Sunday, October 19, 2014

Play is Not a Simple Act!

Play, is it the frivolous work of childhood?
If we consider Bob Hughes' (play theorist and activist) "Taxonomy of Play Types" in which he outlines 16 types of  play, we can only marvel at its true complexity:
social, socio-dramatic (refers to play involving acting out scripts, scenes, and characters), rough-and-tumble, exploratory, object, creative, communication, deep, recapitulative ( reflecting on actions and giving new form and meaning), symbolic, fantasy, dramatic, imaginative, loco-motor, mastery and role play.
How many of these do children engage in during the course of a day ?
What is the role of the teacher in this complex process? 
Teachers must be keen observers. This does not imply that they should sit idly by waiting for play to happen. They must be master facilitators who make play ( thoughtfully planned, rich in context) possible. This type of teacher nurtures mastery in play. She also understands that environment must support

spontaneous play, initiated by children, so they may construct their own knowledge, test theories through trial and error, engage in discourse, respect opinions, and change the course of their actions for new results.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Way up High In the Apple Tree

Autumn, the season of colors and harvest. And what would it be without the bounty of the apple trees?
Well before children can make this type of a tree, they must master the basic skills of working with Plasticine, an unyielding modelling media. Ripping, rolling, pinching, pressing and of course using the pasta maker are some of the necessary skills to create this type of result. Here's a little tip, warm it in the microwave!                 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

What is the Teacher's Role?

When children produce this type of thinking, I like to call it that, we can't help but marvel at the complexity. 

Here are some considerations. What is the role of the teacher during this process? Should she sit by and observe, taking notes or should she be asking questions? Does the process of asking questions while the child works, change the outcome and does the questioning distract the child? 

Should she wait until the child is finished to ask questions?
What questions or comments should the teacher ask or make? Will her line of questions redirect the child's thinking? 
There is much to consider when we engage with children. 
Knowing "when" is the key.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Interesting Patterns!

When you look at this child's work you know she understands simple patters. However, there is a great deal of complexity in her work. She first stacked the large spool to make two three tier to towers. She then began to place the smaller spools around the base of each large spool in one of her towers. Then each small spool welcomed one wooden stick. Those that didn't fit were tossed over her shoulder (which was quite funny. The teacher asked her to drop them into a bucket instead) Once the first tower was complete she proceeded to work on the second tower, this time using translucent cups. Each cup welcomed one wooden disc or plastic button topped off with one mosaic tile. A total of two hours of work. She also had to figure out how to reach the top towers. She asked that a stool be placed on top of the table!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Begin at the Beginning!

Where do you begin?
Naturally you must begin at the beginning!
You have a new group of preschoolers or kindergarten children, your environment is ready, the room is full of loose materials, provocations....
The children arrive and chaos erupts.
Your materials are everywhere. Dumped, disposed, and disheveled best describe your classroom.
And you wonder how and why this happened.
Aren't the children supposed to know how?
Did you?
Extraordinary work, must be supported by solid foundations. Begin slowly, introduce your hundred languages, one at a time. Children like artists needs skills to create masterpieces.

After 15 years of this work, we now find ourselves back to basics, as we have lost most of our proficient  ECE teachers to school board full day kindergarten.
It is somewhat discouraging to have to begin anew, teaching teachers to work in the "Reggio Inspired" way but we forge ahead committed to the process.
Rome was not build in one day!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

There's a New Kid on the Block

There's a new kid on the block and his name is 
Pedagogical Documentation!
So what's all the fuss about?
I can see from all my email questions that many teachers are feeling out of sorts, having just mastered some form of documentation, they are now being asked to consider pedagogical documentation.
Let's think of it this way.
The very fundamental nature of documentation asks us to capture moments of doing, thinking and questioning. 

 At the most basic level, by the very act of taking photographs of our life journey and keeping mementos we assume, unknowingly, the role of "documentor", keeper, historian. 
Unlike before, when these memories remained within the context of our family, social media has provided us with the forum for sharing the photos and inviting comments.
Presto, we are officially leaving traces; another key element of documentation.
Leaving traces of our work with the children, creating context and history,
is this enough?
Not really. Now we must consider another element. 
Pedagogical documentation asks us to find the meaning in experiences, to interpret them, to find understanding in order to move toward new ways of thinking and knowing, of wondering, of planning the next step, all in conjunction with the children.
In the midst of all of this, as children construct their theories and work through them, we are given glimpses into how each child is meeting developmental milestones, a perfect non intrusive method of getting to know our students and doing assessments. In highlighting these milestones, developmental areas, domains, we are adding another dimension to the documentation.
It is a complex process. In order to do this well we must be vested in our children and in our own educational journey. 

Here are some questions to consider.
1. What was the child thinking or feeling in this experience?
2. Did the child have prior knowledge with the topic or focus of the experience?
3. Did the child have questions?
4. What were your thoughts or comments?
5. Where could you go next?
6. Was it an isolated experience or did it offer possibility for new discoveries, new directions, or the  deconstructing of the child's initial thoughts to create new thinking.
7. What developmental areas were engaged or could be engaged?
8. How many of the "hundred languages" might the child choose to use to express his thoughts and theories?

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Simplicity and Complexity of Patterns

The photos in this particular experience serve to tell the story of Sara's thinking as she works through a variety of pattern options. She is not limited in her decisions as she has a sufficient number of cups of each color to work with.
Sometimes a shortage of materials limits a child's thinking so we are mindful to keep an abundant amount on hand.