Watching the children play in my classroom, I wonder, “What will they do next?” “How will he make that work?” “What’s her plan?” Sometimes I ask these questions out loud, sometimes I simply watch, and wonder, and reflect. Many years ago, at the beginning of my teaching career, I read an essay by Eleanor Duckworth, called “The Having of Wonderful Ideas”. Then, and now, that phrase sums up how I see my classroom. The children are there to have wonderful ideas. I’m there to help them bring these ideas to fruition, and sometimes, to provide the spark that will start that wonderful idea forming.
When I first heard the term “Intentional Teaching”, I was immediately skeptical. Intentional teaching sounded at first like a yet another way to force teachers into the world of data-driven education, framed by objectives, goals, and standards, pushing the children’s “Wonderful Ideas” to the back burner. How wrong I was! As I read about and explored the concept of what Intentional Teaching is, I realized this was actually a description of what I had been doing all along. Children will always have wonderful ideas, but they often need support for those ideas to fully take form. Intentional teachers observe, discuss, plan, evaluate, and provide careful thought in all aspects of their teaching. Interactions with children, classroom materials, and planned activities are carefully thought out, in order to scaffold and extend children’s play.
But, there’s one more facet to helping children have wonderful ideas. That’s teaching the children how to observe, discuss, plan, evaluate, and provide careful thought about their own play. Yes, play is children’s work, but I want children to do more than just use the materials, I want them to play with purpose. I want them to do more than just explore. I want to help them take their explorations to the next level, to a point where they can engage in critical thinking, problem solving, goal setting, planning, and decision making about their own activities. I want each wonderful idea to lead to the next wonderful idea. I want to lead each child to a place where that child can take ownership over his or her learning journey.
If we want the children to act with purpose and intention in their play, then we must act with purpose and intention in our teaching. And that’s what this blog is all about.