Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Belly of the B

Reflections on teaching the B:

Today I was in charge of the writing table and accompanying craft.  The goal of the activity was to practice writing a capital B.  My mentor teacher introduced the uppercase and lowercase B during the morning song, where she demonstrated how to write each. 

"You draw a straight line down, and then come back to the top and make one big belly," the children giggled, "and another big belly."  I liked the description, and I stuck with it during my work at the writing table.  Remembering the lesson I had learned last week about teaching children to write letters, I intended to have my charges trace the outline of the B with their fingers and then guide them through the motions demonstrated by their teacher, using the language she had used as they completed the task.  With time running short in the morning, I needed to pair the children for the activity, and I soon realized that tracing and guiding each of them would be difficult.  Instead, I let them trace independently, prompting each of them to "start at the dot and draw a straight line down."  I demonstrated with the crayon before I handed it over.

I know that I cannot expect all of the children to follow my directions independently, but the outcome of the activity leaves me with a glaring question:  Why did every child except one start at the dot, ignore the straight line down, and move immediately to trace the top big belly?

Is it because they inherently know that we read from left to right, so their eyes were taken in that direction?
Is it because they like the curve, or perhaps the image of the "big belly"?
Or is there something else going on here?

It would seem to me that drawing the straight line would be easier than the curve  - my son who has a curvy letter in his name routinely complains that the curves are "hard."  I continue to be stumped by what happened, and I wish that I had thought sooner to reinforce the drawing of a B by having them sponge paint their craft as if they were writing the B itself.  Though the children had fun with the paint, decorating their Bs in 13 unique ways, perhaps my goal would have been better met by giving a little less freedom in their work on that task.

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