Thursday, 21 August 2014

Sleep and rest...

In a few months time I will have been blogging for two years... there are a few themes that have popped up regularly... one of them as been sleep and rest... this probably has a lot to do with my husband being a sleep researcher, it means I naturally notice this kind of research, and it also means I have proof-read his English in articles etc he has written, and picked up stuff, I have listened to him talk about sleep, and I have consulted him when it comes to rest for young children... since this is one of the areas that that both teachers and parents reflect a great deal on... to make things work... so the child can manage a whole day, so that they get a good night's sleep and getting that balance perfect so that day-napping does not interfere with night sleeping...

Sleep is without the shadow of a doubt the best medicine... learning REQUIRES sleep... as my husband says, the best way to learn is to sleep/repeat - and in the repetition there is refinement and deeper understanding, or the fundemental grasping of how something works... and if you think about it... when babies are learning ALL the time, they are also sleeping an awful lots of the day.

The links to what I have written about sleep are here...

Sleep Notes from John Axelsson - these are my notes from listening to my husband do a workshop for parents and teachers of preschoolers... I really wish he had more time and that he could visit all preschools.

Sleep and preschool part 1
Sleep and preschool part 2i
Sleep and preschool part 2ii

My husband has read and checked that all of these posts are factually correct... well at least at the time of posting them...

Sometimes I get concerned how nap/rest time is being replaced with a "resting activity". Mindfulness, yoga, massage... more activities that are lead by adults, less time for the children to work out for themselves how to wind down, how to listen to their inner voice, how to allow their body to relax. I want these children to be competent... but also competent at relaxing... the world is forever egttig busier and stressful... and as adults there seems little precious time to find downtime... I want these children to be able to wind down themselves in a few spare minutes that they get as adults, as teenagers, in school, at the weekend... and not be dependant on an adult as to how to relax by having to do an activity with others and having to listen to others and having to rest in a certain way... even if it is varied...

Learning to be comfortable with your inner self, to be comfortable doing nothing and letting your imagination run riot I feel will help children become creative...

In my post Does boredom give birth to creativity I reflect on the fact we give children far too little time to just be... so of course when they are so used to having their time filled, being entertained with activities pedagogical and fun, they are going to think having time to do nothing is BORING... but as I say to my children... if rest time is boring then you need a new daydream... rest is only as boring as you make it...

Some of my children have returned from summer and are having to re-learn how to rest... they spend the whole rest wondering when rest is over... so of course they have not rested... but I also know, that they need to get comfortable with day-dreaming again, of hearing their own imagination and enjoying the fact that they can be creative - sometimes we have collective dreams... we talk about what we are going to dream of... if we will meet on a beach, if we are going to build something together... and sometimes we will talk about it afterwards.

There is always a story CD on VERY low in the background... so you listen to hear it, or you can easily tune it out when you want to dream or reflect on the morning. When I lie with the children I often reflect on the morning - thinking about how the play could be further challenged, or how i could have phrased something differently... or what I am going to write in my blog - sometimes this half hour can be one of my most creative times of the day... sometimes I lie there and wonder what each child is thinking about... some lie with their eyes open, some with their eyes closed, some fall asleep, most just rest (2-5 years) - sometimes children fall asleep on just one day every month... their body taking what it needs...

The parents I work with have had the opportunity to listen to my husband talk about sleep last autumn, so there is an understanding about the importance of sleep and rest on their developing brains, and for their health... those who don't usually sleep nearly always fall asleep the day before their parents call us saying they are at home with fever or some other sickness... the body knows before we do, and it takes the rest when it is given the time to do so.

For me rest is a non-negotiable... children NEED it even if the children don't always like it at first... I mean what child wants to go to bed (and yes I know there are those that do have children who like going to bed - but I do believe they are a minority) - BUT as adults we know that children have to go to bed, for their health, to manage the day, for their development... so why is there so much doubt when it comes to rest? Why do so many teachers suddenly think that not all children need it anymore...

For children I guess learning is SLEEP/PLAY - and REST for those who are not napping... because even if they are not getting the full brain benefits of a nap, their bodies, when lying down and resting properly, are able to de-stress... which means learning is easier...
There is the research out there
  Monique K. LeBourgeois
is doing lots of research concerning young children... she is based in Boulder, Colorado, where my family and I have been this summer... my husband working at the same department as Monique during that time (6 weeks)
The effects of napping and not napping  this is a short article on one of her research areas... and shows that yes, a child might manage without a nap, but the continuous lack of naps (or rest for older children) can mean that their negative responses are being reinforced...

Children come to preschool here in Sweden, mostly because their parents work... so children have to follow their parents working hours... some are dropped off early and picked up late and expected not to nap so that they will go to bed early so that the parents can relax and also get to sleep... I belive the parents have the right to rest too...but is all of this for the child's best... well, no... to be honest it is not... but we all do the best we can. This is why I will maintain that REST is essential, even for the non-nappers... to be able to have the energy and stress levels to manage the day positively... to be re-enforcing positive attitudes not negative attitudes... to give these children the power to feel they can do anything.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

a little bit of magic...

I love getting the chance to sit down with my colleagues and talk about the what ifs, the what mays and the what coulds...

Ellen and I sat for almost 3 hours talking about the possibilities of this term based on our knowledge of the children... their interests and their needs from us and each other... and also to connect with our development areas as teachers this year...

Reflection and critical thinking about norms...

We have been looking at the structure of the week... how can we create more time for reflection, meaningful reflection, for the children, where they can see the purpose of this reflection... to really get them involved in thinking about what they have been doing  in order to work out how we will progress... that we do our reflection WITH the children MUCH more.

We now will have our reflection time together on Fridays instead of Mondays, where we, as teachers, can reflect on the week that has just been, looking at the needs of the children... later in the morning we will have a reflection time with the children where we use photos of the week to stimulate reflection on what we have learned and then plan together how we should continue the following week... of course some of the activities will come from us the teachers using our knowledge of the children to stimulate and challenge their play and to support their social, emotional and cognitive growth - but we really want the children to think up activities too... not just random things that they like but based on their reflections... Mondays are going to be children's "choice" day... where we can be in up to three groups - it also gives us the weekend to work out logistics if we need to. It feels very exciting... the children have challenged out power and that adults make so many decisions, we are certainly not going to relinquish our power of keeping them safe, but we are handing over more power of the content... but really that is wrongly phrased... because the children have always had that power, they have just not been aware of it... so I think what we are doing is making their power more VISIBLE.

All this talk of power is rather apt... as fairies and magic powers is where we are starting the year... re-asking a few of the questions we asked last year to see how the children are thinking now as we start the project... but we are digging deeper and the project is going to be less about what are fairies and more about using fairies and magic powers to explore themes such as rules, power, friendship etc...

This week has all been about coming together again... we are finally a full group, except for one of our poor friends who has broken our foot (we visited today to leave a feel better book we made) - next week we will start our magical explorations... the magical play has already got going...

fairy painting...

Sunday, 17 August 2014

15 books to get you thinking...

There are many books that are available to use with children to encourage critical thinking - here are 15 books, familiar and maybe less familiar, to get you going, and to get you thinking about the book/story choices you are making...

Not a Stick
Not a Box - both by Antoinette Portis...

Maybe a thinking book for the adults as much as the children... to see the possibilities in everyday objects... the books can be read - and then a stick passed around and the children share what it is for them... with support from the story, and also their own imaginations...

The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein

A way to talk about how we use nature, about friendship.

The Day the Crayons Quit - Oliver Jeffers

Can colours be used in new ways? Are the crayons justified in their feelings? What colour is the sun... etc

Flotsam - David Wiesner
an image from the book Flotsam by David Wiesner
A book with no words but absolutely beautiful images. What happens to the camera, how many years has it been used? Can marine animals take photographs? etc

Tell me a picture - Quentin Blake

Quentin Blake's quirky characters help us see details and ask questions about various works of art - going through the alphabet by artist.

Where did the dragons go? Fay Robinson

There are so many stories about dragons... did they exist for real... if they did where are they now... do you think dragons and children could be friends, why couldn't the adults?

A world of Food - Carl Warner

A book of scenes made in food. What would it be like to live in a candy world, or a world made only of food. Would it be OK for people to start eating your home?

I am the King - Leo Timmers

Allows the children to talk about leadership and rules...

Journey - Aaron Becker

Another wordless story with beautiful images... reminds you a little of Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. What would you draw if you were given a magic crayon.... and why?

The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig - Eugene Trivizas

I love all books that take a traditional story and change the perspective. In fact all the traditional stories work great for getting the children to start thinking of alternative endings, to think about the idea of goodies and baddies , to attempt to look at the story from the perspective of both...

How to live forever - Colin Thompson

A book to explore the ideas of immortality... it is important to read books first, especially if you are wanting to lift a vertain question... it might influence how much of the story you read to the children before asking the question... sometimes it can be good to pause mid-story, or just before the end, or even shortly after getting started. Reading the whole story is not always essential, using the book as a stimulus to thinking can have it's benefits - it will encourage the children to use their own imaginations.

The Tin Forest - Helen Ward

A look at nature and rubbish that is dumped... recycling ideas too, and the importance of caring about our planet. Could stimulate the children to start constructing their own animals and forest with junk.

How to see Fairies Brian Froud and John Matthews

Question after question about how fairies are usually viewed - are they big, small, how do you see them "Sometimes far away is near and sometimes small is big. Sometimes things you are told aren't true - it all depends on YOU". Lots of beautiful images. It does have flaps, fold outs etc... so it needs to be a book that is handled carefully for it to survive.




Resources for teachers...
to get you thinking about how storybooks/stories can be used in connection with philosophy/critical thinking check out the following

Why think by Sara Stanley
Big Ideas for Little Kids by Wartenberg

Thursday, 14 August 2014

more developments in the rainbow room

Slowly but surely the room for philosophy and stories is taking shape...

Today a new blue mat was added... for the youngest children (1-2 yr olds) to have their gatherings - but it will also serve as a fishing pond, with stones and stumps to fish from. We are fixing a game using images of real fish with a paper-clip on it so we can use a magnetic fishing line to fish them up... this is to connect with a magnetic fishing game the children have been thoroughly enjoying at the table...

The walls have been given a bit more of a forest look with leaves being added - and lots of butterflies - and there is a ring of grey, stone-like, circular sitting mats now too. These are thinking stones... and where we will meet to have philosophical dialogues - eventually we will have a very low table in the middle of those mats to enable the children to document their own thought processes.

Shelving has been purchased and will be fixed to the walls during the weekend... so the book part of the room will start to function better next week.

The sitting area is not quite ready yet, and eventually we would love to have a more natural feel to the cushioning there. The aim is to create a calm and imaginative room - to inspire creative thinking.



Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Storycards...

As part of the transformation of the rainbow room into a space for philosophy and a library I have created closer to 200 storycards... the cards reflect everything in life... for example when it comes to fairies there are old ones, young ones, beautiful, ugly, fat ones, thin ones, mean, kind, many different skin tones, with wings, without wings etc etc... the idea is that all are included, everyone in the world is valued - and not just certain kinds of people... the idea is also for the children to start thinking about what they see as beautiful and ugly (I would never put the cards down and make that judgement myself in front of the children... I leave it to them to see). The story cards are not just about choosing a selection of cards so that we can tell a story, but also so that we can stimulate philosophical dialogues... as they get used more, I will share more here on this blog about the different ways we will be using them, the different questions that we will ask, and also inspire the children to ask...

Today I introduced the children to the idea of hanging images with pegs on a line and then telling the story based on the images... it took no encouragement to get the children to hang up the images... they did this with great excitement. I then told the story of the cards starting from the left and working in sequence (like reading). I needed to tell just two stories before asking the children if they wanted to tell the next story and the children were confident and excited...

hanging the cards up... leaf pegs to go with the enchanted forest theme
They took it in turns to tell stories, changing the cards together (so there was no real thought going into the order or what images were chosen, except that these children liked that image).

The storycards include images from familiar stories like Red Riding Hood, but in different artistic styles - the wolf is represented in images as angry, smiling and howling/singing... the wolf can be seen blowing down the pig's house, playing croquet with brothers... the pigs are shown collecting their materials, but there is also a big bad pig... I want to get the children thinking and questioning and not always accepting that it has to be a certain way.

telling the story - pointing to the card they are referring to and telling the story... and yes, they were connecting the images to create a continuous story... some images were more complex and the child spent longer... but I have kept it to just 10 pegs so that the story does not get too long, and the audience's listening skills do not get over-whelmed.
There are images from familiar children's films and books... a few Disney characters, Pippi Longstocking etc - the idea is that these images might support the children in their story-telling, as well as mixing these images with other's to create something new - I saw that an icey fairy got called Cinderella and that Disney Sleeping Beauty was called a girl rather than being defined by the character of the film... the children were using the cards to serve their own imaginations...

I have also included images from different cultures found at the preschool (and in the world in general, so as to expose the children to the whole world) - so when it comes to houses and buildings there are images from Russia,  Africa (various countries) - there are houses made of mud, old fashioned houses, modern houses with a pool, houses made of candy, houses with chicken feet!! Small house, BIG houses, and houses in between... again the aim is to support the children in their understanding of their world and an acceptance of all the people within the world...

The storycards are far from complete... I want to include more traditional stories from around the world - I also want to include images of handicapped/disabled etc. Some images are hard to find, for example it took some time to find an image of a girl/woman in armour (as a knight) where she was not being portrayed as sexy... I wanted her to look like a warrior just as the men did. BUT finding non-sexy mermen was just as hard!! Anyway it's a process that has been started...







Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The Rainbow room continues

The rainbow room's progress to being a library and philosophy room has made another step closer to being finished.
At the end of last week the room got new flooring - and now some furnishings and decorations have gone in... yet to come are shelving for the books and seating for the philosophy sessions....

A view through the indoor window with birds on branches stickers. The ceiling is filled with ricepaper lamps (no lighting in them) to help reduce the height of the room and make it more child friendly - a place to have big thoughts (when I was a child I used to love dreaming big, but did not like it so much outside... I realised that to dream big I need to feel safe, and being somewhere smaller made me feel safe when my thoughts were so big and carrying me away... so I have applied my understanding of my own childhood... together with the understanding of observing children over the years, and the children I am working with now, to create an atmosphere that will support big thinking)

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Malaguzzi's Three Children

The following text is taken from the book "Boken om pedagogerna" under redaktion av Anna Forsell (2008) (5th edition)

Malaguzzi's three children.

In his lectures Malaguzzi used to always take up his view of children and knowledge by presenting three simple images of the child and pitching them against each other (Loris Malaguzzi, lecture May 1992)


1. The sleeping and poor child - an empty container
     The first image is a child that learns by remembering what has been said and then reproducing this knowledge. One views the child like a lump of clay that needs to be formed. One talks to the child like a blank piece of paper, a "tabula rasa" or an empty container that others need to eventually fill with knowledge. The child has no virtue of its own. It is poor and passive, it sleeps. It is a child that you do not listen to and do not enter a dialogue with. Knowledge can be injected into the sleeping child by the adult that knows and can.

2. The awake but poor child - that is steered
    The second image is a child that learns by understanding. This child has resources, but it is about the adult stimulating the child so that it has the oportunity to grow. This is an awake, but passive child, that doesn't yet walk on their own legs. The child has no responisbility for thir own knowledge, but is steered by others. This image of the child requires that the adult pedagogues are always very active. It also means that the child remains poor, because they are not using all of their own resources.

3. The rich child - with both power and resources of its own.
    The third child is a child that wants to grow, learn and know. It is a child that can create its own knowledge. It is a child with inherent power, a child with a hundred languages - a rich child. This child also needs an adult, but not an adult that will protect or act as a guard, but an adult that can contruct the world together with. Since a child cannot manage to contruct everything by themself they need an adult who can listen and see - an adult with big ears and big eyes, and adult to enter dialogues with, an adult who can challenge thoughts and that exceed limits together with.
(Gunilla Dahlberg and Gunnar Åsén)


So the question is, which child do you see? Which teacher are you? Because for each image of the child there is an image of the teacher...

1. The teacher that is choosing the content of the curriculum. the teacher who feeds the the child with "necessary" knowledge. The teacher who forgets to listen to what the children already know. The teacher with no time to listen to the children.
2. The teacher who sets out a whole load of provocations, but is still very controlling of the information the children are supposed to learn. The teacher who is creative and aware of the children's ability but is protecting them from risky play where much knowledge is gained, does not allow children to argue and solve their own quarrels. A teacher who has a clear image of the learning journey, probably the exact same route as taken with other groups of children over the years. A teacher that forgets to question themselves about what they are doing.
3.The teacher that listens and observes the children, learning about what the children already know, and are interested in... and creating situations for deepening their understanding, for challenging their thoughts. A teacher that continuously questions what they are doing and why. A teacher that does not know the path of their learning journey without the input of the children. A Journey that will look different each year as the children will see different desitinations on the learning map, or different routes to familiar destinations... The teacher has the the knowledge of map-reading and can therefore be the guide in this learning journey, teaching the children how to map-read themselves as they go - to see their learning... A teacher that allows the children to make their own mistakes as part of their learning process - including risky play (play with the risk of failing, risk of minor hurts - scraped knees etc)... a teacher that works towards not being needed by enabling the children...

Hmmm, I could go on about the image of the teacher, and how I see it... but for now I will leave it here. If you have more ideas of the image of the teacher, I would appreciate it if you left a comment, so that I could get a post together with an Image of the Teacher from collected thoughts around the world.