October 18th, 2007


Dot to Dot

On Thursdays, I help with the literacy centers in my 1st grade daughter's classroom. 
I've become pretty chummy with the kids and I really look forward to our time together -- 
there is always some perfect bit of theater unfolding. 

I don't know how teachers absorb all the narratives in their classrooms. I think I would pop.

Today, the kids were tasked with turning the word OCTOBER into a Halloweenyish bit of art -- making Os into pumpkins, for example, or the stem of an R into a witch's broom. (OK, so mine wouldn't have been the most imaginative version ever...) 

I liked this little exercise -- it's sort of preparatory concrete poetry -- and it made the kids want to wooooo and booooo while they worked.

But first, each student was asked to write OCTOBER in big ol' letters -- roomie enough to decorate. No problem, right? Wrong. My little buddy N was struggling. He wrote a teeny tiny version of october and then just a slightly less teeny version of october and I could tell that only teeny tiny letters were in our future. 

So I said, "Hey, N. How about this. What if I give you dot-to-dots to follow? Think you could make a great, big O?" 

He was skeptical, I could tell, but I did my part and he did his. That was one lovely O.

And then we repeated the process for the C. 

"What do you think?" I asked. "Can you take it from here?"

I stepped over to the other table to remind a chatty little group of artists to put their names on their papers and when I checked back with N, he'd done it! And guess how? Using my pencil, he'd dot-to-dotted one letter at time and then, using his pencil, he'd re-traced the letter. All the way through the final R.

Don' t you just find that fascinating, the desire to have something to follow ? It starts so early -- toddlers who can't walk yet suddenly go truckin' across the room carrying a toy because holding onto something allows them to feel supported. I can think of lots of ways I trick myself into feeling brave or safe enough to move forward. Can you?