Learning Directions : Up, Down, and Sideways
While having a snack with my young friends at Wildflower Preschool we had a conversation about helping one another. Some children were excited to tell me that they helped their teacher, Amy, get some things from her car. They were so happy to report that the back door opens down and gestured downward using their hands. (Her car is actually a pickup truck, so the back door does open down because it’s a tailgate.) Amy’s car was in the parking lot and was visible from the classroom window. Many of the children pointed toward the window as they told their stories.
“It’s that way,” offered 4 year old Eme.
“What direction is that way?”, I prodded also pointing toward the window.
All the children looked toward Eme. She furrowed her brow, pursed her lips and thought for a moment. “Sideways,” she answered.
Sam, who is a year younger, said emphatically, “No, it’s that way”.
“That way is sideways Sam,” she barked back.
I grabbed a piece of paper and quickly drew an arrow symbol and held it up for the children to see.
↑ “Maybe this symbol can help us,” I said.
“That’s a thing that tells you the way to go,” offered Eme, “it’s going up.”
“The clouds are up,” said another child, gazing skyward.
I moved the arrow to point left ←, and then right →. Sam nearly jumped out of his chair. “See, see! It’s, that way,” he said. I realized Sam was using the words that way as a term to describe direction. To be sure I reversed the symbol and asked, “Sam is this a picture of that way?”
“No.” Then I turned the paper so the arrow pointed back to the right.
“Oh yes, you did it,” he said grinning. I couldn’t help but grin back.
Sam’s smile said it all, that he was understood and that his meaning was accepted. There would be time in the future for me or another teacher to introduce other directional terms so I let it be. It was enough to have introduced a new tool. The children and I spent the next 30 minutes drawing many arrow symbols and playing with up, down, sideways and that way. Below are a couple of photos from our experience of learning directions.
Diane, the Kodo Team and the children from Wildflower Preschool in Gunbarrel , Colorado
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