Monday, September 8, 2008

What Does An Empty Tray on the Shelf Tell?

I have been asked many times by adults whether or not a child should leave his tray/basket on the table with the work still on it while he does the lesson, or whether he should place it under his chair after he has taken each of the items off of it or place it elsewhere. My answer is the one my trainer gave me: the child returns the empty tray to the shelf where he got it and then returns to his table to do the work.

The reasons for this make so much sense. First of all, a child should never do work while on a tray unless there is a particular reason unique to that work as the rim of the tray/basket alters the wrist placement. I see this often when children are instructed to do their metal inset work on a tray. The wrist actually lifts up slightly and then down slightly to adjust to the rim of the tray. This changes the muscular movement of the work and the muscular memory in regards to the intention of the work to train the wrist to rotate for letter construction.

Secondly, a tray simply takes up too much room on a table limiting the child's space to work. Also, the tray needs to be returned to the shelf so as to let other children know that the work is in use as noted by the absence of the materials. And too, the tray secures the place for the work to be returned to. I have seen children look for work here and there when the tray was not returned because they simply thought that they had forgotten where it was kept - that is until someone told them that the work was being used not misplaced. Too, I have seen children incorrectly return work to an empty place on the shelf simply because the space was available and they thought that something should go there. All of this is solved simply by a child returning the empty tray/basket to the shelf before he does his work. Also, when the child returns to get the tray after completing his work he is reminded by the location of the tray where to return the work.

Above: The Spindle Box includes a place holder for zero.

Zero is a place holder.

Finally and of great significance, an empty tray, as I stated above, is a place holder. There is nothing on the tray but the space is held. This ties in very specifically to the initial lessons on zero. Remember that zero is nothing but that it is also a place holder. It holds a place for units, or tens or whatever. The empty tray signifies this also.

Sometimes before I put out a new work in science, art, practical life and etc., I place an empty tray - the one that will be eventually used to hold the materials for the new work - on the shelf where it will go. When children ask me what the empty tray is for I tell them, "I am going to put a new work out next week. The tray is holding the place for the work that will go there." They check that tray everyday until the work arrives.

The answer : The empty tray/basket is placed back on the shelf.


Jennie said...

What a great explanation - thanks!

mrsmelva said...

Susan, I have started having my students leave the empty trays on the shelf, and it is helping with clean up. At this point I still need to remind them fairly often, partly due to the fact that they had 6 days with a sub so that I could administer a school division mandated screening test - don't get me started about the time wasted on that - but the children are starting to figure it out and I noticed a few reminding each other about it yesterday. I am learning so much from your insightful posts, thank you.