Google+ bakers and astronauts: 09.11

30 September 2011

Weekend Links

Here are some things that caught my eye this week.

Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times about redshirting.  And they propose the right question in their opposition to the practice : "What approach gives children the greatest opportunity to learn?"

Another TED Talk, of course, on Studio Schools.  I couldn't stop thinking about early childhood during this talk, and it was very relevant.

["Work and learning are work by learning and you learn by working."]

I read this paper a few weeks ago because I came across it and it is very relevant to my work setting.  Its a quick read and its an interesting one, asking of there is a place for commercial materials in schools, and if they should be considered "child interests" in an emergent curriculum.  Read it here.

I miss Brussels a bit, and I was looking at the Turtlewings website again yesterday.  So many wonderful ideas for a wide age range.

A good story:

Happy Weekend!

28 September 2011

A New Phase for Bambini Creativi

18 months ago, I wrote a post about Bambini Creativi, a project in Kansas City.  I've followed Brianne's work as she travelled around the city with her exhibit, I saw her on America's Next Great Restaurant, and now I get to share these photos of the beautiful new space she has in Kansas City.

Brianne had lots of photos to share, but I only grabbed a few that I think are real conversation pieces.  The spaces are well planned, and I can't wait to see what they look like after the children have been in them, also!  I can't help but think about the schools I saw in Reggio Emilia, especially the International Centre Loris Malaguzzi, when I see this space.

Congratulations and good luck to Brianne and her teachers!

More Photos : Smugmug
More information : Website
More Social : Facebook

27 September 2011

a wipe-off board and a typewriter

More tools to encourage the exploration of writing through play, along with some of the things children are making with them.

23 September 2011

weekend links

Here are some things that I've enjoyed this week that you might enjoy thinking about this weekend!

Stop yourself next time you want to tell a child to "just use one":

The blog from the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.  This is a place I need to go.  And we need to put a pasta machine near the makers space.

This archived article from ECRP about the importance of pretend play for cognitive development.

Maurice Sendak on Fresh Air, talking about his new book, BUMBLE-ARDY, and about his life.

And an excellent TED talk about doodling, creativity, and learning (and my new favorite term, "visual literacy").

22 September 2011

a space for writing and play

Its almost silly how beautiful this room is.  Look out the window, and you see Young's Bay, Saddle Mountain and the rest of the Oregon Coast Range, bridges, fishing boats, Coast Guard Helicopters - those are some exciting windows.  I'd like to figure out how we can get the kids up to window level so that they can see a bit more.  Stepstools?  Crates?  Giant blocks?

I don't think I've gone without a place for writing and drawing in the classroom in six years.  Once I made it part of the environment, I never dismissed it.  It can be an amazing gathering place - especially in a mixed age grouping like this one.

There is more to do to make this as inviting as it can be, but including a place for the to share the children's work is important.  Hopefully this radiator cover will become that place for sharing.  It is at the children's level, so they will be able to put things up and take them down.  But for now, we're getting into the routine of using this as a writing and drawing space :  the children go and get the materials they need (a variety of papers, writing tools, tape, glue, and the hot item of the moment, scissors) and they bring them to the table to write and draw and create - whatever they please.  I sometimes forget that getting children into the routine of choosing for themselves and getting the items that they need takes a bit of time at the start.  But we're definitely getting used to it.  I'm really missing those black felt tip pens that we were up to our ears in at my last school!  But the space comes together, little by little, and the more I watch and listen, the more I notice what we could add to promote writing. The right materials for will encourage writing through exploration.

For now, we're cutting up a storm!

21 September 2011

those little animal figurines

My favorite moment:

I'm hungry for some fish!  Can you get me fish?  From the sea?

This was one of my favorite moments of the day, and I was happy to capture it on video.  Just one of the many ways that imagination manifests itself among threes and fours.

20 September 2011


"when we adults think of children, there is a simple truth which we ignore: childhood is not preparation for life, childhood is life.  a child isn’t getting ready to live – a child is living.  the child is constantly confronted with the nagging question, “what are you going to be?”  courageous would be the youngster who, looking the adult squarely in the face, would say, “i’m not going to be anything; i already am.”  we adults would be shocked by such an insolent remark for we have forgotten, if indeed we ever knew, that a child is an active participating and contributing member of society from the time he is born.  childhood isn’t a time when he is molded into a human who will then live life; he is a human who is living life.  no child will miss the zest and joy of living unless these are denied him by adults who have convinced themselves that childhood is a period of preparation.
how much heartache we would save ourselves if we would recognize the child as a partner with adults in the process of living, rather than always viewing him as an apprentice.  how much we would teach each other…adults with the experience and children with the freshness.  how full both our lives could be.  a little child may not lead us, but at least we ought to discuss the trip with him for, after all, life is his and her journey, too.”
– professor t. ripaldi
found via regarding baby

more things to write across the sky.  

19 September 2011

planning for engagement

I have been thinking about the level of engagement that the children have with their environment in my new setting.

What pulls children in?  What makes them choose an activity or material and really engage with it?

I think that children are engaged when they are the ones who choose the outcomes -  they can be finished quickly or linger on, depending on why they have chosen something.  We introduced a sensory table the other day, and eight children played with the sand for 30 minutes.  Part of that is novelty; part of it is true engagement.  Piles were made and destructed, animals were buried and unearthed, and some serious space negotiations happened.  Those kids were really busy.

The space is really really important - I feel like I've always known that, but it is so true right now.  The children don't need to be told what to do, but we (as teachers, parents, caregivers) need to throw out a few ideas and give options.  Children want to be quiet, loud, fast, slow, messy, and deliberate with careful actions, sometimes all within a span of 10 minutes.  And the right space encourages that in a way that doesn't make the adults want to rip their hair out.

We've added a bit of structure to the morning, none of which was there before, and that has been positive.  We sit down together twice - once at the start of the morning, and once before lunch.  We have been listening to stories and singing some songs; one day we drew self-portraits; another day we read Not a Box and then each child drew an idea for pretending with a box on a piece of paper with a square drawn on.  Over the past 4 weeks, my main goal has been to get to know these children and understand what to expect from them, the other teachers, the parents, and the culture of the school in general.  With that information, I can understand my role much more clearly.

I need to support the children as they engage in deep and meaningful play.  This involves so much - the environment, the materials, planning experiences, exploring alongside them, and listening.  I hope that I can listen and then use that information more purposefully than I have in the past.  I have a track record of listening and documenting and then ending up with folders full of photos and little projects that stopped soon after they started.  I've made a heavy goal for myself, but it is one of the most important ones I have made in my eight years of teaching.

15 September 2011

piano notes and letters

I am pretty lucky to have a piano in the classroom again - it is an amazing instrument for the children to explore independently.  J explored with her whole body, rocking to the tune that she made, and then creating her own meaning by labeling different notes with letters corresponding to her friends' names.  This abstract labeling system for the notes is fascinating to me because it is how the notes are labeled according to musicians.  I have to ask myself, what other ways might the children choose to represent the notes on the piano?

14 September 2011

different strokes for different folks

I am amazed by the number of news stories on children's brain development and the powerful role that play has in a child's development - its wonderful to see and hear.  I heard Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt on Fresh Air today, and Dr. Wong made a statement that I would love to see written in the sky or everyone to see.

"There are windows of opportunity during which the ground is most fertile - things that developmental biologists call 'sensitive periods', when its really the best time to learn a particular thing.  And its important to be mindful of the fact that children become ready at different times for different things."

If there is one thing I want to communicate to parents, this is it.  It does not matter that one three-year-old is writing the first letter of their name and another one is writing their whole name and another is not interested in making marks on paper at all and another just scribbles.  It doesn't matter that one four-year-old likes to try and read the words in a familiar book by saying the words and patterns they remember from a read-aloud and another child makes up a totally random narrative using the pictures as cues and another child does never chooses to look at books independently.  We can encourage children, but we cannot change what they are ready to do, especially in the early years.  Why rush?

Wand and Aamodt's book, Welcome to Your Child's Brain, seems to be about the importance of social-emotional development in the early years over the push for early academics, and although I haven't read the book, that is an idea I can agree with.

Listen to the interview on Fresh Air :

13 September 2011

I'm inspired by the post-it war in Paris.

I found the French site via lilla a, where the children are using post-its on windows, creating patterns and designs.  The material is open-ended if we think outside of the box and let children make the choices about how to use them.  That natural light of the window adds to the appeal, I think.

There is so much we can buy for children to use, and so many ways that they can be instructed to play. the simplest things go the distance, though.

12 September 2011

Planning the Environment

I think I spend as much time planning and thinking and writing outside of the classroom as I spend interacting with children in the classroom.  In the past three weeks I have been writing constantly, and trying my best to get a feel for the space so that I can make the environment engaging and inviting.

The children have not been confused by a few things changing each day as we try different arrangements out to see how they feel.  With some new things for the classroom, we'll make some final decisions, and that feels good.  I have been mapping for weeks, getting ideas at the most random times.

I do believe that the environment is the third teacher, and the children's thinking and work should be celebrated and documented in the space.  This plan is meant to give children different kinds of spaces for their work and make the classroom theirs - less rules, more interaction and engagement.  I don't want the children to feel like it is a teacher's space; I want to say "no" less.  In Reggio Emilia, the teachers refer to the environment as the third teacher; that says a lot.  I don't take the planning of a space lightly.

I'm looking forward to sharing more about our environment as it progresses.  In the meantime, take a look at our gigantic chair!  I have to admit that I did not like it when I got into the classroom - it seemed like a novelty item, really.  But it has about a million uses, and it is very popular.  And it is definitely too big to move out of the room, so it will stay.

08 September 2011


I have been in this new environment for two weeks, and I have to say that (as always) the kids are growing on me.  It is amazing to me that someone can walk into a room full of four-year-olds anywhere in the world and make connections with them, and their entire job is know them as well as they can.  That's my job.  And getting to know this group is an adventure (in a good way).

I have been getting in early, standing in the middle of the room and in all of the different corners making maps of what we might want to do with the setup of the space.  I'm looking at the materials in the space and moving those materials around.  Regardless of what I now, though, these children have been spending every day of the last 8 months in this room, so they know where things are and what they can find to use.  Even if the materials are not exactly on the top of my list.

I have really had to reflect on materials in the classroom.  In the past, I have had the "luxury" (if you can call it that) of putting certain things away or donating them to the Goodwill, tucking plastic toys in closets and taking out more natural materials.  But here, the teaching dynamic is different.  I'm the new girl.  Is it polite to drag everything out?  No.  And the more time I spend around these materials, the more I notice that we can find some compromise.  The baby dolls, the bottles, the Dora the Explorer books, that car rug - where is there room for the children's imaginations?  We have to find balance.

That said, I have not found that balance with the environment yet.  I put things away, and children take them out.  But I'm also bringing in new things and giving them a range of open-ended choices by simply making things available to them.  And I think it's going well.

On another note, I walk to and from work, and this is what I get to look at.  Hello, Washington!  Love, Oregon.

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