I'm a big fan of encouraging kids to use their own ideas and exercise their creativity. I like activities that allow kids to use materials in different ways and not follow a particular pattern or do things a certain way.
This week we were using the log builders. A couple of boys began working with them but found it difficult to create anything. They were unsure what to do. I gave them the sheet that came with my log builders, a sheet that showed how to build a structure. Those boys looked at the "instructions" and then decided to do something else.
"GA" sat down with the materials. He looked at the log builders and then the instructions. He started to carefully follow the pictures to create a structure.
As he worked, I became a little uneasy. Was I going against my own philosophy? Should I encourage him to build something on his own? I left him alone and buried my doubts.
His structure grew and grew. I was very impressed. I talked with him about what he was doing. He pointed to the paper: "I am on step 4," he said. I asked if he was almost finished. "Well, I'm on step 4 and there are 8 steps. So I have 4 more steps."
I smiled. (Probably really grinned big inside.) "You are halfway finished," I said.
He worked until time was over. He didn't finish but didn't have a problem knocking down the builders and cleaning up. (He did this without me saying a word to him.)
So, did I go against my philosophy? Did GA have a valuable learning experience?
Well, he did choose to use the instructions and build that structure. Since he chose, he was exploring his own ideas.
And part of literacy is using printed materials (words and pictures) in meaningful ways. He looked at the marks on paper and drew meaning from them. He was using purposeful print - so he was reinforcing his emerging literacy skills.
He was able to follow a sequence, building his math understanding. And he was practicing other math concepts as he worked. (Even subtracting to tell me how many steps were left!)
And he experienced real satisfaction in his work.
I think this time saying Yes to what seemed like a "wrong" choice turned out to be just right.