Thursday, March 10, 2016

SOLSC #10 How high is the tower?

During the month of March, I am participating in
the Slice of Life Story Challenge.
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 many more reflections on teaching.

Aaron's first words as he entered class:
Maybe we can build a tower again today?
We continue to work like engineers in the Big Cats. Our latest obsession is towers. How tall a tower could we build? Could we build a tower that reached the ceiling? What height would it be if we did that? Is it taller than Ms. Ingram?  We set to work. What should we make it out of? How will we make it stable? Why is it so wobbly? 

As the children investigated, I was deep in the play with them. I was guiding on the side, ensuring that the space stayed safe as they moved quickly from big wooden blocks to smaller materials, such as Magna Tiles and littler blocks. When the play became a little frenzied, we set new rules. At one point, the children collected many chairs, surrounding the tower to allow them to reach higher up on the tower, and they jumped on chairs quickly, two and three children struggling for the same space. I intervened, stopping the play momentarily, and we talked about how engineers always work in a safe environment, that we needed to ensure workplace safety. At another point, the Magna Tiles came crashing down and the children went in pursuit of more stuff - again, I reminded them of workplace safety and they cleaned up all the Magna Tile 'debris' before adding in new, heavier blocks. I reminded the preschoolers that engineers move slowly and cautiously, thinking things through. I  introduced new words as they worked, for example, helping them see the 'bottom' as the structure's foundation, its base. I find that the preschoolers are like sponges with vocabulary, especially when it comes at them in the midst of something they have personally chosen to discover. 
The only teacher directed rule I imposed was that we could not use wood blocks past the children's shoulder height - they needed to find other lighter building materials after that. I suppose I could have let them discover cause and effect with the wood blocks, but engineers often wear hard hats and we have none. 

Basically, we just built and built and built. 

When we gathered later for whole group, the children shared their challenges with the tower building:

"We couldn't get the Magna Tiles to build"
"It keeps falling, falling falling."
"We used wood and sometimes we knocked them and that hurt."
"We used boxes."
"They got too high but not to the ceiling"
"It needs to be stronger."
"Maybe if we used bricks, it won't keep falling."

Yes, we had a tower of fun!


  1. I love the way you empower the children to see themselves as engineers, the way you empower them to see what's possible. I love, love, love that the language you use is so metaphorical.

  2. By letting them experiment they created their own learning, and had fun! Your classroom must be a special place to be.