This Christmas card arrived from Mac and his family. Oh, the memories and stories I have to tell. He is quite ‘old’ in this photo, so I have to go back four years to tell you about Mac.
Mac wasn’t quite three years old when he started in my preschool class. One of my first memories is when he discovered our Memory Garden at school. He wanted to know about the stones and statues, and the departed classroom pets they represented. He loved the planted American flags. We had just had a Memorial Day remembrance at school. It made an impression on him. Mac often ‘visited’ the Memory Garden after that day.
Mac loved spending time looking at the picture books in the classroom. His absolute favorite book was “Humphrey The Lost Whale.” Every time I read this book to children, I think of Mac. It’s a nice memory for me.
The book includes a map of the United States on the end papers. This is where Mac started a lesson that exploded in the best of ways.
First we studied the map and traced Humphrey’s route from the ocean to the Sacramento River. Next, we studied the small map, but it was too small to really see. I got out our Big Book Atlas. We found San Francisco and Humphrey’s locale. We also found Massachusetts (we always relate geography to home), and then the questions started to flow.
“Why is Massachusetts so small?” “How far away is Humphrey?”
Mac noticed Mount Rushmore on the Big Book Atlas. “What’s that?”
I told them about carving the huge rock. I told them about the four presidents. I tried to explain how big Mount Rushmore really is. “You would be much smaller than the nose.”
Blank stares. I had to do more. I grabbed the iPad and found a photo of a worker on the nose at Mount Rushmore. That helped show Mac and the children about the size. This was exciting! Of course it had nothing to do with Humphrey, but that didn’t matter. This is emergent curriculum, when a teachable moment presents itself, and that becomes the lesson. This was a joyful one for everybody. And yes, we finally read “Humphrey the Lost Whale.” Mac took it home that weekend.
Mac’s dad was a high school English teacher, and was surprised that I read chapter books to the children at rest time. We often had discussions about children and reading, even though the ages of the students we taught were far apart. Interestingly, he reached out to me as to how to get his students to listen to books he read aloud, and of course to get them to read more. Teacher to teacher.
“Turn out the lights. Have them put their heads down on their desks and close their eyes”, I suggested. “That’s what I do at chapter reading.”
He was stunned. “Really?”
One of the first things children will often ask is, “Where are the pictures?”, and I tell them how to make the pictures in their head: the words go into your ears, then to your brain, and sometimes into your heart. Then, you will see the pictures.”
We talked about this for a while. He was excited, as if he had discovered something brand new. Well, he had. The following week he couldn’t wait to tell me how marvelous it now was to read aloud to his students. I smiled. He did, too.
Mac and his family moved away. That summer Mac and his dad went camping up north. They got supplies in a nearby town, including a trip to the local book store for Mac to pick out a book for his dad to read to him. He selected “Charlotte’s Web”, which Mac loved and remembered from chapter reading in the classroom. Dad was so happy, he sent me this photo:
A few years later – which is now – these memories are still with Mac and his family. They’re still with me, too. Thank you, Mac!