Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Playing School in the Old Chicken Coop

When playing school out in the country in our chicken coop schoolhouse void of chickens and filled with the chalkboard, books, and desks from an abandoned one-room schoolhouse, my cousin and I often shared the responsibility of teaching our 'class' of younger siblings/cousins. When they were not attending class their desks were occupied by invisible students who had pretend names and participated with enthusiasm. Sometimes too much enthusiasm. But all would quiet down when I read them a certain story set in Lapland from the Barne's New National Reader titled, "A Reindeer Drive." Actually I didn't read it. I made a story up and showed them the picture that went with the story-a reindeer running while pulling a small sleigh. For some reason I loved that illustration and decided to enhance it by letting my imagination take over. The pretend students loved it! They asked me to read it again and again and so I did.
I still have that book. The copyright is 1884.I love its simplicity. I love how the story is a lesson-Lesson XX111. There are new words shown before the story that will be introduced and after the story there is a Language Lesson with the instructions, "Let pupils give answers whether oral or written in complete statements." I did that with my students. I asked questions and they answered in complete statements. Most of them received a grade of 100 and a star hand-drawn in the upper right corner of their paper.
Looking back at that chicken coop turned clubhouse-schoolhouse-anything we wanted it to be I realize how lucky we were to have that old coop to play in and pretend and create and read and write in. Boredom was not a word we ever used. There was no time! Even in the winter when the snow would come through any cracks it could find we'd be out there bundled up and warm as toast for when you let imagination take over snow can work to one's advantage. Snow can become a storyline.
I am thankful I never actually read "A Reindeer Drive" to my class for it talks about how the people used the skins of the reindeer for hats, coats, boots, and beds.

My students would have been horrified! I know their teacher was!

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