I’ve been working in a kindergarten writing class. I so admire Kinder teachers – such patience.
Our kindergarten students are working on a nonfiction All About unit. One particular boy was writing about the farm he lives on. J is a bright child with a wealth of knowledge. For a five-year old, he can write with detail about a small moment in time. I was a little surprised then with what he had written. J had five tractors, all painted in different colors.
“J, what are you writing about?” I asked.
“Tractors,” he said so matter-of-factly.
“Wow. I like your colors. What are you trying to teach your audience?” I asked, looking at his pictures.
“That they can be different colors.”
My mind was wondering if he planned to tell about different manufacturers, as there wasn’t much meat to the piece.
“Well, this is a green tractor. It has headlights. This one is red. It has headlights. This one is yellow. It has headlights.” I restrained a chuckle.
“So what information are you teaching us in your All About Book?”
I smiled. So honest. His teacher had warned me that J did not want to revise. Colored tractors was his plan. Adding the part about headlights was an accomplishment. Recognizing J’s contentedness with his piece, I did not want to hurt his feelings. Yet, I knew his potential was so much more. “Forming the question to grasp that willingness was the challenge I was faced with.)
“J, how do you know about tractors?” I asked, hoping to ignite some idea.
“I ride with my dad in the field.”
“Oh, so you’re an expert on what tractors can do?” My eyes were looking at J intently, excited about his knowledge.
“Could you share some with me?” My mind was wanting J to share from the heart, to know that he had information to extend to his fellow audience. If only he would be willing to take a risk.
J began to share his background knowledge. “Oh, you plow with a tractor. You can plant. You can ride your tractor. You can disc with a tractor,” he replied looking frankly at me.
I pointed to his first tractor. “So this tractor can plow?” J nodded.
Pointing to the next page, I asked, “What can this one do?”
“It can plant.” I nodded with understanding.
“How about this one?” I said turning the page.
“It can disc.”
“Wow J, you have a lot of information to share with your audience. Your all about book is about teaching your audience something. Will you write that information down for us?” I said with a nudge.
Off J went. He still had his colored tractors but he lifted his work with so much more information. I sat watching him, marveling at how children process. They have a plan. Sometimes they need a nudge to make the plan go farther. Sometimes they need appreciation for the attempt they have tried. In both cases, each child needs someone who looks at them intently, leaning on every word they say.
Today that person was me.