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Becoming part of the story

Preschool lesson connects students’ world with their classroom

Gordon asks that students invest their full selves in their work.

Gordon also demands that students get comfortable talking about themselves, and how their experiences are different from - and similar to - those of their classmates.

In order to do that, they need to learn to bring their own identities to school.

It’s work they practice each year, through self-portraits, written reflections, dynamic spoken-word performances and one-on-one work with teachers.

This begins in the earliest grades, with lessons like Preschool’s work with Corduroy the bear.

Each weekend, Corduroy goes home with a different student.

He has a journal where students and their families documents his adventures.

When he returns, his host shares Corduroy’s journal with the class.

It’s a lot, at first, sharing about something so personal in front of a big group.

The presentation is one part readaloud, one part performance, supported by the teaching team.

Even when the reader has his back to the audience, he has their full attention.


This is riveting stuff.

What do other children do when they go home from school?

Do they know about pancakes and baking and bunk beds?


Do they have cousins and cuddling and siblings and snow?

Do they do Thanksgiving and movie nights and family reunions?

They’re learning to be a good audience, but they are also always eager to find a connection.


For those who haven’t had their turn yet, there is a thrill of anticipation.

For those who have already gone, there’s pride in a job well done.

They’ve been a good host to Corduroy.

They’ve shared their stories with their classmates.


And they’ve been included in the book, a richly detailed portrait of this Preschool class that grows every week.

Ask a Preschooler about it; they’ll be eager to show you their pages.

But they’ll also be able to speak to the experiences of their classmates.

There will be some similarities, and some differences.

It’s a start of a conversation that will extend over their years at Gordon.



In a parallel lesson, students also have taken turns presenting their families each other. 

The posters have been prominently displayed since the fall, in the hall where visitors can see them.

Like the Corduroy project, the I Heart My Family signs help students own their own identities while learning about others.

Both projects also have their roots in author studies. Students encountered Corduroy as part of a deep dive into Donald Freeman, and their family work began when they discovered that illustrator Brian Pinkney comes from a family full of authors and illustrators.    

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