly intervened, "Oh, Kaelyn, perhaps we should tell her about our "Three Little Pigs" work? Have we ever heard of the Three Pigs being in a boat? You have made a house - with a triangular roof, right?" And Kaelyn softened at my silliness, and the visitor immediately apologized and quickly changed approach - "Oh, wow, tell me about your house. Look at the details!

I think we adults could learn a lot by imitating children's approach to new things - ask questions, questions, questions! Just minutes earlier, in the midst of children struggling to attach turquoise netting, bottle caps, and corks to their structures and finding that these simply would not adhere with regular glue or tape, I got out my glue gun for the first time this school year. I explained that it was for me to use only and that I would keep it up high on my counter, because it gets very hot. Oh, my, the questions -

Is it a real gun? 
Why do you have a real gun?
Why does it get hot?
Where does it get hot?
You can touch it but not get burned?
We would call the firefighters if you got burned?
How come the glue is melting?
Where did you get the glue gun?
The glue gun only works if it has a plug?
We shouldn't touch it?
Why do we need it?
Is this glue going to be super strong now?
Is it better than tape?
Why is the stick of glue hard but when you put it in there, it melts?
I want to use the glue gun. Can I be a teacher like you when I grow up?

This last - I quickly responded, "Oh, yes! And we can work together! We'd be colleagues."

Here are the other Three Little Pigs houses:


  1. What creativity! And in the midst of all the questions, you can relax and know that if something were to happen, "We would call the firefighters if you got burned."

  2. I love this work and the creativity. It is all about the question. That is what can fuel learning or shut it down. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I love when you share the building stories, Maureen. I'm about to start an art project from re-cycled containers like cereal boxes. My students - 11-14, will be thrilled to 'build'. Love the start also. Many adults do not realize how much children can be "colleagues", working and questioning together.

  4. Love the houses and the reminder to ask questions. High school kids worry so much about teacher approval. Many worry to the extent that they are virtually paralyzed and unable to make decisions about their learning.