The Pet Makeover Hairstyling Salon: An Exercise In Letting Go

We are nearing the end of another school year — my 18th one teaching, in fact. I could probably count and tell you how many days are left, but the thought of it, is causing a #pukealert, so I’d rather live in blissful ignorance knowing that the final day is coming soon. (Now maybe I’ll manage to get all of the paper work, filing, year-end assessments, packing, cleaning, and moving done before the last day of school … miracles do happen 🙂 I wonder if it’s all of the extra paper and pen tasks at the end of the year, which cause increased stress for me). One wonderful thing about June, especially in kindergarten, is the increased independence at this time of the year. A recent makeover of our dramatic play space helped me see just how much kids are capable of doing all on their own.

For Father’s Day, we decided to turn this small area of the classroom into a Raptors Stadium. Kids filmed special messages to dad, and we filmed some keepsake ones (hopefully) to send off to each of the dads in our classroom.

My teaching partner, Paula, and I never really thought about how to use this space after Father’s Day. Our kids were busy doing some thinking though, and on Thursday afternoon, they presented Paula with a plan that quickly extended from there.

When Paula went on her lunch, I got involved in some other areas of the classroom, and that’s when I noticed that there were still students working in this little cardboard space. What were they doing? I was beyond thrilled to walk in and overhear a planning meeting for the new Pet Makeover Hairstyling Salon. Even without our suggestion, they were brainstorming ideas, building off of what the other person said, and recording their thinking, just as adults do in a meeting of the minds.

Paula and I were so impressed with their dedication to this project that we turned around the Raptors Stadium cardboard at the end of the school day, and thought that the students could begin a design transformation. Now since we already reused some of the cardboard, part of the design process would definitely include some problem solving. I said that I would pick up additional materials on the way home that night, and then we’d see what the children did the next day. I knew that Paula would be away for an appointment, so it might be harder to get into this space as much as usual, but I’d see what I could do to still support the learning in there. It turns out that children are incredibly capable of supporting each other in the learning process.

Seeing where the design process is going, I couldn’t resist buying some books yesterday to act as mentor texts in this space. Students can use the books to draw and write more about the cats and dogs and what they need. The texts are all accessible for them, and will align with the sight word development and decoding skills that we’re currently working on in class. They also provide some great links to media literacy, and a closer look at font sizes and types. We saw the value in adding text to the Raptors Stadium space, so we wanted to do the same thing here.

Then there was the child’s note about items to purchase for the salon. How could I say, “No?!” I might have spent way too much money at Michael’s yesterday, but I couldn’t resist. I had to also include some notes back to this child, for there’s always value in sneaking in some reading, when possible. Maybe this will even change how she uses a list, and the notes that she adds to lists that others write.

It feels really strange to me to let kids completely control a space, and when Paula’s back tomorrow, maybe one or both of us will get into this area more. But I can’t help but look at how students are negotiating the design of the area, the materials to add, and the details of the plan. Would our involvement make things better or worse? Maybe the best thing we can do right now is to stand back, observe, insert a few questions for contemplation, and then watch the kids do what we know they can do: own the area. I keep coming back to this quote that Paula shared with me recently. It’s one by Piaget, which I’ve heard many times before, and always makes me think.

This Pet Makeover Hairstyling Salon is all about discovery learning, and there’s something incredibly special in each of the discoveries.

  • As the school year comes to an end, how are the children owning your classroom space?
  • What have you done throughout the year to get to the place where kids are at now? 
  • What are some things that you’ve had to let go of to give students this kind of ownership?
  • What does this say about them as thinkers and doers of learning?

While I’m sad to see this year end, I’m always happy to see our wonderful kids in action!


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