We spent so much time before the start of the year analyzing how to convey what we value about education in our daily schedule and the classroom layout. And then we started the school year, and something still felt not quite right.
We started the year knowing that reading and community were things that we valued, so our day should start with these pieces. The kids come in and read and explore books and magazines together, then join for snack and sharing. Perfect, right?
Not quite. What was missing? Teacher Lindsey and Teacher Jodi were reflecting on it. Maybe the kids skills aren’t where they need to be yet to make that meaningful? Let’s work harder with sight words and decoding. That wasn’t a bad idea, and the kids are definitely working through text with a greater level of confidence and independence. But that still wasn’t it. Something was still missing.
Meaning and purpose. One of the key components of our program was the idea of connecting skills to real world understanding in meaningful ways. Yet in our original schedule, our connections and explorations time was the add-on. We focus on skills, and then we apply them in our connections and explorations.
Teacher Lindsey suggested that we turn that around. What if – we started the day with connections and explorations? What if we carried explorations into the morning and afternoon and shifted our workshops into a literacy time in the morning and a math time in the afternoon? Would the energy from our connections time provide a greater sense of meaning and purpose to our skills time? Would we see more transfer of skills throughout the day?
So far, the answer is a resounding yes! We started looking at houses and homes, looking for what the kids knew and wondered. We let them explore the idea of building and of home. We talked about what makes a house and a home different. We looked at the people living in our homes.
And we began to see the kids carrying that over into their play. The dramatic play area became a Home Depot. Construction projects explored different types of homes and where they might be found, and others looked at sharing our own homes with our classmates. The sorting lessons that we did during math time manifested in creating different areas of our Home Depot: the wood area, the tiles area, etc. And the signs that the students created became more elaborate. We had a closed sign and store hours. One student was suggesting job applications and interviews.
The workshop times seemed to have more energy, too. Perhaps we have figured something out: when you let kids have opportunities to think about big questions and explore new things, they have a greater motivation to build the skills that will help them go deeper with their investigations.
That’s our new working hypothesis. We’ll keep watching, collecting information, and reflecting upon it. For now, this is feeling like a better representation of those values that we were striving to promote at the start of the year.