It isn’t very often that I let my students take their shoes off in the classroom, (I know, I know…….what a silly rule….. it’s just that transitions can be tough without adding shoes to the mix.) But when I turned our big wooden climbing box onto its side to make two cubbies back to back, shoes started being kicked off to play in these “apartments.”
I have a little guy who just loves putting on dress-up clothes – layers of them. Each layer is an identity: “I’m a policeman mama baking cookies.” Well, I found out he also loves shoes. He quickly figured out that the girls would slip their shoes off and climb in the box and be oblivious to him slipping on their shoes. Then he would immediately run to the mirror and admire the twinkly and sometimes strappy little things he had pulled on. The owner of the shoes was usually not as thrilled to see them on his feet when he came back to the box to show them off.
It happened a few days in a row – he tried on a different pair each day. I’m glad his friends let him experiment. It actually solved my problem about making a hard and fast rule about keeping shoes on. I’m noticing the girls aren’t taking their shoes off anymore – although my little guy stands by looking longingly at their feet.
Our school is like many in sponsoring “buddy” classes that get together throughout the year to do projects. But because preschool came late to this buddy party and there are an odd number of classes, I’ve never had the experience of pairing with another class in a systematic way. However, we have found other ways for my young students to benefit from rubbing shoulders with their older school mates.
We eat our lunch in the cafeteria with everyone else and this year we started inviting older students to join our class if they want to. I have a lot of students with siblings and cousins who love to eat with their family members. In the first few weeks of winter, our class and the first graders are reading and acting out various versions of The Mitten so I arrange a visit next door to “read” together. It has been more difficult to join forces with intermediate students on a regular basis because their classrooms are physically at the opposite end of the building from us.
Last week I ran into the 5th grade teacher in the work room and she asked if there was any way some of her students could join us for part of their recess because they were getting a little bored (imagine) with it and were asking if there were other things they could do around the school during that time. Bonanza! Their recess begins during the last 15 minutes of our day before we head to lunch and usually my students are finishing up a math or science activity and doing some independent reading.
So on Tuesday, three students came down and joined us in making book choices and read to my students. Wednesday we were in the middle of a science experiment and only one student came down so I invited her to join in. Imagine the joy of a 5th grader playing with an eye dropper and water on a ramp. On Thursday we were measuring our door with elephant sized feet and our older friends helped us with our predictions.
I am so thrilled to have this happening! I hope we can figure out a way to start the year with this experience as well.
I am working hard this year to challenge my students with higher level thinking questions. Most of my students don’t have enough English to answer more than basic yes or no questions but I still want to expose them to the language and thinking of more challenging discussions. So I am using different strategies to keep this work at the top of my head.
You know how it is. You plan the activities of the day and write up a list of these kinds of questions and then work hard to remember to ask them. I write them on sticky notes and put them on my easel so they will be right there when the time comes. I’m successful maybe half the time.
But it is trickier to create and ask those questions in the moment. This year I am really lucky to have two bright English speaking boys who keep me on my toes. Since I don’t need a translator to carry on conversations with them, I can respond to their curiosity and engage in deep thinking with abandon! What we talk about together becomes fodder for conversations with other students and my rehearsal with those twins helps me to remember the really good questions.
All of my prejudice and bias came raging into my mouth when they told me she was pregnant again. I am already angry to know that 3 of her daughters are only brought to school half of the time and are struggling. Two of them have been held back a grade at least once. One of them is in my classroom as a three year old but I’m not sure two years of preschool that barely add up to one are going to help her be successful in kindergarten. And now I hear another baby is coming into this family of 12 people where half of them are under the age of 7.
This is a true test of my compassion. (Remember, these are my crumpled notes.)
Yes it was a great moment. A student was reading the name on the paper I was passing out, “Brayan G., little Brayan.” This student has the same name but he is known as Brayan P. I paused and asked him “How do you know that?” rewording my question a few times to help him name what he was doing – reading, and identifying the “G”.
My students have developed so many skills this year but it is rare for me to hear them describe their metacognition in English. I really cherish these moments.