Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Time to Watch the Snowflakes

Let me take a moment to describe my morning as a twin mama before I write about all the things I did wrong in my Heartfelt H lesson today...

My kids overslept today, and since I use them as my alarm clock, I also overslept.  I enjoyed the extra 18 minutes of rest, but that 18 minutes in bed meant a somewhat frenzied morning and a break from our normal routine.  The change-up frustrated my son, who most certainly did not want to get dressed before he ate his breakfast, and his tantrum frustrated me as I swept through the house picking up toys, piling laundry, checking my kids' backpacks, and collecting materials for my H lesson.  By the time we were crying our way to the car, I barely noticed the snow falling outside.  I certainly didn't think to grab a broom or ice scraper - or my snow jacket and mittens.  It wasn't until I pulled into the school parking lot, ready to teach my first preschool lesson, that I realized my car would be sitting in the lot for the next 2.5 hours and that I would need to clean it off in order to drive home.  I sighed as I looked at the blanket of snow already on the ground and the man in his warm hat and jacket shoveling the walks of the preschool.  I figured I would end up having a title for my blog today - something along the lines of  "why my fingers fell off from frostbite."  Luckily, the falling snow was wet and heavy, and it didn't stick to the car.  Thank goodness, or I would be typing this blog with nubs.

The heavy snow altered the morning lesson today as my mentor teacher seized a teachable moment and ushered the children, armed with borrowed mittens and black construction paper, outside.   Like the kids, I was fascinated by the snowflakes that landed on our paper.  Of course, after last week, I now know that a snowflake has six sides, and after today, I truly understand the beauty of these crystal creations.  "I got a perfect one" became our class cheer, and we huddled around the paper to admire the snow.  Catching snowflakes gave me new perspective on nature's creation.

Back inside, it was time for my Heartfelt H lesson.  I had no time to think, or to worry, as the children slid around the table and I spread out the supplies. 

"What are we making today?" a child exclaimed.

"An H," another answered.

My mentor teacher helped me settle the class. Off balance, I took a breath, trying to remember the routine I had practiced in my head. 

"When you come to the table, remember to put your name in the bucket," I began.  Then I demonstrated cutting the H.  "An H has a lot of straight lines," I said aloud as I made the cuts.  "I think it is easiest to cut into the paper on both lines and then turn the paper to cut the last line."  I snipped the first hole away. 

"What do I have here?"  Answers of "square" and "rectangle" filled my ears as I held up the paper that was not a perfect square.  I explained how it was close to a square, but not quite, and I wondered whether I should have measured the H to make it more clearly one or the other.  I flipped my H to the other side, asking the children to help me remember how I had cut the first set of lines. 

With my H cut, I said, "Do you know what I notice about an H?  It is the same on both sides."  Before I could prompt them for the word, a girl next to me exclaimed, "It's symmetrical!"  I smiled and moved to the pile of heart stickers on the table.  My mentor teacher reminded me to write my name on the back, a routine I had forgotten in the flow of the lesson.

"That's right, and since it's symmetrical, I think I will decorate my H symmetrically.  I'm going to try to make it the same on both sides."  It's not easy to create a symmetrical H on the fly, I realized, and by the time I had 6 hearts on my H, I felt that it was time to move the lesson along.  As a final invitation, I offered to help them write "H" words on the rectangles that they cut.  I demonstrated by drawing a hat and labeling it "HAT."

In writing that word, I reverted to the only knowledge I had working with young children.  My own kids have been working on capital letters, and I write mostly upper-case words with them.  My mentor teacher reminded me to use little letters, something I will need to start doing at home as well as in school. 

With only 6 stickers, visually my H was boring, but the children surpassed my model, creating vibrantly decorated letters.  Some of them were symmetrical, and a few children realized that they could flip the H and decorate the back due to its symmetry, something that had not occurred to me in my lesson planning.  Their creativity and insight surpassed  my expectations, and their final products were truly eye-catching.  About half of the children drew pictures of "H" words on their disposed rectangles, and by the end of the lesson we had a stack of words to add to our class list.  Unfortunately, I spelled all of those words with a capital H.  I'm still learning...

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