Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Children should be seen and not heard?

As part of the FLplay course I have been, naturally reflecting on play...

There was a comment about how children once were supposed to be seen and not heard.... and another about how there is less free play these days for children.... and suddenly there was a connection made in my brain... is the fact that we SEE children and HEAR children all the time impacting their ability for free play.? Suddenly there is no freedom to be children, to be who they are because we are monitering their every move under the good intentions that we see and hear them?

Were children better off being invisible... well at least part of the time...

Looking at the roots of the saying
"Children should be seen and not heard"... it becomes apparent that it was not intended for children, as much for unmarried girls/women..... "maidens"!!!

"In the original form of this proverb it was specifically young women who were expected to keep quiet. This opinion is recorded in the 15th century collections of homilies written by an Augustinian clergyman called [John] Mirk's Festial, circa 1450:
Hyt ys old Englysch sawe: A mayde schuld be seen, but not herd.
A 'sawe', was a mediaeval term for saying or proverb. It has the same root as the words 'say' and 'saga'.
While the expression was aimed at women, the Old English names denoting gender are now somewhat altered. A 'mayde' was normally a young female, usually unmarried, although it was also used to denote celibate men. Girls however, could be of either sex, the term simply meaning young child." Phrases.org.uk


Here on debate wise you can follow a thread where people talk about the yes and no's of children being seen and not heard...

BUT I wonder more and more, after reading these comments too... if the children felt that their childhood belonged to them and not to the adults, and that the adults did not want to know them or hear them... thus they had the time to create their own subculture/parallel culture? (as maybe the adult culture is the sub culture???)

I am not saying that we should start ignoring children again... but I am wondering how we can create that space for play... real, true, genuine play... that belongs to the children and not to the adults. As I feel that maybe adults, well-intentioned, are starting to claim play as their way of teaching... rather than understanding play belongs to us all, and it is something that should be understood and valued -  there again, there are far too many adults and institutions that do not TRULY value play at all... my head shakes and feels really rather sorry for these deluded people,
at the same time I feel sad for all those children, all those people that are raised in a society where play is valued so little.

The Daily Mail wrote an article about how 9/10 children were being included in family decisions whilst 65% of the parents admitted not to being included when they were children...

This could reflect the correlation between children a generation ago having more freedom to play going downhill in correlation with having more freedom to make decisions... or it could simply be, that children really have no idea about how much influence they have on everyday decisions... something I witness everyday... no matter how involved we get the children and get them to help make decisions about what we are doing, they STILL think adults make all the decisions...????? But is making decisions the same thing as having power... as being a part of a democratic society? I assume that it is part of what decisions the children get to participate in, and how it TRULY impacts their daily lives... and also what sort of space they have to play in... if there are more choices offered in a smaller space... is this really empowering the children?

Going back to the original meaning of the phrase... why is being female like being a child? Is this a sleight on being a child or being female? But THAT is for another post, methinks...



BUT I wonder if TV and playing on the i-pad is becoming the new "children should be seen and not heard"? That parents entertain their children so that they are not heard... so that they can get on with making dinner, cleaning, or whatever it might be?  BUT this is done in this smaller more confined space... the parents know where they are, they have done their job to keep them safe... but are the children empowered?

before children were expected to fill this time themselves with their own creativity... nowadays children have the time filled for them? Are we really SEEING and HEARING the children if we are filling their time like this? Is it just fake that we are seeing them AND hearing them? Are we as adults filling their time and justifying that this means they are being heard?

But being seen and not heard... must be different from genuinely listening to children; from actually understanding that children can contribute, that they have value in their words... that we need to hear their truths...

I am not saying we should stop seeing and hearing children... I am suggesting that maybe we need to re-assess how we fill children's time... how we give them space... and how we really listen.


Sunday, 28 September 2014

seeing red spots...

In a facebook group I follow an image was shared... orginally shared on twitter apparently where a teacher visiting another preschool took a photo of a written explanation of "red spot system" - where the children apparently had not been listening to the adults, and if a child had many red spots they would then not be allowed on an excursion from the point of view of safety...

This awoke a barrage of comments from a Swedish point of view of the attrocity of having such a system, of it being illegal, of it violating children (kränka)... despite being challenged that we should discuss this positively -
"But how can the rest of us think constructively here, not to point the finger and admonish saying "ugh, how bad, we would never do that"?"
 - and yet there must have been a hundred comments that stated just that, in various different ways...

I participated... I provoked, a lot, and was probably a royal pain in the bottom - and eventually got told
"It's just sad that you want to get a discussion that has already been discussed. Nobody thinks it's okay. Anwhere really. Where do you want to go with provoking a debate here?

This made me feel rather sad... OK I don't like to make other people sad, but that aside... the reason why I wanted to discuss this, was that only one side of the discussion was present... unless I added my provocation and got deeper responses... that reasons being given for not using red spots to mark a child's behaviour was that we wouldn't do that to adults... but no actual evidence of the effects that this kind of system has on children, on people in general... I linked up lots of articles etc from those promoting behaviour charts and those against it... and also links of what could be done instead...

I feel so strongly about hanging out "colleagues" in this way - of saying their methods are old-fashioned, from the 1800s etc etc... without being open enough to hear what these teachers have to offer as reasons for making this choice.

I get concerned when there is this hard divide between what is right and wrong... because I always feel it pushes others into a defensive position where they will not be open to learn... and if you feel that another is using a method that is not beneficial for children, then pushing them into a defensive place, making them feel small, is maybe not the best route to take... or maybe I have got it all wrong...?


I don't know... I feel lost.

I also feel sad by that comment because I thought it WAS a group to provoke discussion... and basically a comment like that also has a silencing effect... a sort "you think differently from me, that makes me uncomfortable, stop it"... I don't want to be comfortable with my thinking... I want to feel the discomfort as I wrestle with ideas... I want to be provoked so that I just don't accept what I have always believed, but get to see other perspectives...

I guess I am autistic enough too that when I read the comment about not just admonishing and saying we don't do that here - but to think constructively... then I want to do that, and that is hard to do when most comments are 

      Impossible to interpret curriculum like that!
      Truly a pure impossibility!
     Miserable. Never the children's fault, educators have failed. Clearly.

     No, but usch!
     Completely sick
     help
     shame on them
    But shit .... This is terrible. Punish children ?? Ugh, how angry I become. Tragic.
    But, eh? 1800s? Shame on them!!


They continue... there comes a reminder about how everyone can make mistakes (by the same person who asked us to think contructively) and 
"I am more afraid over the comments to the post, more than over the letter."

This too awoke the defensive nature that we all have the right to react... which yes, we do have the right to react, to feel... but having worked philosophically for the last 20 months has got me thinking about the value of what we contribute... facebook as that lovely "like" button that allows you to like a comment you agree with... (its like nodding when someone else is talking to let them know you agree) so technically there is no need to write the same thing over and over again to prove that you too are feeling angered/upset... the like button lets you and others see your standpoint... and at the same time allows you then to ADD to the discussion... 
maybe with how things worked when working with a group that did not respond to adult direction to keep them safe... it would have been good to hear lots of these ideas... and I think many would have benefitted from different approaches...

Here is my first comment: (I apologise for all the clumsy translations from Swedish)
 
Many talk about the punishment of the children who remain at preschool (instead of going on the excursion)... and then say that everyone should stay as a solution ... is that not a punishment for the children who actually listen to the group's needs to stay within the safety limit, which creates a successful outing?

Perhaps it is enough  to observe and that the "dot system" is something only for the educators about what the children cope and what children need to have equity ... equal value is NOT everyone doing the same ... equal value is about getting all the that they need to reach their potential ...  respect ...

If a child is a security/safety risk, the child needs more support and help in order to have a successful outing ... maybe going on an excursion would expose the child to situations where they fail in front of everyone because it has been difficult to keep within safety limits ... and safety and security comes first - for all individuals and the group as a whole ...

Without knowing the children, and the group, I can not come up with concrete advice ... but in my group, where you have children with very different needs, we do not do the same thing all the time ... sometimes you go out with only three children to be safe, sometimes stay at home (preschool) with  an educator and do other activities ... not a punishment, but a way to respond to the children's current needs in different ways ... sure, we have not been able to make big/major outings together as a whole group .. .. we test every now and then, and we become more and more successful, and we see where the children have more need to practice ... and then there will be various exercises / games / activities where children can practice their skills -
I believe that children are competent but not cannot do everything... but that in every individual they have the ability to learn - but it's certainly not at the same time ...

We have children who need support with their language ... then they have another activity when the others play / work with something else ... sometimes the children wonder why we all do different things ... and I can easily explain that everyone has different needs, say that the child might not have the need to play with prepositions, but need to play with something else - climbing, drawing, building, etc. (the children have told us what they want to get better at) - the children nod, accept and continue ... but the same question from the same children show up again and again ... and they get the same answer ...

I have no problems whatsoever to divide the children ... for it is the right of all children to get what they need to lift them in their development and group development ...

I have seen how my own "clever" girls are used as tools to help the more "unruly" children ... that they miss things because a number of the class can not "behave" (for no one should miss out on anything) - then the I get frustrated ... why should my "good" girls, who take
others into account, who want to learn and play and have fun in a fair way, be punished in the name of equal value? None of the children get a chance to have VALUE ... it is only same/equal ...

All children must take responsibility for their actions ... even the children in preschool ... it's something I actively work, create weekly schedule so that the children take meaningful decisions, not just decisions that confirm that "deciding" is something you do for yourself ... we work a lot with philosophy with children ... then we explore all these ideas with them, creating a lot of space to talk about everything, listen to each other ... not just listen to adults, but to what other children say has equal value to what I say as an adult ... why does one child not listen to another child's "stop"? ... why does an adult have to come in to make it stop for real? We also use philosophy to discover what the group is doing, how we should act (as teachers), what does competent mean, listen --- often teachers mean obe ... and why is obey is a terrible word, when we really need it ?... when a child says stop you want the other to obey ... nothing horrible with the word obey ... but I also understand that blind obedience is not something good, to force someone else to obey without thinking / reflecting ...that is not something I want...

Now I've written a lot (again)


In a later comment I talk about how around the world there are so many different approaches... all done in the name of doing the best for the children's development/learning - and if we are condemning this method of red dots, does it mean we are also thinking the same of all those countries where this approach is more everyday?
I mention about my own son who does not respond in the same way which has meant threats have had to be used to keep him safe (and no that is not a feel good feeling - but I have written about my son... and you can read more about that - I will get round to putting a link in the comments to this post)
I also remind about the intial challenge of contructive thinking... and ask where are the links to research to support that the red dots are bad... and also the links to support and methods/approaches that would serve better... I then proceed to link up 12 articles/pages/research papers in both English and Swedish... with suggestions of different approaches... and also including research from Nairobi on punishment and rewards...

I get reprimanded for mentioning my son as being a home situation and having nothing to do with preschool.. I remind that children are more than the sum of preschool and we need to look at the whole child, and I was trying to offer a perspective as a teacher and also as a mother of a child that is frequently "violated" (kränkt) in the manner thay are all "usching" about as he disturbs the classroom and gets reprimanded in front of everyone... he feels "kränkt"...

I then get reprimanded for not allowing people to express that they are horrified

I remind again of the initial thought that we were all supposed to be thinking constructively... and that everyone does have the right to be horrified...

I react to the comment that no child can develop if they are being marked with "red spots", by saying that I am not agreeing with this method, but I hope to awaken discussion so that we can dig deeper and learn more...

I make a later comment that I also think children need the time and resources they have the right to... but sadly money does not always allow us to give that, the way that would be optimal...

I point out in another comment that adults are not exempt from this kind of behaviour of being valued in different ways - in the sense that for some reason people think that we treat children worse than we treat other adults... I think we are not always good at treating other adults with the respect they deserve.... reflecting on this now I see that some people from different cultures are not given the same value, beggars are often ignored and given lower status etc etc... this kind of stuff happens all the time... it DOES not mean I feel it is right to treat children badly on the premise that adults are not always treated well... it means that we DO have to look at this more and deeper and see this with more honest eyes about why we do the things we do... why we react the way we react... and how we can best offer the support we need as teachers, children and all people...

I realise I was far too involved in the discussion... but I found it far too interesting that the reactions were to REACT rather than to think constructively - and rightly or wrongly it became a mission to get thinking going... any kind of thinking...
I asked my son about those red spots... and he said it was a good idea... he would like his teachers to give him red spots so that he could better see what was happening (this surprised me).. but NOT in front of others...

So is it the red spots that are a problem... are reward/punishment charts something bad ALL of the time... can they be useful, or are they always harmful... this was the discussion I was hoping for... but never happened...

Then  I reacted to two comments where they asked what would happen if we applied the dot system to the teachers... 
This was my response...

 this happens in the adult world ... driving license has a point system ... too many dots, and you lose it, no more trips in the car ... there are different salaries, different names within a profession that tell you how much training you have done or not done ...

I do  NOT
defend the dot system, but I think the argument "how would the staff group feel ..." does not hold - it is much better with arguments that show how it affects the kids,  rather than how it affects adults ...
Sure, we are all humans, but we all see life a little different ... we, as adults, must take the time to see the children's perspective ... maybe time to actually ask the children what they think about this system, how to do things for the better so that the group works, so that you can go on an excursion without security/safety being risked ...

I have had colleagues who were not allowed to go out on excursions alone with a small group of children, the safety was compromised ... or that others do not want to go with just that person  because safety was not as good ...

Certainly all of this is in the adult world ...
there are many good ideas that Skinner has, but not all ... as all people and their theories ... how are we in Sweden to relate to countries that have a "behaviourist approach" as the reason for their child perspective / education / school system - is a whole country wrong? Are we better than they? do we not have the duty to ensure that other children in the world thrive ... all the children of an entire country are violated ... is it possible ...? Yikes the questions will not stop ...

I ponder and think about this "red spots" because I want to understand, and not just a lot feelings ... as, quite rightly, this raises ...



 here I get a brilliant comment back... even though the car bit is crazy!!!

 No. I can not see that this is something that is consistent with the values ​​or my views on people. To compare it with the driver's license or similar is just crazy. Children do not choose pre-school, they choose not to be there, they are at a disadvantage relative to the adults. The adults own power. System developed by the community, where democratic elections, education and many other things have been the basis for what we have chosen to submit to the rules is another matter entirely. Will write about this because it hurts me how many adults do not have a clue what power they exercise.


 But I admit to being hard work... to wanting to offer some crazy challenges because I want to get the responses like above and not just another "usch that is horrible..." - and if a blogpost comes... even better... because then even more people will get the chance to read the thought processes...

A response about "would you give red spots to your friends... too many spots and then you don't meet for a month..." (which personally I thought was even more crazy than my driving license comment)
But I feel that people do internalise thos red spots... you don't let people treat you however you want and that if they treat you badly then of course you don't want to see them again..

which I get pulled up on as some red spots are for not picking things up off the floor etc.... OK, didn't think I expected my friends to do that... and I had not understood the initial red spots being to control the children to pick up things from the floor either... I thought it was all about saftey and treating each other well... so that excursions could be safe... but maybe I have read it ALL wrong - maybe this post was about just controlling the children totally and utterly and not about safety... but maybe then that should have been the discussion about adult power... as the above comment mentions... we do have an enormous power... and I want the children to feel empowered themselves, to be able to turn to each other... but if everyone had read my previous comments they would have understood that also, as I clearly wrote that... but its not easy coming mid conversation where there are 174 comments... and where the majority are reacting and expressing their horror to the image shared...


the last comment is my favourite... I felt it said what I wanted to say but in a much better way... and I said that too...


But geez people! The only people who can discuss and solve this are the teachers who are actually working at this preschool where the image comes from. Then we can burp Lpfö (preschool curriculum) until we are sick of it, but not all preschools can actually scrupulously follow it, honestly .. Instead of posting the image here on FB the person in question should have taken it up with the staff at preschool. We all do wrong sometimes and I do not want that when it happens to me - that it should be posted on FB whatever it comes, but I hope that anyone, that if I've done wrong, will come directly to me / us and ask about it. I believe that those who work there have not got any chance to explain themselves and why would they  have to explain themself on FB? What is right and wrong and violations here and there, punishment and reward.. or why not consequences of what you do - whether it be adults or children, it may not be black or white. What is a violation to you? it's the same for me? For offended we maybe all become daily in one way or another - to be called stupid by a child, or that we do not get through anything we think is of benefit in a group of children due to various reasons, will we shout when we become offended? What is right for you is wrong for me, etc. .. we all interpret things differently. Then it's another thing about me or something try and try, in one way or the other to make things better and the preschool manager prevents you or the team, then shall we raise our voices. Is there anything that has happened here in this situation with the nursery? Maybe it's the preschool manager that actually has the greatest power that has "violated" the setting and not helped enough and is this a consequence of that? I will then be more afraid of all the comments that people made​​, which precipitates rather than ask themselves how come it became like this at this setting. Probably very few, or no one knows anything about this preschool, then how we shall judge? Equal values ​​for all, violations are you talking about. Sure .. but all these comments in this thread, what are they? I can honestly say that when I began my working career, I have never been so disappointed in the adults and what they do to each other, especially when it comes to power. As a child, I have heard how I should be towards buddies and towards each other, etc. and then when I became an adult it turned out that it was mostly just talk. Fair and equal conditions and equal value for all .. Yes we say it but life is not fair, especially when we are adults. No I do not agree that the photo/message is good, but I do not know what is the basis that it came about and why, I judge not. Maybe this thread should be removed? for I do not think we can help them and solve what is going on at the preschool. For the only thing that can solve the problem is actually the people who work there. Sorry for the looong post.

And this post got criticised... for taking pity on the adults rather than the children... which is not how I viewed it at all... I saw this post  that we should look at the whole situation and be able to help everyone in a very HUMAN world, where mistakes are made... and yes mistakes are made in all lines of work... and for some occupations mistakes have bigger consequences and there is less room for forgiveness.


 What have I learned from all of this?
Well not to get that involved in a discussion again... that is for sure... well at least on facebook. I have learned that it is REALLY hard for people not to react, it's a natural response, and I am far from above that kind of responding... not that we should ever belittle our emotions and reactions to how others are treated... and that it is hard to really understand what other people mean when you only get part of the communication... there is no tone, pitch or body language comeing with these words... so everything opens up to vene more interpretation. Including my own interpretation of this entire thread... which I have shared here.. this is my view on it... and I am quite sure there are other, differing views...


The preschool in question has now been reported... I wonder how many preschools around the world that use this system of using red spots to mark when a child misbehaves so that if a certain number of spots are collected they cannot go on the excursion (from a safety point of view) or for any other reason of collecting misbehaviours... 
I do think it unusual that misbehaviours are charted... I have seen reward charts but not misbehaviour charts... do they work? I am genuinely asking...
Are these charts violating children? I would love to hear different viewpoints... if you have managed to read all of this...
Adult power... how is that used and abused?

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Toys

As part of the online play course I will be starting next week, we have been encouraged to share a selfie of our favourite toy from our childhood.

This has got me thinking more about toys... I shared water, and an image of myself splashing in water.... well at least my boots... and some others have shared images of the beach... and others have shared images of cuddly toys and shared that felt-tips were their favourite...

but TOY... what is that, really? Because quite often I feel there is a heirarchy when it comes to toys and learning - and there are those that say that in a preschool setting there should not be the same toys as there are in the children's home, (and/or) that we should have open ended toys, (and/or) that we should avoid gender-stereotyped toys etc etc etc

So what is a toy... is everything a child plays with a toy... or is it something much more specific? If children play only with sticks, stones. blocks and water - does that child have toys? Is the word "toy" reserved only for purpose-made play things? THEN, are blocks toys or tools, are pens toys or tools... what about paintbrushes... all designed to be played with by children, but not necessarily in the traditional idea of play... or...? Then of course there are barbies, lego (is that a construction material or a toy???), cuddly toys (comforter or toy?), cars, etc etc etc

In Swedish the word for toy is "leksaker" which translates as play-things... when looking at the meaning of TOY in the dictionary it is referred to as something a child plays with... but also

 Something of little importance; a trifle.
 An amusement; a pastime: thought of the business as a toy.
 A small ornament; a bauble.
A diminutive thing or person.
 A dog of a very small breed or of a variety smaller than the standard variety of its breed.
 Scots A loose covering for the head, formerly worn by women.
 Chiefly Southern U.S. A shooter marble.
intr.v. toyed, toy·ing, toys
 To amuse oneself idly; trifle: a cat toying with a mouse.
 To treat something casually or without seriousness: toyed with the idea of writing a play. See Synonyms  flirt

Which got me thinking even more... this "trifling" business seems to connect with how "play" does not seem to have the learning status it so rightly deserves... maybe we also, as teachers, call play-things toys to those things we think as lower status... and the rest gets called loose-parts, or tools or whatever... they are all being played with, being toyed with, being explored...

Then I also wonder about the word open-ended toys... because maybe we are being too quick to condemn some toys to being closed because our own adult minds are not open enough...

I have seen children transform blocks into cars with their imaginations, but I have also seen children transform cars into people and monster and other characters, even airplanes sometimes - cars are not always cars... and maybe should be given the same open-ended status as blocks from a child's perspective?

I have been part of dialogues where some teachers have taken away cars and other toys with the argument that they have those things at home... but I wonder whether this is enough to justify its removal? Afterall children are a part of a family, often have their own personal toys that they do not need to share in the same way as they do at an ECE setting... ate preschool the dynamics of play change... the same number of cars (or whatever) suddenly has to be shared with many children... there are many different wills trying to influence the play and how the toys should/could be used... children have the opportunity to learn about social interactions thriugh familiar toys... they also have the opportunity to learn new ways of playing with things - learning perspectives they might not discover if they only had the opportunity to play with certain toys in their own homes...

I am not saying there is a right way or a wrong way... I am just exploring... trying to uncover more thought... maybe to get you thinking and reflecting about the word toy, and what it means to you... and what toys you have in your home/setting. What do you label as toy, what do you lable as learning materials, as loose parts, as tools.... how many of these items are more than one lable? Does giving it the label toy make it less worthy than learning material? or loose part? or tool?

Maybe if we are to improve the status of PLAY - as something meaningful; as deep, wonderful learning - then maybe we also have to imporve the status of the words we connect with play... like TOY.

Sure, I am not saying that there are not toys out there that can make you cringe, and wonder why they were ever made... but maybe in the end it is not so much the what the toy is but the how the toy is being played with.
without a shadow of a doubt, my camera is my tool but also my toy... I play and experiment with it all the time... but not in a trifling way

these three little pig toys are used as part of telling a story... are they tools?

is play doh a toy? It most certainly is something that is played with. And those ice-cream spoons - do they become toys when they are played with? or are they just loose parts?

outdoor toys - buckets and spades are most certainly tools in the adult world...

small figures of rpincesses and rpinces became fairies last year... and as you can see they are not stereotyped gender specific... it is not the WHAT but the HOW... we presented them as something meaningful for ALL the children, we did not give these toys some kind of status

what about animals with they become things that are play with? (Now I am really stretching it, I know)

construction tools, loose-parts or toy?

do light sources become toys if being played with... especially if they are designed to be played with by children? Do the specifically designed toy light sources have a different value from "real" light sources? Why?

animals buying food from a kiosk... these animals are open ended despite the fact that in real life they all have rather specific lives and habitats... why can we not believe in the competence in children's creativity when it comes to other toys that are deemed "closed"? Have we really explored this fully? Maybe there is research out there... I have not looked into this more... but I feel interested in fidning out more


again dinsoaurs did not behave like disnosaurs but were given their own personalities that are closer to people than animals... here the children were exploring death...

The there are board games - where do they fit in the scheme of things... they are also things that are played with by children - but not open ended, they have very clear rules and very decided outcome...

I have hardly touched the play/TOYS that goes on in the role-play area, the atelier etc etc etc...

So how do YOU define toy?

Monday, 22 September 2014

A Rainy Day

For as long as I have been living in Sweden in the middle of September there has always been two consecutaive days of wind and rain - I remember this, because my birthday is in September and my very first birthday here in Sweden it was horizontal rain - and the following year and the year after that... then the rainy days have varied with 2-3 days either side of my birthday... this year though the two rainy days have been a week later than usual.

TODAY was the day instead!
We had planned on taking the children a little further to a new forest... but the weather made us change our minds... much better to make the most of the splashability of this weather and be close to "home" for when we all get too wet and cold. AND it was the right decision because soaked we got... and it was the cold sort of wet that comes with autumn.

But we had a whale of a time until then...


an ABSOLUTELY enormous puddle... perfect for running and splashing

and we got some really big splashes too

and I splashed a lot too... totally fascinated by the moment you could see the ground under the puddle for it to be swallowed by the muddy water again.

damming the water running down the slope with our feet and all the fallen pine needles
outside the underground station the was a whole load of mush... when I arrived in the morning there was the most enormous puddle at the entrance making it impossible to leave the station with dry feet... someone had put a stack of newspapers in the puddle to create a bridge... this had turned into mush... the kind that creates vacuums when you put your feet into it...
so when we were thoruoghly soaked we went inside and started to rip up some old newspapers (that I had been saving and waitinf for the right moment!!!)
I added warm water (we had had enough of cold water for the day... an hours of torrential downpour was quite enough cold wetness for one day!!)

after a while it started to get more mushy.... the children had not seen the tranformation outside, so for them it was quite tricky to understand that the gray mush had in fact been newspapers...
and then it became very mushy... and felt "soooo nice".... The mush we intend to use as papier maché later in the week... not entirely sure what for yet, but I the children will let us know...

in this mushy state it became perfect for role-play food making... buns, susages on a stick for the BBQ and also soup, to name a few of the dishes that were being served...




Saturday, 20 September 2014

Thinking about Jackson Pollock

This week we took a closer look at Jackson Pollock... after our week of looking at art on the streets close to us, then looking at Klein (the children keep referring to him as clown) and creating their own signature colour... this wee we explored the idea of understanding if we can really know what someone else is expresing in their art.

We looked at Jackson Pollock Number 5 (since these three children are all five - well the youngest turns five in 10 days time). What could we see, what did we think the artist was trying to convey. (the children are somewhat consumed by the fact that the artist is dead... as was Klein, and Kandinsky that we did in February - so for some they could see sadness, because the artist was not still alive).

Each child came and whispered to me the emotion that they were going to paint their Jackson Pollock inspired painting... and they we were going to play a game, so we had to keep it a secret until the end to see if the children could see the emotion they had painted.

I love watching the artistic nature of paint as it mixes... and to take the time with the children to watch how it moves and changes as they mix.
The children painted the background/base colour with their chosen emotion/feeling in mind. It was obvious that for two of the children it was not so easy to make the distinction between favourite colours and colours that represent the feeling, the third child also wanted to choose favourite colours, but when reminded that she was to choose colours connected to the emotion that she chose, she reflected and made new choices (both times, for the back ground, and also for the action part)

For the action part the children chose two more colours to squirt onto the canvas... and then I had a shared third colour (white) that they could all use.

The colours were quitethick so I thinned them slightly (acrylics and tempera paints were used) so that the pipettes would be easier to use... even so the pipettes took time.... but you could develop a system, use one pipette while the other was slowly loading, and it was really interesting watching the paint go slowly up (especially the first time when it was easier to see without paint residue on the insides).

The children then squirted onto their canvas, using movement to create drops, lines and splashes.

When they were satisfied with the look of their canvas we washed the pipettes and then sat down to look at each other's art...

Child 3 had painted Angry and Scary - using a grey base with black and red (blood/danger)
the other's guessed Child 2 - love (red is love). Child 1 - scary (because its scary)

Child 2 had painted Love - both children guess that she had painted happy (happy colours)

Child 1 had painted Happy - child 2 guessed that she painted Love (motivation being, she always paints/does the same as me), Child 3 thought she had painted Happy (used happy colours).

It was interesting to see for the children and myself that it was not always so easy to work out what someone else is thinking... and that by asking them we get to find out more and understand more about what someone else has done.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Wings for fairies

During the summer I wrote a post about full body painting where the two children who attended preschool that day got to paint big time outside

You can read more about that post, if you wish, by clicking here

I left half of the painting at the preschool at Skarpnäck and took the half with the body prints to Dalen with me... since the child who made the body prints is in my group at Dalen.

Today we started the transformation of the body prints into fairies... each child in Vinden helping out... all in different ways...

First one of the children drew wings onto the painting, and she had great inspiration for her wing drawing as one of the children came to preschool wearing wings. Of course this child showed off his wings by standing with his back to us... so the wings were then drawn and continued as if the fairies had their backs to us...

I showed them a selection of tissue paper... about eight colours... and the children selected the colours the wings should be.... they could all be the same colour, or all different colours. They tested with the paper folded, noticing the different effect that made.... a single layer being considered the best for wings. The colours chosen were dark pink, green and yellow (in that order).

The next step was to trace round the wing design on the tissue paper so that we could cut out the right size. Cutting tissue paper is VERY tricky, and requires patience and concentration as it rips easily.


Finally glue was added within the wing area and the tissue paper wings carefully patted into place. At the same time in the atelier the children were busy with various activities, so those who were interested joined in... the process was very organic and the children joined in and observed after interest. And quite remarkably there was a job for every child to do...

In the afternoon Molnet continued with wings as well... this time for themselves using sticks and wallpaper that they had painted. The sticks are formed in an "X" in order to support the wings.




Sunday, 14 September 2014

Reflecting on the week

Looking back on this week I see the children's learning and interests... their play is filled with magic powers, fairies, witches and shops.
We have explored their understanding of money - by listening to them and then talking with each other (us teachers) about how we interpret their words, their concepts and how do we incorporate that into play to extend their thinking and also to explore it deeper, enabling us to understand their world better. It is quite clear, though, that children connect money with food shopping - and that they seem to think you can buy money there... even though we will be continuing with magic powers after the fairy tea party, as this has been a stronger and longer line of play and connects wonderfully with our exploration of fairies, we will not leave the idea of money and shopping.

We have also seen, better now, how our new weekly schedule supports the children in seeing their own learning in their play, how it challenges their thinking and how it allows for multiple ways of approaching the same idea/philosophical dialogue.

We have also seen that these different days link into each other and support each other... at the moment there is a sense of satisfaction even though the children have not "mastered" all of this...
but, I feel, they are not supposed to either... I don't believe any of us are supposed to get it straight away... there has to be a bit of a struggle, there needs to be that we work together and support them in their learning journey.

I do not believe that what we are doing is beyond their capabilities, I do believe that they are interested in making decisions and being active in the group, but I also believe they need time to practice this...

This Friday all of the children wanted to be part of the reflection and planning meeting... three of them though showed with their constant lack of respect for other's ideas that they were not yet ready and were reminded several times that we all need to listen respectfully to each other's ideas and that the meeting was not just to have a personal monologue (OK I did not say it exactly that to them) - they left the meeting to go and help elsewhere at the same to reminding we could try again next week... the fact is that even though they did not want to really participate this time either, they had made huge progress from last week, and they were thanked for the input that they had made in the reflection part...

Of course part of the problem is that some children like to waffle on, this does make it quite difficult for other children to focus/listen... so we are ALL becoming better at making this meeting better... the children are learning about how to participate and how to not just start telling a random story, we as teachers are becoming better at supporting the children to keep to topic, with the promise that we can talk/listen to their stories during lunch, later or another day...

Learning to participate in a dialogue is not just about contributing words, it is about contributing relevant ideas. During Fridays we have a 20-30 minute long song meeting in the morning (including fruit snack) free-play outdoors for one and a half hours, then back inside for this reflection and planning meeting which is 15-20 minutes long - the rest of the day is lunch, rest, afternoon snack and lots and lots of free play... every afternoon is free-play (with some arranged activities to choose from) and all mornings include free-play too.
outside creating fairy houses with the many sticks lying around. Some house were 2D creations, the lower one on the right included and entrance/door to get in. The windfall fruit was collected and arranged as fairy food. We spent 1.5 hours playing freely here before the reflection/planing meeting.

I truly believe that these meetings will flow better as they are meaningful for the children, and that we as teachers will need to support them less and less as the children practice them more... Participating in meetings is not that easy... My children at home have been commentating about how adults are not able to do this even... we have the elections going on here in Sweden at the moment and my two 13 year old daughters have been watching some of the debates. They giggled at the fact that these adults interrupted each other, got frustrated with each other saying "let me finish what I was saying..." and even mentioned that my preschoolers were better at taking turns in talking (which made me giggle, but I got their point)...
Being in a dialogue with others is not easy. It does need practice. I find I am becoming better in dialoging with others as I facilitate the children's dialogues... I have become more aware of the structure of a dialogue, of the flow, of how to respect each other's ideas even when you do not agree, how to be passionate about what you believe without reducing someone elses passion.

The competent child.
It does not mean that they can do everything now. But I believe that it does mean they can learn. It does not mean that they will learn immediately but that it will be picked up bit by bit by having the chance to test it out in different ways... and that is where we come in... we see how the children react, we see how they learn and we make sure that the challenge is hard but not too hard.
Frustration - I think we all have the right to feel that... without it where would the learning be? I need to feel frustration when soemthing does not work so that I can work on why it didn't work as I thought, and how I can adapt it or exchange it for a new idea... and in the same way the children need to feel frustration... not the kind that makes them feel hopeless (I don't want that kind either) - but the kind that feels like the struggle of climbing a mountain and the joy that is felt when you see the view from the top. If it IS rock-climbing then they need the right tools, they need to learn the right techniques... we cannot expect the children to get up their on their own without any knowledge or experience... that is what we share with them as educators. We need to listen and to observe to ensure that they have the right tools at the right time... no point in giving them a "boat" when what they need is "rope".

I shared this image on my FB page during the week.


I have also reflected upon how children seem to connect adulthood with making decisions... but that this decision making is all about themselves and doing what they want. When we are giving children decisions to make it is nearly always something to do with making a a choice for themself... do you want strawberry or chocolate ice-cream? Do you want to play in or outside? Do you want meatballs or fish for dinner? It seems then that we are teaching children that decision making is making a personal choice of what you want to do... yet adult decsion-making has very little to do with that. It is nearly always a series of compromises, it is nearly always taking into consideration other people, it is far too often not linked to something you want to do, but something you have to or need to do. Children do not get to see these processes. They go through their childhood longing to be an adult and to make decsions believing that they get to do what they want... and so of course when you become an adult you suddenly realise that you got to do what yout wanted more often as a child... children are not given real and meaningful decisions to make.
This is why we are having our meetings on Fridays, because the decision making is REAL... they don't get to do what they want because they have to take into consideration is it possible, does it cost money, is it safe, do others want to do that/is it interesting for more than yourself?
This means at the moment these dialogues are tricky because the children have not been given the chance to think about making decisions for others too... of being responsible for their decision making and for listening to how others react to the results of the decision making.

We share with the children how making decisions is not always easy for us as adults, we have to talk a lot with each other, that we don't always agree with each other's ideas but that we always listen and try to find the best outcome for the group... that often we do things not because it is what we as adults want to do, but because we know that the children want to do them. By being part of these dialogues where we are open with our learning processes, the children realise that we are equals as learners... the only difference is that I have 40 more years of experience to add to my learning journey, something I will share with them... but that I am learning from them all the time as well.

This coming Friday I am not sure how much time we will have for the reflection and planning meeting, as it is the International Fairy Tea Party then... it might just be that the fairies leave some plans for us, so that we can stay busy with our imaginations...