Intentional Teaching where the Children are at

Continuing on our Intentional Teaching journey, let's look at Intentional Teaching that is totally led my the child's play.

Remember, Intentional Teaching is still allowing the children free choice time but adding to their play in a way that will enrich and stimulate their play in such a way to make it purposeful.

Let's go to the block area. This is a place that is real easy to get some intentional teaching but is often neglected. Typically during free choice there is a group of boys in that area. Yes, sometimes there are girls, but typically it is boys. Especially when you put out some dinosaurs or cars.

How do you get some intentional teaching in? It's simple. First thing you have to do is GO OVER AND GET INVOLVED!!! Many times we avoid this area. Don't do it. Go sit down, get involved. Find out what they are building.

One day I went to the block area and a group of boys (about 4 of them) were building a zoo. We had zoo animals out. They were making a zoo.

This is simple, right? They were making different squares with the blocks and placing different animals inside them. Here's where the intentional teaching comes in.

"What are we making?" (Notice I say WE, I have now included myself in their play whether they want me or not; but they do have the option to ask me to walk away...they never do).

"We're making a zoo."

"Oh, I see. I see you're making some pens and cages for all the animals. Look, I see the leopard is in this really small area. Maybe we should give him some more space. Can I make it bigger?"

By this time, they are giving me more blocks to make the space bigger. Then, I build up, adding a shelf while saying, "I read in a book that leopards like to climb trees and sit, I'm going to make him a shelf that looks like a tree so he can climb up there. This way he can sit up high in the tree or, if he wants to hide, he can crawl under the shelf to get away from the people visiting the zoo."

I've now given them something to think about with the other animals. "Maybe some of the other animals would like someplace to hide."

They soon quickly work on expanding and building on the other animals, making sure everyone has "a tree to climb and a place to hide."

Although, when they get to the elephants, I add, "I don't think elephants can climb, can they? Maybe they don't need a tree to climb. I wonder what elephants like to have?"

This begins a little discussion about things elephants like. Then, in my INTENTIONAL TEACHING way, I exclaim, "I have a book all about zoo animals! Maybe we should look at that! Maybe that will tell us what elephants like!"

Then, in true preschool boy fashion, they eagerly follow me to my book area to get the book out. If I didn't have the book with me, I would mention that I don't have it with me, but I will bring it tomorrow to look at...and I will make sure to BRING IT because they will want it. I can guarantee this isn't the first, nor will it be the last, day that they are building a zoo.

We take out the book and look through it to find what elephants like. We quickly discover that we need some water and they make a lake. How? Well, on my suggestion, one of them draws a lake on a piece of paper and colors it blue, then someone cuts it out to put in the encounter (yes, we now know that it is called an encounter because we found that out in the book as well).

For a couple days, they recreate the zoo, adding more and changing things regularly. They constantly reference the book I have now left in that area for them to refer to. I walk by to see how their zoo is coming, "Wow, look at all those encounters. Who takes care of all those animals?"

Now we get to discussing about the veterinarians and zoo keepers and all their jobs. Soon, we are finding out that someone has to make food for all the animals and what kinds of foods each of them make.

Then, the inevitable comments from me: "Hm, I see you have lions, zebras, elephants, and hippopotamus...but do you remember what lions eat? Don't they eat zebras? Do you think that the lions and the zebras should be next to each other? Or should they be in different parts of the zoo?"

This opens up discussions to HOW a zoo is designed. Living in San Diego, we have the Zoo at our disposal. Even if we can't go TO the zoo, we can easily get a map of the zoo and NOW we can see how the zoo is designed.

Now we can SORT the animals by types and living habitats and all sorts of different ways.

This is a project that can take weeks, if not MONTHS of free choice time. This is a project in which children learn math, science, language, and so much more. This is a project that started from the children's ideas, the teacher participated with some INTENTIONAL TEACHING, and pretty soon the children have so much more knowledge from just a little bit of play...okay, A LOT of play.

It was, however, all play. The teacher, at key moments, add information and knowledge to stimulate and enrich their play. That's what is important of Intentional Teaching.

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