Sneak Peeks – How we’ve grown
You might remember that back in September we wrote about sneak peeks. We talked about them as a way to get to know one another, share stories and laugh together. Those pieces are still visible, but it is now April and sneak peeks have changed and grown some – just as we have. Every Monday we still do our sneak peeks. We share in morning meeting, getting the stories going and then we head to tables – to our journals and to our table groups to reconnect to ourselves and to one another.
First, a reminder, what exactly is a sneak peek and why do we share them?
A sneak peek is many things, but above all it is a way to connect the multiple lives children carry inside them together and in doing so, to connect us to one another.
Sneak peeks are an invitation, a window in. They are a chance to share a part of oneself: what is important to me, what am I thinking about, what happened to me while I was away from school that I want you to know about me.
As Loris Malaguzzi said, “When you enter the school in the morning, you carry wiht you pieces of your life — your happiness, your sadness, you hopes, your pleasures, the stresses from your life. You never come in an isolated way; you always come with pieces of the world attached to you.” When we come to school we bring our whole selves, not just the part of us that is required for the school experience.
We bring, everyday, what happened that morning, how we slept, any emotions we are carrying inside us, memories and glimpses of moments that make up our full selves and lives. We cannot leave these behind, though sometimes we may try to tuck them aside or barrel past them. They are a part of who we are and the way we will act and react on any given day. Here, at Opal, we know this about children (and ourselves) and we honor it by being open, listening with our ears and eyes and offering space for the places where life outside of school comes into school.
We offer sneak peeks as invitations for children to share their other lives, to know we value them- both the children and their experiences.
Step 1 and 2: Children draw their sneak peeks in their journals and color them in – the next step is to share. The sharing starts for some children the moment they sit down because as they draw they are remembering and talking, connecting and laughing. We do have sharing as a formal 3rd step of sneak peeks though because it is in the sharing that our separate worlds begin to meld. We want and expect everyone to get to know one another in Early K and we want to know more than just who we are when we walk through that door because that is only one part of each of us. This more formal sharing is especially important for those students who are shy and hesitant to delve into the fray of voices. Turning to a classmate at your table and saying, “Can I tell you my sneak peek?” – even just asking this is challenging for some children. So, we offer support – sitting with them, giving them the words and being there to ensure that their peer will agree to listen and that active listening happens.
When you agree to hear a sneak peek, you stop what you are doing, you look at your classmate and at their drawing, you listen and try and be open to what you think as you hear it. Are there connections – things it reminds you of? Do you have any questions, what are you left wondering about? Sometimes a short discussion might happen, but even if it doesn’t, maybe a seed is planted for a later time…”Oh, I’ve done that too!”, “I went to the pdx playdate one time, remember the balls!!”. These connections are the seeds of relationships, of getting to know one another a little better and of realizing that even classmates you may not spend a lot of time with could have similar interests as you and you might want to find out more about them.
Sneak peeks are openings – a place to practice opening ourselves to others and being open to what others might share with us.
The third step is telling your sneak peek to a teacher who writes down the date and the sneak peek so that there is a record of events for the year that can be gone back to, reflected upon and shared. The teacher gets to help be the memory keeper in partnership with the child.
Sneak peeks are reflections then – a child’s reflections about what holds meaning at a moment in time for him or her. Sometimes a child can have a jam packed weekend and yet pick out the smallest detail to hold on to. It is so fun at this point in the year to sit with a child and look back over their sneak peeks (we highly recommend it!). They will often recognize their drawings and sometimes their attempts at words. “I remember when I…” Or, “That was when I went to…” They remember them because there is meaning in getting to choose what is important to them.
Last but not least, students ‘have a go’. Having a go means making an attempt at writing a word by writing down the sounds you hear in that word. This is risky business for many early k students – being asked to write when they don’t feel confident that they can write. Each time they try, they are growing the habits of risk taking and persistence and they are growing knowledge and courage as well.
When everything else is done and the children are ready to ‘have a go’, the teacher will often help them choose a word from their sneak peek by suggesting some content word with strong letter sounds in it – pumpkin, stroller, cake, play for instance. Then we use the language of ‘taking a rubberband out of our pocket to help stretch out the word’. As we pull out the virtual rubberband, we say the word slowly and listen for sounds that we can recognize. Then we work to connect that sound to the name of a letter and then we work to connect the name of the letter to the shape of the letter and then, finally, we try and write it down. Each letter is a multistep process with each child needing support and nudging at different steps. There are always alphabet sheets for reference on the table and we model how to use these to find a letter you may know the name of but not the shape. This ‘having a go’ is really hard work; the children support each other beautifully – that is the best part, because when there are 4 brains thinking about what letter goes with the ‘l’ sound, the chance for success is so much stronger and that makes it much more fun.
Watching the children support one another is the best part. They are so eager to share what they know and to help. Since this is new and risky for all of them, it is a great place for them to come together. If someone hears a sound and someone else recognizes it, they say it, they help by pointing out where letters are on the alphabet sheet and by showing how they might write a certain letter and sometimes how they remember it too. This shared knowledge helps everyone and the feeling of camaraderie and collaboration are strong.
For many Early K students this once a week, consistent opportunity to put ones thoughts down and attempt to write a meaningful written word is the beginning of recognizing themselves as writers. Writing is one more way we get our ideas into the world.