Wednesday, November 30, 2011

But Wouldn't You Know It . . .

The basic set up for this is a fully loaded tape machine (a large multi-roll tape dispenser), scissors, and something on which to stick tape, which in this case was an overturned table, a couple of our wooden boxes, and a few chairs. I arranged everything to create a sort corral for tape play, one the kids could finish creating as they played, but also one that I hoped would concentrate it to a single area of the classroom.

I've done this kind of planning many times before, relying on thought experiments involving the children in my mind, only to have my expectations blown away by the first wave of real live kids, so I was a little curious as to how we'd handle it if and when the tape play spilled beyond those implied boundaries and into the rest of the room where history has shown the sticky tangle of tape will take over. As anyone who's read here long knows, I'm not inclined to boss kids around, especially in their school, so I was prepared, despite my best planning efforts, to spend a morning pointing out how tape here or there is making it hard for other people to play and expecting that this will cause kids to chose to honor their friends' desires for tape free spaces.

But wouldn't you know it, this time it worked! Without any adult badgering that I heard, the kids kept their tape construction/deconstruction within the corral, even when it got crowded. I might finally be getting the hang of this teaching thing.

Both the 3-5 and Pre-3 classes got into the act on successive days, pulling off long pieces of colorful tape, then cutting it down, over and over again.

For two classroom sessions, with kids ranging from 2-8, it ebbed and flowed as a truly fantastic example of free-form, child-directed cooperative play.

Tape was put up and cut down and put back up again. We talked and objected and agreed and schemed.

And in the end, we cut it down one last time and threw it all away.

. . . Okay, so then I went back after class and salvaged it. That's right, I thought we might like to have a tape ball around the place as a kind of memento of the time Teacher Tom got it right. But then I had the idea that they'd been playing inside the corral long enough and it was time to turn those tape ponies into the pasture, but that's a much wilder, less sanguine story for another day.

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