Monday, 20 April 2015

Gingerbread house

As part of the Hansel and Gretel exploration we have been making a gingerbread house... (pepparkaka in Swedish)

Last week we measured and painted the paper brown... the children working out how to make brown... and then using their bodies to cover the paper. They also decided that there should be three windows... a circle, triangle and square.

Today it was backed with plastic, to give a little extra support and then attached to the wall... I am secretly quite pleased with the look of how the uneven wall makes it look like there is a chimney!! I have not mentioned anything to the children, as I wonder if they will make the same connection.

This week we will be making decorations to turn the pepparkaka house into a house of sweets! I have an idea of adding flavourings to the paints to give it the extra sensory painting experience...

The walls are supported by shelves - which the children can use inside of the house... so it is a bit like a den/hidey-hole. The house is in the same room as the forest that is developing/growing there - keep an eye out on my facebook page as I tend to leave a few extra photos there too...

I wonder how the children will play with this... will it be just for a witch... or will other play be inspired? Only time can tell. The children will no doubt use their creativity to invent the play inspired by the room.

Saturday, 18 April 2015


This evening I will be co-hosting another #ReggioPLC global twitterchat together with Diane Kashin who writes at Technology Rich Inquiry Based Research. (and this time last year I was packing my bags to visit Diane in Toronto - where we talked and talked and explored many areas of early childhood learning together, and she shared some settings in Ontario that opened themselves to me... sharing their journeys of discovery and learning with me with minds eager to learn about other perspectives of early childhood from Sweden. - AND I am also feeling excited by the fact that in a month's time Diane will be coming to Stockholm to continue this exchange of perspectives in real life and not just through facebook, twitter and blogs..)

Anyway back to this evening's chat about creativity

I think very often when we talk about creativity there is an automatic connection with the arts... but creativity is so much more than this... 
I have written several times about creativity and if you are interested and have the time then please check them out... there are in fact 181 posts (this will make 182) with a creativity connection... but the below posts are some of those that explore WHAT is creativity a little more

Listen with dance - yes there is art and dancing involved in this... but for me this is about the creativity of the teacher... about looking for ways to support children's learning and development in new and interesting ways.

Light Play - using the overhead - but more importantly time for me to play with the materials... if I am to be a creative teacher then I too need to have time to play.

Empty Spaces - explores how the third teacher/the setting can be a support to creativity... do we have too many things available, does that hinder creativity, does too few have the same effect?

Children learning together - this is another post from my trip to Iceland (like Empty Spaces) - and show's how children are creativ in their play... how they learn through testing things out - BY THEMSELVES - and that this is creativity as it is original thinking for them... even though as adults we know it has been discovered before. I think sometimes we forget just how much original thinking children have.

Light and Play Installation - another post that shows that we as teachers need time to be creative - and to dare to test this creativity. I had no idea whether or not this light installation would work... it was an experiment... which turned out not only beautiful, but there was so much learning.. for the children and myself.

The many hops of hopscotch - creativity can be as simple as children working out many different ways of hopping

Rainbow power - creativity is also having the confidence as a teacher to not plan everything... to listen and to respond to the children. In this sense creativty does require that you have a knowledge/idea bank filled with possibilities, waiting and ready - and to equally be able to pull these ideas apart and reassemble them in a way that is suitable to your own group of  children.

Traditions - reflections on them - creativity on the part of the teacher is also required in questioning traditions and why you do the things that you do. To find the right questions, to be open to all kinds of answers... to discover new ways of exploring traditions in order to make them more relevant and meaningful.

Does Boredom give birth to creativity? - and important question... what is creativity, what is boredom...

Paper Exploration - using materials in different ways from expected... allowing the children to explore mediums... giving children the potential to get creative in ways that we cannot imagine.

The Competent Child - by stepping back and giving children time, and believing in them allows them to be creative in their problem solving.

The importance of rest time on creativity - a post exploring how rest time is important for children/adults to be creative (rest and sleep will always be important for me as my husband is a sleep researcher and I have had the chance to learn a great deal from him on how the brain works and develops and the importance of sleep and rest in this process)

construction - there is always a great deal of creativity in construction... not only in the constructing process but also in the choice of materials presented and how they are presented.

Creativity and the artist - explring that creativity is so much more than art

What is creativity? a post written on my reflections of participating in Boulder Journey School summer conference in 2013

Sometimes I think we really do gives ourselves as educators far too little time to excerise our creative muscles... to play to "mess about" as David Hawkins recommended we do. I also think that sometimes we are so busy trying to encourage people to think outside the box that maybe we have missed the point... that young children have not yet been put in a box to need to think outside of... as my daughter said "I don't think outside of the box, because my box is bigger on the inside and travels through space and time". Of course my daughter loves Dr Who and this is a reference to that... but it got me thinking... we are so pre-occupied thing that everyone has the same box that we have not even considered the fact that all these boxes could be radically different from each other and also contribute to a collective creativity.
Of course I do understand what the phrase is referring to... but I am begiining to think more and more that this refers to us adults and to children conditioned by schooling to think in a specific way. As Loris Malaguzzi talked about the hundred languages (hundred meaning many, rather than specifically just a hundred) - may there are a hundred boxes of creativity to explore too... and that thinking outside the box means we might just be missing a whole load of creative potential that young children have in their unique boxes... before they are formed to the "one box" (one language) of school.

As teachers we are obviously adults that have been conditioned into the one box thinking - but maybe we should not be just thinking outside this box... but maybe rediscovering our own original box. A place of unique creative safety - and then start communicating with each other and sharing the contents from our creative boxes so that we can expand and grow.

How can we support educators (and I will write that rather than teachers... as we are many working in early childhood that are not official trained teachers, but are still part of the educational process)

How can we find our hundred languages, our hundred boxes of creativity, our hundred ways of listening ?
How are we given the time and play/messing about opportunity to reconnect with the creativity of our childhood?

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Making a gingerbread house with paint....

As part of Vindens Hansel and Gretel exploration the children have started to make a pepparkaka (gingerbread) house
Yesterday the children measured and designed the house... discussing how many and what shaped windows there should be.
 The children suggested that three windows would be good... and the were all in agreement... it became more tricky when it came to window shape... there were those that wanted three circles, those that wanted three square and those that wanted one circle, one triangle and one square. The children kept changing their minds, or calling out to all options and it was becoming far too hard to work out how to solve this window shape issue.

So on three pieces of paper I quickly drew the shapes - gave the children their name cards to put down next to the window arrangement they felt would be best. It started of with one by the squares, 2 by the circles and 5 for the mix... the child who chose the squares soon moved her name to the circles, explaining she was changing her mind.

We then counted the numbers of names by each window arrangement... it did not take many seconds for the children to see that the arrangement with one of each kind of window had the most names.

I asked how many more children had chosen the selection compared to the circles... the children started to call out names... so I flipped the cards over so that the focus was not on the names but on the quantity. I still needed to phrase and re-phrase the question a few times before it clicked and they all worked out that the difference was two.
We talked about how they were using mathematics... and how the shapes were also a part of maths... and that maybe this house was going to be a mathematic witches house...

Today we painted it brown... but how to make brown? Black and white was suggested... so we mixed them and discovered that it made grey. What next? Try green said another child, still not brown... so then we added, red, black and finally yellow before getting the brown the children wanted.
The pepparkaka brown was dumped onto the paper as well as squirts of all the above colours...
then the children started to mix with their hands, legs and feet - with squeals of delight, songs of exploration and eager sharing of experiences...

We are lucky to have a shower in our art studio - right next to where this paper is on the floor... so the children can step straight into it to get clean.

There is a whole load of OMG feeling running through my body during this kind of painting... as it is so high energy and there is paint slowly covering more and more of the children... but it does always seem to flow and you feel sort of exhilerated and exhausted afterwards.

Several of the children helped me clean the floor afterwards - loving every moment of playing Cinderella... while the rest of the group played with a wonderful calmness after the buzz of painting - somehow content with life after the sensory exploration of paint.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Pippi Longstocking inspired role-play area

There is a surprise waiting for the children on Monday... the role-play area has had a make-over...
Now we have a Pippi Longstocking inspired area...
and for several reasons...
  1.   Pippi Longstocking turns 70 this year
  2. We have plans for a Pippi celebration on National Preschool Day - which is actually Pippi's birthday too. Pippi activities on the square.
  3. The Pippi stories celebrate childhood and the competence and strength of children.
  4. From a gender perspective Pippi stories share a strong female role-model. 
  5. The children in Molnet are in the middle of a project about "same and different" and they have been taking a closer look at the "room where you eat" - sharing with each other a photograph from each child's place of eating... so of course Pippi's place of eating was a natural addition to the play possibilities of this project.
It will be interesting to see how the children react and play... and more things will be added based on our observations of the children's play... to deepen and extend it.

I painted some extra shelves on the background with the hope that some of the children will be inspired to draw more things to put on the shelves and therefore contribute to the look of the role-play area.

There are also intentions to get scrubbing brushes that the children can attach to their feet so that they can play cleaning the floors, just like Pippi does.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Play and learning

For me it is natural that children learn through play...

BUT what is this play that they learn through?

How is it defined - is there good play, bad play or some play that is more rich in learning potential? And is there a line between learning and play - or maybe a zone for optimal learning in play... or should it be optimal play while learning?

How much can children learn by themselves in their own play together... where is the pivot in the child/teacher learning/play balance? Can a teacher enhance play too much, control the play too much so as to deepen the learning that is going on?

Do we teachers have to much of a learning agenda in children's play as a way to prove to the world there is real value in play?

Are we possibly hijacking children's play in our attempts to save it?

I have blogged quite a bit about play in the past... here are some links in case you would like to explore more...
  • winter mud play  - does allowing children the freedom to get messy enable their play to be richer and more fun/meaningful. 
  • Play Space in Jenin - how important is it to create play spaces for children? What value does this have? is playing on the street of equal value? Is a rundown playspace more of a disappointment for children than having no playground, where play is on the street/nature?
  • Empty Spaces - what does the third teacher really tell the children... how do the children feel most value... by having access to lots of toys and materials, by having access to a few well thought out ones? or what about the cardboard box approach I have seen in various places where the children just have cardboard boxes and tubes etc to play with?
  • Reflecting on play  do I see the children's play in the same way as the children... can it be measured or compared... this was an attempt to explore that a little...
  • Play reflecting on the play in my childhood compared to the play of today...
  • Children should be seen and not heard - do we see and children too much and therefore not allow them access to true free play?
  • Toys how do toys influence the kind of play that is played...
  • Even harmless games can be evil - a translated blog post about war/fighting games in preschool etc 
  • art-children - reflection - children  - a post reflecting on children, play and art... and having visited the Modern Art museum today I found myself not enjoying the experience so much... having worked hard to create and environment that allows, I suddenly found myself in a an environment that restricted... you could only experience the art through your eyes... the rest of the senses then? Don't touch don't touch all over the place and staff that seemed to fear young children... "don't touch" they kept saying... even though they were not touching...
  • Work and play - elevating the status of play - are we doing play a disservice by calling it children's work... 
  • Feel the rain - is play taking the time to listen to the rain... to take the time to realise that today's play is not about what I first thought but a reaction to what we hear and see together...?
  • What happened to play?  exploring play -... and the length of time children have access to play in their school...
  •  individual needs of child play -     OK in this post I make a pizza reference 
  •  Freedom, free , freeplay exploring what free play is, and if it can exist.
  • more thoughts about play - here I interviewed my children about what they thought free play is...
  • what is play more thoughts from my children about what is play...
  • Do children play enough? this is my last link... of course there are more play posts to explore (56 under play 61 under outdoor play... of course some of these will be one and the same post)
  So now I am just going to leave it there... with questions... because really, I just need to think about this a whole load more.... again.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

The best position for listening

Yesterday I wrote a long post about my reflections on philosophy with children and about my groups need to return to pre-philosophy...

Today I did just that... and I am so happy I did... because we all enjoyed today's session so much and We ALL had such great focus.

I started the session by saying we would be doing the bubble game at the end... which is a listening game... you can read more about that here
This is such a popular game that the children who have not wanted to focus and have chosen to disturb other visibly sat up straight as to show me, yes I am ready to listen to others...

Interestingly today's philosophical exploration was "How do you sit to enable you to listen better?"

Last week I took a photo of one of our chairs, which I fixed to make it in a background mode to allow the children to draw on and so their drawing would be prominent (just changing the exposure of the image).

The children drew themselves sitting in a position that would help them to listen well... they moved to three tables to be able to find the space to draw and concentrate (I had written on the back of each photocopy their name.... so they looked for their name, stood at the table, as the chairs were in a circle for the dialogue, and then turned over the paper to draw)

We then looked at all the positions together and sat like them in our chairs... most tended to show themselves with their hands on their knees

THEN... I got crazy on them... I wanted this to be fun...

How do you sit so that it is really hard to listen... be as crazy as you want - and oh, I kind of mentioned that I would be getting their parents to sit like this during the next parent meeting and taking a photograph of them...

We then gathered back together and then tested out some of the positions... and yes they made it hard to listen or participate in a philosophical dialogue... and we had GREAT fun testing them all out

Once we had tested out the position we quickly moved into the bubble game... where the children proved just how great they are at listening, taking turns and self control... not always easy, and needed some suppport some times, but without a shadow of a doubt this is a great way to practice listening and turn taking and not least self-regulation.

I have a new colleague in my team as there has been a re-organisation in the preschool. And it has been great to hear how my colleague was equally excited about the benefits of the bubble game...

Monday, 23 March 2015

Philosophy and Prephilosophy with preschoolers

After a long time of the philosophy sessions being a great place to share ideas and listen to the children we have hit a phase in the children's development where several of them are testing the listening part by working on maximum disturbance when other children are talking...

Finding a balance is tricky...

Do we insist that they listen? Or do we completely change what we are doing? Afterall I am learning at the same time... not only about doing philosophy with preschoolers, but also about the ever changing needs of my group as they develop and discover out how the world works...

I find myself once again wracking my brain to try and find the optimal way to hold a dialogue with the children in a group situation. One to one is never a problem... but as soon as some of the children find themselves having to give space to the ideas of others it has just become very hard...

We have talked about leaving the structured philosophical dialogues in favour of pre-philosophy activities... that maybe we are in the learning spiral where it feels like we have gone backwards when really it is just a part of the developmental progress. So instead of fighting it... I am going to run with it... to meet this spiral where it is with the activities that they need right now, rather than what I know they have been capable of in the last 18 months... and I also know is still within them... they just need something else from me right now...

sometimes the chairs ready for philosophy became a very different game...

I have to admit it does feel frustrating - I know that learning is not linear and a steady upwards achievement... I know that it is forever spiralling... but all the same... it felt like we were coming so far with our philosophical dialogues -
- and we can still if we were to divide the group into those who want to listen and those who don't want to listen - but where is the community of learners there? I mean the whole point surely is to allow the children to push boundaries and rediscover them, to find out what is socially acceptable and what is not... how being listened to makes them feel and how not being listened to them makes them feel... and how they can apply all these experiences to their own learning and development.

I could just let those children who don't want to listen go off and do their own thing so that the listeners can get on with delving into their ideas together... but I feel that is not going to offer the best learning. These children have had a few weeks break from these discussions... but they have also then shown total disinterest in any community activity. So I am not meeting a need they have about being a community of learners... as we have MOST of our day as free play where the children can play in groups, individually, in pairs etc as they choose (with support from us teachers) - I then think that a 30 minute session of shared learning each day is not too much for these 4-6 year olds - when they have shown that they are capable of more than this in the past.

So it is to re-invent the philosophy sessions
If you are interested in reading more about how the sessions have been going, then take the time to look at the following links...

  • mixing philosophy with art 
  • Reflecting on the week - this is where we first saw resistence to being in a dialogue - the children so much wanted to make all the decisions, but had no actual interest in taking the time to make and plan... they just wanted to go to the funfair - and so adults were boring in their decision-making.
  • Importance of the spken language - a post reflecting that philosophy with children is more than just the philosophical dialogue meeting... so really this supports the decision that having a philosophical meeting is not the most important part of encourging the children to think critically and creatively - together
  • Playing Fairies - this post shares how we have played with the ideas that came up in our philosophy sessions as a way to encourage particiaption and deepening of understanding, as we all communicate, express ideas and learn in different ways, so sitting in a circle is not always the best option.
  • Listening with eyes - some of our sessions have looked like this... an exercise of listening, and being a community of learners... feeling part of a group. And this is what I feel we will be returning to more and more... as well as other activities and short dialogues.
  • planned philosophy and spontaneous philosophy - this post shares how many of our ideas develop... that we experience something together with the children, or observe the children and then a philosophical develops from that... it also shows that some discussions come directly from the children... and have not been structured philosophical dialogues but rather have taken benefit from previous structured dialogues to enable everyone to participate and to be heard.
  • Day one of philosophy and Day two - thoughts and reflections on two days of learning about philosophy with children.
  • reflections on a design - this post is one of many connected to last year's project about designing a new square... and trying to find out how it would be good for everyone's needs and not just each child...
  • Two days of philosophy - another philosophy course and conference - and my reflections on my experience and learning.
  • Philosophical Questions - a post with our approach ot philosophical questions... of course this is some time ago... and I am feeling that I might like to have another go at writing a similar post again...
  • Philosophy and preschool - this is now quite an old post, but it is an important one in my process with the children and is incredibly valuable in allowing me see where we have come from and just how far we have travelled... maybe some of the problems we have today are similar to those in the beginning - and so reading I can see what worked... the talking rings have not been used for a long time, the were structure that was needed then, and then the children were self sufficient... but I think this is what they need help with again... a clarity in how a dialogue functions so everyone can have fun, and not at the expense of anyone...
  • Taking a vote on a philosophical question - here is a post about how the children have chosen which question we have explored deeper... this was not as successful as we would have hoped in the long run as we had a few children who could sulk an entire session if the question they opted for was not chosen. The idea has always been to try and make these philosophical dialogues fun, interesting and meaningful for all the children... and to be honest that has often been best when we as teachers have observed and listened to the children and then made the decision as to which question would interest them the most, or challenge them the most (but not too much of a challenge either)
  • International Fairy Tea Party has been a fabulous source of interesting questions and fun explorations... and this has woken the children's curiosity and passiona great deal... this September we will celebrate for the third time, and I am looking forward to how the will explore this magic world this year (already they are starting to ask questions as spring is starting to come and nature feels a little more fairy like magic)
  • Philosophy and Preschool - another post reflecting on study days learning about philosophy with children.
  • Raw thoughts... this is a reflection on a staff meeting we had talking about what is philosophy with children for us... I had been working then at Filosofiska for a month... so this is a VERY early post... (and just 4 months into my life as a blogger back then too)
So, as you see, my blog is not just a way of sharing what I do with you... it is also a documentation of what I do with the children... it is my learning journey... and going back and reading what I have done, and my thoughts and reflections about what I was doing then (and sometimes I add extra reflections a few months or a year later) I am able to learn more about what works, what doesn't work, the possibilities of retrying things now that the children are in a new place in their development...

So now... our plan is (morning are planned - afternoons are open) and here I only wirte down the mornings....
Mondays... indoor play until 9:30 and then outdoor play - I am thinking of adding an little song meeting in the transition there as part of re-enforcing a community in the group
Tuesdays... pre-philosophy - using more art and action in these sessions we will continue with listening as an area to explore and to practice - then outdoor play
Wednesday... small group work, based on the book the children have chosen to explore more. (Hansel and Gretel) The idea being to create with the children a whole new forest inspired play area in one of the rooms. Outdoor play
Thursday... small group work (slightly different groups) more work on the books in different ways (following the children... one group has already expressed an interest in writing their own version of the story - the children that will be starting school after summer

). Outdoor play
Friday... song meeting with the whole preschool and then outdoor play.

The idea is that the book/story project is also very linked to listening - and what we explore in the philosophy sessions will support their learning and exploration of the Hansel and Gretel ... and of course their play and explorations will guide us how to best challenge the children in philosophy in an appropriate manner.

feeling like those talking rings might just make a come-back...