A Simple Dot Opens Up a World of Possibilities

By Pre-Kindergarten Teacher Missy Prewitt & Upper School Mathematics Teacher Molly Prewitt
What can a simple dot teach us? For Hutchison’s upper school and early childhood girls… a lot, actually.
Earlier this year, as Molly Prewitt’s Honors Algebra I class walked from Labry Hall to Abston Center, her students were excited and anxious about implementing the mathematics lesson plans for pre-kindergarten girls that they had been working on so diligently. One girl said, “I hope that the pre-k girls enjoy and understand what we have planned.” The following hour-and-a-half session proved that upper school freshman girls can learn just as much from pre-kindergarteners as pre-kindergarteners can from freshman.

The reason for the freshman visit to Lynn Erickson and Missy Prewitt’s pre-k classroom was to celebrate “International Dot Day,” a day each year for students of all ages to explore the powerful messages of courage, creativity, and self-expression as shown in the book The Dot. Written by Peter Reynolds, The Dot tells the story of Vashti, a girl who thinks she can’t draw. When encouraged by her teacher to “Just make a mark and see where it takes you,” Vashti draws a dot. After she sees the dot framed in her teacher’s office, Vashti is encouraged to draw more dots and soon realizes her talent. The Dot is a book rich with ideas about the power of creativity and is a story about what we can accomplish when we just try. It was written to inspire all of us to navigate our true potential – to be brave, original, inspirational, inspired, and active.

Hutchison’s pre-kindergarten classes have been celebrating International Dot Day in their classrooms for several years and always use it as a day to champion individual expression and creativity. This school year, the teachers were trying to expand their celebration to incorporate other aspects of learning, specifically math. This is where Ms. Prewitt’s upper school class came in. They were in the middle of a unit that involved coordinate points, effectively mathematical “dots,” and so the perfect opportunity for a cross-divisional experience naturally arose.

Both the freshman and the pre-k girls read The Dot in class, which was truly a treat for the freshman students. In the intervening days between reading the book and the celebration, pre-k girls explored the themes present in the book and discussed what Vashti learned about seeing the world in new ways, being inspired by others, and having courage to make things work even when she didn’t think she had the right supplies (or ability).

Meanwhile, the girls in Honors Algebra I began to discuss ways in which they could view the book and its message through the lens of mathematics and how they could share that message with the pre-kindergarten girls. They formed groups, researched pre-kindergarten math standards, and designed developmentally appropriate lessons incorporating dots. The result was a unique learning experience that made math both fun and relevant for our early childhood and upper school girls.

ABOUT MOLLY PREWITT

Molly Prewitt, a 2005 graduate of Hutchison, currently serves as an upper school mathematics teacher. She holds both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in mathematics from The University of Memphis. Ms. Prewitt is currently pursuing a doctorate in education with a concentration in instruction and curriculum leadership.

ABOUT MISSY PREWITT

Missy Prewitt has been a pre-kindergarten teacher at Hutchison for 28 years. She holds a Bachelor of Science in early childhood education from The University of Memphis.
 
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Hutchison is the leading private girls school in Memphis for ages 2 years old through twelfth grade.