Join me as I participate in the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. Other "Slicers" can be found among my students in the comments of my class blog. There are also several hundred teachers participating at https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com
If it's Wednesday after school, I'm driving across Denver to a chiropractic appointment and my daughter Clara is in the car seat behind me. My wife tutors one of her students and I always enjoy the consistent father/daughter time in the car. Clara's four and a half and we have a variety of conversations during the thirty minute journey through traffic. The drive is familiar enough that we can anticipate various landmarks and she can tell if I start exploring alternate routes around traffic slow spots. Here are the things we almost always notice together.
We count school busses. She counts in Spanish and I count in English and the running total is of all the school busses she has seen during the day. Usually, she's somewhere around eight to twelve busses by 3:45 and the start of our drive, and we add another four to seven.
We read street signs. I'll ask what street is coming up and she will usually get it right. She's not phonetically reading them yet, but she has a great memory and she just remembers the streets that go with the first letters on the sign. She has figured out that the streets go in alphabetical order although they go backwards on the first part of our journey and she doesn't follow that yet. I just like that she's learning the street names in Denver and some landmarks around them.
We read business signs. She recognizes the chains that she goes to with her grandparents like: Subway, Burger King, Red Robin, Starbucks Coffee (that one is mostly with me), Wendy's, McDonald's, Costco, King Soopers, etc. She can also read Pizza no matter where it is and she's figuring out Liquor too. I point the last one out since it has a 'Q' in it and they are everywhere.
We look at gas station signs and know that a shell goes with Shell, a green dinosaur goes with Sinclair, and Conoco has the same shape letter for the Cs and Ns, just tilted.
It really is a big literacy lesson but there is more than that:
We wave at dogs being walked by their owners.
We notice that the sun is no longer in our eyes as we drive west, and that it's not getting dark yet. This leads to a talk about seasons and astronomy.
We noticed crocuses last week and I'm looking forward to seeing what flowering trees we will find in the coming months.
We wish good thoughts for first responders in emergency vehicles and the people they are going to help, lights flashing, sirens blaring as vehicles in front of them part like The Red Sea for Moses.
We nod to homeless people on street corners and give them bottled water if we have it in the car. Clara waves, I smile and I work to meet their eyes like just another person instead of showing pity. We have discussions about why they are begging.
We record messages for Mom, using Voxer, asking about dinner, or making plans for the evening, or just talking because Clara likes to replay the messages and hear herself.
We hold hands at red lights, my spine twisted slightly to reach across the space between us. She knows to let go when the light turns green so I can put two hands on the wheel. We also work to magically turn the lights green by blowing at them, although I have to keep some conversation going and try to time our breaths just right.
We look for airplanes, birds and shapes in the clouds.
She reads the big red Chiropractor sign on the side of the building as we pull up and is excited to talk to the receptionist while I get adjusted.
Today, Susan's tutoring was cancelled and I made the drive by myself. I stopped trying to point out all these things after the first few blocks and I saw less on this drive then on any other.