Sunday, 21 December 2014

Child perspective and child's perspective

 Just a few lines on this...

There is a difference between a child perspective and a child's perspective - and as educators of children it is something we need to be aware of...

How are we doing things based on our knowledge of children and adapting what we do for their needs and how much are we actually taking the time to find out what their  perspective of all of this is?
I think many tend to forget to take the time to really listen and hear the opinions of the children and take them into genuine consideration when planning preschool activities. Much of what is done is based on adult knowledge of children.

I am in no way suggesting that we only listen to the children, but it does need to be a balance. We need our adult interpretations of childhood, of play of imagination and learning... we also need to listen to the children's perspective of all of these things too.

What consitutes a ‘child perspective’, and how this might differ from the perspectives of children themselves is an imaportant question. The answers have important implications for building progressive and developmental adult-child relationships. How we respeond to children's perspecyives does not seem to be universal and there is little written about how this can/should be done.

To re-cap...

child perspective is the adult interpretation of what is best for the child/ren...
while child's perspective represents the child's experience, thoughts, feelings, perceptions and understanding of their world.
It is the distinction between the knowledge of children or from children... the latter requiring the children participation and interactions with the adults, the former recquiring observation.

So how much are you listening, responding and acting upon the children's perspective and how much is your own child-perspective? How is your balance?
Take the time to reflect and see if you want to make an adjustment to that... why and how... or if you feel you have the balance right...

would love it if you could share your thoughts and process in the comments...

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Magnetic art....

I have finally got round to putting this post together... I have wanted to all week, but there simply has not been the time... and even now I feel I will not be able to share in a way that will do the experience justice... it really was great fun.

It started off on Tuesday where we asked the children "What is Christmas?" - the first answer was about "cars need them to get about" - where it dawned on me that the Swedish word for Christmas (jul) sounds more or less the same as the Swedish word for wheel (hjul)...
Once it was established WHAT we were talking about the children started talking about Lucia buns, pepparkakor, tomten and presents...

Then we asked "what colour is Christmas?"... that was a MUCH trickier question... do you answer your favourite colour or a colour connected to Christmas? Pink, red, white, purple, blue, black, orange and gold were the colours suggested...
Reasons were given as to why they had chosen that colour and the children then could decide whether or not they agreed with the arguments presented. The three colours that the most children agreed were Christmassy have been selected for the magnetic art process... tested out today by one of the group... (this is an experiment for us adults as well as the children!)

White, red and gold are the Christmas colours that the children chose as a COMMUNITY of LEARNERS.

On the Tuesday the magnetic art was tested together with just one child as this is a child that need a little more time one to one for language development it is beneficial to do sessions like this where my words and the child's words can be more easily heard and that there is time to communicate in an undisturbed way on the child's own terms.

It also gave me the opportunity to learn more about how this magnetc art works - and that there was enough paint on the top to be able to lift two images on paper... which meant that the children could work in teams and both be able to print off a paper artwork at the end of it. I like collaborative artwork just as much as individual artwork... to be honest for this age group I prefer collaborative artwork - the focus of comparing their own skills with others is reduced as the children isntead focus on the collaboration - and learning from each other.

I also learned that it would be interesting to put this over the light table, and not just on top of the table (which worked fine). In the second session I looked at the colours briefly without the main lights on... and while the effects were great it did not enhance the colours, and since this was all about the colours, the mainlights went back on again (but I would be interested in doing amagnetic art with a blob of black paint and the room being dark except for the underlit magnetic art - as then it would be ok for the art to be more silhouette like).

Glitter was also added to the extra session (this did not add a great deal to the paper art print... but the effect of the ball rolling through the glitter was really cool... and there was the added learning of how the ball moved different depending on what it was rolling through/on)

 The children gathered round as we introduced what we were going to do with the Christmas colours... the children were immediatly interested in the smell of the paints.

 The children had the option of standing, sitting on knees on the floor and sitting on a chair - they could find the position that worked the best for them. Most children found it difficult to direct the ball at first... and some of the paint blobs were tricky to roll the ball through at first... but not impossible, the children simply had to be persistant. Only two of the children found it quite tricky throughout the session - hand and eye coordination not quite working with them, and not quite finding the technique that enabling them to control the ball with the magnet.

 Most of the children spent some of the time getting close to the experience and really watching what was happening. Severla of the collaborations were like role-play sessions - with kissing metallic balls!!

You can see from this short sequence that the children were having a lot of fun. There was plenty of laughing.

The children chose what colour paper... I helped with this choice in their reflection of how the paints would be visible on the paper. They then placed the paper on the upturned box (a clear box from Ikea upturned over a light-table using empty juice boxes for lift - oh yes, I learend from the first session that the juice boxes should be part-filled with water, so that they were more sturdy). The children stroked the paper, to help the paint transfer, and then lifted up the art captured on the paper... It was rather magical... each child amazed by what they found on the paper.

The final works of art...

What I noticed when looking at the photographs afterwards is that it really was  great for fine motor skills.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Empty spaces (Iceland post)

One of the things I noticed about all the preschools I visited in Iceland was that their rooms tended to be rather empty looking.
This took me by surprise at first. It was not what I was expecting - although I am not sure what I was expecting.
Empty space is not something I am unused to... at Filosofiska we have been careful not to just fill the space/rooms up... but to observe and listen to the children to see how we can best meet their needs... which has meant that rooms have slwoly been added to, and dividing walls constructed - one room has been expanded.
There are two rooms that are "empty" in a similar way to what I saw in Iceland - and both these rooms are used for nap/rest time, which is also something I observed in Iceland with the shelves of matresses high up.

Another thing I noticed was the calmness of the children... and I was not alone in this observation... I overheard many others saying the exact same thing.

Is there a connection here?

Could it be that the emptiness of the rooms leave space for the children, their play and their ideas? Does a room filled with things albeit for inspiration, to offer choice etc etc... does all of this fill some of the space - the children's creative space?

Have we got it wrong? Does offering children a myriad of possibilities mean that we are allowing the children to be competent to be creative... or are we spoon feeding them... and therefore not giving them the creative freedom that they are capable of?

When I observe the children at my setting there is never any lack of play in those empty rooms... quite the opposite - those rooms are always filled with play. And also empty rooms also means that children can get to do one of their favourite past times... transporting toys and things from one place to another...

Empty rooms also mean that you can fill them with other things... like light and sound... and movement... which can be hard to do when the room is already full.

I would like to point out that all of these preschools had well stocked storage rooms, where they kept toys and equipment so that it could be rotated... to meet the needs and interests of the children, as well as challenge them.

If everything is always out then maybe they become invisible? Like the information signs put up for parents... every preschool I have every worked at has had that "problem" where parents simply do not see the information notices... and you start using techniques like hanging them from the ceiling so they crash into them, or changing the colour of them all the time... but parents are busy and many don't seem to always take notice of them... maybe in much the same way the children are always busy at play that they don't always notice everything that is out... and therefore it just becomes a kind of "background noise" or "visual filler" - and taking up space that could be used more creatively...

There are some images below...

this was all the furniture in this room (Aðalþing Playschool)

empty rooms can be filled with construction materials and with light and sound (Aðalþing Playschool)

empty spaces... you can see in the top right that a table is being reconstructed for the room, after the Christmas party (Stekkjarás Playschool)

this was the only shelving in the room...the rest of it was empty. (I need to find the paper, so that I can write the name of the preschool here in the small seaside village we visited... will be back to edit here)

So what do YOU think?
Would you dare to go bare? To allow the children's play to fill your setting rather than things?
What do we really need to support children's learning through play? And what is superfluous?

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Sunday quotes

On Sundays I try to share an inspiring quote, or a thought provoking quote, or a heart warming quote...
I actually enjoy looking for quotes that I feel a relevant, for me in my journey as an early years teacher, as well as for others... and finding the photo that seems to tell a similar story as the quote - that photo and quote enhance each other...

Here are some of the quotes that already have been shared... and keep an eye out on my facebook page for more... I try to post them every Sunday...

Saturday, 6 December 2014

A room to eat... (Iceland post)

 How does it look where you eat? if you work at a setting do you eat lunch in the classroom/department rooms or in a dining room? What are the reasons behind this decision making?

The educators at Aðalþing Playschool have taken time to think about lunch a great deal... how to create an opportunity for democracy around the lunch situation. They have opted for a dining room so that the children can continue with their play in their rooms and not have to put table top activities to the side/tidy up in order to have lunch. The children can choose when they want to eat as long as it is within the lunch time frame - and they have designed the dining room to seat 29 children, but only 26 can come at a time, as there should always be a choice of where to sit for every child, even the one that comes last. If the dining room is full, it is just to come back a little later.
The children are also free to take their own food from the buffét, as much or as little as they need (of course they get support from teachers with encouragement to try new things, and to take the amount their body needs.) The children are also free to stay for as long as they like... this encourages the children to sit and talk at the tables, and for those busy with other things or do not like to sit for long periods of time, do not need to hang around for others unless they want to... this enables spaces to be free and for others to come and eat. The children mark up whether they have eaten well, OK, or not so much... this enables parents to know how much their children eat, and also staff to know who have eaten and who still needs reminding that the lunch hours is coming to an end soon.
The last child in each department takes a car with them to let the dining hall and kitchen know that no more children will be coming to eat from there.
This also means the food (all made from scratch) does not get wasted... as the food on the buffét table gets topped up after demand... any food not brought out to the dining room can be used sustainably to make bread, soups etc etc.

They have also changed the look of the dining room, from all the tables being the same  - traditional preschool tables to being a variety of different tables - different heights and sizes... allowing the children to choose between sitting on the floor on cushions, sitting on child size chars, picnic benches or bar stools. Allowing the children to choose to sit in large groups or with just one other friend, or a couple of friends.

In the dining room there are always three teachers (not the assistants... always the ones with full teacher status) as lunch is seen as a pedagogical part of the day... and phrasing things right is an essential part of the process... to encourage them to be independant, but to always be there to scaffold the process. To encourage the children to test new foods - something new and exciting is put out every day in small amounts... for those children that dare to try it... and once it catches on... like humus did, then they are able to put more out on the buffét table and the new dish in small amounts becomes something else... sometimes olives... always something that can offer the children a culinary adventure... and making sure there are always choices of vegetables and the main dish every day.
To make the preschool inclusive there is no dairy, eggs or nuts in the food so that those with allergies are given the same choices as everyone else.

When seeing the old photograph of the dining hall and the new one it is very easy to see how the new design gives the children a much greater choice - a step away from the one size fits all when the tables and chairs are so uniform.

It also got me thinking about how each table would give the children a new perspective of the room and of the others in the room... depending on whether you were sitting high or low, or in between.

Here you can see several shots of the dining room... as the room was a little wide for my camera to catch it all at once - you can see there are five different forms of seating - and that each tabel is very unique .... the bench/shelf against the wall, under the art, on the top right photo is where the buffét is served, and the children help themselves.

The inspiration for the dining room comes from a hotel in Rejkjavik  (Hotel Marina) where they have an eclectic collection of seating and tables with book shelves to divide spaces... of course we just had to go and have lunch there after our visit so that we could soak up the inspiration. You can see  below that there is a veriety of heights and sizes and upcycling in much the same manner as the playschool dining room.

It feels appropriate to design the children's dining room based on a space that adults find attractive too - filled with interesting things to look at - and a variety of choices of how to sit - why should we design rooms for children based on the ease of cleaning up after them, or based on a one size fits all?

So does this inspire you to take another look at where and how you eat?
What choices are the children given in your setting?

For more information about the playschool you can check out their website...

Thursday, 4 December 2014

the portrait project

It has been exciting watching the children continue with their portraits... and how it has been influencing their drawing and their play (playdough for example)

We started off with mirrors, pencils and then coloured in with oil pastels and water colours

The next portrait was using the children's photographs underneath plastic. The children used a permanent marker to trace round the outlines of their own photo - and the following week we then put the plastic portraits on the overhead and were able to create enormous portraits on the wall.
you can read about these processes here and here

 Playdough has been used to create self portraits too... and interestingly when the child looked at the photo of her playdough portrait she decided to make changes to the mouth, until she felt satisfied.

Today we returned to the giant self portraits and decided to try and make these ones more realistc in colour than we had with the plastic.
We started with the background... gluing on tissue paper, and wrinkling it on purpose as a special effect, as we all liked the unpredictable nature of the blue tones getting lighter and darker in the wrinkles.
Next they created their own skin colour - they mixed colours until they felt satisfied that they had captured their own shade skin colour. They then did the hair and clothes and finished off with details of eyes etc.
Since we used any colour last time, the children found this portrait more tricky to do... as last time when they got "bored" of a colour they simply changed... this time I would not let them deviate, unless, I told them, they had a good reason; and as they did not come up with ANY reasons for changing the colour scheme we stuck with the colours that were most like them in real life.
This was most certainly a test of their awareness of what they were doing - as I am open for things to change, as long as they have thought through why they want to change, how they are going to change etc... they did get a chance for some free painting with the left over paints afterwards.

Having seen the film on papiermaché that I linked up on my blog facebook page I am beginning to think that it would make a great next medium to explore self-portraits....

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Children learning together - (Iceland post.)

On my first day of preschool visits (or should I say Playschool visits) on my #PlayIceland2014 trip we got to spend the afternoon outside watching the outdoor learning and exploration.
I also got to witness some shared learning... from the very beginning until the end of this play exploration... it was exciting to watch how a child accidently made a discovery and then went to get friends to share and show them how...

 This is the pint where the discovery is made... that the cup could be catapulted into the air by the foot on the other end of the board... the first time the cup barely lifted... then it was done purposefully two more times where the cup lifted more.
 The child went round the corner to share his discovery with friends and encouraged them to come and see.
 he showed them his dicovery
 and then showed them how they could do it too, when they asked for a turn.
 More children took an interest and they were also shown how they could catapult the cup into the air.
 The children experimented with the positioning of the plank and the pressure of their stamp down to vary the height of the cup... the cup flew at considerable height at times. There was also the learning moment where a child stood too close to the cup and it flew into the child's chin... the child did not sustain an injury and was more shocked by the experience than anyting else (these were empty yoghurt pots, so very lightweight)
But all the children learned something from this... that there was an element of risk... after this incident there was not the same confidence when the cup flew into the air and the children protected their faces. But they also learned that the risk was not big enough to stop their experimenting.