One of the ideas I hope to visit again and again through this blog is the importance of responding to children’s interests. The most successful lessons are child directed, and our trip through the car wash illustrates this well.
As I noted in my planning post, it was clear to me that the car wash was highly engaging for B, and I made an impromptu decision to follow her lead. I was disappointed that I didn’t find more books about car washes at my local library. I worried while writing the plan post that perhaps it was too sparse. And, I knew this would be a better outing if we included Tony so we had to shift our family schedule a bit to make it happen (Confession: I’m not crazy driving through the car wash and worried B might sense my apprehension.).
Despite these challenges, I’m really pleased with the learning that took place this week and don’t regret for a moment shifting gears to follow B’s interest. B was – not surprisingly – engaged throughout the experience. We read Car Wash a dozen times at least. She loved going through the car wash with Daddy and has been talking about the experience for days. She also recreated the car wash during her bath the other night and has shown a renewed interest in her sometimes-forgotten matchbox cars throughout the week, using them in a variety of play schemes.
One of the things that struck me most about this week’s experience was a skill I noticed B using that I hadn’t considered. As B revisited the book, the experience, and her various related play schemes, she consistently described the car wash experience in order: water, soap, spinny things, wiper things, more water, blow-dryer. Sequencing is an important math skill. Often we look for children to count in order, recite the alphabet, or repeat a pattern to determine whether or not they can sequence. However, sequencing daily events or interesting experiences like this use the same skills. We needn’t drill our students on numbers or patterns to document their early math learning. (note: I have since added sequencing to the math section of the planning post)
As the conclusion to our experience, I asked B to journal about the car wash. She completed her most detailed picture to date, using a variety of colors and representing her memories quite clearly. And she did so with focus and attention. Drawing is such an important skill; the idea that you can represent ideas on paper is a direct pre-curser to understanding that letters and words have meaning. As her mom, I’m wowed by her effort. As her teacher, it’s not surprising that this improvement occurred in response to our B-initiated car wash trip.