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December 07, 2006

Making Peace

Karen and Tyrique had a breakthrough today. When I came to the rug after breakfast time, they and two other students were excited about the latest edition of a nature magazine. I responded by complimenting their enthusiasm and slipping in a little vocabulary expansion: "I feel so elated to see you all getting excited about a book!"

The honeymoon did not last long. As I walked away to greet a latecomer, I noticed some of the excitement on the rug was turning into an aggressive and loud conflict over who would turn the pages. Camp David was not available at the moment, but we managed to devise a three stage solution through informal talks on the rug.

  1. Two of them would read the magazine for a few minutes while taking turns to turn each page;
  2. The first two would then peacefully hand the magazine off to the other two with Ms. Pappas facilitating the transition; and,
  3. The other two would read the magazine on their own while taking turns to turn each page.

Through a fair "Ini-mini" random selection process, Karen and Tyrique were chosen as the first two to read the highly coveted publication.

Well, mornings are a busy time, with math routines, morning announcements, newspaper letter hunts, and some anecdote collection before circle time. Sometimes Ms. Pappas forgets to go back to situations like the "Book Taking Turns Agreement." Today, however, my forgetfulness was not a problem. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Karen and Tyrique walk over to the other two students, give them the book, and say, "Here you go. It's your turn now."

At that sight, I definitely felt elation. I quickly acknowledged their success by exclaiming, "Wow. I am so proud of Karen and Tyrique for being such great friends. I am looking out for you for purple." Sure enough, they continued to cooperate for the rest of the day and were both put on purple, the highest honor on our behavior card system. If only international diplomacy were this simple.


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I logged in today after an invitation via the preknow listserv. Sophia, yours sounds like a REAL classroom! Thank you for sharing the breakthrough behaviors when children engaged in independent problem-solving! Truly a life skill! How lucky that in the busy daily life of your classroom, you happened to observe the exchange! I am sure that your quick and enthusiastic acknowledgement of the exchange did much to support internal motivation for the children to continue/strengthen their efforts at independent problem-solving! My observation today is that especially because you are skilled at encouraging children, it is disheartening to see that there is also the addition of a behavior modification approach, i.e., the color-behavior-card-system. This approach publicly announces the "best and the worst" at "behavior". Children who are presenting at a lower developmental level in any domain deserve all of our supports, but I doubt the worth of this approach. After all, how would we adults feel if our "behavior" was judged/tracked publicly for all to see? Shamed and disrespected and defiant come to mind. Sophia, your personal and enthusiastic support is so much more effective!

Thanks for the note, Blanche. I agree that children need all the encouragement we can provide. I also see how contagious it can be. Just today my students were applauding each other without any prompting. I agree that behavior card systems can potentially have harmful effects, but I think my approach compliments our emphasis on positive reinforcement and peaceful conflict resolution. As a class, we focus on the value of rising up and improving behavior, encourage each other to make better choices, and applaud children when they improve. We also admit that everyone makes mistakes and that we just have to pick ourselves up and keep trying to get to green or purple. Getting on yellow or blue does not become a permanent label because students are empowered with an understanding of how to get back to green or go above and beyond to reach purple. Plus, we all start off fresh on green each day. Lastly, I make a big deal out of students rising up but not on students going down to yellow or blue. I just flip the card without saying anything and move on. We thereby use our positive reinforcement as a class to encourage students while avoiding the labeling to which you refer. Thanks again for your interest in the blog.

Sophia, I love your new blog! Thanks for taking the time to write so much.

Somewhat in regard to the last comment, one of the problems I'm having in developing a program to oversee, manage, and develop 25 new early childhod is the creation of a real assessment plan for behavioral and academic standards. It seems to be a practice from which new teachers in the pre-k setting would benefit immensely, but it also seems risky if not done properly. At some point, could you speak to the academic goals you strive to attain, as well as to how you measure for yourself the progress students make -- and this speaks to your anecdote in this post -- in behavior such as interacting and sharing?

Thanks for the note and questions, John. I use mostly performance based assessments to measure progress and plan for meeting individual student needs. The goals are based on NJ's expectations for pre-k in literacy. I collect a variety of anecdotes and work samples each month which correspond to specific standards. I then use a detailed rubric for each skill to see where the students fall on a scale from 1 to 4. I also use checklists with specific skills for math and social skills. I take anecdotes throughout the month in order to make well informed decisions for the checklist that reflect my observations over time. I hope this helps. Let me know if you want more details.

Great blog. Thanks for doing it. I have a request - could you share your daily schedule? I'm mainly interested in your outside time and snack/meal time. I teach prek in the school system. I have 2 half day sessions. Both 3 hours. I use a schedule modeled after the High Scope daily routine. My current supervisor sees the spotlight focusing on academics and sees no educational value in "playing" outside and is phasing out our snack time. She wants the full 3 hours devoted to "academics". PreKnow has been a great resource to validate my teaching methods. I am just stuggling with educating adults that not only is early literacy important but physical, health and safety skills are also importatnt. Thanks for letting me vent. And again, thanks for the blog.

Here is my daily schedule:


Please keep in mind that we use Creative Curriculum and have special periods like music and gym because we are a district school. We therefore cannot always fit in gross motor time or the full two hours of choice time.

Thanks for the comments about how others perceive "play" time. I plan on writing a post on the topic soon. Please keep visiting the site so you can contribute to that dialogue as well.

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