Wednesday, March 4, 2015

SOLSC 2015 #4: May I sit and hear the book with you?

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. 


I love reading to children, but it is also a real treat to sit alongside them as someone else reads a book. Sitting there amongst the children, I see them in new ways.

Just this past week, Ms. Kim [my Teaching Resident] was reading the truly fun and fabulous 'twisted' folktale The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig (by Eugene Trivizas and Helen Oxenbury) and I had this opportunity. Ms. Kim sat in our big cozy chair and all the children sat on the rug in front of her; I joined the children on the floor, sitting at the back of the group.

I spent the rest of the day chuckling about some of the antics I observed. 

Truly, it was like putting out one small fire after another!

The children settled in to hear the good story. Within seconds, they were very excited by the title itself, offering immediate feedback - "That's funny! It's not three pigs!" "Why is it the Big Bad Pig!?," many voices at once, a few "No, ME! I'm talking NOW!", and I am on alert, watching the many sparks fly due to their unbridled enthusiasm…Will they settle down? Will Ms. Kim regain control? Do I need to intervene?

[Yes, Ms. Kim's voice was strong and confident, her body language was completely at ease, and she quieted the children with the simple invitation, "Well, let's see! Let's hear the story."]

Ms. Kim had set up her phone on a nearby chair, in order to tape herself doing the read-aloud. From my place in the audience, I notice one preschooler become engaged with this phone...he immediately loses interest in the book. "I see phone, I see phone," he whispers, and he scampers towards the phone, adding, "phone games.

[That is a fire that must be extinguished! Sorry, buddy, you will play phone games when you are with your family - it's not happening here at school!]

I no sooner intervene, scooping him onto my lap, when another child shrieks "I can't see! I can't see! I can't see!" A small fire begins. Unbelievably, the preschooler in front of her - who is breaking our sitting rule by being on her knees - gives her a quick glance and immediately adjusts her body position, sitting down on the floor, without a word from me! Yes! Fire extinguished!

[This is learning, preschool level - and I get to relax, now, right? Let's hear that book!]

Right next to me, a child gets up on his knees and starts groping his own bottom. Not just scratching, but both hands in - SPONTANEOUS FIRE! I am on the scene! I give him a very strong stage whisper and point towards the bathroom. 

[This same toilet trainer once explained - with similar mannerisms observed - "I am keeping the poop in." We will have none of that during this fine book! Oh my!]

Okay, let me settle back. I realize, somehow, there are now three children on my lap. Something about holding my phone lover in my lap has attracted two others. And these new two become my set of kindling wood, as they begin to argue over space on my lap. "Shhhh!" I admonish, "We are listening!" Both children go quiet. However, one, who always does the right thing, looks at me with furrowed brow, frustrated to be admonished, and her look alone is about to send me into gales of laughter. There are a few residual embers, but this small fire has been extinguished. 

We get to the part in the book where the Big Bad Pig takes a sledge hammer to the wolves' house and the children are beside themselves with confusion, excitement, perhaps even horror.  It begins to feel again as if twenty-one small fires are erupting, there are so many comments and questions. Ms. Kim gains control with a simple, "We are listening to [names of child] now," and this child explains artfully - "Maybe the Big Bad Pig does not know how to make friends?"

I'm not sure I have ever heard something so funny - we teachers are now creating our own small fires, trying hard to not giggle, and it takes a few more minutes for us all to settle down. Ms. Kim adds, "No more questions right now - let's find out what happens."

Okay, I settle in. This should be nice.

Immediately, a girl begins to wail! Not whimper, not a small cry, but a full-blown loud-pitched wail. This is quite a disruption for a videotaped read-aloud! This is an emergency fire! I must get to the rescue! I toss aside the three on my lap (well, I'm sure I was more polite than that), and embrace the one who is crying, turning her wailing head onto my shoulder, to muffle the cry, and I whisper calmly, "Breathe, breathe, breathe" while my eyes race madly over her body to see what is bleeding, what has happened. She begins to soothe, and I whisper, "What happened, what is wrong?" and she whispers back "That boy said I cannot ask any questions right now.

[Oh, I see, that was not an "I am bleeding" cry; it was an "I feel indignant" cry. This is something else we are working on in preschool - appropriate reactions to problems. I see we have much more work to do!]

Truly, the rest of the read-aloud is a bit of a blur. I know a couple children jumped up to see the book more closely, one stepping accidentally on another child's hand; two "best friends" had to be separated from one another because of their private, staccato conversation in the midst of the teacher reading; someone was pulling at a loose thread on my shirt, who I largely ignored because he was at least very quiet; and a variety of other small fires. 

Yes, it is fun to be sitting in the midst of the children, seeing the book with all new eyes.

1 comment:

  1. We had a guest reader today. My kids tried to eat him alive. I watched as one little guy oh so cleverly moved to the front, then back again. When he got to the side he started to rest his head on the rug, then he lifted himself up and lifted his leg like a dog! Of course he was on the far side. Yes, we talked about story manners before and AFTER! It made me realize how often my body language stops behavior.