Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A snowflake has six sides

Things I learned at preschool last week:

Symmetrical is a hard word to say - and an important concept to teach.

Password, the game, has educational merit.

Four-year-olds can do their homework on the computer.

And all snowflakes have six sides.

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One of the best things about visiting another teacher's classroom is  finding tips and tricks for my own teaching.  I steal and tweak regularly, and I advise my teacher education students to do the same.  I truly believe that the best teachers borrow ideas from other great teachers and adapt them to their own contexts.

Last week, I put a new phrase in my toolkit.  As the children were finishing their snowmen, decorating the cutouts with various crafts, my mentor teacher asked them to name their creation.  Most children provided a name immediately.  A few thought carefully before announcing a name.  Some names were rather creative.  Other names mirrored the child's own.

As the last child, a boy who cares deeply about "getting it right," even at the age of 4, handed his finished snowman to the teacher, she asked for its name.  He stood there, looking back and forth,  unable to offer a word.  I watched as my mentor sent him off to play, to "think about it," away from the pressure of the task.  She and I proceeded to clean the table and put away the craft supplies, and just before she moved the class into the next portion of the morning, she called to the boy:  "Thinking time is over."

I love the phrase, and I love the notion of letting a student off the hook, of letting him or her have some "thinking time."  As a writer sometimes I struggle for the words, and a break from the task sometimes helps.  For this young writer, all he needed was thinking time.  He returned to the table and named his snowman.

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