When There Were Only Four …

We always end our day outside. Sometimes we go to the outdoor classroom, sometimes we go to the playground area, and sometimes we go to the forest. Today, we connected with the other Kindergarten class, and we decided to give all of the students three different options: they could go to the forest, ride the bikes down the path, or stay in our outdoor classroom and use the mud pit area. Since there were four of us, we split up to supervise the three different areas: two educators went to the forest with a large number of students, one educator supervised the bike riding area, and I stayed back with the mud pit friends. 

There were only four students that wanted to use the mud pit, and all of them happened to be from the other class. I had my iPad with me though, so I decided to document the learning that I observed. 

They started to assign the roles for the camp fire play. #iteachk #teachersofinstagram #ctinquiry

A photo posted by Aviva (@avivaloca) on

This was such an interesting experience, and I had the pleasure of just sitting, watching, and listening to four students. When I went back over this documentation tonight to share with the other classroom educators, not only was I impressed with what the students did and what they shared, but I realized a very big difference in myself.

  • I spoke way less and listened way more. For much of the time, I just stood back and typed what the students said — taking some photographs during the process. I let the children problem solve, and I was very deliberate in choosing when to intervene. While I sometimes asked questions or labelled behaviour that I noticed (e.g., using the word “sorting” to describe what the students were doing), I found myself thinking more about the words I used and how to minimize talk time. 

  • I felt calmer. Sometimes, as much as I want to be in the moment with the small group in front of me, I’m very cognizant of all of the other students around me. It’s not abnormal for me to be in the middle of conversing with one group and interrupted by a child asking a question or needing some help. With only four students to observe and interact with, I never felt the “pull in multiple directions,” and this made me feel a lot calmer. I could hear the difference in my voice.
  • I felt connected to the students and the learning. While I feel this somewhat on a regular basis, when you’re constantly trying to connect with so many groups of students, it’s easy to feel as though you miss the depth of the learning that’s happening in any one area. Sometimes I attempt to rectify this problem by making a particular learning area my focus, and spending more time there, but often my attention is pulled elsewhere. For 30 minutes this afternoon, this was my only area to oversee, so I could really immerse myself in the learning that happened here. It was exciting to see this learning evolve and hear the thinking that happened during the process.

My experience this afternoon makes me wonder, how do we create more of these small group learning opportunities? Even in a big class, how do we find the time to sit, watch, and really listen to smaller groups of students? I know that children are always playing and interacting in small groups, and I know that we sit down with them during these times, but interruptions often seem to be a reality. Is there a way to make them less of one? Imagine what this might mean for kids!


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