Sunday, October 6, 2019

Insights

Every page is an opportunity to get to know our students

Little hands slide across white paper, black lines creating images that provide insight into the child's thoughts. What is going on in their lives that is yearning to be expressed in these drawings? How is this sustained concentration serving the child's need to communicate?

My kindergarten students are active, emotional, and exceedingly dramatic with short attention spans that are easily influenced by pangs of hunger, bouts of sleepiness, and intermittent moodiness. These adorable tykes are just five-years-old after all (some are still only four). But, there are two things that capture their attention - listening to stories read aloud in spoken English and American Sign Language, and independent writing.

This class loves to write!

I walk around the classroom with my team teacher, Sarah, and am fascinated by their drawings. I'm interested, of course, from a literacy perspective and in facilitating their development along the writing continuum. Yet, I'm equally fascinated by the inner workings of their stories. Every page is an opportunity to learn more about each one of them. What is happening in their lives? How are they processing the many things that are out of their control? Can they tell me about the pictures? Do they have the language skills to do this or must I carefully navigate and scaffold my questions to bridge that divide?

Here are a few examples...

"That's me moving into my new house."

This is a joyful example of what is either real or imagined for a young boy who has had to deal with some unfortunate challenges. His vibrant smile and animated tone as he explained how his whole family was moving into a new house brought hope. I saw in this unfinished drawing that his mind is grappling with things far more immediate than letters and numbers. Teachers are called on to do more than simply impart information. We are caretakers, advocates, and champions. We are here for him.

"Mommy has a baby inside"

This girl's drawings depict the very imminent arrival of a new sibling. The smiles and hearts let me know it is a happy occasion for her family. The "baby inside" (not sure why there are two in this drawing) is an adorable representation. I remember creating similar drawings when I was 7-years-old and my mom was pregnant with my sister, Jennifer.

A flower monster

I sat next to this child and asked about his drawing. He told me, "It's a flower monster." How deliciously complicated, I thought. Juxtaposing the gentleness of flowers with the scariness of a monster seemed brilliant. He is certainly not the first person to invent such a thing, but the vibrancy in the expression cannot be denied. And he made it into a book! That'd be a cool children's book - the fragrant, misunderstood monster dropping petals and drooping every so often.

There are many, many more to share and more are created every day. And I am honored to have the opportunity to sit next to these children and say, "Tell me about your drawing".

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