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January 07, 2008

Washing your hands - it's harder than you think!

Each year pre-k teachers are faced with the task of teaching their students self-help skills. Part of our job as pre-k teachers is to foster independence in our students to prepare them for kindergarten. Our students need to be taught how to do things for themselves such as wash their hands. It seems that teaching simple tasks would be easy; all one would have to do is show the students once and then students can do it perfectly. One would be terribly wrong!

This year, my class is having a difficult time learning how to wash their hands.   Apparently the phrase “wash your hands” and “take a bath” were confusing to them--they often emerged from the bathroom dripping wet with soap bubbles in their hair. I finally decided to create a step-by-step multi-media slideshow in Photo Story  titled "How to Wash Your Hands" (see below) that I could show to the class daily.  While it did help cut down on bathtime, their hands were still dirty and soapy when they exited the bathroom.

I had a "light bulb moment" when I realized they weren’t rubbing their hands together hard enough or long enough to rinse off soap or dirt. On-line, I stumbled across an idea about having the students sing the ABC song while they washed their hands. The song is long enough that once they are done singing, their hands are clean. I thought this was a fantastic idea--they can practice letters and learn how to wash their hands simultaneously.

At first, it worked wonders. Everybody's hands were clean. But one day in December, as I stood in the hallway between the restrooms, the singing stopped. I poked my head in the girls' restroom to see what happened.

Me: Why isn’t anybody singing?

Alondra: Everybody knows the ABC song now, that’s for babies.

The gaggle of girls around the sink all nodded their heads in agreement. Alondra is a real pack leader--if she says it’s for babies, then all the other students agree.

There was no singing from the boys' restroom either. I was approached by Octavio who showed me the soap bubbles on his hands, so I sent him back to the restroom to wash again. Octavio must have noticed the defeated look on my face because after a moment, we heard loud singing coming from the boys restroom. I peeked past the door and saw Octavio washing his hands while singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer at the top of his lungs.The students started giggling and singing along in the hallway. This quickly turned into a hit and soon the kids were looking for excuses to wash their hands and sing. I guess we’ll try Frosty the Snowman this month.

How to Wash Your Hands from vanessa on Vimeo.


Hi Vanessa.
THanks for your show. I will show it to my students tomorrow. Another great reason to wash hands is to have fun with bubbles. Check out my recent post: The Bubbles My Friend are Blowing in the Wind to find out why.

Another important factor in hand washing is *when* the kids do it. My daughter attended a preschool where every child walked in and went straight to the sink. She only got sick one time that year. I do pretty much the same thing with my class now.

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