Sunday, May 17, 2009

Focus On The Details

When teaching art or creative writing to my students, I often say to them, "Focus on the details." While it seems a simple enough statement recent work done by my older students, who have heard it stated so many time over the past couple of years and who have sometimes acted on it and have sometimes not, showcases its significance.

When my older students paint self-portraits their eyes now have pupils and eyelashes. When they draw an outline sketch the work is so remarkable that I have to hold my tongue so that I don't say,"Wow! That is so beautiful!"

Their stories now have multiple characters and the narrative tells a good, often funny, story. No longer are the older students content with a single page of writing, they now write stories that require page numbers. One student wrote a small chapbook that included three chapters.

I hear this attention to details even in the way they describe a scene or relay information. I have two great examples to share.

A few days ago while we were on the playground, Suzy fell and slightly bruised her knee. She was very upset. I had her sit on one of the picnic benches to calm down. She started coughing and said she did not feel well. Two of her kindergarten friends had joined her to keep her company. I asked Zoe if she could feel her forehead to see if she felt warm. She put her hand on Suzy's face for a moment and then turned to me and said with a serious tone in her voice,

"She's warm like when your hot cocoa finally cools down."

"Oh, just like that. Interesting. I think she's okay," I replied.

Suzy was up off the bench a few minutes later and I was writing what Zoe had said on my ATM receipt.

Second example: At circle time last week, I was attempting to help the children understand the concept of being in the middle. We had middle recess that day and it is often confusing to the children. They always ask, "Are we coming back in or are we going to lunch?"

I used a very common metaphor, the hamburger. I said that first recess was like the bottom part of the roll, middle recess was the hamburger and last recess was the top of the roll. As I said all of this, I noticed Dylan smiling and looking out the window. His face was aglow with thought.

Dylan suddenly raised his hand and said, "I know Miss Dyer, I know."

"Yes, Dylan, do you have something to say," I inquired.

"Well, its like this," he said and then continued. "Okay, its like the trees, the sky and the sun. The trees are below the sky and the sky is below the sun. So the sky would be the middle."

After he finished telling his "discovery," he continued to look out the window. It was a Walden moment. My class is downstairs, below the first floor. So when we sit at circle and look out the window, the trees and the sky are what we see. Dylan's was right.

And while it is their work, I must admit that when they come to show me what they have accomplished and they say, "I focused on the details, Miss Dyer, just like you tell us to do," I feel proud of the work that I have done with them, too.

1 comment:

Tess said...

Hi there,

I am always curious about this aspect of Montessori - what do you end up saying when you hold back from saying "Wow! That is so beautiful!" ? Do you have a set of phrases that you fall back on? Do you ever have children dissapointed if they have praise lavished on them at home? And most interesting to me, in what way do the children praise each other?

If you can fit it all into one comment, I'm also really curious to know about what a teacher is supposed to do when a kid just doesn't "get" a lesson. I understand that you aren't supposed to correct them, and that you leave it for now and represent the work again at a later time when the child is more prepared. But how do you handle that awkward moment without letting the child know they are wrong?

I hope you don't mind questions! Thank you so much for sharing your blog with us - it is inspirational and from what I can see, you are a fantastic teacher.

Best wishes to you and your students,