Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Carrying Chalk

Last week I taught in a classroom of four year olds. Well, most of these kids had turned four in the past year. They are very different from the kindergartners (that have turned six this year) that I teach regularly at church.

These kids move. A lot. They move from one thing to another thing and back to the first thing again quickly. Every time I encounter these younger kids, I'm reminded to have lots of things going on and lots of ways to keep them engaged.

We went out to play with bubbles and chalk and tossing rings. They moved between these items several times. I grabbed a piece of sidewalk chalk and sat down to one side of the play space. One girl wanted me to write "numbers" for her. She would jump on whatever letters, numbers, and shapes that I drew. Other kids came over and jumped on letters and numbers. Some brought chalk with them and drew lines or shapes.

One girl walked over to the chalk container (a few feet away) and gathered up a handful. She brought the chalk over to me and dropped it in my lap. A few other kids kept gathering up handfuls or armfuls of chalk and carrying it over to my location. They would drop the chalk beside me or near me.

This happened several times. Repeatedly. Up until our outdoor play time was over.

When it was time for us to go back inside, we had to cart all that chalk back to the container. As I helped direct kids to take the chalk back, I was thinking, "Why did they carry it across the space? Why not just draw with it by the container?"

I wondered if it was because I was sitting a distance away. I've written before about the power of presence - an adult sitting in a place draws kids to that spot, intentionally or not. That was probably part of the appeal.

But then I thought about David Elkind and his comment that kids choose an activity to do that they need to do. These kids were mastering moving groups of materials from one place to another.

Sometimes you like to draw with chalk.

And sometimes you just need to carry chalk from one place to another.

That's what learning is all about.

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