Archive for category Kindergarten

Give Kids a Steel Rake and a Shovel

Introduce a few kids about 5 and 6 of age to actual metal (adult) tools and their whole demeanor changes. Most want to engage with using these tools and are set on using them properly. Even with little prompting or explaining they tend to be focused on the task at hand. Sure you may have to interject here and there saying, “Ok, make sure the shovel stays on the ground. Or be careful with the end of the rake it may hit so and so. Or you can only use that technique when no one around.” And these are general, just heads up comments that naturally be come dialogue when kids are experimenting with new tools that can be almost twice their height, when propped up.

In our schoolyard we have a mound of extra gravel for filling in shallow spots around our track. For the past few weeks we’ve been keeping active loosing up gravel with the steel rake on the mound, scooping up shovel loads, filling up buckets, and spreading the wealth of gravel around the track. I just introduced the idea one afternoon and they’re stoked about working with adult tools. Of course I’m right there beside them participating, but I have found that they are complacently safe, without any lecture on safety, and quite intrigued on the task at hand. While the group plucked away at the heap of gravel in the yard, the topic of “playing,” came up. It was a short lived dialogue, but when I asked the two helping to shovel and rake the gravel, if we were “playing or working?” – one sided with playing and the other with working. In fact the one who said were working, would periodically comment, “we’re working hard and I want to keep working all afternoon and skip open classroom and studio time.” Both seemed thoroughly involved in what they were doing, and seemed to take great joy in it, but is this work or play. Or are there any delineations between the two?


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Give Kids Rope

Here’s a social experiment for teachers who want to expand on the idea of an autonomous child centered environment. Give them about 30 feet of rope, and get out of their way. Be careful not to interject any anxieties, however the obvious inadvertent neck rope around the neck is never fair game. Observe with great detail their interactions, while maintaining vigilance for safety, however don’t impede on newfound experiments, including those pesky verbal disagreements. Sure you may initially hear the bouts of disputes, but do you expect when ten or more kids have their hands on a rope and they all have a different idea, as to what to do with it. Remember to have faith in the fact that allotted the time and space, they’ll figure it out.

Not, that I completely opposed to having adults facilitate a rope extravaganza, or set up a obstacle course with an ideal of forming a line, taking turns, and “spotting,” each other, but there is a sense of authenticity and sheer reliance and creativity that occurs when their up to their own devices. There is also a sort of a benign experience in allowing kids to craft their own structure, as they are more compelled to rely on each other’s peer cooperation. A tug of war game may ensue, and yelling back and forth may endure, but stay patient dear adult as the plan of action uncoils. “Get off the rope, get off the rope…I’m trying to tie it.” “Stop grabbing onto the rope!” “It needs to be tighter!” “Yeah…let’s maker it tighter.” These are just a few of the loud burst of adrenaline your hear before those really interested stick to the task at hand while others may slowly begin to disperse, away from the seemingly chaos – before order.

And then the rope begins to get snugger; the knots begin to get tied, as they settle on the suitable height or angle. Or the rope over a pull up bar, attached to a bucket or a stool, becomes a sort of pulley system. And then the real fun begins, after the tension has settled and they are invoked in physics lesson at hand. All physics projects need testing, measuring, and further experimenting, as they’ll find ways to tangle their whole bodies around the subject at hand. The upper torso will lunge towards rope stretched between to anchoring points, to find away to balance. Feet and legs will curl around to suspend themselves in mid air. And then as an adult you’ll ponder how their made up knots has supported the weight of ten frantic kids – wondering if a knot will slip out at any given moment and send them crashing down. But then you’ll notice there only about four feet at max above the playground. And yet the joy on their faces and their non- stop gaiety, will lead you to believe that they’ve discovered a way to fly. Or that no ride at an amusement park could compare to this cooperative physics thrill.

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Johnathan Kozol In Seattle

What a proud and gleeful moment to be in the presence of Jonathan Kozol a pioneer critic against school inequality and segregation before a packed audience in a library auditorium. “What strange architecture they have in Seattle,” he says, with a frail, slender figure wearing a suit and Converse low tops. Kozol was at the top of his game as a writer and educator with about 4o years experience under his educator belt. His latest (#14) book, Letters To A Young Teacher, contains chronicles of letters back and forth with a fist-grade teacher in Boston, who he calls Francesca.

His letters offer a revealing, heartfelt look at the state of education and his own joy and agony in reporting on it. The letters provoke recollections of his early days as a teacher and, as a reporter, the humbling experience of visiting classes and maintaining relationships with the people on the frontlines of teaching, while he observes and writes. Kozol offers encouragement, advice, reflection, and admiration for all the teachers like Francesca, who pour their souls into their jobs. The letters explore the challenges of teaching in the inner cities: bureaucracies and standardized tests that take the creativity out of teaching; distrustful, defiant children who take away time and attention from those who want to learn; the heartbreaking irony of teaching diversity in schools that are clearly racially segregated. A beautiful book that offers an intimate look at the challenges and joys of teaching and one that will inspire and inform teachers and all those interested in public education. Bush, Vanessa –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Most of the anxiety and stress that Francesco endures is deeply rooted in the high stakes of standardized testing and the numbers of students crammed inside a urban classroom. Kozol, with his right hand propped on his note and his left hand that sways with each syllable, projects from the podium that “50% (of teachers) quit the school system within 3 years in urban schools…nationally.” According to Kozol, kids as young as kindergarten grade are being instructed to fill in ovals, before they even begin to manipulate a #2 pencil. In Letters To A Young Teacher, Francesco is quoted as saying; “I don’t care what the experts say…I won’t treat them (kids) like another species.” Kozol further pronounces to the crowd, “it is a dreadful testing mania that’s being shoved down their (kids) throats by the No Child Left Behind.”

(Please stay tuned for addition reading, podcasts, and video on Kozol’s visit to Seattle.)

More about Kozol’s visit to Seattle can be read here: 

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