Kindergarteners are like sponges. They really do soak up knowledge and experiences like little critters starving for a drink. As my experience with this age group expands, I’m realizing the absorbency of each sprout isn’t the same. Some of them come in with their sponges already saturated and others come in with theirs bone dry.

Nelson is one such friend. Like a newly opened sponge dehydrated of all moisture, this sweet little boy came to us with nary a clue. I swear I wonder sometimes how some of these little guys get through the first five years of life with nobody exposing them to learning, but there are always a few that appear to have been raised in a cave with no letters, words, pencils, paper, or books.

The first few days of school, it became clear Nelson didn’t know how to write his name. He didn’t recognize his name. He didn’t know any letters or even the ABC song. Math wasn’t much better. He couldn’t count past two. Two. The poor kid was five and couldn’t count up to his own age.

What happened after those first few days, when we settled into the routines of school and began learning was nothing short of a miracle. Nelson’s sponge began taking in water like a cactus longingly awaiting rain. Slowly, but surely, he began learning to write his name, recognize his name, and count.

One afternoon, while playing count around the circle – a simple game where we count to a specified number and the sprout who says the target number sits until there’s only one child standing – I literally saw Nelson learn to count.

We start with low numbers so those who can’t count can learn the pattern quickly and this day our target number was nine. The first few times around the circle, each time it was Nelson’s turn to shout out his number, he looked at me, clueless and scared, and I’d whisper the number to him. After a few minutes, though, he began catching on. He was determined in his study, soaking up the numbers.

At bus time, I asked him to count for me, and right on cue, with a huge beaming smile he counted for me.

“One, two, free, four, five, six, seven, eight,… nine!” He shouted the last number.

He couldn’t go any higher then we’d practiced, but wow, he did it and will only learn to count higher. Watching that light bulb go off and the accompanying smile is what makes me feel like I’ve earned my paycheck. Nelson’s hug when he walked out of the room counting aloud was my bonus.


Anonymous said...

Quick question if for example I had your Nelson in my kindergarten program in my child care center. Would you be insulted or excited that I asked for specfic themes/ skills you as a class you were working on so I could continue to reinforce the skills at child care? I contacted the public school in my town and have gotten a nice response but I was just wondering !

Jessica S. said...

We play a "count around the circle game" but I call it Sparkle. When the set number is said, everyone says, "Sparkle" and that person sits down. We did it this week because we are learning skip counting by 2s, 3s, and 4s.

Sweet Nelson, he's lucky to have you.

Beth said...

I once watched a "Nelson" learn to read in a day. It was an amazing sight to behold!

123A2Z said...

I had a 'Nelson' one year. His family lived in an old bus at the local campground, but they made sure he always got to school. Every time I would introduce the next activity, he would exclaim "Really, we're gonna ___?" He was the most enthusiastic and appreciative student I've ever seen. He helped me to see things in a whole new light. He left before the year ended, but he made progress in leaps and bounds while he was in school.

Sara said...

I've played this counting game but instead of everyone "getting out" and sitting down, they all start out sitting. A student stands up when they say the magic number. This way the point of the game is to get everyone standing. Plus your circle won't shrink in on itself as the counting students decrease and get more excited.