Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

N made a mask during our Story Workshop. 

It transformed her. 

She was no longer herself but rather a character from one of her many stories. 

The experience spread. The idea of disappearing and stepping into their imagination was appealing to all of the children

 A mask hides your identity. 

"Mary, you can't see me anymore....I am an escaped tiger looking for my mommy."

Monday, October 29, 2012

Observational Drawings

Each morning we prepare a table with an object for the children to observe, sketch and consider. We include magnifying glasses to encourage the children to slow their work and notice the details and intricacies of the objects they are observing. 

This work generates conversation as the children wonder about the parts, history, origins and purpose of the object. The object is sometimes brought to class by a child, it might be an object a chosen object related to our work or it might be a found item from our garden or forest. 

Mary and I have discovered through the years that one of the most important parts of the process of observational drawings is to gather as a class and notice the collective work of the class. This non-judgemental feedback seems to promote the possibilities for representing including different perspectives of an object and the interpretation of lines, shading and expression of dimension.

Dan Daglish,  a lead teacher mentoring our faculty in the development of our science curriculum,  offered thoughts regarding the impact observational drawing has  on the habits of scientific thinking. 

"I guess one famous example of “general observation by drawing” was Darwin’s team when they were cruising around the Southern Hemisphere and documenting by drawing everything they saw. I believe these drawings and other observations are what started Darwin asking questions that led him to think about natural selection."  

"The important thing to me is that drawing requires you to really look at the details of the subject and represent them. "

Dan wrote about the advent of the camera and the impact  photography had on observational drawing. 
"The advantage of observational drawing in this case is that it forces the scientist to carefully observe the results of testing."

"For our young scientists, I think that the preferred method at least initially, though far more time consuming and perhaps less accurate, is to have a lot of practice drawing their observations. The purpose of this would be to “train” them to really look at the subject they are observing, rather than “take a snap-shot”. Then, once good observation habits have become ingrained in a student’s thinking, using a camera to record observation hopefully becomes a much more thoughtful and intentional process because the scientist is taking pictures to show what they actually observe rather than observing the picture they took."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why do we represent?

A sketch of a brace providing support for a young tree 
Why do we emphasize the power of children representing an idea and then representing the idea again in a different symbolic language? 

The Hundred Languages of Children , the third edition, is our mentor text for the year. One of the chapters describes the history, ideas and philosophy of the program in Reggio Emila through an interview with its founder, Loris Malaguzzi. 

Malaguzzis's words are exacting and nuanced at the same time. When I read this text I often need to reread the same sentence several times to understand the words and and their application within the context of the classroom.

"The use of graphic expression comes from the need to bring clarity. There is also the fact that the children intuitively become aware about what this new code can produce from now on. 

As they go from one symbolic language to another the children find that each transformation generates some thing new. This complicates the situation and advance them. 

As they construct their ideas they also construct the plurality of codes. Therefore when they draw they are not only making a graphic intervention they are selecting ideas and getting rid of excessive superfluous or misleading ones."

When I read these words I think of Lucy Calkins and the writing process. It seems as if the children are editing and revising ideas as they change from one symbolic language to another.

A representation of a brace for the tree.

Have you ever tried to share an idea with a colleague using words and then grabbed a pen to sketch? As our world is changed by the innovations of technology,  our culture relies on and is influenced by images and graphic expression each day. 

Malguazzi's prophetic words: 

Because we are speaking of schools, we are referring to the ways in which symbols are used by children to acquire culture, grow and communicate. I do not want to limit the domain of symbolic language only to reading, writing and numbers. Symbols are used as well by musicians, storytellers and others.

Three dimensional recyclable representation

Give Me Shelter with a Tree

Our days in the forest provide opportunities to experience nature, trees, branches, leaves, stones and the fruit of the tree in an organic and yet formative way. We have talked about trees, observed trees, studied trees represented trees but our time in the forest allows an opportunity to build and create our most primal need....shelter using trees.

Colin Ward, a British author, is quoted in the book Geography of Childhood

“Trees can be climbed and hidden behind; They can become forts or bases; with their surrounding vegetation and roots, they become dens and little houses;they provide shelter landmarks and privacy; fallen, they become part of an obstacle course or material for den-building; near them you find birds,little animals, conkers, fallen leaves, mud, fir cones and winged seeds; they provide a suitable backdrop for every conceivable game of the imagination.”

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Where Stories Begin

Stories often spark during 



connection with others

a movie or book that two or more have enjoyed (like Star Wars)

shared experiences of childhood

N., Ac., M. and An. began to tell a story of shared memories from Christmas. The light and color of the light table inspired the holiday tale called the Beepers.

Once upon a time there was a Beep Town. The people in Beep Town are called Beepers.

 It is Christmas time. The Beepers are having a dance party and celebrating in the town square. They are singing songs and putting up decorations and eating candy.

The Beepers put up a tree and decorated it.  They are making food for the celebration. Suddenly Santa came and they hear him dropping the presents on the town square. 

Bam Bam Bam

The Beepers are dancing around the Christmas tree because it was Jesus' birthday. They eat more like chocolate chip bagels and chocolate salted oatmeal on turkey.
The Beepers hear elves dropping on the roof.  The Elves crash into garbage cans.

As the story is read to the class later, the children laugh together and they shout the sounds in chorus. 

D references the book Giggle Giggle, Quack written by Doreen Cronin. This book is humorous and uses onomatopoeia (yes, this entire blog was written with the hopes of using that word) 

J: Hey, the Elves can say giggle giggle when they crash into the garbage cans. 
C: That's not what it would sound like. It would make this sound "crrrrrrrsh".

The sounds brought the audience into the story which felt satisfying to the writers. 
The children returned to the story intent on adding more sound. They strung bells over Beeper Town because this is a sound often associated with the season. 

D. and T. begin a new story using collage materials. This is a relatively new medium in our classroom. Notice the way the boys build on the plot through play...stacking thoughts on top of each other.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Data Analysis for Investigative Reasearch

We have been classifying and sorting materials during our math workshop. We considered how the materials are similar and how they are different?  We defined the categories and establish the sorts. 

These buttons are small AND have four holes. 
These buttons are small, red AND do not have holes. 

The children began to realize that the buttons can be sorted by many attributes.

As we determined the parts of a tree, we decided that the systems we used to collect, categorize, sort and compare attributes in math would also work during investigative research.

We walked the grounds of the school and made decisions about the life we saw growing. What growth seemed to fit the criteria established by the class for a tree.We documented our trip and collected specimens

We met in our project circle to look at the pictures, touch and feel the specimens and begin the process of sorting and classifying.  

We also decided to play a game of Four Corners. Each corner was labeled with an attribute of a tree. The children selected a picture of  a tree in the garden, noted an attribute for the tree and then went to the designated corner with the picture. 

R. I could go to lots of corners with my tree.
D. Yeah my tree has all of it...branches, roots, leaves and bark.
N. I could jump between these two corners.

Mary and I wondered if there was a  way to arrange all of this information on a chart.

I: I've organized numbers on a chart.

J. The calendar is a chart.

A. We could put the roots, leaves, branches and bark on the top of the  chart. 

A chart is a visual approach and strategy for classifying the information. We dragged the chart around the campus as we made decisions and classified. The children became accustomed to the structure of the information and slowly seemed to glean information from it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Tree Needs Help

Sometimes the best way to uncover  what we know about something is to represent it. 

T was part of a group of children creating trees. He knew his tree needed bark, branches, leaves and roots. However once he created his tree it would not stand up on its own. 

We brought this problem to our Project Circle so more minds could think of a solution. 

C: Baby trees sometimes fall down. The roots are like straws. They can't get water fast, though.

Roman: You can put alot of soil around it.

J: I saw once a tree and it had two long sticks and that is how you make a tree grow. 
J. explained that  the sticks stand around the tree and are tied to it with wire so it cannot fall down.

N. said his mom tied a baby tree to two tall trees when a hurricane knocked the small tree over. 

Mary had seen a tree on the grounds of a medical building near the forest. We went to take a look. J. confirmed that this was what he had been referring to as a way to help a tree that can't stay up on its own.

The children immediately noticed the wires attached to the wooden stakes and the protective rubber tubing around the wire. They felt that this was put there so that the wire wouldn't rub on the bark and peel it off. The rubber was soft and was a cushion so the tree could grow and be strong.

There was another mound of mulch with only a small stump. The children were certain that the tree died and that this was all that was left.

We sat and observed the young tree. We noticed how the wood and wire and rubber was helping the tree. 

Sketching is a great way for children to record their thoughts, hypothesis, questions and wonderment. It involves their hands, eyes and brain working together and also slows this process of noticing.

The children's careful observations yielded the following sketches:

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Stories We Tell

We are enamored with Story Workshop, a process that we have adopted after visiting the Opal School in Portland, Oregon. It reminds us of the  writing process we use at Sabot but involves all languages of expression not just writing. 

J, N and L shared  a story involving a dragon, a cave, a bear and a black cat. There was contagion. Everyone wanted to be involved in the story. 

Several students attached their characters to wooden sticks. The characters appeared to move and be alive. The use of puppets necessitated a backdrop or a place for the story to take place. 

The group shared the story using puppets and the setting. 
The audience responded with their thoughts and questions. 

The audience revealed to the storytellers  the parts of the story that remained confusing and left questions unanswered.

I: I noticed that I'm not sure who the characters are.

M: It was hard to see when people stand in front of the backdrop.

There was a discussion regarding the dragons. The children sequenced the plot but are revisiting  characterization. 

Who are the dragons? Are they good or bad? 

It is difficult for some of the students that have made dragons to think of them as evil.

E: We could use all the dragons in our play and they would be friends and not poisonous. 

T: I want them to be poisonous.

Eliz: It would be a short story if they weren't poisonous.

J: All the same colored dragons could be friends but not different colored ones. 

TK: If some of them were poisonous and some werent' they wouldn't be hanging out with other cuz they would be afraid.

E: If they were friendly dragons they would not shoot fire at the boys.

What bubbled up during the children's discussion?

  • Character definition (What do we know about the dragon?)

  • Plot cohesion (If all of the dragons are nice who will shoot the boy with fire?)

  • Need for climax (The story will be short if there is not a problem.)

  • Cause and effect (If some of the dragons are mean and some are nice the nice dragons would be afraid.)

In the end, the original authors of the story felt strongly that some of the dragons needed to be fierce. The children collaboratively created an ending to the story that involves a group of friendly dragons saving the hero, the young boy.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Today's Question

At least once a week, sometimes more our class enjoys a routine called Today's Question. It is a routine that is a part of our Investigations Math curriculum. The children collect, complete and respond to  data investigation regarding a question that resonates with them in some way. A question that has meaning to them or the work of the classroom. 

On this particular day we responded to the question, 
"Do you own a dog?".

First, we decoded the words in the question together. Which words are known? What letters can we identify in the unknown words? What can we learn about the unknown words using the context of the surrounding words in the question? The children perceive the decoding as a puzzle....once the question is unlocked we can then begin the survey. 

Several years ago Cat made voting blocks for our classroom. Each child has a block with his or her name written to distinguish their block from others. It is three dimensional, tangible and it belongs to them (or at least for that year). They take great pride in the vote they cast.

Collecting date is always appealing to children but the power lies in the interpretation of data. The children are asked to make observations regarding the data collected. 
"What do you notice?".  
This one question taps into counting, comparing quantities, considering the part-part-whole relationship. 
We do not tell children what to notice or what is important but rather over time the children begin to interpret the data in a way that makes the most sense and conveys the most meaning to the group.

In this particular question Tannin holds the deciding vote. Is there an equal number of students that do and do not own dogs or will there be a great number of dog owners within our classroom?

Ask your child to tell you the answer.