I SPY, I SIGH
This week I had the fortunate experience of stepping into Pam Roque’s P.S. 142 Kindergarten classroom during Choice Time. The children all seemed to be totally engaged with their activities and with each other. Pam was the sole adult in her room. She had no teaching assistant and no student teacher to assist her. Yet there was no chaos. Children were not constantly interrupting her for help. Quite the contrary, I noticed so many instances of children helping each other. I wonder how much modeling Pam did during the school year to lead her young charges to this sophisticated behavior?
It’s April, a few days before the spring break and the class is at the winding down phase of their Beautiful Stuff project. I could see all sorts of found objects that the children brought to school, being used throughout the classroom.
On the floor near the block center, two girls were cutting, pasting, giggling and singing. When I asked them what they were working on they told me that they were making a mermaid because they were best friends and they both LOVED mermaids!
I looked over at the block area and was totally intrigued with the thoughtful concentration of the children who were at work. Their placement of the various trinkets all around their buildings was particularly interesting.
I didn’t want to interrupt their work and so I asked Pam if she could explain what was taking place. Pam told me that she had shared many “I Spy” books with the class during the course of this project because they seemed to be such a good match with all of the objects that children brought in to school. The children loved the books and they came up with an inventive way of reinterpreting the concept of the books in the Block Building Center.
Builders took trays of the Beautiful Stuff and brought it to the block center. When they finished their construction, they peppered their structure with different objects.
To bring this idea to another level, Pam created a “Beautiful Stuff I Spy” template and the builders filled it out with drawings and words. Then they invited other children to come in and go on an “I Spy” hunt, checking off whatever they could find until they finished the paper!
How did Pam manage to support all of this independence and creativity? I’m going to spend more time in her room, perhaps videotaping so that I can learn more about her strategies and share them with other new kindergarten teachers. Right off the bat, though, there are some professional practices that are obvious to me.
Pam speaks with a soft, but firm, voice. At meetings and at centers, she is a really good listener, encouraging children to follow suit. Her classroom is neat and well organized. Children know just where everything belongs and they also know how to find things on their own. There are no behavior charts, gold stars or other artificial rewards. The rewards children receive are in their new friendships and in the pleasure of spending each day in a peaceful and loving classroom.
When I’m in her room, I breathe a sigh of pleasure, knowing that here is a place where children are being intellectually challenged and emotionally respected.