My word for this year is PURPOSE. I've been thinking about what I do and why I do it. I've tried to write my blog posts and tweets and other efforts with intention, making them all support my overarching philosophy and purpose.
In doing that, I have been thinking about a lot of things. When I see an activity, I think about the why of that activity (why would I use it; what purpose does it serve). Since PLAY and exploration are key components of my philosophy, I've been looking at things and evaluating how they support the kids' ability to explore and play and use their own ideas.
This week we were thinking about our preschool leader in our church. She is celebrating a significant anniversary and we wanted to make something to thank her. I know there are all kinds of activities and crafts out there. We decided to make cards. We put out folded paper, markers, and gel pens.
I did print a couple of sentences that kids could use for writing. But this was their choice. They could write those words or not. They could write any message they chose (or not write anything).
I sat at the table with the kids as they worked. I talked about our leader and the things she does for us. We talked about when the kids saw her. I commented on what I saw kids doing. I read the "sample sentences" in case they wanted to write those words.
One girl asked me how to write "from." I wrote the word on the back of one of my sentences so she could write it on her card.
They experimented with shapes and colors. They found a few pens that no longer worked. When a pen began to write lighter and lighter, one girl said, "This is what you do." She shook it hard a few times. And it wrote darker again.
Classrooms all over our country are stressing academics and literacy. But I discovered my kindergartners working on purposeful writing. They wrote to express themselves and their gratefulness. (They may have used some of my words, but they chose those words as their own.) They saw how writing can communicate ideas and feelings. Pictures and words can tell someone we are thankful for what they do. Pictures and words can help show our happy feelings and cause happy feelings in someone else.
I wish all writing and literacy experiences could be purposeful and meaningful. My goal is to create an atmosphere that encourages literacy play and exploration. Now my church class is different (in purpose and context) from the children's school class. But playing with words - exploring writing and reading and communicating - is possible in all kinds of contexts.
My kids have shown me that making it purposeful makes it real. It makes it authentic. And that's when the learning (mental, social, emotional) really happens.