Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dear Colleagues,

I am leaving for a study tour in Reggio Emilia and will return on April 6, 2011.  Please enjoy the previous posts on this blog.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Take a Place and Make it Your Own

As you may recall, a while back I posted the see saw in the forest. This is the next step in that experience. The children's work did not end when they snapped the first log that was wedged between this fork shaped tree. In fact they were so excited by their success that they decided they needed to leave a trace of their work for others to see and perhaps recreate.
So the children returned to the forest with paint brushes in hand. First they located a loose branch to insert into the fork shaped tree so that passerbyes would be able to follow the trial of the their original work. Then the children decided that it was not enough to just paint the branch and fork shaped tree in a haphazard fashion. Their painting would have to be unique; a pattern of red and blue. When the children were done they attached a note to the tree that outlined the history of their work.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rat a Tat Tat

How is it that children, even as young as infants and toddler, can sway, hum, and dance to the rhythm of the music?
From birth our children begin their relationship with music as we cradle and sing to them or simply hum a melody while rocking them to sleep. As parents and teachers we surround children with music. It exists in every culture and transcends generations. And there is much study to support that fact that music is a natural way to build the brain's connections and set the foundations for learning.
Watch as Charlotte's voice accompanies the tap on her drum and observe how her voice changes when she runs instead of walks. Even the movement of her body is in tune with the rythnm.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Do I grow smaller when I'm father away?

David made an interesting observation during a morning walk into the forest. 
Pointing toward the end of the path he said, "Look the path gets smaller near the end."
"So does that mean that you will get smaller if you stand at the end of the path?" asked his teacher.
"Yes, I will get smaller too, " he replied confidently.
"How can we find out?" she asked.
"Just measure me, here (pointed to where he was standing) and there (pointing toward the end of the path).

Then next day they returned to the forest with a metre stick. The teacher measured David both at the beginning of the path and near the end.
She showed David his height on the metre stick at both points.

"What happened?" she asked. "Did you get smaller at the end of the path?"

"No I'm still the same size,' he replied.

"So do you think the path got smaller or is it also the same size?'

"No the path isn't smaller. It just looks that way from far away!"

The teacher measures David at the beginning of path.

The teacher measures David near the end of the path.

David sketches the path.

As Dsvid works on his drawings her gains a better understanding of depth.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Children helping Children

For several weeks David  worked on a drawing of his superhero bus. He used a green water color pencil for the  grass and trees.  Since the drawing was quite intricate, he left it and returned to it many times. One morning, David needed to finish coloring the grass and trees so he went to look for the same green pencil he had been using. He encountered a problem; there were four green pencils of varying shades in the container.
Which one was the one he'd used the day before?

He looked at the numbers at the top of the pencils. He tried to compare the shades but that still didn't help since they were so close. He went to the table and placed each of the pencils next to the colored grass. He still was undecided so he engaged the help of his friend Emily.

She pulled a pencil from his hand and said,
"I think its this one. All you have to do is color beside the same spot and you can see if it matches!"

David looks at the green water color pencil to select his preferred shade of green.
He compares them to the area that is already colored.
He speaks to Emily to see if she has an opion.

She selects the one she thinks is best for his drawing.

David's superhero bus is complete.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Helping Children overcome Fears

What are children afraid of? It is a question that is as vast as an ocean. The dark, loud noises, strange people, the moon; these are just a few. Sometimes parents and teachers can easily identify children's fears and other times we need to do more probing. We ask questions, listen to their conversations during play and interpret their drawings to gain insight that can be useful. In this experience Emily was well into a superhero project when we discovered that she was terribly afraid of bird beaks.  Recounting the entire project is too complex but what I can tell you is that Emily had designed a series of superheros. She determined that one of the Superheros needed an evil bird named Squawk.

Emily drew Evil Squawk and we noticed that she did not give him a beak.

"I don't like beaks they scare me. Birds have them but I don't want one for my bird."
Beyond this she gave no further explanation.
Emily moved on to create a three dimensional representation of Evil Squawk based on her drawing-she still refused to give him a beak.

The superhero project continued for weeks and eventually through much story writing Emily decided to create a Good Squawk.  This bird, unlike his nemesis, had a beak.

When we asked Emily why she gave him a beak, she answered, "That's because he's a good bird and even if he has a beak, its okay. I'm not scared anymore because he helps people."

Did she resolve her fear because, for week, she was engaged in the struggle between Evil Squawk and Good Squawk?

We can't say for certain but it would seem that way, that she was able to walk through her fears with the use of storytelling and art.

Emily prepares the wings.

Emily tells her classmates why her bird does not have a beak.

Here is Good Squawk, a bird with a beak.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What are children thinking when they hear about natural disasters?

As much as we would like to protect our children from all the catastrophes that are plaguing the planet, we can't. Even if they don't hear it at home, they are likely to hear about natural disasters from their peers, television and radio.
So how much do we tell them or show them?
It has been our experience to begin by asking what they know and think about the situation.
The earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan has been the prime source of discussions in our SK classes. This morning one of the teachers asked the children for their thoughts and  encouraged them to draw representations that captured the events.

"The angels will take the people that died  up to heaven.  The angels will hold them and take them up. When the angels get them to Heaven, they will ask them if they are feeling better."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

When Children Become the Documenters

The girls prepare their tools for the anticipated experience.
They tell their classmates what they will be doing.

Lauren prepares to take notes.

Emily snaps the pictures of her friends dancing.

Move to the music!
As I've often said, "Children never cease to amaze us!"

Three year old Emily arrives at school with her favorite backpack slung over her shoulder
"I have a surprise, " she says with excitement.

The teacher invites her to show her friends.  Emily opens her backpack and pulls out her camera and note pad.

"I'm going to document my friends dancing," she announces in her customary zestful manner.

After a year of being in a classroom where documentation is part of everyday school life, it is no wonder that this ingenious little girl would initiate such an experience.

Thus we see the power of documentation.

By popular demand, I am sharing the following write up on documentation.  I highly recommend the dissertation by Seong Bock Hong on this subject which can be found on line.
Reggio Kids copyright @2010

The Importance of Documentation-A Key Element for Communicating the Learning Process
Documentation is a key element in the Reggio Approach. Documentation serves many purposes but most of all it is used as a research tool for studying children’s learning processes. Documentation is about what children are doing, learning and thinking, and the product of documentation is a reflection of interactions between teachers and children and among children. Documentation, because it is done on a daily basis, is a medium through which teachers discuss curriculum, keep it fluid and emergent, and develop a rational for its course. It provides a growing theory for daily practice. (Seong Bock Hong 1998 pg 51). It gives us an insight into how children construct theories and challenges teachers to support and challenge that thinking.
Documenting children’s daily experiences and ongoing projects gives meaning and identity to all that the children do. It is through the documentation that the teachers are able to gain insight into the thoughts of the children, determine further investigation for working on topics, create a history of the work and generate further interest.
Reggio teachers are skilled observers of children. If a teacher observes closely she can see the intelligence on a child’s face. On a daily basis, teachers collect data via notes, recordings of conversations between children and through video taping of events and activities whether related to project work or just during classroom time. The teacher watches what children are doing and saying and how materials are being used. The documentation is then used to analyze children’s understanding and thoughts-it is revisited by the teachers and children together. This revisiting process provides children with the opportunity to discover their own questions and problems and to determine, together, what the next steps could be. In the process of revisiting, children theories and understanding grows. Also, in the revisiting process they collect more data and information which enhances the work. Documentation of work in progress is made visible on large panels throughout the classroom, thereby keeping the memory of the work vivid and alive.
Seong Bock Hong (p 50-51) summarizes the purpose of documentation as;
The process by which teachers gather information about children’s ideas and their thinking process:
Is done daily so teachers can discuss their curriculum, keep it fluid and emergent and develop rational for its course.
Is data for study.
Facilitates continuity across a given activity, because new activities evolve from earlier experiences.
Offers a research orientation to instruction.
Allows teachers to revisit with children.
Is concrete, active and reflective.
Provides the right amount of support to enable children to perform a task.
Is at the heart of each project or experience.
It serves as a lesson planner.
It defines the teacher as a facilitator.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Watch as Lisa molds a Block of Clay into a Castle.

Although Lisa was only a toddler when she began to work with clay, her proficiency with this material was amazing.
A large block of clay was placed on the table. Lisa poked at it and saw the small impressions that her fingers left.
She then pulled the first piece of clay off the block and looked at it as it stuck to her fingers. 
 Was she wondering what it could become in her small yet capable hands? 
She continued working, pulling off chunks, molding, squeezing, and joining pieces together. The clay began to take form.

Lisa hummed as she worked and shaped the clay into what appeared to be a tall tower. She added two more to her first.
"A castle!" she said when she was finished.
She pulled off a piece of clay.

She began to stack the clay

The towers grow!

A pinching technique.

A castle!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Do Snowmen Have to Be Round to Be Stable?

Testing a Child's Theory

A child asked a question, "Why are all snowmen round?"
"Because that's how they stand straight," answered a classmate.
"What happens if we make him a different shape," asked the teacher.
"He will fall!"

And so the teacher took the children outside and challenged them to make three snowmen, only one could be round.  The children found various shaped pails in the storage room and decided they would use the pails to form the snowmen parts. The conversation was interesting as the children navigated the pieces to form the snowmen.

Not only did they use a shape other than the traditional round balls, one of the snowmen had more than three balls.

In conclusion the theory changed.

"Snowmen don't have to be round. The pieces have to stay on top of each other!"

A fantastic exercise in stability.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Daisy

As you may recall, The Daisy, was first posted on February 14, 2011 (please visit the entry to see her initial work) . At that time Sophia used acrylic pencils to make her first representation. She then moved onto canvas and acrylic paint. Her attention to detail is unbelievable. The abilities of young children continue to astound us.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Three hens and one rooster $50.00

One goat $100.00 

How do we teach children to care for others; to look beyond their immediate lives and see that children and families around the world struggle for the basic necessities that we take for granted.

This group of young children started the Children4Children Fund.  Using the World Vision guide book they selected a variety of items that they wanted to raise money for.
Among their choices are the ones shown below.
Three Pigs for $ 120.00
One donkey $300.00
One cow $600.00

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Many Faces of Matteo

Children are very perceptive and as teachers we witness this daily, in both the smallest of experiences and on larger scales, when we are involved in intricate projects.

Matteo showed us the complexity of his thinking when he began to work with the loose materials to make three representations of his face. While he worked the teacher asked questions that required him to think about the elements associated with joy, sorrow, and happiness.

How did he know the meaning of a tear drop, or the slight variance in a facial muscle that is required to smile or  frown?

I am happy!
I am sad!
I am crying!