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Play, Poems, and India

I want to be a play propagandist. You should too. When I look back on my childhood, I am lucky to have lots of treasured teachers and adored books. But my happiest memories are when I was following deer trails in the ravine with a friend or running in a pack of neighborhood kids in a game of hide-and-seek that spanned a block's worth of backyards. My time at Sarah Lawrence College's conference on play helped reinforce how lucky I am to be part of a school that makes play a priority.

What Is a Poem? Working Out an Elusive Definition

It's sort of tricky to define a poem, especially when you're little. While I like to throw a poem or two at the children each week, our poetry study had us reading six or seven each day. Sometimes we read the same poem three times in a row, chanting lines back and forth to each other. Sometimes we closed our eyes to let the picture of the poem grow in our minds. The children wrote individual poems, and we wrote a class poem (an ode to our much beloved creek and all its gurglings). At the end of two weeks of this intense study, here are the children's thoughts on defining a poem:

shorter than a story

like a song

rhymes sometimes

holds a lot of sorrow

holds a lot of joy

made from the heart

about feelings

lots of colors

words POP

repeating words and sounds

words that you remember - that are fun, interesting, different

Our Theme: India

When we started our study of India, we began with an activity called "Taking a Stand." I gave the children some statements about the average American, and then they stood on one side of the classroom if they agreed that it was true for them or went to the other side of the classroom if it wasn't true for them. We soon realized that many of us are not average Americans. I like to do this at the beginning of a study of another culture to remind everyone that our understanding is going to be limited and that any country includes lots of different individuals with lots of different life experiences.

When we read "We're from India," we learned about three Indian children's lives and then looked for ways that our lives are similar and different to these children. The class soon realized that the life experiences of the three children were pretty different from each other too - one lived on a rural farm without water or electricity, one lived on a tea plantation, and one lived in Mumbai.

We have also been reading lots of folktales from India and looking for common themes in these stories. Ask your child to tell you about "The Monkey and the Crocodile," "Elephant in the Dark," and

"Grandma and the Great Gourd." We did a little readers' theater with "Grandma and the Great Gourd" to get a greater understanding of that story.

Learning Outside

The beautiful weather this last week inspired Theresa and I to throw Thursday's normal afternoon schedule out the window and take the children on a hike to the waterfall. They romped through woods, finding everything from unfurling ferns to a salamander. There isn't a super clear path, so the children worked out the best ways to travel over small streams, muddy patches, and downed trees.

During recess last week, we found a dead bird outside our classroom that looked like it had crashed into one of our windows. Though we were sad to see it, the children were also fascinated by this chance to look closely at everything from its feet to its beak. We looked through our bird book to identify it as a warbler and had some disagreements about which warbler it was. We then buried it, put flowers on its grave, and had a moment of bird appreciation.

Student-Led Conferences

On Friday this week, the children will be sharing their work with parents at conferences. They have a chance to reflect on themselves as learners, look back on all the work we've done this year, and set some goals for the future.

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