Friday, August 17, 2012

"I'm Making Bell Soup"

Since our summer program is comprised of six 2-week sessions with an ever changing mix of kids, many of whom have never met one another, I've expended a greater percentage of my efforts lately helping children connect with one another.

One of the ways I attempt to do this is to set myself up in an area in which there are a lot of kids playing on their own and start narrating my own play. Our sand pit tends to be one of those places. This is how it went the other day.

"I'm making soup, but I don't have a pot." Then I waited. A couple kids responded by coming over to stand beside where I was sitting, but most just looked up, then went about their business. I rephrased it, "I wish I had a pot so I could make some soup."

Calder said, "Teacher Tom, you can't make soup."

"I can make soup, but I need a pot."

By now a couple other kids had dropped their shovels. Calder replied, "I don't have a pot."

"I don't have a pot either, but if I had one, I could show you how to make soup."

Meagan, a 4-year-old, said, "I'll get you a pot," and dashed off. Davis, a young 2-year-old said nothing, but he too tottered off. Meagan soon returned with our large plastic kettle. As I was fussing over "getting it ready," Davis turned up with a bucket, saying, "Pot. Pot. Pot." I said, "Oh, good we have two pots."

By now there were a half dozen kids gathered around, and my words sent them all scrambling off in quest of "pots."

I counted them, "One, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 pots, but I only need one for making soup. I wonder which one I should use."

Several of the kids advocated for the one they'd brought, but after a few minutes of finagling amongst themselves, we decided that we would use the kettle because it was the biggest.

Proving that there is nothing new under the sun, I then said, "Okay, now the first ingredient is a stone. If we had a stone we could make delicious stone soup."

Calder said, "Teacher Tom, you can't make stone soup."

I said (and I'm quite proud that the sentence came to me), "No, I can't make stone soup, but we can make stone soup." I used a pointing gesture which I directed at each child in turn as if counting them in. 

Within seconds we had number of stones from which to choose. This time we decided to use them all.

I looked into the pot, "This doesn't look like soup yet."

Meagan said, "It needs more ingredients."

"Like what?"



And soon we had leaves in our kettle.

Davis tossed in a handful of sand. I said, "Sand." Soon the sand was flying. When the dust settled, I said, "This is looking good."

Calder said, "It's not soup."

"Yeah, it's not very soupy. It needs to be more soupy."

Meagan said, "Maybe it needs water." This sent our soup making team charging up toward the cast iron water pump, carrying all those extra pots from before. Now I was sitting alone in the sand pit with Calder, who seemed to be relishing his role as naysayer. It all felt very literary -- maybe that's why he was doing it, knowing intuitively that every protagonist needs an antagonist.

It took a long time for those kids, most of whom had only just met one another, to take turns and get water in all those buckets, but several of them finally made it back to where we waited.

I said, "This is looking good. Who wants to taste it?" No one volunteered, so I pretended to take a sip. "It's good, but it needs something else."

At this, children, even Calder, started shouting out their ideas: "Sticks!" "Pinecones!" "Jewels!" "Wood chips!"

I said, "Yes! Bring what you've got, put it in the pot, and we'll all have soup for supper." As the kids scrambled, I got up on my knees, repeating the little poem, "Bring what you've got, put it in the pot, and we'll all have soup for supper." I got up on my feet, again repeating the poem.

Soon I was on the other side of the outdoor classroom watching the stone soup game from afar. I sat down amongst our anklungs and drums and said, "I wish there was some music around here."

The following day, I found Calder in the sand pit, kneeling beside the kettle. He said, "I'm making bell soup." I peered in and sure enough, there was a brass bell in there. Calder called out, "Bring what you've got and put it in the pot!" I worried for a minute that I'd have to help him out, but before long Davis responded, tossing in that first all-important handful of sand. Calder then pointed at Davis, counting him in.

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Meagan said...

This has always been one of my favorite stories. :-) And a wh00t to the first pot bringer sharing my name.

allie said...

Its so important to facilitate kids making those connections, and this is such a nice example of modeling play that children will naturally embellish on. We're creatures of habit, and as teachers, we see that as children return to the same items and themes over and over again. The soup making might happen a few times, but when they move on to something else, those children will probably still be working and playing together because of the positive connection they've made!

kathy said...

I like the positive connection the play gave. It really did grab the connection of all the kids.

Anonymous said...

Lovely story thanks so much for sharing! Recently during the summer program I'm teaching we had two new very shy siblings enter our group of kids that already knew each other. The way I discovered to help them feel comfortable with the other kids was through collaborative drawings. Each drawing was created by two or three kids and was very much like a conversation with one person beginning and the next adding and elaborating. The enjoyable interactions those children experienced during that one drawing activity made them feel very much a part of the group from that point on. And the drawings and accompanying stories were terrific too!