How do you spell Ninja?Signing-in is a part of our everyday morning transition into the preschool. It may seem like an ordinary task at first glance, but this process is a bounty of learning for each child. On a mechanical level, signing-in provides practice with letter formation*, hand-eye coordination, pencil grip, and focus. Signing-in also enriches a child's developing phonemic awareness, the attachment of sounds to the letters that create them. There's also a relational aspect to signing-in: it's a way to declare your presence to the group and announce your membership in the community.
Take a look at the approach the Rainbow Room students took to the sign-in process starting in the Fall. This example is from December.
Who is Stinky Garbage? And who was working on their "cursive" this day?
Although Lisa and I make an effort to label children's sign-ins, on this day we didn't get to it. But that's OK. We know that learning occurs in relationship, so the child that wrote Soldier may have noticed the way Sam made his "S" and copied it. Or maybe Stinky Garbage asked a friend to help with the "T". Learning does not occur in a vacuum.
And check out what happened another day in December when Lisa and I did not put out sign-in sheets for the children:
One of our resourceful students problem-solved for us by finding some lovely paper (nicer than our usual white!) and providing helpful lines for his or her friends.
And the fun continued. After reviewing a school year's worth of sign-in sheets recently, it became quite clear how creative and unique the sign-in names were for this Rainbow Room group. Take a look at the list I have gathered of the different names children have requested help with spelling**:
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (and later just Rudolph)
Fish Sign (really confused about this one!)
Princess of Hearts
Superman and Supergirl
Stop (yes, someone signed in as stop)
Optimus Prime (example at bottom of blog post)
But that's not all. To further highlight the variability and creativity of these sign-in ideas, here is a sample list of Kirsten's different names written over the course of the year. As you read them, consider the learning that is occurring each time she puts the challenge in front of herself to learn a different word:
Kirsten probably needed help spelling her mother's name Meredith in January. But in May when she wanted to write "Meredith" she sounded it out herself.
Another phenomenon occurring on the sign-in sheets is the playfulness with letter construction, not just with the names/identities. Here is an image with Sammy M.'s different ways of making the letters in his name. He's personifying the letters, giving each sign-in it's own unique character trait.
Sammy described these different pieces in this order: Rocking out letters, attached letters, dead letters, mad letters!, Sammy 3, and naked letters.
I'm showing the work of only these two children because the learning of one (or two in this case) is the learning of many- this play with signing-in is a classroom-wide occurrence. Some children choose to spend more attention on the details of the actual letters, and others choose to think of silly names or an enticing character as their signing-in persona. A few children make the choice to sign-in quickly with their own name, and only occasionally sign-in differently. No sign-in experience is exactly alike between two children, but that's how we expect things to be in our classroom.
I think this playfulness with literacy and handwriting really underscores the importance of how we operate at Sabot. By providing the time and scaffolding for children to explore different ways of signing-in, we are enriching their understanding and mastery of letters and sounds. We are supporting their play with identity and perspective-taking (it must be so exciting to become Princess of Hearts when you start school!). We can also provide individual scaffolding so each child is getting just the right amount of help, and just the right amount of challenge. And don't forget social referencing- children watch and listen closely to each other: once someone signs in as "Tucker", an "apocalypse" of Tuckers will follow (this actually happened, and the real Tucker announced the ensuing apocalypse).
So much learning in the first 10 minutes of the school day!
|Watching a friend finish his nametag|
|Today we ran out of sign-in sheets so a few children|
elected to create name tags. This one says Buba,
the name of his beloved stuffed animal.
|Noticing the "G" at the end of Pierce's name, we playfully|
sounded his name out to PIERG.
Sam P signed in the "SPAEL" and eagerly wanted
help sounding out his new word creation.
|And Charlie was Optimus Prime today. He made a nametag to prove it.|
*While we don't provide actual handwriting lessons in the Rainbow Room, we encourage children to start their letters and numbers at the top to prepare for a future of appropriate letter construction. If you happen to notice bottom-up construction, gently remind your little one that letters/number start at the top- but don't feel the need to enforce practice or drilling of this skill!
**If a child requests the spelling of a word, we most often will go through the phonemes of the word together with the child versus just writing out the word for them (although sometimes that happens, too).