If you had to choose a personal symbol, what would it be?
This is one of the first questions we ask children when they start our preschool.
While we use these symbols as a provocative bridge to literacy, they also serve the practical purpose of helping children find their hooks, mailboxes and belongings. We have come to see that these little symbols have a much deeper significance for the children.
From the first day of school symbols are placed around the preschool, conveying the message that each child is welcome and is a part of our school. The symbols help to establish a strong sense of community.
The children take great delight in looking at each other’s symbols and it doesn’t take them long to learn the symbols of their classmates. Symbols quickly become an important pathway to connection between the children.
Children have also taken to attaching collections of symbols to their bodies, again, a charming way to represent their connection to their friends.
Symbols have even found a way into our curriculum this year as the children work together trying to figure out how to project symbols using an overhead projector, tying into our exploration of light and its properties.
We have come to understand that the children’s symbols represent to them
a strong sense of belonging. This became very apparent last spring when a
substitute teacher joined us for the very first time.
Sarah was new to the school and so we invited the children to help her feel
welcome. When she worked with a group of children they explained that
they each have a symbol and that they attach symbols to their completed work.
The children then asked Sarah what her symbol was and when she replied
that she didn’t have one, the children insisted that she needed one.
Since Sarah had recently moved from Florida she drew a palm tree and
colored it green. Several children then took it upon themselves to carefully
copy Sarah’s symbol so that she would have some extras. Children also
attached Sarah’s symbol to work that she helped them with.
|Children create copies of Sarah's symbol (original on right)|
Later that day, long after the children had gone home, we discovered that
the children had carefully arranged Sarah’s extra symbols in an empty
compartment of the symbol storage box beside all of theirs. The children
had found their own way to make a place in our classroom for our new
It seemed very fitting that the children welcomed this newcomer in the way
that they themselves had been welcomed into our community – with a symbol.