Google+ bakers and astronauts: 09.09

29 September 2009

Sketchbooks and Leaves

Sketchbooks have been working so far. Some mornings it is three minutes, some mornings it is ten. Some children make a mark and walk away; others want to stay and stay.

I think it is important to have a bank of ideas, or "starters" as they call it over at Sketchbooks in Schools. I have tried to make it part of my planning but, you know, plans change.

This morning, for example, I put black pens and leaves on the tables -- leaves that we gathered yesterday in the forest. Some children traced them, some children drew them observationally, some children drew things other than leaves, some children made a line and said, "I'm finished!". Every one of those is fine with me.

I'm making a big effort to document this well -- voices and photos and (obviously) visual work. I like how it is naturally evolving as it is part of our daily routine.

28 September 2009

A Romantic Idea?

"[Bodrova and Leong] say, after all, that play should have a central place in early-childhood classrooms. And they do find fault with the academic approach, arguing that in practice, many of the early-childhood academic initiatives that have been introduced in the No Child Left Behind era have failed to produce any significant improvement in academic skills. At the same time, they don’t agree that the solution is unstructured free play. The romantic idea that children are born with flowering imaginations and a natural instinct for make-believe is simply wrong, they say. Especially these days, they contend, when children spend more time in front of screens and less time in unsupervised play, kids need careful adult guidance and instruction before they are able to play in a productive way."

I'm having some trouble with this one. It is an interesting article, but I had a few moments where I thought, Excuse me? Come again? Like here. If children are not "born with flowering imaginations and a natural instinct for make-believe", I'm not sure where it comes from. In my opinion, our job is to support and enhance those flowering imaginations. And when interest-based, emergent, child-centered curriculum is done wrong, then it can be chaos - teachers should not assume that because they are letting the children lead, they have nothing else to do. It should give you more to do to prepare for the next steps.

Children know how to play. It's what happens when we step back and watch and we don't interfere.

Read it for yourself. What do you think?

25 September 2009

A Bully

How is it even possible, when you are three, to be a "bully"? What a label to have! I want to avoid that label with this student, if possible. It may help to categorize and come up with strategies, but I don't want my mind, or anyone else's, to think of the work "bully" before "child".

I knew Y last year, when he was a nursery student. He will be 4 towards the end of October. He is always moving, and in the classroom (so far) has preferred blocks, legos, the sensory table, and dramatic play. On the playground, he likes playing with the plastic animals, running, jumping, growling.

He has a difficult time waiting his turn. When he wants something another child has, it seems that he can hardly contain his need to touch the item, or take it. Today he wanted a small wheelbarrow on the playground to put his plastic dinosaurs in; they were both being used. He looked longingly at one that his friend, O, was using. He asked for it, O said no. Y threw his dinosaurs down, growled, and ran acrss the playground. A minute later, he was over by O, pushing his hands off the wheelbarrow handles so he could have it. Another minute later, he chased O with his dinosaurs, growling and screaming, holding the dinosaurs in front of him as he ran -- and O dropped the wheelbarrow, crying, with a look of fear on his face. Y put his dinosaurs in the abandoned wheelbarrow and began to casually walk off with it - I intervened here.

He can be physical, too -- sometimes he does it because he is angry, but other times he seems to simply be having trouble staying in his own space. He does not hit as much as he pushes and pokes.

Knowing Y's behavior from last year, I considered him an active boy. I'm thinking more now about where to stretch and where to stop. He has shown bullying behavior -- he was looking at a book that another child took out of the library, and as that child came to the book area, Y sang, "Nah nah nah nah nah, I read the book!" Teasing at this age is new to me. Is he imitating something he has seen his brother do? Is he teased and bullied at home, and taking control by teasing at school?

I don't want to jump to conclusions - I want to learn more about how I can help teach him positive social behaviors, and support his successes as he learns about being a part of our community.

A first step I'm trying is role playing, and acting out with puppets. I think it is important to frame everything as positively as possible, too. Perhaps we can also create a book with photographs of children being kind and respectful. I think using this as a space where I can work through my thoughts and observations will prove helpful, too.

24 September 2009


I'm thinking about the overhead projector. What makes children engage with it for a long period of time? What appeals to some children about the light box aspect of it, and what appeals to others about the projection aspect?

I was riding on the tram last night, looking at Children, Art, Artists - a book put out by Reggio Children. There is a part where young children are exploring the properties of materials, and of black and white. I noticed that, in every photograph with the overhead projector, it seemed to be the only light source in the room.

How might this work in a classroom? I myself have overhead lights - I can turn half of the lights off, but as winter comes, it will be pretty dark in here. Perhaps this will motivate me to finally go to the big secondhand shop and buy lamps for the room. Then the corner with the overhead projector would be a dark space with the one light source, inviting more children in.

I love the overhead projector as a tool. I would like to make it a more regular part of the classroom, and I'd like to see it complimenting and extending our inquiry.

23 September 2009

Take A Child Outside Week

Tomorrow begins Take A Child Outside Week. Will you participate?

We will go to the forest on Monday, just like we do every Monday. But perhaps we'll walk a little slower, take more photographs, and reflect on our experience when we get back to the classroom.

It is so nice to read about all the different places you can go for an event in the upcoming week. There are events all over the US and Canada! It may be short notice to take your class on a field trip, but wouldn't it be nice information to pass along to the parents?

via imagine childhood

22 September 2009


This is my favorite image from the year so far. Out in the forest, playing in little wooden houses, hanging from the rafters. I hope you're getting out with your little ones, too!

18 September 2009


Each child built their own block structure, and then drew it in their sketchbook. The children in my class last year were a little bit older, so the constructions were really different. Now, with late threes and early fours, its like I'm getting to learn about blocks all over again.

In particular, I'm juxtaposing the block play here to this block play last year in my mind. I regret not documenting children's constructions better over the course of last year. What if children could really see how their blocks structures change over the course of time?

16 September 2009

A Nature Lab

I was really taken by this video. As I watched, I pictured it being an atelier for young children to explore and experience and be inspired by. Can you imagine the possibilities???

There is also a neat 360 degree tour on the Nature Lab's website here.

video from etsy via abby try again

12 September 2009

Our Sketchbook Adventure

We're adding something to our daily work in our classroom on Monday: Sketchbooks.

I have used sketchbooks in the past few years, and last year the children worked in them on a regular basis. In fact, during the first half of the year, I couldn't keep up - every time I turned around, someone needed a new sketchbook.

The plan is this: each day, there is a drop off window of about 20 minutes in the morning. The children will begin the day by making a choice in the classroom, as they always have. When that first 20 minutes is over, we all stop and get sketchbooks, and work in them for 10 minutes.

There will be different prompts for them every day: from drawing, to materials used, to location where we use them, to idea prompts like props and photographs and video.

I was really inspired by Sketchbooks in Schools
last year, and tried a few little activities here and there. But this year, we'll be more regular about our work. And the idea of using sketchbooks with threes and fours is so interesting to me -- the idea of learning what they decide and make and think about the activity is so mysterious. What will it look like? Where will it bring us?

11 September 2009

Here I come, Reggio Emilia.

A plane to Pisa and then a train into town will bring me to you, Reggio Emilia. I'll do all of my required reading to get ready (I just checked six Reggio Children books out of the library), and I cannot wait to see your classrooms and talk to your educators and see firsthand what I have been inspired by for years.

I just found out I'm in, and I cannot wait. But I am obligated to wait until Octber 25th. Go figure.

Anyone else going? There's still time to register here.

10 September 2009

More Painting

Today we tried out ice cube trays with red, yellow, blue, black, and white each in their own compartment. In small groups, I showed the children how I wash my brush, and wipe it on the side of the water jar, and then get my new color. The ice cube trays also offer an excellent feature : extra compartments for colr mixing, without everything getting all muddled up.

Some children are very big fans of changing the water constantly. No harm done - I think its just like how some people don't like having their hands stay dirty.

I'd like them to experiment with color mixing, too -- I don't want to give them instructions. I think we'll explore color mixing a bit more. But the ice cube trays with the primaries and black and white give them the message that if they want anything other colors, they're going to have to explore and try a bit. And there is only a little paint in each compartment, so if things get muddled up, there isn't much waste.

I don't see this as the be all, end all of painting with tempera. Every child is different, every classroom group is different, and every painting is different. But this is an interesting technique, expecially with a small group. It really felt like a studio time, with every child engaged in mixing and painting -- even those who never choose painting during free choice.

What des painting look like in your classroom? Anything you're trying? Anything you don't like?

09 September 2009

I'm thinking about Bank Street painting. The librarian just lent me his personal copy of Experience and Art: Teaching Children to Paint by Nancy R. Smith, and I found the ideas really interesting.

The idea of children using palettes and mixing has always appealed to me, and this is one way of doing it. We also changed things up a bit, and instead of painting at the easel, we painted on giant paper on the table. Everyone made a painting today, and they really concentrated on lines and shapes, as well as the feel of their movements. Pretty interesting stuff.

I find it a little to structured for my everyday tastes, but there are some nice ideas embedded.

08 September 2009

Why not?

Let dramatic play spill over into the book area?

Tape things to the wall anywhere in the room?

Draw lines on the carpet with chalk?

Draw with paper and crayons in the block area?

Let children use the cubby area for activities during play?

Let children play my autoharp during play?

I sometimes find myself saying no to random things and after I do, I realize there was no reason to. Right off the bat this school year, the children began taking pillows from the book area and scarves from dramatic play, and using them to make a home under our new piano in the book area. My class is quite small this year, so they weren't getting in anyone's way, or bothering anyone. Actually, it was quite the opposite - there was wonderful conversation happening, and an interesting game between some boys and girls. My assistant teacher told them to put their items in the right area and "play house" in the dramatic play area. I backed her up on that decision - areas are areas, right?

But why? Our environment should be inviting, cozy, child-centered, engaging, inviting, and open to exploration. But materials should be able to drift, I think. Messes happen -- things can get cleaned up. When clean up happens, things will go back to where we know we can find them next time. I feel like I have gotten into a habit of restriction, saying no to more things than I say yes to. As an educator and the person who should be supporting learning and growth, I need to take an extra five seconds to think before making an assumption about the way things are "supposed to be".

07 September 2009

A Closer Look

I thought this post from Camilla Engman was lovely.

What do we see when we look at one of those photographs? What does a young child see? How would they respond to that through drawing or movement or sound?

I'm glad that Camilla made me stop and think about the sense today -- I forget sometimes!

Happy monday to all...

03 September 2009

It's not a bird yet

"Just as infants constantly practice making sounds, so young drawers fill sheets with shapes which may seem very similar. Yet when you compare markings of even only a few days apart, you will notice differences."
-ursula kolbe-

The information in It's Not a Bird Yet: The Drama of Drawing is nothing shocking or new. But Ursula Kolbe takes children's drawing experiences and slows them down, and looks at each time a child draws as a full experience.

After finishing the book, I made it a point to slow myself down a bit this week and watch and listen to drawing experiences in the classroom. At one point in the book, Kolbe talks about children as "pattern makers". That term makes me think of A-B-A-B patterns - lining up colored beads or animals. But to a child, a pattern is the label for something that repeats. So perhaps it is that A-B-A-B pattern that we have in mind, but it might be a sun with lines coming out everywhere, or vertical lines down a page over and over again. Two children were talking about patterns in the classroom on Tuesday - one was tracing flower petals onto a group mural and invited the other one: "Look at my pattern!" Her friend responded, "I love your pattern! Can I help with it?" They traced flower petals together, with a complete understanding of what the pattern was.

A second part that I felt I experienced this week was imaginative play and drawing as one. Kolbe says, " many young children -- is about actions and events in time. It's not about making a picture of how things look." On Wednesday, one girl spent ten minutes drawing a curved shape, and then coloring it in with a crayon. While she was filling it in, she talked and sang about princesses, ghosts, parties, animals, sharks, and splashing water. Although her finished drawing was a simple shape, there was so much more to it.

I love reading a book like this. I spent a few evenings looking at the photos, reading the text, and going back to favorite sections. This is a nice book for an experienced teacher or a novice one. She comes from the point of view of an artist who loves to work with very young children, which is quite unique. Plus her work here is concentrated on one- to six-year-olds. In my school, I feel like a lot of attention is put on reading and writing for first and second graders in our center, so we don't get to talk about things like the drawings the children are making throughout the building. I'm talking about this book to the early childhood faculty on Monday, and I'm pretty sure I'll be lending my copy around for a while.

I think I'll be picking up a copy of Rapunzel's Supermarket: All about Young Children and Their Art now - that is Kolbe's first book. She really has a way of slowing down children's experiences and seeing each moment as important. And her work is really about children being children, and us watching and supporting as needed.

What are you reading right now?

01 September 2009

Thinking Through the Body part 1

How would you move in this space?

Can you picture a child moving through this space?

What would they be inspired to do?

I took a workshop at the beginning of the school year with Alison Marshall called Thinking Through the Body. When the workshop choices came out last year, I was thinking of one student in particular who I don't think I supported enough last year -- one who is definitely a kinesthetic learner.

Many of the activities were geared towards older students -- some theatre staples like energizing games and tableau -- but I definitely took some inspiration from the week. We talked about character pathways, and that inspired our chalk on the floor. In the workshop, we mapped how a character moved in a story. Some were emotional, some were physical, but all were interesting. My hope was to see how children would react to this line, without being prompted to use it at all. Would they follow it like a tightrope? Would they change how their body moved with each change in the line?

Back Into It

We're back to work in the classroom. I'm thinking a lot about drawing because of a lovely book I just read -- more about that Thursday.

Happy Back to School, if I hadn't mentioned that already!
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