Tuesday, December 18, 2018

My Old Pal, Eight

For the past few nights my daughter has been quietly crying herself to sleep. I found her doing this one evening on accident. I ran upstairs to grab something and instead of finding a sleeping girl, I found her weeping. I quickly asked her what was wrong, and she replied with, "I don't want to turn nine."

My daughter's birthday is Friday, December 21st. Winter Solstice. She was a c-section baby and this date happened to fall among the ones I could choose. There is something about her. Always has been. She is quiet. An observer. I think it has something to do with being born on the first day of winter. Like a rite of passage.

When I inquired about why she doesn't want to turn nine, the flood came.

Then the sobs.

Then the reasons.

She feels like she is growing up too fast.
She doesn't want to go to middle school.
She is going to miss Hiawatha.
She is going to miss all of her teachers.
She doesn't want to be an adult.
She doesn't ever want to leave me.
She feels like she is growing up too fast.
She is going to miss her old pal Eight.

When I was telling a friend about this, she reminded me of the short story "Eleven" by Sandra Cisneros. And that had me thinking about the beginning of the story.

"What they don’t understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you’re eleven, you’re also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one. And when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don’t. You open your eyes and everything’s just like yesterday, only it’s today. And you don’t feel eleven at all. You feel like you’re still ten. And you are—underneath the year that makes you eleven."

So for my daughter's ninth birthday, I think we will make a list. A list of all the things she cherished about being eight.

And another list. A list of all the things she will look forward to about being nine.

Celebrating our soon to be nine year old

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Art of Play

I have been meaning to write this post for weeks. But after the first session with my kindergarten STEAM students, I waited because each session I had was better than the last. My initial session, in a four session science series, proved to be the most important  and set the stage for all the rest. And all that was involved: playing. 

That's what the kids would call it. 

I prefer to call it discovering. 

My science series was targeting force and motion, but I wasn't sure which way it was going to head. When you look at all the standards, there is a lot of information for these little ones to learn. I had no idea what their background knowledge was and instead of doing a kwl with them, I decided on the art of play. Discovery centers. These centers allow students to choose where they want to go, for how long, and explore the materials and bins at their disposal. 

I had taught fifth grade for many years but this year found myself working with kindergarten and first graders.  I know exactly what centers look like with 11 year olds but had to seek out the advice of the amazing teachers in my building to help me see what centers look like with five year olds. I settled on choice and self regulation. 

Each center had a number. Only that number of students could be at that specific center. When students left one center for another, some would come in and take their place. What happened during this time of discovery was nothing short of amazing. As the students navigated the materials, I had conversations with them. I wanted to know what they were discovering; what thinking was going on inside their brains. 

Here are a few of those: 

Bridget: Look what I discovered!
Mrs. Waugh: Tell me about it.
Bridget: I discovered that when you pull the little gray thing, the car goes up.

Mrs. Waugh: What are you engineering?
Areya: I am making a track for the cars. They are having all of these problems. One went the wrong way into a dead end.

Hannah: Look Mrs. Waugh. We are engineers. We are sharing and working together to make stuff. I’m making cupcakes.
Mrs. Waugh: How are you getting them to move?
Hannah: I’m pulling.

Mrs. Waugh: What are you doing?
Blake: Making a factory.
Mrs. Waugh: How?
Blake: Putting machines in a line.
Mrs. Waugh: What kind of factory is it?
Blake: It’s going to be a factory, that, an apple cider factory. Some hand made machines like this one do the apples. That one takes the juice out and this one peels the skin off. That one smashes the apples into tiny pieces to get the juice from it.
Mrs. Waugh: How are you making your machines move?
Blake: By our hands. We don’t have hand mixers now. It mixes stuff. I wonder if it’s an old fashioned mixer.

It was these conversations that guided my next session, the instruction portion. I had found that many students could tell me that things moved up and down, left and right, but very few people used the vocabulary push and pull. Wouldn't it be amazing if all teachers had the time in their day to allow students to just play?

And we sat and watched and listened.

That information. More valuable than we could possibly know.