Friday, 30 September 2016

It's not supposed to be easy...

With this group that I am working with right now (a group of 5 year olds) the easy option in the atelier this week would have been to give each child a piece of paper and let them get creative with their own ideas about creating backgrounds for the film we are making together.

This though I did not feel would be beneficial for the children in the long run... partly because they have long afternoons to do individual art work if they please and partly because this group really needs to work on their collaboration skills.

I knew that by asking the children to work together that the experience would not be a purely positive experience... for the children or myself... but I also knew that they were capable of this... with support... and yes they needed quite a bit of support.

We decided that two backgrounds could be created... a map of "fairyland" and also an image of "candyland". The children could decide themselves which group they went into...

Five children chose Candyland and three chose to do the map... Both groups were given pictures and maps to inspire them in their drawing... different kinds of candyland representations (so that they could see that there is not one way to draw it) and various kinds of maps... from real to pretend fairyland maps...

I gave both groups one large piece of paper and two pencils... letting them know that they needed to collaborate... they needed to talk about what they were going to draw, how, who and also what side of the paper was going to be the bottom and which would be the top...

The map group chatted and got going quite quickly, taking turns with the pencils...

The candyland group did not start off as well... Two of the children picked up the pencils and started drawing... another child pointed out... "but we have not agreed yet as to what we are doing". The two children continued to draw... the other three children repeatedly pointed out that they needed to talk first to no avail...

I stepped in... and asked the two drawing children if they had heard the others... yes, the had. I asked why they chose not to answer... they did not know... I asked what they were drawing and if it was a part of the plan they had made together... both said they were drawing a castle ( ie two castles). I asked if it was the plan to have two castles... they finally put their pens down, as they did not know.
I pointed out that they needed to talk and make plans together...

The five children all started to talk at the same time...
I then decided to record what was being said... and for 7 minutes I documented what happened.

It was clear that it was hard for the two children with pencils in their hands to listen to the other children... as they repeatedly picked up their pencils and started to draw again.
Since I felt it was the LISTENING that was the most important process of this session I removed the pencils and paper pointing out that I had observed that they were making it hard for them to listen to the others...

The ensuing discussion needed a great deal of scaffolding from me. I kept asking questions to enable the children to expand on what they were saying. And also to question their need to police others...
they kept citing rules all the time... like "you are not allowed to whisper"... so I challenged them and asked why are you not allowed to whisper... and they did not know...

These rules without an understanding of why they are there was not helping these children to communicate with each other... especially as they are those kind of rules that all children are going to break without thinking about it, but love to police others when they break them. It does not create a positive atmosphere... it does not create a community of learners.

The group made their plans... I used my computer to help them with the idea of size and perspective... so that they would be able to fit all their ideas onto the paper...
I also made the decision to re-introduce only one pencil... this group was not yet ready for two pencils at a time... they needed all their focus on practising turn taking and listening to what is going on. It might have made the process longer but this was the process that they needed most time with.

The castle was drawn first... it was to be the biggest building on the paper... despite talking and reminding each other about this, the children found that all the building were the same size. The aim was to make the castle easy to spot by its size... (like the image of the Royal Palace in the Old Town of Stockholm I showed them). The did make some adjustments to make the building slightly smaller. For me it was important that they tried to keep to the plan that they had made TOGETHER.

The map group discovered, with a little help, that the map (which they had drawn as a picture with houses etc) did not have one bottom and one top of the picture. They had made the decision to get drawing and decide afterwards which would be top and which would be bottom. In this process they learned that it is much harder to make that decision afterwards sometimes... This had been a part of their plan... they had made this decision together... and they learned from it. Sometimes it is better to make such decisions before you get started.

I put out a box of oil pastels to colour in their background pictures... the idea again is for them to share and to collaborate with each other. There was plenty of colours, so this part went very smoothly. Although for the candyland background it was a bit more tricky as so many hands colouring in at the same time caused some space issues which they needed to have patience with... and some reminders of being patient.

When they had filled all the colour they needed a blue wash was used to fill the paper with colour... it added a bit of magic to the process as of course the oil pastels repelled the water of the thin, watery blue paint.


Yes, it would have been so much easier to have let them do their own thing... eight versions of the map/candyland... the children might have been happier... I would probably not have felt the frustration and need to exercise lots of patience ... but that would have been rather shortsighted. This group need to be exposed to activities that allow them to practice their listening skills, their negotiation skills, their planning skills, their conflict resolution skills, their talking with each other with respect skills, their understanding of rules...
all of this we need to continue working on in many different ways... so that my role as facilitator becomes less and less as the children are more practiced in these skills and can manage on their own.







Candyland

the map of fairyland


No comments:

Post a Comment