Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tuesday SOL: What are they thinking about?

This is a Tuesday
Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day. 
Check out the Two Writing Teachers website for many more reflections on teaching.

This school year, invigorated by my awesome summer training about Project Zero (see earlier blogpost), I set a personal goal of observing and documenting children's thinking. What do I notice?

I feel my teaching changing. I find myself wondering - what are they thinking? I have added the expectation that children observe closely all that we are doing. We are recalling and reflecting more together. What do you see? What is the why behind what we are doing? What do you think it means? Have we seen or done this before?

I am trying very hard to make myself pause in the midst of my teaching, to think about their thinking. What are they trying to figure out? What is on their minds? I am noticing things that I have never paid attention to before. 

One recent morning during our centers exploration, two little boys chased each other with puzzle pieces. The puzzle pieces were rescue vehicles - an ambulance, a firetruck, a police car. Vroom! Vroom! Whoo whoo whoo! They raced around the room, acting these out.

What am I thinking at this very moment? No running! Stop that!
Switch gears. What are they thinking?
They are thinking about rescue vehicles! They are excited about these, acting them out.

Honestly, thinking about their thinking changed my reaction. I inserted myself into their play. I began building a large vehicle with blocks - I placed two chairs down first, and I started to create "sides" with blocks.  "What if we built an ambulance? Could we?" I called out to them. Oh, they were so excited. "Yes!" We were immediately swarmed by many other children. Everyone began furiously building - and, telling a story. I wrote down what I overheard. 

At Storytime, I shared the words I overheard and asked if there were any details I had left out.  What is the whole story of our adventure? The children were delighted that I had listened to them and they had lots more to add. I wrote all their thoughts down and repeated them back to them.

By the end of the children's nap, I had created a simple book of the day's adventure, entitled "Big Cats to the Rescue!" 

This is the story of the day's adventure:

One day in the Big Cats, we built a helicopter, police, firefighter, race car truck.

The police come for the bad guys. The firetruck puts out fires. Helicopter goes up and helps people. It was chasing bad guys. Big Cats to the rescue!  

It was going into space because a rocketship was stuck. The planets were sharp where the rocketship got stuck. The police were going to all the planets. The Earth planets were sideways.

We live on Earth. The Big Cats were helping. The Big Cats were saving all the people on the planet. 

The End.

Of course, I had the authors sign the book for me!

Slowly, slowly, slowly,
I am helping them see.

Slowly, slowly, slowly,
I am helping them take ownership. Find their own voice. Feel responsible.

Slowly, slowly, slowly,
I am cultivating independence, curiosity, thinking.

I hope "children's thinking" will become the focus of many blogposts.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tuesday SOL: How does their math and literacy look?

This is a Tuesday
Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day. 
Check out the Two Writing Teachers website for many more reflections on teaching.

It is the beginning of the year, 
preschoolers in a public school setting, and 
time to complete baseline data. 
The most important focus: literacy and math. 
Yes, be sure to gather data on your student's literacy and math skills.

Hello, world, reality check.


As the clean up song played, I realized I hadn't seen her in several minutes...there she is! Standing next to the toilet. What's that in her hand? A tea cup from the house corner. Oh my. There are two other tea cups in the toilet bowl. Wait...what is on the floor? Oh my. She has been taking teacups full of water and filling the bathroom floor? 

Oh, I see. She is measuring volume. This is my mathematician at work.

I remember happening upon my son at this age, when he was supposed to be napping, only to find him and his entire bedroom doused in baby powder. Future scientist, experimenting - thinking, what might happen if?

I have a hard time focusing on literacy and math when I am in the presence of three year olds.

Glimpses - 
the little boy who wanders over behind the dollhouse to poop, immediately after we have gone to the bathroom as a class...

the little girl who chatters incoherently, in a lovely sing-song voice, talking to herself, repeating words over and over...

the little one who runs away when I start to read a book that has a picture that scares him...

another child who holds my hand all morning long, using me as her anchor to see the world.

the little girl who stands just to my side as I read a book to the class, holding a separate book of her own, and mirroring my every move with hand motions, head nods, and wide eyes.

a little boy takes apart another child's 3D art project...just wondering.

children carrying baby dolls, lovies, favorite toys, and sucking their thumbs.

a classroom that gets louder and louder and faster and faster, with gales of laughter, as children get to know each other better.

There is so much going on, much of it making me chuckle. This is when I am so happy to be "seasoned" - that this is not my first year in the classroom. Yes, I see math and literacy. And I see so much more.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Tuesday SOL: What have we done?

This is a Tuesday
Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day. 
Check out the Two Writing Teachers website for many more reflections on teaching.

We step forward into something new, and then we take a few steps back.

For the first many days, there was a open sensory table filled with sand and gems.
happy children.
Then it changed.
In a split second, a chaotic moment, a flash.
Children crowded together, struggling to share;
sand spewed, onto the floor, into eyes, into hair;
children were pushing, hurting, crying.

I closed the table and put a big red stop sign on the table.

Immediately, children dispersed, moved away, played elsewhere. It struck me that the children were use to 'losing privileges'. This was no big deal. Simply, move onto the next thing. This is daily life in an adult-run world.

Here's the reality - there is tremendous efficiency in an adult-run world.
I could take the sand out of the table, deciding that these children are too young and irresponsible to use it.
I could limit the table to just one or two kids, and make clean up much easier.
I could make a list of students, and assign them specific times to use the table.
I could make rules for the kids.
I could decide that I know best.

How deep is the learning if you simply have to turn to an adult to find out what to do?

The next morning, the table remained closed and the big red stop sign was firmly in place.

Children noticed.

One child tried to tear off the sign and lift the table top, to get to the sand again.
I moved over to him, crouching down, helping him to notice. "Oh my, look - a stop sign. What does this mean? What happened? Why would the table be closed?"

He made the connection. He said, "I threw sand."

The table remained closed and he helped me add more tape to the big red stop sign.

At morning meeting, I invited the whole class to recall what had happened at the sand table the day before -

"I got sand in my eyes."
"I got sand in my hair."
"She put sand on her."
"He took all the sand."
"I was being nice."
"You shouldn't throw sand!"
"Sand went on the floor."
"We had to sweep it up."

Yes, they had noticed.

I wrote the children's thoughts down on our white board in the front of the class. I shared their words with families. I told the children that we should hold on to these thoughts for another day or so, and to be thinking,

How can we play with sand?
How can we be together at the table?
What must we do?

Stay tuned!

I hope, through this noticing, we are moving towards real learning.

I am seeing that learning is many, many small and observant steps.