Sunday, 25 October 2015

Making learning visible.... drawing to see.

Last week the children were talking about our trip to Skansen last spring and how we should do it again... the children were asked "why should we go to Skansen? What can we learn there?"
A few moments pause and the answer was confidently delivered
"We can go see the animals, and draw the animals like Leonardo Da Vinci did... we can learn how to draw animals".
Not only had an area of learning been identified it was also connected to the project we are in the middle of exploring... so OF COURSE, we must go.
The boat trip there was an essential part of the excursion... as was eating the food the children brought with them, with peacocks keeping us entertained as we ate.
Then we went into the children's zoo indoor exhibition and focussed on birds... just as we had read in the book about Leonardo Da Vinci.
Five pieces of paper. Five attempts to draw the birds (rainbow lorikeets) - and the children were amazed how they could see their own learning... each drawing had more detail, new information (as a Skansen animalkeeper came over and talked to us about the birds) and new skills allowed their pictures to express their birdness.
Yes, the children learned how to draw animals... just as Leonardo had once done 600 years ago... through observation and practice.


here you can see four attempts... the frustration of the first attempt of it not working as expected... the second attempt there was a dissatisfaction that it still did not look birdlike... in the third attempt the child felt pleased with the adddition of an eye and beak and that the tail was the right size... the fourth and fifth attempts were similar - with more details and birdlike form.


Some of the drawings included details such as sound coming out of the beaks... as these birds were very noisy... and drawings with the birds pooping... as the animal keeper told us that they poop alot!!

A great day out!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Seeing their learning

There are moments when it all becomes so incredibly clear that the children are understanding what learning is that you just want to leap for joy...

This week we were sat round the table eating lunch when the children started talking about the boat trip we made to Skansen in the spring, and how the water was so wavy that it soaked us head to foot as we stood outside.
They also pointed out that not everyone was with us that day (sickness, days off etc) and that we must go back to Skansen again.

So I asked "What is it we can learn at Skansen?" - I wanted them to argue their case...

There was a very short pause then the answer came...

"We can draw the animals there, just like Leonardo Da Vinci drew animals... we can learn how to draw animals".

Not only had this child found an area of learning that we could do at Skansen it was also connected to the project we are doing...

I was convinced... so we will be going to Skansen on Thursday...

For those of you wondering what Skansen is... it is the world's first open air museum, founded in 1891!! - You can find out more by clicking on this link.

And a few quotes to end this Sunday, and kick start your week...






Thursday, 15 October 2015

Ideas... conker robots...

 Last week we travelled to Tessin park (it is across the city of Stockholm for us... two underground trains from us) so that we could collect conkers... also known as horse chestnuts. Basically we started at one end of the park... as you see in the photo, and before we reached the end of the grassed area you can see three 3 litre bags were filled (it didn't really cross my mind as we set off about just how heavy this would be for me to carry back... the bags were not strong enough to carry seperately, as they were just freezer bags... serious learning curve for me there).



 As we collected we started thinking about what we could do with them... and the children suggested robots...

As my colleague and I planned for the following week on Friday we wondered how we were going to include the robot idea into an already busy week... we don't like it to get too busy as we feel free play is  so important, so there needs to be plenty of time for that. Then we thought about using the philosophy session as a robot making session... a two part thinking session.

So this week the children drew a design for their robot protoype, we talked about Leonardo Da Vinci and how he drew designs and re-drew them until he felt satisfied... so there was no need to worry about having to get it right first time.. and how when he built his prototypes they sometimes did not work, so he had to go back to the drawing board.

We also wanted to use this session to gather ideas... as the children drew their robots we jotted down notes about what their robot could do and why they wanted this robot...

Ideas such as
"it needs to have arms that get longer so that it get get things from high shelves.... because I have always wanted to get things from high shelves"

"my robot can cook food.... because then I will be able to eat whenever I want to"

"my robot can do everything.... because then it can tidy up for me when I have finished playing"

Next week we will share the ideas about the robots and discuss which of the robots would be the most useful one to build... and why.

Once the design was made, and the ideas were documented the children started to glue together conkers to build their robots.

Here they needed to exchange ideas also... how to make the robots balance, to be quick placing the conkers onto the hot glue so that he was still sticky... they soon realised that slow work meant the glue hardened and was no longer sticky.

There was so much learning happening here... and it was very intense, and as educators we needed to scaffold the children's experience with the right balance, that they were allowed the space to test things out, without getting too frustrated that they wanted to give up.

At the same time we had visitors from Iran...  Yahya Ghaedi, associate professor of educational philosophy from Kharazmi University and partner were observing our philosophy session... so I tried to translate bits here and there, if there was time... but luckily had some time afterwards as the children were getting ready to go out to explain some more about how we have been working philosophically with children.

He was impressed with how the children communicated with each other, sharing ideas in a respectful and enthusiastic way and how ideas could be discussed through drawing, design and contruction and not always a dialogue as the children sit in a circle. After all verbal communication is not the only way to communicate ideas.



 I am looking forward to next Tuesday to see how this robot dialogue continues.

And yes, the children did come in contact with the hotness of the glue gun, but as they are low temp glueguns it was just a hot experience and not a burn. Risky play without the risk being to great.

And if you saw the video I shared yesterday on my facebook page you would have seen that the glue gun encounters were taken into consideration when thinking about whether or not is was a good idea to have eyes on your fingers and mouth on your hand....

Friday, 9 October 2015

Collaboration

I marvel at how my group of children collaborate... and the joy they gain from this... but I also marvel at the egocentricity of this collaboration...

We travelled across town to Tessinpark (two trains on the underground system) as there are lots of horse chestnut trees and the aim was collect conkers (chestnuts)... and we collected a LOT (which my poor back felt when carrying them all back in the backpack on the way bakc for lunch). At the park there is an egg like sculpture that can be played in... very familiar to me as my own children have played in it many times as their preschool, when they were small, was close to htis park.

The children needed to collaborate to be able to access it... to not only use their backs as a step up... but also collectively their arms to assist their friends further up the egg. The children lined up and took it in turns and collaborated well...




BUT when I said there was time for one more slide each before we would move onto the playground the whole collaborative system broke down... as soon as the children had had their turn they became restless and wanted to move on... played at the edges and forgot to help those still waiting for their turn. From being ALL hands on to help it changed into ME reminding that friends still required help...

I can find parallels with dialogues... often over the years, and still do, I see how children when they have said their part, their idea, switch off and not bother listening anymore...

This is why I do the bubble game... with many turns in a row for one person (so that no child is absolutely certain that it is not their turn next) and also why I seldom go round the circle or make sure that everyone talks before they get to speak for a second or third time... as making it fair with the number of times we talk or the order we talk in can switch of the co-operative, collaborative and listening child...

This was so obvious as soon as I mentioned "one more slide" - it was as if saying, when you have had your slide then it is over...

So maybe what I have to think about is how am I to phrase this next time... so that they understand that it is not about when "you" have had your lest slide it is over... but when everyone in the group has had their last slide... so that the are understanding that this is a WE situation and not a ME situation.

BUT I am still really proud of the collaboration... and of how when another preschool approached the egg, as we sat on the rocks eating apples, and they struggled to climb up... my group simply walked over and showed them how they needed to work together to get up and enjoy the egg.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Original Play

I have just been to a lecture this evening where Fred Donaldson talked about Original Play... from the very start of his journey into play 40 years ago.

There was very much that struck a chord with me... the importance of play, the need to release fear and let love guide decisions (as there are more choices available when thinking through love than there are when thinking through fear). That we can learn about children, humanity through play. The importance of imagination and the importance of feeling safe in order to play and learn.

There were times when I felt disconnected to his words - either I have not reached this place/space where he finds himself - or they are not on my play/learning journey, they were interesting words all the same...

If you are interested in learning more about original play... then why not take the time to watch this film and see what you make of it...



I feel I need more time to reflect... and to also reflect together with my colleagues who also attended - so I can get a fuller and richer perspective.



I come to this post again one and half years later... having reflected on this lecture several times.. I agree with the need for children to play, I agree that play fighting is a part of this play, and that we need physical contact, and also to learn limits... that it is play and not hurting each other...
BUT I struggled with his mysticism... the stories of being bitten through the hand while he played with hands but it let no mark because of the power and magic of play... that if we looked in one eye rather than the other eye of a person it would make the person and yourself feel different.

I also am not keen on the fact that he has chosen to trademark play... for me play is for everyone... this man who learned to play with children through experimentation says others should only play like this if they have gone to his courses. I struggle with play being made to be a profit for someone... sure that courses are an option to learn, but not a requirement for play.
BUT these are my personal opinions.
I think it is important that rough and tumble play is given a higher status within the play spectrum.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Robot arm

Today was a steep learning curve for me... of just how much patience (or little) the children in my group have and how much interest they have in the project and in each other's participation...

The robot arm proved to be a slow process with much need for taking turns... and despite us only being 8 children it was still too large a group... and if I was to do this all over again I would have groups of two children at a time to build a robot, where I had the parts already cut out... the measuring process and cutting out process was not something that interested the children all that much... while the hot glue gun and threading was to their taste...
Waiting in line for 7 others to have a go was just too much for some children... and taking time to watch what the others were doing was of NO interest to half the group... it was either play or do... no watch...

I found it interesting, and frustrating... they had shown great interest in wanting to build a robot arm... in fact the two that had shown the greatest excitement bailed out first - and proceeded to make a whole load of noise that disturbed some of those wanting to concentrate...

Yes, I would do it differently next time... and be able to adapt each build to the interest of the pair I work with...

Once the robot started to get to the phase where it could be moved there was more interest... so maybe subsequent robots would be easier now... and we could see all our mistakes... from too fat fingers, to the straw pieces being a little tool long for proper bending... and this gave us the chance to talk about how Leonardo Da Vinci did not get it right all the time and that he learned from his mistakes... that next time WE could make slimmer fingers, cut the straws into smaller pieces... maybe make the arm a little shorter to make it slightly more child friendly... these are four and five year old arms after all!!

The children saw how we worked from sketches and measurements... so hopefully this can help them in their thinking about design in the future... we will have to see where it goes...

We did not finish off the arms... I made the executive decision to stop, put the project on pause and go out and play... returning when we all had more concentration... and I felt a little less frustrated.

I don't like it when I get frustrated but today I did... not that the children were not all focussed... but that several of them had little regard for their friends trying to concentrate - so much better to abandon the plan and regroup at a later date with more patience and with group adjustments...


Thursday, 1 October 2015

Professional Development..how can we grow as early years teachers...?

This is a post where I am going to muse somewhat about how we as teachers can support each other to grow... both as colleagues at the same workplace and also as online colleagues... afterall the world is getting smaller and there are forums where we can "meet" and discuss online ideas as well as challenge and support.

As one of the admins of the facebook group "The Reggio Emilia Approach" I felt compelled to pin a post reminding members to critique each other with respect... but that also we need to be critiqued in order to grow... that being defensive about others thinking differently from ourselves does not leave us open to learn but closes us off.

Recently I saw this image on facebook...

Not only did it remind me of Malaguzzi's a hundred languages of children... but also that we have a hundred languages of teaching... there is no one perfect way to teach... we need to find our path up the mountain that is the most suitable with our knowledge as teachers and also with our understanding of the individuals that make up the group of children we take care of...

What I feel is that we need to be open to the other pathways... maybe they would suit us better... maybe we can try them out and fail and then take another route... maybe we know that we need to obtain new knowledge to be able to take that route...
But what I do feel sure about, is that there are few that feel good about being told what to do by those who have little to no knowledge or understanding of the situation we find ourselves in... that are just running around the mountain telling everyone their path is wrong without taking the time to think about what possible path might suit that person/group...


SO
How can we, as early years educators, support each other to find all those paths? How can we make appropriate signposts? How can we share knowledge and maps?

Online sharing IS a marvelous way to share... ideas, inspiration etc...
but I feel we ALL need to be open to the idea of being challenged... "have you thought about taking this path rather than that one?". If we are only open to one route to climb the mountain think of views we are missing, think of the fun of the challenge we might miss, or the opportunity of finding an easier route? And this is applicable for everyone... those who are nervous about trying new paths... and those convinced they are already on the right path... there are ALWAYS new possible routes... and if the weather is bad then we might need to change routes... if there is erosion we might need to change paths... there can be a myriad of reasons for reflecting on why we do what we do in the way that we do it... and if we are open to that kind of reflection then we are more open to new possible routes... to either take, save for later, or dismiss as not appropriate right now...

Recently I also read the following article Winning hearts or minds which also got me thinking about how we approach sharing our ideas... what do we want to achieve with our sharing? AND in such large groups as The Reggio Emilia Approach on facebook with its close to 17,000 members (now over 20, 000 at the start of 2017) from around the world it is always going to be tricky to know your audience... whether to appeal to the mind or to the heart...

I shared during the week a post about how we as teachers/educators co-exist with our professionalism... and how that can affect us...what it takes to be a preschool teacher shares five circular models where our personal, theoretical and practical beings need to co-exist in our profession, and how different proportions of this can impact how we react and interact with children. colleagues and provocations...

As a result of this post... Kristín Dýrfjörð from Iceland shared some more research with me

This is an image that comes from "The ‘shape’ of teacher professionalism in England: professional standards, performance management, professional development and the changes proposed in the 2010 White Paper Linda Evans* University of Leeds, UK"... also showing how there are three components to the professional teacher... like I had shared with my circles
She also shared this paper with me where the abstract is as follows...


"This paper reports on data drawn from an Economic and Social Research Council-funded project investigating the experiences of UK-based students training on level-2 and level-3 childcare courses. We focus on the concept of emotional labour in relation to learning to care for and educate young children and the ways in which the students' experiences of emotional labour and the expectations placed upon their behaviour and attitudes are shaped by class and gender. We consider the ways in which students are encouraged to manage their own and the children's emotions and we identify a number of 'feeling rules' that demarcate the vocational habitus of care work with young children. We conclude by emphasising the importance of specific contexts of employment in order to understand workers' emotional labour and argue for more recognition of the intense demands of emotional labour in early childhood education and care work. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]"
Being ‘fun’ at work: emotional labour, class, gender and childcare Carol Vincent a * and Annette Braun b  British Educational Research Journal Vol. 39, No. 4, August 2013, pp. 751–768

I think this is important in our learning journeys to recognise the emotional journey we take as educators of young children... we need to involve ourselves with their lives on a personal level and therefore bringing our personal self to the educational table is an essential teaching tool for the very young... but it also brings about an enormous vulnerability. We need to find that balance where our personal knowledge, understanding and experience is protected by the theory and practice so that we are not worn down... and that we can remain open to growth. At the same time is "feeling" taking too much space so that not enough room is left for theory and practice by the fact that gender and social status also affect who works with young children?
I find it all very fascinating.
How we can we support, according to this study, those with big hearts to grow without feeling personally threatened by pedagogical and professional challenges and critiques..
Of course this is a UK study and this will not apply to all countries... but maybe an element of it? What do you think?
it states... "...dominated by a female, working class, poorly paid workforce, which has a relatively low level of qualifications. Indeed a recent report from the Equalities and Human Rights Commision (2009) suggests that in the UK "white working-class gilrs are four times more likely as white middle class girls to expect to work in childcare (p.26)."
Do you agree with this... does this describe the situation where you are from...?


On Saturday 3rd October (2015) we will be exploring these ideas of how we can support each other as educators... so if you have ideas about how YOU want to be supported, of have experienced great professional development that you feel others should experience... then please join the #ReggioPLC twitterchat on Saturday (22:00 Swedish time, 21:00 UK... 16:00 EST). Diane Kashin and myself will be co-hosting the chat... you can check out her blog via her facebook page Technology Rich Inquiry Based Research - where there are lots of great posts to inspire professional development and reflection.

Hopefully we can find a whole load of ideas so that we can all continue to grow as educators...