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...



Saturday, 14 March 2015

GUEST POST .... constructing a construction area with children FOR children: by Andrew Blair

 Today I am sharing a guest post from Andrew Blair who works with the Futura School concern - they have several schools and preschool in the Stockholm area - several with an international focus. There are lots of photos included to inspire.

Andrew Blair


I work at Futuraskolan International Preschool Danderyd, Stockholm, Sweden. For over a year now Futuraskolan have invested in and developed the third pedagog, the learning environment. The importance of the learning environment in stimulating and influencing the learning of the preschoolers can never be underestimated. 

before

At Danderyd we have just begun the process of redeveloping all of the learning areas. 
We started with the Construction area. 
We wanted to create an area that really stood out to the children, an area that was fun, but also stimulated learning. The learning in a particular area is not always obvious and many different types of learning can take place in all areas. Our objective was to maximize the learning. 
Based on the children's interests we had noted that the children were showing a great interest  in many of the building work going on around the area where the school is situated. They would ask questions about the building work and we noted that they were recreating what they saw and understood during free play. 

Together with the children

Together with the children we set about making our very own building site within the school. At Futuraskolan we believe that it is very important to involve the children in the whole development of the pedagogical learning environments. This creates an atmosphere of community and pride in what they do. With supervision there was nothing they could not do. From painting, to selecting materials to place in the construction room. They collected recyclable materials that could be used in the construction room, and helped decide the layout. They let us know what they wanted in the area. The result is we now have a construction area that truly follows and stimulates the child's interests. The room can be added to depending on what they are doing, but most importantly the children love their new construction area and want to spend a lot of time there building and creating. 
Next stop the "pretend area" 
We hope you like and are inspired by what we did!

Andrew Blair


Team Leader and Plem (Pedagogical Learning Environment Mentor) Futuraskolan, Danderyd












Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The LISTEN dance

The idea with the listen dance is of course to work on our listening skills... but also to rflect that there are many ways to listen.

The children were paired up - one to draw and one to dance... and then they would switch roles.

The dancing child needed to listening to the music (we played Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite) - and then move their body accordingly... what was the music telling them... and how could they tell this to someone else using their body?

The drawing child needed to listen to the body language... what were the movements telling them? They drew with black pencils on a large sheet of paper their interpretation of the movements... the pencil moving as the body - interpreting jumps, twirls, arm movements etc onto the paper.

When everyone had danced and everyone had drawn we gathered together to listen to the stories on the paper. What did the drawings say... and were they saying the same things as the bodies?

Some were in agreement, but not all.

This was not an easy task... but it was one the children enjoyed. It would be interesting if we could do it more often to see what would develop as the children became more confident in expressing what they hear with their bodies... and also more confident in expressing their interpretations on paper.



It was also interesting to observe... could the children focus on just their dancing partner and follow just their movements on the paper... with so much excitement it take agreat deal of effort and self regulation to just follow your partner...


Saturday, 7 March 2015

Papier Mâché portraits continue... COLOUR

 Bit by bit the papier mâché portraits are getting finished... this session had to be the most giggly session ever... EVERYTHING was funny.

One of the heads was not close to finishing because the child had been away for a few weeks on our atelier day - so at first the worked together on adding 3D details (the eyes that we worked on last week) - and when we came to painting there was the chance to work on her own head... ie a portrait without the same 3D effects...

They looked around the atelier to see what materials could be used for eyelashes and for the hair... testing verious things out, measuring and cutting.

We soon discovered that we did not have any "blonde" wool, so we decided to colour it ourselves.



It was a process of blending together various colours until there was a satisfactio that this was the right shade of hair... checking in the mirror all the time - and then dipping the wool that had been cut to the right length in the paint to colour the wool... adding bits of gold and yellow, and even silver (as she was told by her friend that she had silver in her hair) to create a look that was not just one shade of hair, but many shades just like real hair...

It was then left to dry for next time. The other child was busy cutting and cutting lots of short black hair.



The final step was creating skin colour. The interesting part of this was discovering how both skin colours contained the same colours to make them... just a little different... and that one child started off too dark and needed to add more and more white to lighten it... and the other started too light and needed to add more darker colours... both were surprised by the need of yellow to come close to their skin colour. Both children made their own decision as to when the colour was the right shade... using the mirror to help them.


They then got busy painting their heads... of course they soon discovered that the papier mâché gets soft again when lots of wet paint is used on it...


When they were finished they started to mix the skin colours to see what colour they would get... and then this they started spreading over their arms... a new skin colour... a shared skin colour... well actually they started calling it gloves!

But it meant the giggling lasted from start to finish!


Friday, 6 March 2015

Line Dancing

I have recently discovered the facebook page Segni Mossi and have been really inspired about how they have been working with music and movement with children.

SO MANY ideas that I can adapt and use to weave into how my group of children are exploring stories and listening at the moment... and also from a philosophical point of view... a way to explore similarities and differences - to learn and be inspired from each other.

Yesterday the children lined up in front of the mirror with a very waxy crayon - the crayon was placed in the hand of the child furthest to the right and the idea was to draw a line - straight wiggly, however you wanted in the area in front of you, and then pass it on to the next child who would continue the line until the line had traversed the mirror.
I pointed out that the line went in the same direction as some written languages (right to left)... and as we have one child with Arabic in the home this was the language I illuminated.

The children then backed away from the mirror and took it in turns to follow the line with their bodies...

At first children were using their hands to trace the line in the air... but after a while one child danced her way across the floor to imitate the line and from then on the children were using more and more of their bodies.

This activity I see is a great way to practice listening... taking turns, being observant of what others are doing, incorporating elements of others' interpretations to enhance your own...
This was an activity with great joy.

Some children did not want to follow the line at first - they wanted to observe for a while... I got the feeling there was a nervousness... would I do it wrong? But it soon became apparent that there was no wrong way to do this... only many different ways to express your own thinking about how the line moved across the mirror... in the end all the children tried except for one, but that felt more in keeping with a phase at the moment of doing the opposite of everyone else... am I allowed NOT to do something?


This activity can be extended... maybe with music and each child takes it in turns to listen to the music and draw a line across the mirror that inteprets how they hear the music... and then everyone interprets the line...

Would we use different music for each child, orthe same... or different nature sounds or.... well there are so many possibilities with just this activity alone...


And yes... that is me with some strange elven hat on... the children were in fits of giggles - and could not work out whether or not I was a fairy or Baba Yaga (the story we have of Baba Yaga is of a forest creature who is misunderstood as a horrible witch, when in fact she takes care of the forest and longs to be a babuschka)