Google+ bakers and astronauts: 09.10

30 September 2010

The tower continues

The interest in this building continues, but I have not seen it as often.  We ended last week with a projection of the building in the classroom, but it did not quite have the expected effect.

At the end of the day, the error was clear.  This needed to be with the blocks, not somewhere else.  And the concept of abandoning areas was still in my mind, so the room was changed and now the whole rug is open...for construction, for whatever.  We're letting go!

So, on Monday, the projection was closer to where the blocks were.  And a lot of time was spent running into the projection.  Maybe this had something to do with the destruction aspect?  I'm not sure.  Three children built this construction in front of the projection, lining the vertical lines up with the lines on the projection.  But then it seemed over.

So today, we talked about what they wanted to do next.  I showed them the top photograph, which was a construction made yesterday and left overnight.  I asked, what should we do next?  What else do you want to do with this building?

M: Make a whole town, with houses and apartments.  A whole world!

I asked about things that are not blocks.  Would they like to think about this building with new things?

J: Paper!  We can cut it.

S:  With pictures of people!(laughing, pointing to a graph we made with our faces earlier in the day)  No, with books!

M: With cups.  We turn them over and make a tall tall building.

So, there we are.  I told them I would get some materials that they mentioned and bring them in.  I think we will do some more work in small groups with some of these new materials.  I am looking forward to see them take these ideas to the visual realm.  As always, who knows what will come next?  We can only hope we are prepared!  And I would like to ask some small groups about a name for the tower.  It is referred to as  "M's building" or "M's tower".  Will that stick?  Will they agree on something else?  Is that even important?

And just a side note, this is why we have the best job on the planet. 

29 September 2010

Loose Parts

I want to share a clip from the classroom today.  The children are begining to wander over to the windowsill and use the pieces that they find.  Earlier in the week, pieces were combining with blocks, which is also interesting.  But this video here shows a miniaturized dramatic play, and even includes that popular phrase, "It's morning!"

There will always be a fascination with going to bed and getting up in the morning, I think, no matter where I teach four-year-olds.

26 September 2010

Found Pieces and Storytelling

Wouldn't it be fantastic to find a place for all of the little extra things?  The stray puzzle piece, the lego that doesn't fit with the other ones, the nuts and bolts, the picture frames with no glass, what have you?

I'm thinking about a concept that Jules and I talked about when I offered her random pieces for her window display.  She told me to keep them - she always had a big jar of extra pieces that her boys dig into from time to time, and she uses pieces like that for a storytelling table at Turtlewings workshops.  What if we collected those empty pieces and put them in a place where they could be used?  What stories could come out of it?  What would the children design?  Who would use it and how?

I'm thinking of a nice long windowsill in the classroom that is basically asking for something like this.  I suppose this goes along with our abandoning of areas.  Little pieces on a windowsill that is just their height has potential, I think.

25 September 2010

Gifted + Talented versus Interested + Motivated + Encouraged

I listened to a fantastic Radiolab short last evening while making dinner.  Malcolm Gladwell spoke at the 92nd Street Y about the idea of "gifted and talented".

I was especially intrigued with the idea of interest and motivation that he talks about.  If you are intensely interested in something, and you have the means to experience it often and practice and your teachers and other adults are encouraging you, isn't it inevitable that you're going to get quite good at it?  Especially if it matches up with your natural learning style, I think.  Perhaps there is such a thing as natural talent, and there is also such a thing as motivaton and support.

24 September 2010

An interest in construction

Some work in the classroom is inspiring everyone to build a certain tower over and over again:

Since the first day of school, when M made this building, he and others have been making this daily.  There are some designs that stray a bit from the first simple one, and it has been explored with table top blocks.    But the excitement about this structure has touched everyone.

There are pictures of the many many times this construction has been repeated for inspiration, including the original, exact copies, and new ideas.

This week, we got together and had everyone make the tower.  Then, we sat down and drew the results.  Their interpretations on paper are each so different and unique - but everyone has an idea about those parallel and perpendicular lines.

Some children even included the idea of people in the construction, perhaps the builders or just people nearby.

We are thinking about how to deepen their thinking about this tower and expand their ideas.  Part of this goes hand in hand with what I was thinking about the room last week.  I had a few ideas about how to make more room for construction, and how to mix the ideas together.  To support this exploration, I'd like to have the overhead projector near the construction materials, and to mix dramatic play materials into the whole classroom, allowing children to use a variety of materials wherever they choose.

I'm excited about the prospect of exploring this idea with the children in the coming weeks.

23 September 2010

The one where I get up and talk in front of 400 strangers

That was a lot of people, but it was an amazing experience.  And it showed me that I have the ability to get up and do that, which is eye opening for me.

The Pecha Kucha night was really fascinating - there were some amazing presentations.  I'm proud to have been a part of it.

Pecha Kucha nights are done all over the world, and I encourage you to at least go listen to some of the amazing stories people have to tell.  The big map of Pecha Kucha is right here.

I'm beginning to put my images here so that I can share them with you, along with my notes.  I hope to have that up very soon.

And thank you thank you thank you to the people who came out and listened!  It means a lot.

20 September 2010

Pecha Kucha

Just a little reminder that I am speaking tomorrow night at Volume 14 of Pecha Kucha here in Brussels.  The line-up is fascinating - I'm looking forward to an inspiring night.

You can see the line up here:

and read more about Pecha Kucha around the world here:

Once again, I know you are a very North American audience in general, but for any quiet ones out there in Brussels, come on out.  I'm pretty nervous!  I'll be sharing my presentation in the next few days, also.  If there is no video, I'll share my 20 images and my notes.

19 September 2010

a child's place is in the kitchen

My lazy sunday interneting bought me to Culinate, where I read this piece called A child's place is in the kitchen.  It articulates why cooking is a great thing for children to participate in.

This past week in the classroom, we cooked twice.  We had an excess of carrots, so we made some carrot oatmeal cookies.  The vote afterwards revealed that 9 children enjoyed the cookies and 4 did not.  That's pretty good for vegetable cookies.

Our second cooking experience was for a birthday.  This year, I am having the birthday child choose what they want to cook (soething special - it does not have to be a cake), and their parent comes in to help us with the cooking project.  We made a vanilla cake with pink frosting, per J's request.  But the result was less than stellar.  It tasted like lemon bars and it did not rise at all.  But everyone had a piece with a smear of pink frosting, and everyone liked it.  It was a close one, though.

I think children should experience cooking - but not everyone is going to love the result.  It actually allows an opportunity to talk about our different opinions on food.  And as teachers, we have an opportunity to expose children to foods they might not be having at home.  Involving parents also brings in foods that the classroom community might not be familiar with.

We might go a little more savory with our next recipe - some hummus perhaps.  How do you incorporate cooking into the classroom?

15 September 2010


I have been trying to step back from my preconceptions about how the classroom environment needs to look or act.  This is important because of our multiage aspect; but I'm realizing that it is something I should always do.  Where did I get my ideas about the setup of the classroom?  What can happen there and what can't happen there?  What it is supposed to offer?

Through observing and student teaching in college, I absorbed unspoken messages about the classroom.  No matter where I was, the typical preschool classroom always had a home area, painting easels, a block area, a bookshelf, a sensory table, and perhaps a table for art and messy things.  So my first classroom had all of these things.  And sometimes the home area became something else, like a post office or a doctor's office.

I don't think there is anything negative about this classroom setup. I think it does work for children.  My classroom right now has all everything described, save the dramatic play area being more open-ended.  But I'm really wondering if these areas are so necessary.  The children have been showing me different ideas over the past two weeks.

For example, two of the girls enjoy dramatic play, but apparently not the setting.  So they take a large basket, pack it up with everything they want from the dramatic play area, and take it all over the the piano, whch they like to it under and play "sisters".

The construction in the room is constant, and the block area is very popular.  There is not quite enough space for children to really do what they want; things are always getting bumped and buildings cannot be as big as some want because of the floor space.  I'm also interested in how their block constructions can be extended with paper and pens, fabric, tape, and more.

There is not as much drawing and writing happening, and there is a table in the room dedicated to that all of the time.  Last year's group was all about writing, and this year is a bit different.  Those materials do not seem to get used as much.

I know the importance of structure in the room and in the day.  But these rules about the classroom aren't set in stone, are they?  It's easy to fall into a habit - every teacher knows that.  But I think things could be a bit more interesting if we broke that habit.  I haven't really branched out as much as I would like to when it comes to creating an inviting environment for the children, and perhaps that's because I've been so focused on ME and the environment and what I am going to do.  Just as I try to follow children's interests and support their explorations, I think I need to look to them and figure out what they need from the environment. 

That is a big part of my journey this year.  How can the environment support our work and play?

13 September 2010

Notes on Documentation

Some notes from my week in Reggio Emilia last year on documentation:

  • is a democratic practice
  • gives visibility to a project
  • is a tool for creating public space for a project
  • is a tool for continuity between bodies (e.g. preschool and primary school)
  • involves all teachers
  • makes discussion possible: between teachers; between teachers and families; between children and teachers; between children and parents
  • is centered on concrete actions and practice
  • helps find relationships between theory and practice
  • not carried out on "things I decided beforehand"
  • is a work in progress - documentation is a continuous flow and dialogue between work and children
  • works with the declaration of a school's identity

12 September 2010

Two weeks in

We are already about two weeks into the school year, and I have only made one post here about our work so far.  I have been trying to be more organized in the classroom, and trying to work in a way that allows me to spend most of my time on documentation and scaffolding children's inquiry.  We are not into child-centered inquiry too much yet, but our focus on community is beginning, and the children are settled enough that we can begin some conversations and representations this week.

There are a few things on my mind this week that I hope to use this space to work through.  They include documentation, the classroom environment, and the multi-age aspect of the classroom (which I am beginning to think of as "family style" - it best reflects what it represents, in my opinion).  Those are big focus areas for me this year.

So bear with me as a ramble and babble this week and possibly all year.

03 September 2010

circles in sketchbooks

We are a week into school, which mean we are a week into our sketchbook work.  The age range in the class is three- to five-year-olds, and watching them work in their sketchbooks is fascinating.  Everyone uses space so differently; everyone represents differently; everyone's book, as always, is incredibly personal.

Today I offered a prompt that I didn't last year.  I drew a large black circle on one page of each child's sketchbook, and they used that page for their five-minute work.  It was fantastic to see how they used the space - some only used the inside, some only used the outside - but the idea of circles and spirals was continued in everyone's drawing today.

01 September 2010

The Rookie

My husband is using his spare time to listen to the entire This American Life catalog.  I'm not sure how he chooses them, but we just listened to "The Rookie", a story by Adam Gopnik reads from his book, Paris to the Moon.

In "The Rookie", Adam, a North American, is living in Paris and realizes his son has never experienced baseball.  And so he begins telling him the story of the rookie at bedtime.  His son creates his own images along with the words, and then begins to demand very non-baseball things from the rookie (such as having a time machine in his suitcase). 

I felt a real connection with the piece, and it was a bit of an eye opener for me.  What do we assume children know?  When do they have to create their own understandings?  I think its an important thing for young children to do - to work through possibilities and gather clues - and it is something that really defines the potential of this time in their life.  How can we celebrate those moments and those inventions, and how can we make them more meaningful?  What do our students want to know, and where do those curiosities come from?  Where can we take them without taking away the natural ideas children have connected with a concept?

Have a listen to the audio on This American Life.  And of course, please, share your thoughts.
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