Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How To Paint A Black And Rainbow Space Ship

The Pre-K class has just begun rehearsing the play they've been writing since January. They need a space ship to take them to planets where 8 of the 9 of them will live.

The box that came along with our giant tube fits 8 children with no room to spare, so it was a likely candidate to fill the role. The script as written, however, is silent on the subject of what color the space ship should be, so we put it to a vote, a group decision-making process we've come to accept as fair since last September. Back then, many of us would angrily object, even cry, when we found ourselves in the minority, but now we've come to understand that you win a few, you lose a few, and that's part of what it means to do things together.

In the first round of voting, we were able to eliminate red, blue, aquamarine, and brown, leaving us with a tie between black and rainbow. Before we went to a last-man-standing elimination round, either Dennis or Max, I forget which, proposed a compromise of "half black and half rainbow," a solution agreed to instantly and unanimously. Consensus is harder to attain, but is always more satisfying than majority rules.

How to paint the black half was self-evident, but I know from experience that unregulated "rainbow" painting tends to result in preschool gray. I asked the kids if they knew what would happen if we mixed all the rainbow colors together and they knew it too, so we divided the rainbow side into sections with masking tape before getting to work.

It's not easy staying inside the lines, but they self-regulated well as a group, employing the time-tested technique of saying, "Hey! You got red in my blue!" and answering, "Oh, sorry."

And that's how you work together to paint a black and rainbow space ship.

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Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and I enjoy reading it very much! I have a 3 1/2 year old and I find your posts very inspiring. I learn a lot from your insights into how children in this age group re- and interact. I love how your children learn to make decisions and how they self-regulate paining the rainbow :) Thanks a lot!

Deborah J Stewart said...

I've always wanted to know how to paint a rainbow and black space ship!! I love how you provided a plan for self regulation. We have been working on that issue a lot at our school lately. I plan to write about it one day - along with all my other plans:)

Olivia Bush said...

Hi! My name is Olivia Bush. I am student at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama. I am working to obtain my degree in Elementary Education. I am in a class right now called EDM 310. It is a technology class for teachers class. Please follow my blog

Thank you for sharing the space ship painting dilemma. That was a very interesting read to see how children of such a young age came to a very important decision. I have only one 3 year old at home and somedays cannot get her cooperate that well with her 7 year old brother! At such young ages children can be so determined to have things their way. I love they way you handle the decisions made as a class together.

Thank you for the pictures that go along with the ideas. It is so neat to see the children working together and even see the end product. Your class looks so inviting and full of life. I can only begin to imagine how wonderful a teacher you are and how much your students love you. I hope to be just as creative and a fun teacher one day too. I look forward to reading more of your blogs.


Severn said...

How were you able to get a pre-K class to understand an idea such as democracy?

Teacher Tom said...

@Severn . . . Our pre-k kids have been practicing voting since September. Most of our group decisions are made that way. When we start out, there tend to be lots of sentiment in the direction of decisions going against their will being "not fair," but by this time of the year they understand that the majority rules.

As far as democracy, however, I think they've known for as long as they've been in my class that they will be listened to. We might not always do what they want, but their opinions are heard, discussed, and taken seriously. Sometimes they have an idea that changes minds. I think that's what is at the heart of democracy: having a voice. Voting is only a small part of what it means to be self governing, I think.

In many ways what we do is superior to democracy in that the children make all of their own rules, and those rules are only implemented through achieving consensus. If even one child objects to a rule, we table it until later. It's pretty cool to watch them come to a communal understanding of how they want to be treated and how they will treat others.

MOM #1 said...

Well I want to be first in line to take a ride on that half black and half rainbow spaceship. I'm partial to the rainbow half, myself. ;-)