Here's Hoping for You, Kid
- Grades: PreK–K
The beginning of a school year is all about hope. Classrooms are as neat and tidy as they'll ever be. Crayons and pencils are as fresh and sharp as they'll ever be. Everything is new. For students and teachers alike, a new beginning rings in excitement and expectation, new experiences and expansive possibilities. And for kindergartners, it's not just a beginning, it's the beginning.
Photo © D. Sharon Pruitt.
"The most important day of a person's education is the First Day of School, not Graduation Day."
—Harry K. Wong & Rosemary T. Wong, The First Days of School
To soothe anxious students, tell the class about yourself first:
By sharing details about who you are, your interests, your family and pets, etc., you show that you live an ordinary life just as they do.
By sharing why you love teaching, you show that you are a friend and willing caretaker.
By sharing what they will be learning in the coming year, why they will be learning it, and how it will affect them personally, you show that school is enjoyable and relevant to their own lives in the real world.
After your students become familiar and comfortable with school, you can bring up the subject of hopes and dreams.
Introducing Hopes and Dreams
To start the discussion, ask your students if they have ever made a birthday or Christmas list. Explain that to want something is to hope for it.
Help them understand that wanting to have something, like a toy or a game, is just one type of hope. You can also hope to do or to be something.
Have them think about what they hope to do, be, or have at school this year. Give them suggestions, such as:
Things they might want to learn
Materials they might want to use
Activities they might want to try
Qualities they might want to develop
Miss Bindergarten shares her own hopes with the students.
But try not to steer their thoughts too much. The point is for the children to reflect on what's important to them, and to know that their own hopes and concerns will be taken seriously.
The purpose of this theme is for students to realize that:
They are encouraged to think about themselves and what they want.
School is a place where individuals are respected and the needs of the whole personality are met.
The classroom is a place where interest and curiosity are nurtured.
The teacher is someone who will help them accomplish their goals.
Tell your students that they're each going to draw a picture of one hope they have for the school year, and then everyone's hope will go on a "school list," which is just like a birthday or Christmas list except this list is for the whole class.
You can give them copy paper, construction paper, or card stock, or shapes such as clouds, stars, balloons, silhouettes . . . it's limited only by your imagination. Last year, I did a monkey theme called "Swinging Into the New Year With Our Hopes and Dreams" and used bananas as the shape.
As they're working, go around the room and ask each child what their hope is. Write it down on the back of their picture.
Making a List, and Checking It Twice (At Least)
When the pictures are done, it's time to make the list. Since it's hard for small children to sit still for very long, you will have to do this process over several days.
1. Start With Yourself
On a piece of chart paper, write your personal hope for your class.
2. Use Repetitive Text
Begin each statement the same way. For instance, write:
"<name of student> says, 'I hope <student's hope>.'"
This is a great way for children to learn each other's names, as well as to see how we write and read from left to right.
3. Use Reinforcement
Every day, reread what students have said so far, and then add a few more. Keep this up until everyone has their hope on the list.
SUGGESTED BOOKLIST FOR HOPES AND DREAMS
I've compiled a booklist on the topic of hopes and dreams in Scholastic's List Exchange that includes books like Dream: A Tale of Wonder, Wisdom & Wishes by Susan V. Bosak, Uncle Jed's Barbershop by Margaree King Mitchell, and Kenny's Window by Maurice Sendak.
I also recommend a wonderful collection of songs, To My Child (Songs of Hopes & Dreams) by Beverly Mahood. And The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher by Harry K. Wong & Rosemary T. Wong, quoted above, is a great reference book for the beginning of the year.
Putting It All Together
Now you are ready to hang up the pictures and the list. When the display is finished, have the children gather around it. Tell them to echo you as you read aloud everyone's hopes. Then let them know that for the rest of the year, your focus will be on helping to make their hopes come true. If you have already gone over rules with your class, explain how following the rules allows everyone to learn and to achieve their hopes. If you haven't gone over rules, now is the time to do it.
I recommend regularly asking children how they are doing with their hopes and if there is anything you can do to help them. At midyear, you may want to go over the list with the entire class again to remind them what they're aiming for. If some of them have already achieved their hopes, have them add a new one to the list. Let the others revise, replace, or review theirs.
The End of the Beginning
Hope is one of the few essential things in life, and we must find a way to bring it into our classrooms. This unit is one small thing you can do to make a big difference, especially for a child's first year of school. When you give children an opportunity to hope and dream, you give them the opportunity to invest in their own education.
I'd love to hear your ideas for implementing the theme of hopes and dreams in your classroom.
Have a hopeful weekend!