“There are four children in this class with unique learning styles who find it very difficult to stay engaged at carpet time.” My teaching partner, who believed strongly in creating a sense of belonging and well-being for all children, was questioning how to be inclusive and sensitive to the needs of these four children.
These children’s learning needs were distinct from one another. One child was a new immigrant to Canada who understood and spoke little English or French. One child was on the autism spectrum. Another child’s cognitive and social development had been impacted greatly by trauma, and the fourth child struggled moment by moment with impulse control.
Perhaps it was more inclusive to individualize these children’s facilitated learning experiences within a small group rather than expect meaningful engagement within the larger group? Could both large and small groups be offered at the same time in a way that was meaningful and engaging for all the children?
It was in this context that I offered an invitation for these four children to peer through an imaginary window.
The materials for this invitation were simple – a large singular piece of paper on which we drew two intersecting lines to create four quadrants; and drawing tools (pencils and crayons).
“Pretend you are inside a room,” I began. “You might be at home, or school, or somewhere else. Close your eyes. What do you hear inside your room? What do you smell? Does it feel hot or cold in there? Now, open your eyes. Look around.”
In my house I see a table and walls. I see a floor and ceiling.” I point to the physical objects that represent my imagined space before directing the children’s gaze toward a window. “Oh my! Look! What is it? Do you see something through your window too?”
“Draw what you see through your window. It can be anything at all – real or imagined. But what you see through your window will be different from what your friends see through their window. Your drawing only makes sense if it stays inside your window frame.”
We traced around the frame of their quadrant with a finger and felt the inside of their quadrant with our palms. This is your individual drawing space.
The children’ imaginations soared.
- A tornado that spun across a lake picking up fish and whales, and over land capturing trucks and birds and blowing them everywhere! (Top left quadrant)
- A lonely person who wanted to play. (Top right quadrant)
- What happens when aliens and dinosaurs meet! (Bottom left quadrant)
- Their family packing the car to go camping. (Bottom right quadrant)
A few days later, I invited them to ‘peer through their windows’ again.
This time the children needed no reminders to draw only inside their quadrant. They showed respect for one another’s creations. Each child imagined and drew a new scene through their window with greater detail. They made themselves visible through their drawings, deepening their expressions of emotions and storytelling.
These invitations had become a language tool, offering me insights into their interests, ideas, and feelings—and leading me toward what we might explore in other ways in the days ahead.
Their unique drawings became windows for me to see them more clearly.