Sunday, January 18, 2015


He wanted to give her a gift.  Something special, as a token of their friendship.
Since he knows that she loves bunnies, he decided to draw a bunny for her.
 He also drew a small kitty face on the top of the page, because her classroom symbol is a kitty.
 He worked on the drawing and then presented it to her.
She smiled.
She looked at the drawing carefully and said, "But it doesn't have ears"
So he returned to the drawing table and added some ears.

He took the drawing back to her.  She studied it and said, "But it doesn't have a nose."
He returned to the drawing table and added a nose.
When he showed her the drawing with the nose, she said, "But it doesn't have an attacher" (this is her word for the line between the nose and the lips, which I have since learned is called a philtrum).
Once again he returned to the drawing table and added the "attacher"
This dance between them continued - each time he presented his drawing, she examined it and made recommendations, and each time he listened carefully and then revised his drawing.  During this process he also worked on the kitty drawing.  As the bunny drawing evolved, he began to modify the kitty drawing, adding spots and an "attacher."  He also glued both of their symbols onto the page.
Finally after numerous revisions he gave her the completed picture.
She smiled and said, "Thanks"
Then she asked him to add it to her display of bunny and kitty drawings, which he did.
As you will have noticed, there's some powerful teaching and learning going on between these three year olds.  She gently scaffolds and supports his drawing, while he listens carefully and follows her suggestions.  This lesson in listening and looking results in a significantly more complex drawing.

When we establish a classroom culture that gives children the latitude to work from their strengths, the results are impressive.  Observing this interaction between these two children confirms our belief that even very young children are skilled mentors and tutors.

The bunny drawing is a sweet and thoughtful gift between friends, but the real gift for us is seeing how capable and competent young children are.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Final Boarding Call

"Your work is to discover your work and then, with all your heart, to give yourself to it."
(attributed to Buddha but disputed)

At first we just wanted them to stop, 

really, enough with the paper airplanes!

Everyday, more and more planes…

                               popsicle sticks,

                                                                        re-purposed materials.  

It seemed like every time they went to the studio, they came back with an airplane.

Finally, we realized it was like the superhero play, you can’t just turn it off.

                                                               Then we remembered,
                                    remembered, remembered: 
go where they are,
in their enthusiasm,
                                            take a chance,
                                                                          and try to fly. 

The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, and gives you a sense of meaning, joy and passion.  - Terry Orlick

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Exploring Light (After Dark) in Richmond

Going together to see the InLight celebration at Monroe Park seemed a logical choice for the Forest Room children who have been fascinated by the light studio in the basement of our school. We explore light in a variety of ways there with a light table, disco ball and overhead projector for shadow play. We were all very excited about this opportunity. I brought my family and could identify with the dynamics of noticing how cold it was, how dark and really difficult it was to see each other even as we stood elbow to elbow. There were lots of people there waiting and anticipating an evening exploring light.

We met on the steps of Sacred Heart Cathedral where people were invited to make lanterns to carry in a parade.  There was loud drumming music and many people had already gathered by the time we arrived.   It was very cold and our families huddled together as we waited for the parade to begin.


  We filed into line with all of the shivering                                                                                               masses and were awed by some people wearing                                                                                       costumes that lit up, and others who swirled                                                                                             luminescent hoops in the air.

Back in the classroom, a few children shared their observations.

Luna: "I heard loud drumming music (covering her
ears) like this ( then patting her knees with her hands.)
I liked the colors on the walls. Some of them
were moving quickly and some moved slow!"
                                                                                                 Giuseppe: "I liked the man lit up."

Fran and I wondered how our children and families felt about the evening. It was bitter cold and there were so many people. The drumming was loud and frightened some children in the darkness. It was interesting to me to see illuminated figures appearing among the crowd. Some buildings were lit up and children were exploring their shadows there. Sacred Heart Cathedral came alive as projected images of colored bubbles moved up its outer walls. It is interesting how those things that caused  fearful reactions were the most celebrated in retrospect! 

We would like to invite you to share your thoughts about our InLight excursion. What was your experience at InLight?  What was your child's?  Did this classroom trip change how you view our city of Richmond?  Please comment and let us know.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Everything was going along as usual, children writing their letters on sign-in sheets every morning, minding their own business, maybe adding some colors, decorations, or even a letter or two of their last name.


Then, suddenly Bryce started his name with an A instead of a B!  He was making a joke, playing with letters, seeing what would happen.  He was so tickled with his alterations, giddy with delight.  And he kept it up, rearranging the letters in his name every day, making patterns from his letters, even straying all the way into graphic design - symmetry, design, and patterns.

A few days later, we lost control of George too; first signing-in as DAD,  then, he crossed the line when he signed-in as his friend ELLIOTT!  Well, as you might imagine, ELLIOTT felt the need to reciprocate so he signed-in as GEORGE.  That's when we lost all control.  Everyone signing-in as someone else, writing letters that aren't even in their names, new letters, hard ones too.  It was chaos.

This is why we set up our rooms and systems with the intention to inspire rather than teach.  Each classroom has systems, materials, and provocations to support and encourage literacy in an age-appropriate and engaging way so that a natural interest can emerge as children seek to decode the symbol system of our written language.  

Zack adds numbers
Zack signs-in with pictures
Zack transformed his letters into symbols

Samuel uses stars because he just
learned to make them in that fun way.
Samuel signs-in backwards
Zoey signs-in as Pricilla
Three people sign-in as Elliott
Elliott and George sign-in as Bryce
Kai signs-in as George and Marlowe signs-in as her dog

Samuel as Mary Claire
no one signing in as themselves!

 I love the way the exploration of literacy develops each year from the children's ability to bring playfulness into their daily routines.  It is non-threatening; it is inspired.  Some years they string impossibly long chains of  Scrabble letters together and ask - "read this!" 
Sometimes they cover the front of the desk with sticky-notes filled with words, real and invented.  This year their playfulness pours across our sign-in sheets, everyday signing-in as other friends.  We can't wait to see what they think of next.