Today was the fifty-sixth day of school. During our daily Number Corner mathversation about how many days we have been in school, a woman child said, “hey! I’m noticing something!” as we did a “close reading” of the numeral. She confidently marched up to the front of the room and said, “it looks like when we’re counting. First five, then six. Five. Six.”
“Hmm,” I thought aloud, “I wonder what would happen if we started at one and tried out what you’re thinking.” I scrawled 12 onto the board. “One is in the tens place and two is in the ones place. One. Two. But is that how we read that numeral? What is that?” A chorus of students sang, “twelve.” I kept going. They kept responding. Two, three. Three, four . . . Eight, nine. “Oh dear! If I keep going and write nine and then ten, I’m afraid that numeral is going to be too tricky for us. What are we gonna do?!” I said as I wrote 910.
As I expected, a few kids said that’s ninety-ten. “Do you guys remember the other day when it was the fiftieth day of school and we talked about needing a new column in our place value chart for hundreds when we get to the one hundredth day of school?” I asked. All the tiny heads in the room nodded back at me. “I think we need the hundreds column to help us read this numeral, too,” I suggested. “Let’s see, nine is in the hundreds place. One is in the tens place. And we have zero ones. Hmm . . .” Eyes squinted and fingertips met chins in deep thought across the room.
“I think I wanna give it a try. I think I got it,” a big voice shouted from a little body across the meeting area. “Oh my gosh! YOU’RE SO BRAVE,” I exaggerated. He took a deep breath and said, “nine hundred (another deep breath) ten. NINE HUNDRED TEN!” “WOOHOO! Ooh, chile! You’re a genius. They seriously gave me all the geniuses this year! Is this even kindergarten?!” I exclaimed while doing my signature, five-year old giggles inducing black church praise dance. “Seriously,” another child shouted, “you are so smart. You are so brave. I think he gets five jumps!”
Jumps. These are the kindergarten equivalent of hitting the jackpot. “No, girl, he gets fifteen jumps on the trampoline! Go! For! It!” And boy did he.
This wasn’t on my lesson plan for today. Reading three-digit numerals isn’t even a kindergarten standard. They tell me I should post and articulate a content, behavior, and language standard every day to be an efficacious teacher. I think we did okay today with a few manipulatives and lots of bright, inquisitive five-year old minds. I don’t do what the big people tell me to do. Or even what I want to do. I go where the children lead me. That always seems to be the right destination, the highway to heaven.