My teaching partner, Paula, and I had this really interesting conversation after school yesterday. I’m bringing the discussion to the blog as I wonder if others have had similar discussions before, and I’d love to hear what you decided to do.
At the end of each day, Paula and I go back through our documentation, talk about the kids, and make plans for the next day. We also discuss the different areas in the room.
- How have children used these spaces?
- What should we keep the same?
- What might we like to change?
Yesterday, the sand and playdough spaces led to our most interesting conversation. We initially wondered if we should change both areas. While we saw some possible language and math connections in both spaces, we weren’t seeing children using these areas in these ways. The literacy and math connections were less evident than we hoped. Could we get more reading, writing, number exploration, and measurement experimentation happening in other ways?
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@paulacrockett and I spent a lot of time after school today discussing this sand space. Do we leave it? Change it? While we were initially looking at the math possibilities, maybe it’s meeting a different — and just as important — need for kids: a calming space for them. Is this what some kids need to self-regulate? We know that slowing down is important. Do we need to slow down even more, and is this sand space part of that slowing down? #ctinquiry #iteachk #teachersofinstagram
But this is when we started to wonder … maybe as much as we want to develop reading, writing, and math skills, is it time to slow down? While I may know that kids need to develop relationships and feel comfortable in an environment before significant learning can happen, I still feel an internal drive for scores.
- Who are our target students?
- How do we reach these targets?
Yesterday’s conversation reminded me that we just finished our fourth school day with kids. Maybe the playdough and the sand meet needs outside of academic ones.
- Could they provide a calming option for some kids?
- Does the sensory play help some children as they develop new friendships?
- Do these items help with creative/make-believe play?
At the end of the day today, Paula and I decided to replace the playdough with water colour paint and keep the sand for at least one more day. We have a possible way to interrupt this sand play tomorrow. We really vacillated on these choices though, and only made them after deciding that if needed, the playdough could always come out again.
With every comment I made today, I wondered …
- Are we pushing reading and writing too early?
- Have all necessary oral language skills been developed first?
- Do we try to push, and then relent if kids don’t respond?
I almost felt as though I wanted a do-over each time I spoke, but then when I didn’t say or do anything, and just let things be, I also questioned if that was the right choice.
All of these thoughts were running through my head when Paula went on her lunch. It was during this time that our principal came into the classroom for a visit. As he walked around, I noticed him ask a little girl about a piece of work that she did. At first glance, it looked like she just scribbled two colours of marker all over a piece of paper. My first thought was jokingly, why did this need to be the single piece of paper work that he saw? 🙂
Shortly after he left, I invited this same child to join me over at the creative table. We looked at how to draw a portrait together. It was interesting, for while she identified some different shapes she saw in the mirror and drew on the paper (e.g., a circle), she was all about just drawing lines and curved shapes … even with support. This made me realize that this is where this child is at, and she needs these lines and shapes to slowly progress to letter formation. It’s all a part of the process. Could this playdough and sand play also be a part of this process? I don’t want to neglect the connections to math and language, but I also don’t want to lose sight of the other benefits in these play opportunities. Is it time to gain a new appreciation for scribbles? I think that it might be.