A Launching Pad

A Launching Pad

Last night, my niece and I talked about teaching young children. She’s a teacher and so was I, for a good many years. Computers were just being introduced as learning tools about the time I retired. I’m glad I retired when I did. Many things can be learned through computers, but it is my firm conviction that kindergarten should be more of a hands-on place and computers are–well, let’s face it, computers are impersonal.

If you love computers and think that youngsters who are too young to read should get started on them right away, that’s great! I’m certainly not trying to change your mind–couldn’t, if I tried. However, since I’m hard-headed and stubborn, neither will you change mine.

Books–real, honest-to-goodness paper books that can be held in small hands were a big part of our kindergarten classroom. We read all day long. The children came to the story rug at least twice a day. When we turned down the lights for nap time (yes, this was in the days when we thought children needed to rest after lunch) I read them to sleep. Hopefully.

Books were a launching pad for learning. I taught in units: a unit about themselves, a unit on apples in the fall, a unit on green, growing things, a unit on dinosaurs. The kindergarteners loved dinosaurs. Sunny, who was the other kindergarten teacher, and Linda, who was our wonderful assistant and I collaborated on many of the units. The dinosaur unit was one of them. Linda brought beef bones from a butcher and we brought watermelons and cantaloupes. The melons were dinosaur eggs. Our culminating activity was a dinosaur bone and egg hunt. The children hunted those bones and those melons and when a child found one on the playground, we put a mark beside his or her name and, at the end, we counted the marks. It was fun! We measured off part of the playground to show how large the dinosaurs were and the little ones held hands around an outline of a dinosaur to see how many children it would take to equal one dinosaur.

We sang dinosaur songs. I can still sing, “My name is Stegosaurus. I’m a funny-looking dinosaur.” And, you should have seen the children’s art work. Marvelous, colorful paintings! They loved it and so did I. Our math counting table had small, plastic dinosaurs to count; some red, some green, for comparison.

And books? Well, we had lots and lots of dinosaur books and the children devoured them and wrote and illustrated their own dinosaur stories.

Were we criticized? Well, yes. Now, you may not believe this and I know it isn’t very nice, but some people are set in their ways (did I mention that already?) They thought this was too much fun and games and the children should be at their tables with paper and pencils in hand, learning things!

Anyway, I guess the conversation with Missy got me started looking back. Books have always been important to me. I can’t imagine a world without reading! And, books are a wonderful launching pad into the limitless world of learning.

Manos Mysteries

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