My teaching partner, Paula, and I are all for supporting unconventional learning environments. We also believe that mistakes happen, and opportunities to learn from those mistakes, are so important. Strangely enough, both of these beliefs intersected this past week.
As I’ve blogged about before, bathroom stress is real in kindergarten, so it’s no surprise that I’m pulled to the washroom door on a daily basis. This past week, the biggest stress for the kids came in the form of a floor covered in toilet paper. Think of an indoor toilet paper snowstorm … 🙂 When the child got the toilet paper going, they didn’t want it to stop (I’m purposely choosing the pronoun “they” here for privacy reasons). It took a little bit of detective work, but Paula and I figured out who was unravelling the toilet paper, and I spoke to them about why this was problematic. I suggested that they make a sign for the door to let others know that toilet paper doesn’t go on the floor. The child drew an X to go with their picture to really make the message clear. I remembered from our last bathroom writing experience that it was stressful for students when they didn’t understand the message, so I wrote above their random letters, the words that they told me: “no toilet paper on the floor.” I then moved onto some Lorax block building storytelling with another group of children. The humour over the “baby diaper Thneed” had me doing some list making with this group to slow down their storytelling.
They were in the middle of adding prices to the Thneeds — and reading the list as they went along — when a child came to ask me about the sign on the bathroom door. What does it say? I suggested that she, “Go and read it.”
As you can hear, this discussion was so brief that I didn’t think anything else of it, until the child and her friend came back to tell me that they “read the sign” and it says, “No toilet paper on the floor.” What?! I had to go over and see this reading.
Before long, other signs were added to the door. I figured that students enjoyed making the signs, but I never really thought more about the reading potential here, until the two children that read the sign on Thursday, returned to the bathroom to read the new signs on Friday. Soon other children were gathering around to help read the words. We then explored letter-sounds, sight words, and blending, all around the bathroom door. Will re-reading help with fluency? The best thing about a washroom in a kindergarten classroom is that children will always return to it. Imagine the number of times that these signs can be re-read.
Fast forward to the end of the day. As Paula, our teacher candidate Miranda, and myself were sitting around the classroom laughing, reminiscing, and planning for Monday, our principal Tracy came by. Tracy’s gotten very involved in our Fairy Village, and yesterday, she left some super small scissors and paper snowflakes sprinkled over the village. She wondered what the children said when they saw this. The truth was that with the wrapping excitement, nobody noticed the snowflakes. Wait a minute: what if we added a note about them to the bathroom door? This is exactly what we did!
Now we can’t wait to see what the kids say on Monday.
As we head into the last week of school before the Winter Break, children are bound to be both excited and stressed. Probably learning at all schools will be accompanied by changes in routine and a plethora of special days. Could moving some reading instruction to a new location in a new way, help increase excitement, engagement, and participation during what is sure to be a different kind of week? Maybe this is a good reminder for all of us that learning can — and does — happen everywhere, and authentic opportunities to read, write, and engage in math learning can change perceptions — for the better — around these subject areas. Guided reading at the bathroom door? I’ll take it! What about you?