Tuesday, 29 August 2017

New Perspectives...

It has been an interesting two weeks...

8 educators from Jenin, Palestine have been with me (that work on the refugee camp there) and we have visited various preschools, schools, and the teacher training college on a quest to learn more... I have held a full day play workshop and a two day outdoor learning workshop as well... with a BIG focus on imagination and creativity.

The aim has been to give them a new perspective... ideas and inspiration to take back with them and to adjust to fit in with their own context. Of course this time I have spent with them (starting in January with a 3 week visit to the camp, and then April for 2 weeks in the camp) has been an opportunity for me to see education from a new perspective... to appreciate the spaces available for children  here in Stockholm, the money invested by the state into preschool and education and the fact that there is not the fear of my home being invaded by soldiers, or the sound of weapons EVERY DAY AND NIGHT that disturb sleep and make learning and concentration even harder.

There are many areas of life that need improvement in Stockholm... there are still far too many prejudices that are limiting far too many people's potential... and also forcing them to live without the feeling of safety and belonging that is the right of all people. There needs to be equality... for all... no matter where we originally come from, or what religion we believe in, what our gender is or what our sexual preferences are etc... we ALL have the right to reach our full potential, we have the right to be respected and to be valued. Sweden is a country that is not under occupation, it is a country not terrorised by nightly outbursts of weapons that wake whole neighbourhoods... we have the chance to really address these issues and create a country of equal opportunities.... and yet during my visits it is quite clear that this is not the case, there is still so much left to do so that ALL  preschools in all areas are provided with the resources to give children the best start... and its not just academics but also the social interactions, integration, the feeling of really belonging.

Investing in all the people that work in preschools is essential... making each and everyone feel valued, and giving them all the training, the inspiration and the time to practice in order to give children that best start.. that the scaffolding is meaningful, reflective and joyful.

Adults need time to play. To find joy. To use their imagination and to train that creativity muscle that enables them to better connect with children, enables them to be a more inventive teacher - and also gives them the strength to dare... to try new things, to dare to make mistakes as part of the learning process.




and for these educators... being in a boat was all about joy... about awaking their inner child and laughing out loud. To forget their reality for a while to experience a bit of magic... and once filled with magic it becomes easier to create magic for others... to take magic back home to Palestine with them.


In the coming weeks I will be writing more about this last two weeks together with the educators from Palestine, my role in The Freedom Theatre's preschool teacher training programme... and what I have learned in this journey.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

The Magic of Play

Yesterday I held a play workshop for the educators from Jenin, Palestine and some of the educators of Filosofiska preschools. it was an opportunity for experiences to be shared and to learn from each other... and to explore play...

The day started with a dialogue... exploring what "PLAY" means to each person... and then what "MAGIC" is...

After this they were given the challenge to explore materials and to discover magic... and not to play as children, but to play as themselves...

Here is some of the dialogue from the morning session... Names are not used... as it this post is only about sharing ideas...

PLAY

Play is with a message and with a goal, but not always... for example in this training we have learned that if we want to teach math we can teach through play and not just writing. This age (preschool) is for playing not just learning...

Playing for children is like freedom for adults, freedom without limits, the child can become more and more by playing... allows the child to develop... Play is the the same for children as freedom is for adults...

The kids invite to play... give them space to try and things, as a parent and as teacher... there is difference between younger and older - there is a difference in their needs... But we should not just let them be, but observe from a distance.

Playing should not be limited, even if it is dangerous, the kids they love to try the things, play comes from within... (talking about risky play)

Playing is a fun activity - happiness... in the end it has a goal for these children, adults situate the things for the kids..

Play is the first job in the kids in the world, it is a kind of power... the kids that do not play will not develop enough..

Fun. to discover the world, I can teach myself through play.

Play is exploring, taking new perspectives, being able to change perspective in an instant, I think both finding and exploring your inner self what you are interested and like and what others are interested and like. Cooperating about a fantasy world.

Play is exploring and but also a state of mind... a joyous state of mind... play requires a possibility mindset... to see possibilities... and what came before

Play is the most fun that exists... but also the most serious and most important thing we have

Play is important for the child, from play we can discover many new things, sensory is important... yesterday we went to the preschool we discovered something new in the room, through play we could discover many new things... we need space for this kind of play.

Playing is life

Play is to explore the different sides of your personality; and play helps to get to know yourself and others on a deeper level. When you understand yourself and others then you can function better. We are all children actually.


MAGIC
Magic is something difficult... it is fantasy she has wishes something like fairies and it is like wishes... I wish to be a king...

When I think magic I think of moments, there are often moments of magic that happens in meeting with objects, humans, or realisation... play is magic... magic is play.

Also think play is magic... if they have the play and magic they also have the power... it is in the play and magic that the children have their world outside of the grown up world... so they can be free...

Its like wishes, its always happening in he night when people are sleeping, then magic becomes real... Everything is possible... (I can do everything)

Magic is a gate opener  (door opener...)

The magic that the children in their mind all the time... they love to use their imagination... the fairy for the girls, she plays with the fairies and has a conversation with them, it is part of the world with the kids...

I can talk a lot about magic but will just say... for example if you look really close at things like the house of a snail or a leaf... your perspective changes... life itself is magic, you just have to have the right eyeglasses on to be able to see... do not take life for granted.

Magic is to give children to to live reality as they want to... adults say no a lot - this give children freedom...

The magic is the surprised face for the kids for example when you ask them to go and see bats in a cave... to then go to the cave... and instead they "find" gold... here they give kids power and life through magic... the most important is that magic gives children happiness..

The kids live in imagination and the magic they use... they need this imagination in everything. It is like wishes... they need it to become a truth. (wishes to become real)

The magic in my world is to let the children think and feel without us as adults – that we take the time to be with the children in their world and be with them and not outside and to be in communication with the children... interaction, to allow them to be who they are, to allow them to experience their own world is magical...

Magic is something that is impossible that becomes possible. (there are a few giggles at this time as I point to my t-shirt with the word IMPOSSIBLE written on it but the first two letters are crossed out)

I agree with what I said before... but that play and magic is important for adults too.. and that it is power for us too... if we are imprisoned in a small room and without freedom then we can be free in our imaginations


The educators then were asked to look  for the magic not the learning in the activities set out for them.  Below are some photos and films from the interactive hands on part of the workshop... and then there is some text from the afternoon session...





making prints... also magic





bubbles landing on the art and not popping straight away

being inspired to build upwards... to crate buildings








dialogue... taking time to explore our thoughts...

During lunch I had a dialogue with one of the Swedish teachers about the fact that I did not want to give my opinion about play or magic during the dialogue... my reason being that I was there to learn from them so that I could be a better teacher for them... that my opinion might sway how they think they should feel and at this point I felt it more important that they learn from each other, explore and then continue the dialogue. I said that this is also how I work with children during dialogues... that my opinion is put on the sidelines so that I can learn from the children to better equip myself to meet their learning needs. For this educator this was a powerful statement ... we went on from there to explore the word interfere... and I think a whole blogpost will come at a later date from this...



AFTERNOON.

Sharing magical moments from this morning...

 It was magical to see smiles spreading on faces through interaction... dialogue and conversation started from being together and doing together.

it was a nice moment when talking to each other... got ideas from what she has made and discovered an idea to build a mosque

Painting on the floor and spraying... it created circles... I was so surprised as I did not know it was going to happen... what i thought was going to happen turned out different and I like to be surprised... that was magical... and that we participated in the same painting together... so we do not know the result... it is always changing... that is magical. Its also like losing control, normally when you are grownup you have to have control of everything and here we did not have to, it and it was liberating.

The light table the plastic usually to pop, but here to paint... at first I only used top of my finger, and then by the end using the whole hand with (2 other educators)... that was a magic moment... the interaction between us as adults and talked about many things, we talked about play for children and how parents are in Sweden and Palestine.

The magic started at this table and started the dialogue and feel like the kids... the challenges this is for me and for you, to imagine the train went to the moon (at the tape and paper table)... bringing the story into the play

the magic for her was the atmosphere, how there was harmony moving from activity to
the magic was you Suzanne when you threw up the flowers...

Inside when painting with my hands and used the colour  and also when Suzanne asked about what I created and I imagined myself as a child and how the child thinks... making a bridge and going to the moon... and this idea of being on the moon, to be honest I have never in my whole life thought I could imagine such things (there was then a dialogue about the importance of imagination and how many children in Palestine are restricted in their play as their imagination tends to be so reality bound)
The magic is to me was was playing with bubbles and mixing the colours together, so we sat and tried...

And how did you mix them?
(she shows with her fingers)

the story room... I forgot to check out the books, and I discovered many ideas for magic there after I had played...

I started with the books so that she could get more ideas

ME: would you start with the same thing? Or books next time?

start with the stories...

ME: is it better to start with your own inspiration or that from a book...?

to start with the story and then she have inspiration from the stories to apply her idea...

in that moment … it depends...

a mix of both of them... start with own ideas... then read stories then you will have many ideas, you can build it on your own ideas and then have new ideas... so both of them working...

that is magic to have a man here. (there was a male educator taking part, and this was of great importance and interest to the educators from Palestine where preschool educators are exclusively female)

I think I was a bit nervous and I sat at the table... and I needed to play by myself and the magic happened when you asked about the question... the question war play. I often think conversations between grown ups are like our version of play... (not just running around etc) we have this interaction between speech and listening.

even if we did this part of playing in Palestine they will only imagine their reality... the guns the occupation... Swedish children can imagine more freely

(talk about Palestine and the need for imagination... to escape the reality...)

when imagining are they butterflies or stylised flowers all looking the same or tanks... but they all look the same (templates) it is very much Disney style and sponge bob in Palestine... that is why I am afraid of this kind of materials... it is stylised fantasy... they are locked images... 

and not relevant to Palestine...

how can I use paintings and other images of a flower to open up the space for creativity and imagination. Instead of looking at standard red/yellow flower... go explore flowers in nature... to experience... flowers though new perspectives... (not many flowers in the camp... mostly rubbish)


the scent in the paint... nice addative... did not think of it myself...
also the scent is connected with emotions and can bring that to the learning/experience

ME: science says that scent is the biggest memory trigger... smells with positive memories can enhance learning while smells with negative memories make it harder to concentrate...


in our system at work in Jenin, in our reality there is no man working in kindergarten...

ME: what good do you think will happen from having men in preschool in Jenin?

There was then a long dialogue about men working in preschools, about gender differences and about making changes in Palestinian education and society... these topics I will take in another post as they are worth exploring on a deeper level.

But from the comments I have shared (this is of course not the entire dialogue) you can see that imagination and magic are important elements of play, and important for learning and important for change.
As I reflected over the day I realised that imagination needs space... place and time... it also needs safety... as it became clear that if adult educators could not imagine they would talk about flying trains and going to the moon then the reality of occupation and fear has been so overwhelming that there has not been space for imagination. 
So how do we create this space for the children in Jenin right now... these educators are an important part of this... as are all educators and people who work and come in contact with children... to create space where children feel safe enough to imagine...
and by exploring imagination there is the hope that creative thinkers emerge...
and creative thinkers can become problem solvers, and maybe even conflict resolvers.
Imagination and play are essential for peace.

This brings me back to PLAY FOR PEACE.


Monday, 14 August 2017

Reflections. 2

The second post to just inspire reflection...

How do you ask questions?
Questions beginning with "why" often leads to a surprising answer or a refusal to answer the question at all. Whereas a question that starts with "tell me about" can lead to detailed observations from a child.


How often do take the time to reflect on how you ask questions?
Get creative with your questions... try something new and see what happens

in this case... creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to question things (or to dialogue with the children) in a different way.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

The International Fairy Tea Party 2017 - the thinking behind it.

The International Fairy Tea Party is more than just a bit of fun... it is fun, and it is meant to be a whole heap of fun... but there is more to it...

There are more and more articles lamenting the loss of play, about the lack of value imagination is given within the curriculum (despite people considering it important that we are creative), about a lack of connection with nature, about gender divides and stereotypes, the need to have empathy and understanding with other cultures,  and about the need for children to be valued citizens of today rather than tomorrow...

ALL of this is baked into the International Fairy Tea Party - and its not meant to be a slap in your facee look at what you are learning occasion for the children... it is supposed to be a fun way to see how we all connect, a way to open perspectives in a fun and natural way... and also a way for adults to join in children's play.

The celebration has been held on the Friday closest to the equinox - a day where the number of sunlight hours are the same no matter where you are in the world... suddenly we are united by light... and play... and our imaginations!
This year it will be three days... the Thursday, Friday and Saturday... in order to be as inclusive as possible... having spent time in Palestine this year I realised that Fridays are not the best day to be inclusive... so to be more respectful I decided that we could have a three day long celebration (as I had noticed some other places needed to have different days or more than one day, so that all the children that visited their settings could join in).

It is a chance for children (and adults) to see how other children (and adults) celebrate around the world... to see children in Pakistan, Australia, Sweden, UK, South Africa, Canada, USA, Costa Rica and more celebrate... are there differences? are there similarities... they get to find out that the children in Australia start first... because the day starts there and then spreads across the globe... so there is a chance to learn about time differences... also that some of celebrate in autumn and others in spring... while other countries have a different way of dividing the year than the four seasons!!!
We usually post photos after the celebrations... either of the children celebrating, or how the celebration was sett up, or the aftermath... (as not all feel comfortable sharing images of the children... and that is fine, we all share the way that suits us the best). This has been a great way to be inspired as a teacher, and also to share with the children that they are part of a whole world of play and not just the community they live in... its a fabulous way to learn about the world... new countries to discover and learn about...

It has been an amazing way to discover nature... as we have talked about fairies and where they live and what they are, the children I have worked with have come up with the idea that they are small... this has got them looking closely in nature for signs of fairies... suddenly they were noticing small details they would have missed... small holes, pine needles, holes in leaves, small markings, animal tracks etc etc etc...
Then their imaginations kick in and invent whole stories - making connections between fantasy and the real world and back again...

We have talked a lot about are fairies real... and most come to the conclusion that they are pretend real, but they are absolutely real within the imagination... and that we are invited into their imaginations to play there...
I know some educators and parents are wary of telling lies and will not want to say fairies are real... I will always reply that I believe in the magic of fairies, in the same way that I believe in the magic of Christmas... and the magic of love. It is the imagination... the play...
In a philosophical dialogue about fairies they children talked about flying as an important part of being a fairy. So what did fairies need to fly? Wings they all said? So I asked, if you have wings will you fly and be a fairy then? Yes, the answered. So we made wings from paper... we stood on the tables to launch ourselves (cushions and mattresses below for protection) and I waited for them to say... it does not work, we cannot fly... but they did not... they jumped as usual and exclaimed "we can fly". My attempts to bring reality in were thwarted by their imaginations... I did not correct them, but enjoyed watching their flying sessions...

It has also been a time to explore stereotypes... fairies are not just for girls... they are for boys too... there are big fairies, small fairies, young fairies, old fairies, boy and girl fairies, ugly and beautiful, all sort of colours, dainty and warrior like, kind and scary etc etc... we have exploded the idea that faries are creature in pink tutus for girls...  (please check out previous posts about fairies to learn more about these dialogues).

This year my focus, and I encourage other educators to have a focus too (not required) - is children in public spaces. So this year I hope to set up a pop up party in my local neighbourhood so that all can join in, so that children and play and imagination are made VISIBLE to everyone that passes...
It would be a great if others could share what the children are doing too... to make them visible, to show what children can do, and that they are a part of their community, a part of the world! And that they should be active participants.


exploring nature as we made potions

painting outside

finding magic in water and sunshine



fairies dance on rainbows apparently

making fairy houses in the snow

pretending to fly like fairies and make wands

more magic discoveries in nature

building fairy homes

There is a facebook page called International Fairy Tea Party... all information can be found there.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The Pedagogical Wall, Stockholm...

Stockholms Pedagogiska Vägg (Stockholm's Pedagogical Wall) is designed for children to get creative in the public space... a space for children to leave their mark, their ideas, their imagination - not for a long time but for a while, as the wall is painted over and over very much like the Together Paintings I have described before ( you can read about them here).

It is a wall that is forever evolving. A place to come as an individual, or a family or together with a preschool or school or fritids (after school activity centre).

The wall is available for free expression or as part of a workshop together with an art facilitator that will inspire and challenge thinking about art, creative expression, and children's rights in public space.

I met up with Rikard Olsen who started the project with backing from Stockholm city with the aim to promote children's rights to take more place in public spaces. This project has had a steady trickle of visitors over the summer, as well as schools and preschools visiting too to do workshops where art and movement are combined.

The aim is for the wall to continue after the summer - with workshops for schools and preschools to continue and also at weekends.


I think the wall is important for several reasons...

  • Children need to be a part of the public space... not only so they can see themselves as active participants of the society and not just beings that adults create spaces for... but also so that adults can see the competence of children. That their ideas are given space to be aired, that their talents can be shown off... and this wall is open for ALL children of ALL ages and even during the short time that I was there I saw a huge range of ages and Rikard had a natural instant good rapport with them all.
  • children benefit from doing art outside, where there is an opportunity to experiment with paints and materials in a way that indoor art seldom allows you
  • the wall is massive... if allows children to think big, no small paper here, there is space to really go wild, to paint with the whole body - to stretch high and bend low and paint big.
  • there is the chance for risky-play. I love the fact there are step-ladders, over the years I have taken step-ladders into the atelier (and other spaces) for the children to climb and experiment with taking risks - in the sense of how high do you dare to climb. Each child will find that step that they dare use, some will challenge themselves, others will watch until they find the courage themselves... parents and teachers get the chance to see that children are capable of using step ladders... even preschool children!!
  • we often talk of making children's learning visible... and this is a space that also does that. the children are learning about techniques, they will learn about the difference between brush and roller (and other materials used) - they can learn about mixing colours, they can learn about how other children express themselves and be inspired, on the wall this time were various languages... so we were learning that this is a space of diversity where all are welcome.
  • it is a place to interact. Not just with the wall and the materials... it can also be a space to interact with others. A meeting place.
If I was to sit here longer I would probably come up with more reasons for why this wall is important... these are the ones that have just rolled off the top of my head.





If you are in Stockholm then I recommend that you head to T-bana Medborgarplatsen and check out the wall, take along children and let them get creative.
if you work at a school or preschool why not get in contact with them and see if you can book a session/workshop (the link to the page and a way of contact is at the top of this blogpost)

I really hope this wall goes from strength to strength and encourages others to take action and ensure that children are a part of public spaces.

If you are interested in children's rights and children and public spaces, then please check out the facebook group Children and Public Spaces

Reflections... 1.

As the new academic year is about to kick off here in Sweden I thought I would start a new series of posts... well mini posts...

basically just a question, or a thought or a reflection that I have come across as I read, or observe or just reflecting... and instead of waiting for these reflections and thoughts to manifest into a whole post of some sort... i just write it down and share...

So here comes the first one...

Why are children perceived and written about in a certain way? And what concepts and from which pedagogical practices does this image of the child come from?


Wednesday, 2 August 2017

working philosophically with children

I thought I would share a few reflections from working philosophically with children. I have found it to be not only a great way for the children to interact with each other, but also for me, as an educator, to learn how to be a facilitator rather then an instructor... my approach has always been to listen to the children and to co-research/co-learn with them - but getting to really practice taking a step back and facilitating their dialogue with each other, focussing on helping them gain the skills they needed to get better at this, I realised how much we still unintentionally control a group of children we work with... partly because  this is how we experienced our own childhoods and partly because we have well meaning intentions of keeping them safe.
The fact that I worked with the same children for almost 4 years also taught me many things... that TIME is essential... time to build trust with each other, time to explore ideas bit by bit so that the children could make informed decisions, time to learn about how each person (adult and child alike) reacted in social situations.
So the level of trust the children and I had for each other was amazing, it opened up learning so much more as we did not have to reflect on whether it felt safe enough to say something, or worry about feeling silly expressing an idea - because there was that level of trust that let you spend all your energy on sharing ideas knowing that they would be accepted, discussed, and explored.

And just as the philosophy sessions influenced the children in their daily play... to solve problems, make decisions together to be able to argue their point respectfully, to listen to the play ideas of others... it also helped me to be a better educator... to facilitate in my day to day interactions with the children rather than teach... to be able to listen, to learn to stand back, to not always have an agenda, but to be able to see the learning...

the philosophy sessions gave the children the time and space to feel listened to, and to play and explore with ideas



The group I first started with were aged 2-4 years... all in one group... which made it both tricky and exciting as there were many different abilities which both support each other but at the same time there is a risk that the more verbal children take over.

The philosophy sessions were always with very defined rules... even for us adults...  not just a normal conversation where the children could talk about anything... but there is a need to stay on topic, of turn taking, of active listening, of being able to support the ideas you give with good reasons and arguments (ie they could not just spout out anything, they needed to explain why they thought that)

of course all of this did not happen in a short space of time... both children and educators need to practice this... the educator needs to practice going in to the meeting without an agenda - ie  not the children are going to learn "this" about the topic today... instead the "agenda"  for the teacher is to be a facilitator - to enable the children to communicate their ideas, to explain them, to enable all the children to talk, and not just a few take over, to enable a safe space where the children feel free to talk, a respectful meeting... the facilitator also needs to help link the ideas, until the children are doing this themselves too.

some sessions used photographs the children had taken, we explored the importance of them, explored what play was happening etc


The first sessions we had were just 10 minutes long... but that was enough... three years later after doing sessions once a week... the children could talk for an average of 45-75 minutes depending on the topic...  sometimes it was shorter or extremely short as there was just not the focus that day for whatever reason... the aim was always to make the sessions fun and meaningful.. but at the same time push their thinking... but never push so much that they did not want to do it any more.

We tried to take in the children's questions to the sessions, but found that they never worked as well... they were GREAT for conversations that felt philosophical, but not the more structured philosophy session... I have tried to explore this idea as to why this was the case and came to the conclusion that it was due to the fact that it was often an off the cuff wondering and not a deep rooted wondering... those I observed through the children's play and interactions with each other, with books, and with materials and adults... so the questions (or stimuli for dialogue) always came from the children, but it was me that has sort of mined for this information. (I always let the children know this too... not during the philosophy sessions, but during other conversations how they had influenced the philosophy sessions's direction).

sometimes we took the philosophy outside in the play... how many different ways could we jump in a puddle... a playful way to explore there are more than one way to do something...


Here is a quick description of a typical philosophy session I developed... it is not P4C or any other approved method (you can google more and find out if you want to try out a specific method) - but I have been inspired by these methods, by meeting others who use or train people in Philosophy With Children or P4C or Socratic Dialogue, and also through reading books and articles etc etc - and then being a "Malaguzzi Inspired" educator I pieced together a format that suited us as a group... the children and myself, in the context we found ourselves...

Tuesday mornings (this was the day we had philosophy sessions)



we gathered in a circle
I presented the question, or read a story and asked about it, or showed photos/picture to ask about it/them...

The children had a thinking pause to reflect on the question, and to think about WHY they thought that

We then explored the question together (I avoided going round in a circle) I also tried hard to let the dialogue be as organic as possible... but in the beginning there was a LOT of intervention by me, for language support, reminding of the question, to keep on topic.

My colleague wrote down everything the children and myself were say verbatim... so we could document the children thinking skills, language skills etc

Usually there is a metadialogue at the end... but I found the children struggled with this at the young age... so our metadialogue became reading back the notes to them... and giving the children time to reflect on what they had said... had we written it down right? Did they want to change their minds or add something new? This way the children became active in the recording of their words, and very interested in writing

The choice of questions/topic always came from the project and the children's play/interest - these were the most successful.

Finding a way to sit is important... different groups have different needs... my lot needed chairs to sit on... a defined space, otherwise they crashed and bumped into each other... 40% of the group had special needs the first 2 years. (then some left for school)

I always made sure we had free play afterwards as the session is quite intense... we also offered the bubble game at the end of the session... and ALL wanted to be in that so the children were intent on staying the course of the session (there was a month where 2 of the children tested boundaries in a monumental style and when I said that they did not need to be in the session, but that it would mean missing out on the bubble game, they then self regulated... I knew both the children had the capacity... and actually both were very deep thinkers... but I also felt they were either active participants or observers, but that they should not be allowed to destroy it for the rest of the children practising their listening skills, thinking skills and interaction skills).

This is because I believe that if we want to create a democratic classroom/learning then we have to create situations where the children practice participation and responsibility... that it is not OK to opt out of the group just because you think it might be boring (funnily enough the children that complained the most about it being boring now and again, were also the ones that had the biggest need to make decisions in the group... they like deciding but were not so keen on the responsibility - but after a few years they realised the power they had in the dialogues and became very active participants)... so for me it indicated the need for me to insist that they participate and try out a "language" that was outside their comfort zone, until they did feel comfortable with it, even expert at using it. If I had let them just leave and do something else "less boring" - they would never have discovered the joy they found later or become empowered with the access to informed choice making and respectful dialogues with peers.

I had one child that ended up doing language training in another room during the philosophy session, as the gap between her ability to keep up with the dialogue meant that she was being excluded within the group... so she had one to one communication training during the time instead... after 6 months she joined us in the sessions on the days she felt she had the energy. This was something that both she and the group appreciated, and of course we were grateful we had the staff to be able to do this that allowed the child to get the support needed to be an active participant.

Before we get to the verbal sessions we do lots of preverbal sessions... like passing a ball around, turn taking, the bubble game, choosing what activity to do and then keeping to that choice for at least 15 minutes... etc. This is done with the 1-3 year olds on a regular basis... so in the sense we can work philosophically with children long before they are verbal.

We do have small groups... and this was a choice to be able to have philosophy sessions and shared sustained thinking. The biggest group was 13 with 2 staff... and it worked, put was a push...
The groups of 8-10 worked well... but 4-5 children worked well too... the problem then was often there was not a teacher available to write down the dialogue... and facilitating and documenting the dialogue at the same time is tricky - more things get missed... either in the documenting part, or in the communication part (you miss non-verbal cues in the group)
I found documenting direct onto a laptop was the easiest... and that was after 24 months of handwritten documentation... We did start by having it written on big paper on the wall so the children could see us writing down their words and see their words... but I felt this would have had more impact on a group that was able to read... also I think that it could have interfered with the children's ability to listen... suddenly there are many ideas flowing through the child at the same time with words on the wall... not only reflecting on what is written, but also trying to listen and interpret what is being said at the time... maybe it is information overload... maybe it is a symptom of being an adult and being dependant on the written word to remember, that we have forgotten the traditions of oral storytelling as passing information down from generation to generation, so that skill of listening and remembering is gone...??
I remember as a young child I could remember so many songs and so many telephone numbers etc... and when I started to use a song book in school my ability to remember those songs went, as I no longer had to commit them to memory (although that maybe means my brain was freed for other information?) - also with mobile phones today having all the numbers stored into them, I never remember phone numbers anymore!!

The written words on the computer also meant it was easier for the children to read back some of the words... at least some of the 5 year olds that were interested...(remember school, does not start until the year the child turns 7 here in Sweden so I don't have to teach reading and writing, I only encourage the children's natural desire to want to be able to do this, at their pace) the good thing with hand written was that the children could SEE us writing, and what that involved... that their thoughts were being saved on paper... and gave them inspiration for mark making themselves.

During the weeks and over the months we did lots of activities, play and art etc etc that supported the children in their ability to collaborate, to share ideas, to take turns, to express ideas through other languages than just verbal communication... please take the time to explore this blog under "listening" and "philosophy" to find out more...

drawing ideas to then explain to others... this was a sound machine...

dancing listening, interpreting sound through movement, and interpreting movement and recordings on the paper...

log books to collect ideas 

taking notes

using theatre to explore many ways to interpret a story

learning to listen to everyone's ideas so that art can be created

playing their ideas... we talked about magic powers... then I asked them how could we play these ideas... they decided that we needed to dance on rainbows... so we created a BIG rainbow to dance on

artwork not so much as creative expression but as taking responsibility, taking turns, being patient - Kandinsky helped us with this

together paintings

at christmas we explore what colour is Christmas - to learn more about what the children think Christmas is - then we paint using those colours...

exploring the many ways we can play with light... are we afraid of the dark if we can play in it... what is a shadow etc etc



if you have anymore questions or thoughts about this, please add them to the comments here on this blog, so that more may learn from your reflections....