An independent K-12 school on a beautiful wooded campus, 3 miles from Washington, DC

Potomac News

Small Moments in Lower School

One of the things I enjoy most about being around Lower School children is hearing their stories: stories about catching 40 fish in one day, or taking the training wheels off a bicycle for the first time, or “accidentally” stepping in that huge puddle during Woodland Recess. Children have many stories to tell, and our job as educators is to help them do this well. When children begin to write authentic stories about those everyday events that are important to them, we call them “Small Moments.”

In kindergarten, small moment stories begin with elaborate sketches, which are later accompanied by sentences that match their pictures. In first and second grades, students practice telling their stories across three fingers or five fingers and then record these stories by stretching their writing across several pages. Once they have the bones of their story, they learn to elaborate by adding descriptive details, dialogue and internal thought. By the time our students reach third grade, the process becomes more sophisticated. Third graders construct “Personal Narratives” that evolve from a timeline. They hone their craft by experimenting with interesting leads and the “show, don’t tell” strategy.

Life in Lower School is a series of small moments, and every day I have the privilege of witnessing the steady stream of small moments that matter in the lives of 5- through 9-year-olds. A typical day (is there such a thing?) may include the following:

  • Noticing three baby starfish on the walls of the aquarium
  • Putting the finishing touches on a science fair experiment
  • Locating that perfect library book
  • Successfully utilizing the “win-win” strategy to negotiate turns on the “cloud nine” swings at recess
  • Using the iPod Touch to rehearse storyteller voice before writing an entry in the Pilgrim Journal
  • Visiting the “buffet” (salad bar) for the first time as a kindergarten student
  • Measuring items in the classroom using standard and non-standard forms of measurement
  • Creating a spaceship with a third grade buddy, using recycled materials
  • Constructing a mini-fort with sticks at Woodland Recess
  • Discovering a new algorithm for solving a tricky subtraction problem

Of course, the players and the specific details are ever-changing. But the wonder of making connections to the world around us through those small moments that occur on any given day make Lower School a remarkable place to grow and learn.