Lunch Time Conversation in the Classroom; It’s Important!

I thought you might enjoy a a little verbal window into my classroom at 12:00 PM.  Is it chaos or is it beneficial?  Yes, there is chaos.  The logistics of of getting fifteen children set up for lunch is no small feat.  On the other side, lunch time is almost like a casual circle time; a time that we often engage in in-depth discussions, sometimes light and fun, sometimes deep and serious!  We have debated if girls can marry girls and boys can marry boys; we have nominated our favorite cereals and our hated vegetables.  We talk about nutrition, manners, health, nightmares, and monsters.  The questions are endless.  Everyone’s opinion is valued.  Isn’t that wonderful?  A favorite is, “Tell me when you were a little girl”.  Children derive such comfort and support when they know that their teacher had all the same fears and troubles when they were young.  “It happened like this…” has become the opening sentence for the ‘Jennie stories’ that have children captivated.  They know it is a true story as soon as they hear the words, “It happened like this”, and they are on the edge of their seats.  And now, that phrase also signifies something important as well as true to children.

Lunch time is much more than learning about nutrition, practicing with utensils, or remembering ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.  It is a time of coming together, where we truly bond as a family, and often engage in rich conversation.  Much like our Morning Meeting, each child’s thoughts and questions are welcomed and valued.   We had quite a deep discussion which I would like to share with you.  Many children were contributors to this conversation.  It happened like this:

Child:  “Is die a bad word?”

Jennie:  “No, die is not a bad word.  Everything that is alive dies.  Flowers die.  People die after they are very, very old.”

Child:  “What does alive mean?”

Jennie:  “It means something that is living, like plants, or animals, and even people.  Let’s see; ‘What is alive and what is dead’?”

Child:  “My lunch is not alive.”

Child:  “Or a table.”

Jennie:  “Is the lettuce on my sandwich alive or dead?  This is tricky.”

Child:  “Alive!”

Child:  “Dead!”

Jennie:  “Well, it was alive when it was growing in the ground, and it died after it was picked.  All plants and food are alive when they are growing.  Just like animals and people.”

Child:  “I’m growing.  Will I die when I stop growing?”

Jennie:  “You probably won’t die until you are very old.”

Child:  “My Grampy’s old, and he’s alive.”

Jennie:  “My mother is very old, and she is alive, too.”

Child:  “Do you die if there’s a fire?”

Jennie:  “Firefighters will be there to rescue and help you.  You probably won’t die.”

Child:  “What if you’re hot in a fire?”

Jennie:  “A fire hardly ever happens, and the firefighters are right there.  You don’t need to worry about that at all.  You probably won’t die until you are very old.”

Child:  “Will God die?  He’s very old.”

Jennie:  “God doesn’t die.  For people who believe, He lives in your heart forever.”

Wow!  As you can see, our lunch times are often full of wonder and sharing.   Learning takes place in many ways, and we will always provide an environment and multiple avenues, such as today, where children can learn.  Did you know that the benefits of verbal dialogue among families at dinner is as effective for language development as reading?  A key to language and to reading readiness is in both conversation and listening.  I believe that our lunch time provides all of these opportunities plus socializing, nutrition, education, and reinforcement of table manners, in a fun, sometimes relaxed, sometimes chaotic environment.  It’s wonderful!


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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