Once a week I volunteer in Annabel’s class. It’s been fun so far…Kindergarteners and first graders sure are entertaining. Annabel’s teacher has me work with different kids every time I’m there, and last week I got to work with the seven Kindergarteners. They’d just read a book called Peter’s Chair, and I helped them fill in their own books about the different chairs in their families.
The assignment started out easily, with the kids being tasked to draw themselves with their own chairs.
Easy enough. The next page was about brothers.
Half of the kids didn’t have a brother, and they were baffled as to what to draw. Another kid told me that their brother was being, “punished from chairs.” I was like, “…um? Maybe draw his old chair?” Annabel drew James sitting in a bean bag chair.
I knew what the next page was going to be, and I held my breath:
Annabel said, “Oh, I know, I’ll just draw her chair really high, and she’s climbing up so high to get to it.” Before I could process that, another kid said, “My sister broke her chair, and my mom was so mad.”
This prompt was met with a chorus of, “My grandpa is dead!” One kid suggested that another draw “Grandpa as a skeleton,” but I put the kibosh on that one. Annabel drew her Bampa “playing video games,” something I’m fairly certain my dad hasn’t done since the late 1980s.
Annabel: This is Daddy sitting on the couch!
Me: What…is he doing there on his lap?
Annabel: That’s his computer!
At the end of the book, one of the kids said, “Hey, there’s no page for Mom’s chair!” and another kid replied, “My mom doesn’t have a chair, she never sits down.”
That’s truly the ODDEST (and, possibly, the most pointless, minus the handwriting part) classroom assignment I’ve ever seen. (Chairs?! Really??) And I’m thinking that the little girl maybe meant that her little brother was punished IN chairs, à la “time outs.”
I absolutely agree with you. Why in the world didn’t the teacher create her own follow up to the story.
Rude much? Are you a kindergarten teacher? Assignments like these help children with fine motor skills and cognitive development. Kindergarten work might appear “odd” and “pointless,” but there’s a reason behind every single assignment and activity.
Wow. Just…wow. In no way was I intending to be rude.
@RzDrms and @Jackson, this was a week-long unit where they did lots of different activities to support the book – I only showed what *I* helped with. And no, not punished IN chairs. The kid elaborated but I did not.
As a teacher, this activity would have a lot of classroom relevance. Specifically, use of fine motor with the pencil and drawing, practicing their letter recognition, making connections to the story (which is a major part in developing stronger reading skills) and also creativity, just to name a few. I’m sure you didn’t intend for it to come across as rude, but teachers get put down regularly and I think it’s just far too difficult to judge a classroom activity unless you’re A) a teacher or in the classroom while it’s going on. The moral of that story is to teach the concept of sharing, which is widely relevant in any primary classroom, so I absolutely understand why the teacher would use that story as a point of focus early in the year (i.e., to teach and reinforce positive behaviours in the classroom and at home) and the activity helps to make text-to-self and text-to-world connections. I do agree that the activity could have been modified to better associate to real life families within the class, perhaps by having a pile of “mom”, “dad”, “brother”, “sister”, “cousin”, “aunt”, “friend” and even blank sheets so that the student could put together a booklet of their own family dynamic and then use that as a teaching point for further discussion on types of families. I don’t normally chime in on these discussions but I felt as though some light needed to be shed on what the teacher may have been thinking- I’d be sad to think she stumbles across this blog and saw mere strangers judging her ability to create meaningful lessons for her students when that wasn’t (as far as I can assume), the point of Heather’s post.
When in either K or first grade, my kids did an entire unit on families, so this would go along with that. I also agree that it would have been nice to allow the kids to replicate their own family unit, considering that both moms and grandmothers were left out, while their counterparts weren’t.
I am always torn when I read about these kind of assignments because on one hand, I understand that they are just “generic” pages, but I have witnessed many people I know go through years of infertility and miscarriages to just have one child and never be able to have another. Yet, on the other hand, whenever I hear of a story like this one, where they have the “brother” and “sister”, I always cringe a little because the kids are in kindergarten and first grade and going home with the “assignment” or going home and saying something like, “I drew my brother’s or sister’s chair today” and upsetting the parents. I think we should have some understanding teachers that should take each situation into consideration. I don’t know if this was an assignment for just the Kindergarten or included the First Grade too and I also don’t know if the book was a “stapled” book or not, but I think and this is just me having an “over-sensitive” (maybe not) view on “birth order”. Just so you know, I CHOSE to have only one, partly because of genetic disorder and partly because I only wanted one; I felt one was enough.
I managed to leave a sentence “hanging” I meant to add after my opinion being possibly “over-sensitive” that maybe the “sibling” pages been removed from the book and then when the kids saw that other’s didn’t have the same pages, turn it into a “teachable moment” that not everyone has a brother or sister or both. Just my opinion. I don’t know this teacher so I don’t know how many kids she has in the classroom.
I’m crying with laughter. I’m looking forward to your volunteering and more posts from the kindergarten squad! LOL!
Me too Tracy, this is hilarious to me. I am not even thinking about the quality of homework or anything…just loving kids and their responses. I mean seriously, only a kid would want to draw grandpa as a skeleton and be ok with it =) Love it!! Thanks for the chuckle over coffee.
So incredibly precious in every way! Children are so entertaining and yet, they are also thought-provoking.
Loved the illustrations – I don’t think even as an adult I can draw like that.
My favorite part of this whole thing was the last line – my mom doesn’t have a chair, she never sits down! The truest statement I have ever heard out of a child’s mouth – LOL!!! Love this!
Yes! Or as my daughter says “You know, the chair you sit in to watch Big Brother…” because that is just about the only time I ever do sit! So true!
Yup, was thinking the same–moms don’t sit! Love it!!! And love that the kid said it
Kelli G. says:
I love the “maybe draw his old chair?”…that cracked me up!
Love Annie’s artwork. I mean she’s really good! And love her tallest chair for Maddie. The last sentence oh so true! Moms never sit.
She is really good! And it was like the chair to heaven — very profound. You have one smart cookie, Heather! She’s precious.
I really wish young children’s learning environments were not so uniformly conservative about what constitutes a family. Lots of kids have two moms, two dads, only one parent, a parent who is not a mom or a dad, no brother, no sister; and yet they may have incredibly important other people that get erased–mom’s best friend, who is like an extra parent; a friend who is like a sibling; all kinds of things. Or of course, as here, when they write about family, they might be processing grief. Also, kids are in foster care. In every single classroom, statistically, there are boys and girls who have been abused, most likely by a family member, but almost always by a trusted person in their life. When I think about exercises like this (and it’s not just this, this is every day, everywhere in kindergartens and preschools and elementary schools), I wonder how silencing that is for abused kids to have to pretend to write and talk about their “brother” or “grandpa” or “mom” in a particular, archetypical way. It’s exactly these lies about biological family–that it’s always good, that it’s the most important kind of relationship that abusers exploit.
Steve McQueen says:
I am having a bad day but this made me crack up so hard. My dog ran away from me because I was cackling. I work with kids so I know how funny they can be because they are usually just being honest in their minds. I had a boy draw a picture of his mom, dad, sister and a blobby shape in floating above the people. I asked him what/who the shape was and he literally said “my grandpa is a ghost that can’t leave the earth because he has unfinished business”. The kid was 5. What does he know about creepy ghosts!
lauren G says:
And my child, who is an only would have just scratched her her in confusion and then knowing her, would have drawn her stuffed animals…lol. These assingments sometimes to not translat into everyones life, but cute comments from the kids.
LD's Mom says:
That is so cute! And gave me this wonderful image of Maddie with her beautiful smile and sparkling eyes. I often reflect on how Annie seems to so lovingly accept Maddie’s role in her life (though I’m sure it’s crushing for you to think about what it would be like if things were different). For Annie’s world, her ability to make the most out of it seems really good for Annie. I hope I’m not speaking out of turn by saying that.
Not at all! You’re right – Annabel is very positive and matter-of-fact about Maddie, which throws a lot of adults at first.
That last child is very observant!