Thursday, March 17, 2011


I was getting to the point where I hated rest time. We would be on the playground, running and playing and getting fresh air, and I would already start to dread going inside, because it meant minutes on end of policing a wiggly group of pre-K children who would rather do anything, anything, than lay quietly on their mats. I tried offering them books. One book. Two books. Unlimited books as long as you stay on your mat. I tried little stuffed animal friends. I tried passing out everyone's journal. I tried letting them choose their own spots, and I tried assigning spots. I tried music and no music. I tried singing a little ritual song as they lay down. I tried guided relaxation. I tried stern looks. I tried shaking a little egg shaker when they were too loud (which was always). The only thing left, the thing I'm not permitted to do, was to get rid of rest altogether.

Besides, they are only four, and a whole day at school is a very long time when you are four, so a true rest would be a good thing. If only I could figure out how. Instead, they were subverting any rest rule I made, and I was spending a chunk of each afternoon in the role of police officer, which is by far my least favorite role. I would sit at my computer and try to accomplish something (this is supposedly my planning time/lunch break, because they are supposedly asleep), and chaos would erupt behind me. (Sadly, I have a built-in wall desk in my classroom, so having my back to the action while I'm at my desk is not something I can fix.) I hated rest and so did they.

It was time to try something completely different. It just wasn't working as read aloud time, so I recast it as read aloud time. I read aloud to my own children at home almost every day, even though they are now eight and eleven years old, and it's something I love to do. I can read aloud quite happily for long stretches of time.

I told the children that today there won't be books to look at, or animals, or journals. Today I would read a book that's just words, no pictures. They will lay on their mats just like statues and listen, just like a statue stands in a garden and listens to the birds. Then I read aloud from a book of fairy tales.

On the first day I tried this, seven children out of fourteen fell asleep. This is up from zero. And the other seven were as quiet as, well, as statues. The next day, nine fell asleep. The next day, eleven, out cold. My wonderful assistant, who is out of the room for most of this on her lunch break, says that listening to me read fairy tales in our darkened room, in my purposefully lilting voice, is hypotic, as if we are all in Sleeping Beauty's castle under a deep spell.

I love rest now. True, I'm still not ticking anything off of my endless to-do list, but I am getting a mental break, a dose of deep quiet, and a journey to never never land in the middle of my day. More importantly, the children are, too. The rest of the afternoon, after we open the blinds and fold away our mats, is noticably smoother.

Now the number of sleepers tends to hover around nine or ten. Today, one child asked me if we were having rest (we don't have it on Wednesday due to an early dismissal, so he was making sure today was a normal day). Yes, I said, and he said, yay! My clearest indicator yet that I'm onto something. Something hypotic.


  1. I had an assistant who would turn into a fairy (threes class) at nap time. She walked around and tucked in each child then told them when they wake they would have "fairy dust" on their blanket. They all slept soundly and woke to a little glitter on their blankets:)

  2. Wow, Deborah, what a lovely and gentle idea.

  3. Very nice Launa. This entry thrilled me. Partly because of the peaceful outcome (after spending a few minutes in your classroom, I can identify with your initial frustration), but mainly because of the beautiful prose you use to describe the situation. You are gifted in many ways. I'm glad to see you are blogging again and I'll try to keep up better. I love you, g