100 Languages of Tornadoes


The playing adult steps sideward into another reality; the playing child advances forward to new stages of mastery. – Erik Erikson

J was trying to draw a tornado, after talking about tornadoes all morning. He said he was having trouble drawing a tornado because he didn’t know what they looked like so we spent a few minutes watching videos of tornadoes.

“Show me a tornado picking up a house.”

We printed out a photo of a tornado which J walked around with all day. He asked to tape the photos to the wall. I then asked J what we should write with the photos. What is important for others to know who see the photo?

“Tornadoes are really on farms. They go around. They have a sharp part.”


 Not surprisingly tornadoes have been a common theme in our classroom this week. R built an island out of magna-tiles, and then built a tornado behind the island on a metal frame we had propped up for vertical building. He seemed satisfied with his island, but not the tornado. He said, “I just don’t know what tornadoes look like.”

I suggested maybe asking J for help, stating that he knows a lot about tornadoes and may be able to help.

J came over, picture in hand, and said that tornadoes need a point. Both R and J looked at the tornado R built for a moment before deciding that J would fix it.


J worked on adding a second line – which gave the illusion that the tornado was wider at the top than on the bottom. While he worked on the tornado, a few other children came over to help add more houses to the island for the tornado to destroy.


Blocks have been the primarily material used everyday by the children, in super repetitive way. As an experiment, we covered up the blocks with a cloth.We were curious how this would effect social dynamics in the classroom as well as how they would accomplish their “go-to” play experiences using different materials.

The class ended up making tornado shelters using cozy corners, tables, fabric, and cushions.


J used a hanging metal grid to make a floating tornado out of magna-tiles, which appealed to him greatly. So much so that he said he needed to draw a tornado first so he could “know right where to put the point”.


J drew a tornado, added a dot as the point, then returned to the grid to finish making his tornado. He repeated, quite often, that this tornado (like all tornadoes) is in the midwest.


Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul. – Friedrich Froebel

I Wonder

  • Where is the interest vs.the need to explore something scary? Are they one in the same? If the “fear” disappears, will the interest disappear too? How often do our interests develop out of exploring something we are worried about?
  • What other “languages” could we use to explore not just what makes a tornado, but what happens in the aftermath of a tornado? While J’s peers have explored tornado shelters, J hasn’t as often explored other aspects of tornadoes. Does he need to? Is it appropriate/helpful to scaffold his tornado exploration in that direction, will it happen naturally, or am I projecting what I think is the next step?

When we treat children’s play as seriously as it deserves, we are helping them feel the joy that’s to be found in the creative spirit. It’s the things we play with and the people who help us play that make a great difference in our lives. – Fred Rogers


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