Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Land of Many Colors

"Learning is first and foremost a process - a continuous making and remaking of meanings in the lifelong enterprise of constructing a progressively more and more effective mental model of the world in which one lives.  Learning is never complete" from The Meaning Makers by Gorden Wells.

Education is a process.  We are all teachers and we are all students.

Recently I was asked if I would support the growth of a postgraduate student, Jane, from the education department at Fordham University by providing a setting in which she could conduct research.  Her first assignment was to prepare, conduct and reflect on a read aloud in an elementary classroom.

Lauren and I agreed to work with Jane for several reasons including the fact that we always enjoy seeing things through a new perspective.  A fresh view helps us to grow and reflect on our own practices.

Jane was required to write a paper on her experience and was kind enough to share it with me. I was so impressed with it that I asked her if I could post a portion of it on my blog. Happily, she agreed.

When Gary and I initially spoke on the phone, we discussed his class’s dynamic, personality, and current lesson themes. Going along with the present unit on Social Justice Education, Gary mentioned a favorite book of his, The Land of Many Colors by the Klamath County YMCA Pre-school.

The Land of Many Colors is suitable for preschool- kindergarten aged students. In the story each colored group of people think that their color is best- the Blue people like blue food, the Purple people have purple pets, and the Green people think that green is best. They eventually run out of various resources and go to war. After the fighting is over, everyone must work together to rebuild their communities. They all learn that in fact it is working together and respecting the diversity of one another that is best.

On the day of the read-aloud, Gary introduced me to his class, and after joining in on their morning routine he explained to the children that today, I would be reading them a story.

As I read each page, the children had a lot to say about what was happening. Although I did not elicit individual picture vocabulary, the class often commented on what they saw or thought, saying, "Look a dog!" or "I think blue is the best."

When people in the story began fighting, the children became very excited and exclaimed things like, “Oh no!” and, “That’s Scary!” They also added sadly, “War is bad!”

After the fighting stopped, I paused to ask the class a prediction question:

Nearly all their hands shot up excitedly and as I called on them they spoke and signed, 
“The houses are ruined.”
"They are going to make food together!”
“They need food!”
“They are going to learn how to share!”

Many of them appeared anxious, and one child shouted,” Turn the page!”

Next in the story, a child whose color is obscured by dust and appears brown encourages everyone to stop and consider what has happened, and whether it would not be better to work together and respect one another. The many colored people then begin cooperating to build houses, care for pets and plant seeds. The children then had a pressing question, “Where did the brown person go?”

I explained that the person had been covered in dust, which made him look brown but now he was not dirty anymore. The children soon begin hypothesizing which person could possibly be the brown one. One child thought, “Maybe it's the blue one!” Another guessed, “I think it's the purple one!”

At the end of the story everyone lived happily and peacefully ever after. I felt relieved and happy to unanimously receive their approval. Several children shouted, “That was a good story!” 

After the story, I asked everyone to think about what the many colored people had learned.

“They learned how to share."
“They learned how to work together.”
“No color is the best!”
“Not to punch.”

Before joining Gary and Lauren's class I was not sure if the students would be able to understand and discuss the story. However, many of these students knew how to read and discuss ideas, and understood very well the concepts of respect, working together and sharing. They also considered details, like where the brown dust covered person had gone to, and ideas such as, if it was a land of many colors, why are there only people of three colors?

Jane also wrote about extension activities and remarked that reading articles about children and actually interacting with children are two very different things.


The strongest sentiment for me in her reflection is to never underestimate the brilliance of children. They will amaze you every time!


Barbara said...

This is all very reminiscent of Dr. Seuss's book about Sneeches. It's never too young to implant the wonderful idea that the world is so much more interesting because of diversity. I'm glad you were able to support Jane in her research. I'm sure the kids were welcoming.

(I just spent the last few minutes looking over Dr. Seuss titles to come up with the right one. What great books those are!)

Gary said...

Barbara - This post links to my facebook page and someone there also made the connetion between this book and the Sneeches by Dr. Seuss. I never thought of that myself but you can bet I will be reading that book soon.

When I first started teaching Deaf children I dismissed Dr. Seuss because of all the rhyming but have since come to realize how deeply his messages run (The Lorax, Horton, etc.) that I got over it. I love his books.

Thanks for commenting. I knew that with such a long post you would probably be the only one to actually do so. xoxo

N said...

I'm a preschool teacher and have used "Land of Many Colors" to promote peace in the classroom. I'm now looking for an art project, suitable for ages 3, 4 and 5. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
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