Exploring the “We That I Am” Through Character
“A child’s most sought after goal is to recognize himself in others,
and to find in others parts of himself.”
At the beginning of the school year, the primary team identified the overarching idea of our work to be exploration of “the we that I am.” Lauren and I have continued to observe the children’s play through this lens, wonder about connections to this big idea, and possible windows to dive into this work more deeply.
In December, the children in Cottonwood (kindergarten and grade one) were working during Story Workshop on stories about characters they had developed. We spent time reading mentor texts with strong characters, creating numerous characters of our own, drawing them, and writing about them. The children developed a rainbow tadpole, robot, superhero, Ila (a girl who flies a kite and gets swept away by the wind), pirates, a monkey that drives an ice cream truck, flying bunnies, Ali and her squirrel friend, a bear, a bubblegum princess, and so many more.
They then picked one to zoom in on, build with materials, and write into a book.
The day before Winter Break, we held a celebration where families came in, sipped hot cocoa, and enjoyed the children’s character stories with them. During this time, I was talking with Timothy’s father about his robot character. He told me that he had been hearing about the robot at home for weeks as Timothy developed it at school and that he was noticing similarities between his son and the robot. Although he did not say anything to Timothy, he often wanted to say, “Timothy, this robot is really you!”
Lauren and I began to talk about the power of exploring self and relationship to community through character work and metaphor. We wondered, how might developing a deeper understanding of our characters help us to know ourselves as individuals in relationship to our larger community?
Since reconvening after Winter Break, we have asked the children to explore questions like: What happens when your character meets another character? What do they do/play together? Where does your character live? Can you go to materials to create this space? What do they like to eat? What hopes do you have for your character in the future? What world do our characters live in? What does it look like?
We have noticed characters reading to other characters, swimming through rivers, going to the hospital together when one gets hurt, soaring around the room, and building and exploring the forest together with materials.
As we move forward and the children build an understanding of who their characters are, we hope to begin asking deeper questions that will allow us to explore ourselves in relation to others through our characters. What are the similarities between you and your character? What are the differences? What kind of oopsies does your character make? What does your character do when they make an oopsie? How might understanding our characters help us to better understand ourselves? Our Cottonwood community? Who we are within our Cottonwood community?
We are wondering:
-How are you exploring “the we that I am” in your classroom community?
-What role does play have in diving deeper into questions about self in relation to community?
-Where do you see the children connecting with themselves and others through the work happening in the classroom?