When I was teaching preschool one of my favorite students was Jose.
He was full of life, excited to try new things, and would proudly walk into my classroom every day to tell me all sorts of stories. He especially loved to tell me about cars that he would see.
He could sit and tell me all kinds of stories about cars, his family, and food, but he really hated it when I told him that we had to start our work.
Jose was a brilliant story teller but he struggled tremendously with colors, shapes, and letters. It really crushed me to see him lose that excitement when it came time to work. He knew that he didn’t know the answers to the questions I was asking him.
I desperately started trying many different strategies to help him have that “aha!” moment.
But much to Jose’s and my dismay, nothing was working. Then I finally realized what I needed to use to get through to Jose.
Unfortunately, this realization did not solve my problem right away.
I knew the answer to how to reach him was through cars, but I was really struggling to find an efficient way to do so.
I tried using one of those car road rugs and adding papers that had the colors, shapes, or letters on it, but I found that the rug took up too much space and since I usually worked in small groups having one rug did not allow an easy way for me to differentiate for the individual students in the group.
Next, I tried building roads with blocks. This was fun to have the kids help me with but once again it just took up too much space.
As a teacher I felt like a complete failure. My job was to be able to help my students understand concepts but here I was not having a clue as to how I could help this student.
The answer finally came to me in an unexpected way.
Part of my job included attending professional development every few months. Most of the time I struggled to find ideas in these trainings to apply in my classroom.
But on this particular day I was given the idea for a perfect solution to my predicament.
One of my fellow teachers showed us how she turned a simple file folder into a car map. The file folder car map was small, cheap, and easily customizable.
This was it!
I realized I could make one of these maps for each student in my group, which meant that Jose could have his very own map with exactly the things he needed to work on.
This car map helped me and Jose tremendously. Today I want to share with you this brilliant idea.
· File folder
· Black paper
· Packing tape
· Pictures for destinations (people, letters, words, colors, shapes, etc.)
· White crayon or chalk
1. Cut black paper into strips to make roads.
2. Draw white lines onto strips to make them look like roads.
3. Attach roads to the file folder.
4. Cover file folder in packing tape. This helps the road to remain durable. If you are lucky enough to have a laminator, use that instead.
5. Create destinations for your munchkin’s car. Use your computer or just pen and paper. Ideas for destinations: colors, shapes, faces of family members or friends, words, names, numbers. Adapt for your munchkins needs.
6. Tape the destinations onto the map.
7. Get cars and play with them! Tell them where to drive to or hold up an image and have them drive to the match.
IN THE END
This road map helped me reach Jose in a way that I wasn’t able to before.
He was able to see that learning was fun!
Whenever he was able to master a concept I could take off the pictures and put new ones on. Within a few weeks I am proud to report that Jose learned all of his colors and shapes. By the end of the year he was able to recognize all of the capital and lower case letters.
This car map helped Jose and many other students while I was teaching.
Now I am using it with my son. We are currently working on the names of the people he sees most often.
In the future we will use colors and shapes, letters, words, and numbers.
In the end the success came because I was able to use what Jose loved the most, cars.