Why Walk When You Can Klaw?

Head of Early Childhood Kim Barnes writes about how conversations turn into learning opportunities all around the Greenhill campus.

A Conversation before School on Thursday, May 9, 2013

“I know I can walk up backward, but I have never tried to walk down backward,” said a teacher. “Is it scary?”

“No,” replied the four-year-old, “it’s the same. It’s not scary.”

“I think it is because my body feels like it is going to fall and my head wants to turn and look.”

“Just try it!” was the reply, “You can do it. Trust me.” (He must have heard that somewhere.)

“You know, when Anansi* goes walking, walking, walking, what would it be when he goes walking backwards?”

“You just say it backwards. Sound it out,” says the child.

“Sound what out?”

“Sound out walk backwards.”

“What would that be?”

“You know! /k/!!”

“Then what?”

Long pause – “/l/”


With a roll of eyes, “/w/!”

“Wait, there’s no vowel. We have to have a vowel in every word.”

A second grader listening to the conversation and also walking down the berm backward joins in, “Do you mean the a in walk?”

The four-year-old looks at the adult with a puzzled look and without saying a word questions with his eyes.

“I don’t know. Is that the vowel in walk?” said the teacher.

The second grader assured that was correct and she began to spell walk backwards – k, l, a, w.

“Okay, now sound it out like he said.”

(Sidebar – When a second grader is walking down a hill backward and trying to sound out a word, you can literally see the cogs turning and working in tandem to figure the word out.)

“/k/ /l/ /a/ /w/ – claw. Walk backwards is claw. Klaw!”

As she walks up the hill backward, the second grader begins to chant and add hand motions, “I am klawing, klawing, klawing up the green hill.” The pre-kindergartner runs to join her. Up and down they go, backward all the way.

Conversation like this happens all over the Greenhill campus, all day long – our campus is one large classroom and each walk is a walk of wonder and questioning. Each recess is a time of imagination and pondering and each step may unearth a treasure or solidify a lesson. Hmmm, I wonder if they are ready for gniklaw.

*Anansi is a trickster spider in African folklore that the students learn about during pre-k.

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