Thursday 31 October 2013

Face to face with FIRE

During our philosophy dialogues we have candles floating in water in the middle - and we as teachers felt that the children did not fully understand the respect you need to have with any flame... so we thought that having an excursion and grilling sausages on an open fire might be a great way to discuss this... the children thought this was a great idea too!

old newspapers to make lighting the fire easier - at this stage the children could come VERY close.
once the fire got going and we had all felt how hot it was - and how uncomfortable it was to get smoke in your eyes - we went looking for sticks so that we could cook our suasages...

there were big discussions about what kind of stick we would need - too short and your hand would get burnt, to thin and the stick would burn and your sausage would fall off, to fat and you would not be able to get your sausage on it... we did not need a too long discussion...

once the sticks were ready it was a matter of waiting for the flames to die down so that we could grill on the embers...

the joy of being able to start cooking. Chicken hotdogs so that we can be inclusive (no veggies in this group - and the packages were all checked to make sure there were no ingredients that would trigger an allergic reaction)

now this bit was MUCH trickier than what the children originally thought - sausages did end up in the fire - or so high up that it would have taken forever to get even slightly warm. And once they all had a sausage in their tummy there was no more interest in grilling the sausages even though there was still some interest in eating more - so next time we will be taking a rack with us to line the sausages on - this would allow us to focus on other areas of the fire - as for this trip ALL energy and time was consumed by the cooking of sausages. Yes, the trip was a success, but we did not achieve all out aims about fire and fire exploration so that the children could develop their own risk-assessment ability when it comes to fire - a true understanding of the power of fire.... but as with all things with children - repeat repeat repeat - to allow the children to experience the same thing on many different levels...

Once we were finished it was time to extinguish the fire - so that we could leave the forest safely. There were 2 bottles of water and ALL the children wanted to extinguish the flames - so I asked the children "How are we going to solve this?" The suggestion that they all help with their own water bottles was made and agreed upon by everyone as a good idea...

Afterwards there was a chance to feel the warmth of the stones heated by the fire (a lovely feeling as most children were complaining about the cold - as sadly many did not have either gloves or hats with them). After checking on the sly to see if it was cool enough, the children also had the opportunity to draw with bits of charcoal left by the fire.
 We all returned to the preschool tired and smelling like smoked kippers - but all satisfied with their first excursion with a picnic lunch! A BIG day for the children in "The Wind" group.

The Shadow Theatre in Action

Having realised that I had jumped the gun somewhat by making the shadow theatre with the children on Monday without having properly introduced them to shadows the shadow theatre was put to the side and neglected for the week as I prepared some puppets to use as I told the story of Room on the Broom. I chose this story as they are already very familiar with it and have been playing theatre with the characters for each other already - it seemed the obvious choice...

So we moved our morning meeting into a room that we could darken, the children were all sat waiting and the story began. Judging by the quietness on the other side of the screen the children were obviously intrigued - and as soon as I finished the story and asked if anyone else wanted a go there was a whole forest of hands that couldn't stretch high enough to show their eagerness - and waiting for a turn (as they got to do it in pairs) was not easy either - the NEED to try this out was HUGE and the body was barely able to contain itself.

Some of the children were able to tell both a story and move the puppets around so that we could see, some were completely quiet, except for some soft roaring, others could not quite work out how to make a shadow and moved the puppets around behind the screen and lamp while telling a story...

I could see directly how great this was for language development, for inspiring the imagination, for science exploration about shadows, social development - yes, I was sitting there watching the shows smiling and seeing more and more of the curriculum that could be covered by the shadow theatre...

In the afternoon there was great interest in playing with the shadow theatre again - and we went back to where it was set up and performed for each other again - this time I helped the children who were not making shadows so they could see the difference between playing with the puppets and moving them in front of the lamp to make a shadow.

I used a small Ikea reading lamp that can be clipped onto the table (or shelves or whatever) - it worked fine (but I have to admit that I did take it from my son's bedroom, but as he is sleeping in my bed - as my husband is away in Brazil attending a sleep conference and Michael is excellent on maximising snuggle opportunities - I don't think he will notice for the next 10 days!!). One of the children did have her face close to the lamp at one time and realised that it was warm - and of course developed a healthy respect for the lamp at the same time.

Later we made some more puppets - a few more for the Room on the Broom story, as well as some from Gruffalo - the children also started making their own. This was not so easy for some of the children as their need to play with the pen on the paper exceeds their desire to create a puppet - but it DID give us time to TALK about purposeful drawing, and it also inspired one child to take the leopard figure and draw that, and her observations in the drawing were wonderful, especially as this was her first attempt (her choice of colours were spot on).

As the children cut out their drawing they went off to test them at the shadow theatre. Their drawing and cutting inspired others and many toddlers were busy at the tables drawing and cutting with great concentration. It's really wonderful to see how infectious learning is through play...

building the shadow theatre last Monday - there IS a post about this too!

sometimes a head became a part of the performance

the puppets are without sticks - it makes them quite easy to handle, BUT it does mean we see a lot of body parts... I do feel though that the power of imagination will be strong enough not to see the hands etc and just focus on the figures - if it does get to a point where the children start to notice then I will be able to challenge their problem solving and ask what we could do...

experimenting with the puppets and different distances - close to the screen, close to the lamp, just off centre... etc - The shadows were always changing...

experimenting with the colour of the card - and also the frame of the shadow theatre allowed you to slightly post a puppet and let it stand (or hang) there while other puppets could be moved. ALSO different thickness of paper was used - lucky for us the ghost was drawn on thinner paper which made it more spooky! I am itching to start cutting out eyes, using tissue paper and cellafane to see how the children react and develop the puppets over time...

a leopard - a first attempt at drawing from a model - the child gave me a funny look when I suggested she should give it a try - she REALLY studied the leopard before starting

can't wait to see the stories that will come - this was  GREAT way for language development/support as well as an imagination fuel injection. The theatre took 20 minutes to build - and it was the best 20 minutes spent ever spent - as I can see hours of play, learning and imagination in front of us - think I better put a pen and notebook near the theatre to document the stories!!

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Braving the dark....

As part of our Fear Project we offered the children the opportunity to play in the dark - we have a LARGE room that we can make completely dark - we put on some spooky music and there were torches, small colour changing lamps that were soft and easy to play with as well as some glowsticks...

All but one child thoroughly enjoyed this play - that one child was able to go out of the room with a teacher and talk about how it felt and explore and face their fear (in the afternoon session, requested by the children, this child also participated and also commented that he was no longer afraid of the dark - "Where have the ghosts gone? They are not here anymore")

There was a LOT of screaming - the kind you hear on the roller-coaster and other white-knuckle rides - fear and delight mixed all at once. There was lots of running around with the light sources - although the two globe colour changing lamps tended to invite a calmer play and exploration... I am now wanting to get LOTS more of those lamps as they are such fun...

In the afternoon I had put up photos on the board and on the digital frame of the morning session - and they looked so much more spooky - as my camera had a long exposure as I did not use the flash - these photos were what inspired the children to want to play in the dark again... The great thing about the afternoon session was that we did not make it fully dark - as we had toddlers with us as well - which probably allowed the scared child from the morning able to see that there were no ghosts... it also allowed more children the opportunity to experience the play with dark and light - and those colour-changing lamps were a HUGE hit with the toddlers - they REALLY explored them - how they sparkled on the wall, how you could switch them on and off and watching how the colours changed - sometimes they were the same colour as each other - but most often not!

I think our ears have just about recovered from all the screaming...

ghostly like appearance on photo!

the colour changing ball looks like a snake as it moves across the room

the lamp when still

another fascinating moving light photo

the differences between the movement of the lmaps, the movement of the torches and the movement of the glow sticks
drawing with the torch
a fun exploration of fear - and an opportunity to talk about fear and feel a little braver later...

Monday 28 October 2013

Making a shadow theatre

As our Fear project has progressed it has been noticable that the children have shared a fear of the dark as well as for monsters, witches, ghosts etc, we have also noticed the children's interest in theatre and acting out the storybook we have been reading. So I thought that making a shadow theatre would be a great way to mix their interests with their explorations of fear.

So I experimented - I have NEVER built a shadow theatre before (having just used sheets hanging up with a light behind it before) - but this time I wanted something smaller that could be brought out and used and then put away - and also something that would allow the children to make their own shadow puppets - and I have noticed that at the moment the children's drawings tend to be quite small. Of course when making something that comes from your head like this, there is always a risk of it going wrong - but I feel that it is important that I show the children that I work with that I am prepared to take risks - that it is OK for things to go wrong, and that we can learn from our mistakes...

So in my head I reckoned I needed black card, white baking paper, and some cardboard for extra support and also so that the theatre could stand...

As you can see on the above photo I cut out the black card to create a frame - it was two pieces and first we glued on a piece of white baking paper (as it will disperse the light nicely to create shadows at the same time as allowing light through easily. We then glued some extra cardboard in to make it a bit more sturdy and then another layer of black card to finish it off.
I taped on two wings of cardboard that I cut slits into at the bottom so that an additional supporting strip of card could be used behind the theatre to help it have better blance, abd keep the wings open. We are thinking about adding trees and other things to this strip behind the theatre to add a backdrop to the performances that will eventually happen.

If I was to do this again - i would simply take a big cardboard box and cut of one of the long sides (which I would then use a part of for the supporting strip at the back) and then use the shorts sides as the standing wings and cut out a hole for the theatre on the long side which I would cover with baking paper. I would then paint the theatre (although I would paint it BEFORE I added the baking paper screen - well the children would paint it).

This was quite tricky for the children to do, but they participated the best they could (I will have to go back and re-glue some areas as the children were a bit haphazard as to where the glue was going ;-) )

The children started on the puppets - but I feel as the children probably don't fully understand what it is that they are doing, that I would just let them draw - some clearly made scary things like ghosts and monsters - but the majority just enjoyed the drawing process... So I am thinking of making a few puppets and putting on a show on Thursday morning to get them thinking about how they can best make their own puppets - and their own story-lines...

So hopefully later this week there will be some images of it in action!!

Sunday 27 October 2013

Philosophy and preschool

After meeting the speech therapist last week it has got me thinking more about the value of using philosophy as a learning and exploration tool in preschool. It was clear to the speech therapist, from observing just one session, that there was great value for language development as there is VERY clear structure in how the philosophical dialogue is held.

Reaching this structure with this group of children has been a journey, to say the least, as there is little to no information out there on philosophy for children for preschoolers - and what there is TENDS to be for over fours, and some for over threes. And when I started at Filosofiska Preschool last January there were no children above the age of three - but during the year three of the children have turned four and most of the two year olds have turned three. As it is a new preschool many of these children were also new to each other and the preschool - so if you follow my blog you will probably have noticed that there are a lot of posts about listening and social skills - as most of the art sessions have been chosen to support the children in getting to know each other and to support their budding social skills - it has, in all honesty, been a roller coaster of a ride - and some days I have pulled at my hair thinking "we are supposed to have philosophical dialogues with these children?".

The whole of the spring term was dedicated to trying out different formats - talking in a circle on the floor, talking with the children with their backs lined up against the wall (as when we were in the circle children were being excluded as the circle got smaller and smaller - no matter how obvious it was that we should sit round the mat - the need to be seen and the need to see was at that time BIGGER than the need to be a "we") - we worked in the whole group (10 children and 2 teachers) and half groups to see how this helped. We worked with the children with images in the middle as well as giving them pens and paper to draw with as we talked around the table.

LISTENING was always a problem - just about ALL of them LOVED to talk but not to listen - and with a philosophical dialogue (just with any conversation or dialogue) listening is an essential tool - not only to show peers your respect for what they are saying, but also to be able to undertand, reflect and ask questions about what is being said - otherwise there is a risk of a series of monologues. And yes, we as teachers were modelling listening behaviour, by being attentive, by writing down their words and reading them back to them - but still there was a lack of listening...

Summer came and went and a reorganisation of preschool staff meant Ellen became my new colleague - and of course after time away, new children starting and a new teacher in the little group (even though she is well known to the children) the first few weeks of the term were dedicated to social jostling - "who am I in this group?". We are now 11 children and two teachers - two children have moved (including one to USA) and three new children started.
We had planned for the first official philosophical dialogue for a Tuesday morning - "talking rings" were ready - the idea being that if you are holding the talking ring it is your turn to talk and IMPORTANTLY if you are not holding the talking ring then it is your turn to listen - it is important that you say "your turn to listen" instead of "not talking" and there is a BIG difference between the two. Listening is an active verb - it is a skill that the children need to learn and practice. Not talking is not an active skill and means that we are not asking the children to listen or show interest just "not to talk". There is a second ring - as I wanted to show the children respect - that we as adults also needed to follow the same rules and that one thing did not apply to them and another to us - so one of the teachers holds a second talking ring - a slightly different one, that allows the teacher to ask questions and support the children in their particiaption - the other teacher is busy writing everything that is being said (and done) in a note book (A4). We have shared with the children that our aim is that one day one of the children can hold the leader talking-ring, but that first we need to practice both talking and listening and sharing our ideas.

the children's talking ring
The day before the first philosophical dialogue was tough. The children showed me quite clearly that they were NOT interested in sitting around the mat in a circle without a great deal of adult support - and this did not bode well for a dialgue if we were concentrating on just being able to sit in a circle. I went home and wracked my brain... how could I make this easier for the children - to have their own space so that they did not have to be concerned about what others are doing and to be able to focus on talking and listening...

The next day I moved chairs into our library area of the preschool and put them in a circle, with a small amount of space between each one - allowing each child their own defined space. In the middle of the circle I put a glass bowl of coloured water and there were three floating candles - something to focus on...

a circle of chairs with candles in the middle - we started off writing the notes on a BIG paper and had them on the wall - but they took up too much space, the children showed little interest in them and the parents were not partaking in the information either as it was at the far side of the preschool. All the notes were transferred to a note book and this book is kept near the entrance so that parents have the chance to read and be a part of their children's life at preschool
The children sat - and proved that we are right to believe in their competence - they could sit and they could talk - and, although when we look back now we can see how short that first dialogue was, we were SO pleased that our first dialogue went so smoothly.

By documenting what the children say we are not only able to see how their language develops - a richer vocabulary, their sentences are becoming longer, their pronunciation (I write down how they say words) but also their ability to listen and recall what friends have said. We do this every once in a while, especially when the listening part is starting to lose focus we ask - "is there someone who can repeat what xx has said?" - sometimes they can, sometimes just a part and sometimes they just start talking about something else entirely... we are also able to see their thought processes.
Writing down their words is also the fuel to the activities and the future dialogues that we have... Sometimes questions have been used when a small group started talking and thinking about a topic and we have asked if they would like to talk about the question in our philosophical dialogue - THOSE dialogues based on a previous discussion are the richest - because more of the children are invested in the question and also because some of them already have experience of talking and reflecting about this question...

So you might ask, why are not ALL of your questions for philosophical dialogue these kind of questions? Well all of them have been based on the children's interests and our observations of the children, but we still want to challenge the children in their thoughts - we are available the whole day to listen and discuss with the children as they wish and need (lunch times have become more and more like this) - and many of the activities are designed to give the children further opportunity to delve into their thoughts - but we also have to recognise that these children are still in the process of building up their language at the same time as particiapting in these discussions - for several of the children just staying on topic can be tricky at times - and the philosophical format gives structure to guide these children BACK to the topic "yes, I hear that you are starting to tell a story now, but we are interested in hearing what you think about..." We always let the children know we are interested in hearing their stories later, but that during the philosophy session we keep on topic. This is VERY good for their pragmatic language development - to not just say words to participate but to be able to follow the topic of the converation. The clear turn taking of using the talking rings also helps with their pragmatic language development - as listening is an important part of communication as is talking...

At the end of the session I read back to the children what they have said - holding both of the talking rings. It allows the children to hear their own words again, as well as those of friends, it allows the children to see that we value their words as we write them down, it allows the children to see that words can be written down using letters/symbols, it allows the children another chance to reflect on what has been said. On occasion the children are given the option to listen or go and get ready for outdoor play - and twice it has happened that all but one or two have gone (we have seen that their ability to listen has been pushed to the max - and it is about respecting their abilities and letting the experience remain positive).

The children are "free" to choose their own places in the circle of chairs - but we do encourage children to sit next to someone that allows them to be able to focus on listening - and there are days when we know that we have to select the places for some of the children, ensuring that they are close to an adult, for comfort or support, or not next to a certain child that would guarantee negative attention - as sometimes the need to allow the children to be competent is MUCH greater than the need to allow the children to choose freely. AND I do believe that the more competent the children feel the easier it will become for them to choose freely and wisely.

playing philosophical dialogue happens too - on this occasion the children used a red ball like a talking ring - at first they had placed the chairs in a circle, but others kept walking through their circle so they moved them up against the wall and continued there... We now have an extra set of talking rings (slightly different) for the children to play with when they want.
The difference between a normal preschool dialogue and a philosophical dialogue with these preschoolers  is that there is a great deal more structure - and there is not the fear of interrupting a child if they go off topic (and I am not talking about having an expansive and exploratory dialogue about the subject - some pretty amazing things pop up - BUT that we do keep to the day's philosophy question. As time goes on I am quite sure that the children will dig deeper into their reflections and that they will ask each other questions and the dialogue will take a different direction... but this will be something the whole groups agrees on - and not that just one child talks about) We are encouraging the children to particiapte and focus on a question - we are strict about turn taking, about keeping on topic and about being active listeners.
We do have other dialogues and conversations where there is the room for children to go off topic and to explore what is going on in their imaginations - there is room for all sorts of forms of communication - and a philsophical dialogue is a form of communication. We have philosphical dialogues twice a week.

As teachers we are expected to listen to what is being said with new ears - not to cloud thoughts with our own perception of what is right and wrong, but to be open to new possibilities - this does not mean we just cast aside our experiences and wisdoms - it means that we use these experiences and wisdoms to make sense of what is being shared - can we take this new thought to expand our own - or can we take our own to help expand those of others? Will we agree to disagree? BUT most importantly to receive other's thoughts with respect and value whether we agree with them or not.

We as teachers at Filosofiska also have philsophical dialogues with each other - with the exact same structure - this allows the ceiling to be high - in other words that we can be accepting of each other's ideas and explore them together... but this has been a long post - and I will go more into that another time...

Friday 25 October 2013

making a monster

During our philosophical dialogues about fear the topic of monsters has been raised - so a group of six of the children had the opportunity to describe a monster - which did not seem that easy at first... but I am interested in getting the children to THINK about what they are creating BEFORE they start painting etc - that their artwork is becoming more intentional and not JUST a sensory experience - although I still see the need for plenty of sensory art experiences too. I also wanted to challenge their imaginations and to be able to see the potential of art as a great way of expressing their imagination...

The session started with drawing round one of the children to get a form - the idea being to see what was needed to transform a child into a monster - and for this session I drew the children's words - a big triangular head with spikes, wide arms with long claws (no mention of hands), a fat tummy, legs with scales and big feet. The children were then asked what was a monster colour - and that was the colour they got to paint with ( but they got to swap with each other too - and mix - but this took time to happen).

The main idea of this session was to get the children thinking about how far we can push things in art - but I felt the children were really rather conservative - I was hoping for many arms and legs, and hair all over the place, millions of eyes all over the body etc etc etc - in the end I have to admit I started to push their thoughts a little . challenge their imagination to expand from two of everything - and we did end up with three eyes...

When the children were painting it was VERY harmonious - the children chatted and worked together to fill the monster with colour - althought a couple of the children had their own agenda of painting everywhere EXCEPT inside the lines - and after a few gentle reminders about the intention of the morning I just let it slide and let them enjoy their own process - they knew the monster was going to be cut out, so the children who were slightly concerned about those children painting mangoes etc around the monster (and these images could be saved too)

Today we returned to the monster and started adding texture - and once the children got going on this they kept adding and adding and adding - looking for more things that could be glued on! It has ended up quite heavy - much heavier than I anticipated - so we will have to see what happend when the glue dries and we try to get it to stay on the wall!!

drawing around, counting spikes, counting colours, and adding adding adding texture....
everyone had their own position for painting - sitting, squatting, lying down.... and there was plenty of movement as the children are starting to get the hang of maving around and taking their paint with them to reach all areas of the monster/art - and just over half way through they realised they could mix colours with each other to create new colours - which started an interest in swapping colours with each other...
carefully carefull filling each claw with colour...

feathers, ribbons, ice-cream spoons - what MORE could be found?

prickles needed to be added - last winter we collected pine needles from the snowy ground from Christmas trees that had been dumped in the square for collection/recycling. Shredded paper... and the children's favourite - glitter

Thursday 24 October 2013

A forest for everyone...

The forest offers a whole variety of possibilities - sometimes we are in search of something particular - like acorns or autumn leaves - other times it is the scene for imaginative play. It offers children the possibility to play all together, in small groups or to find a quiet spot and have a little think.

Today was all about sticks and stones - about working together to move BIG branches and logs and trying to move a stone. In small groups collecting sticks and building dens or sliding down the rocks. For other children to go look for the witch from "Room on the Broom" - there is ALWAYS something to do and something to discover or rediscover...

we went into the forest to collect sticks - as we are going tinto the forest next week to light a fire and cook lunch - as we have discovered the children just did not understand that fire was dangerous... so we are going to get up close with fire to learn more - to give them the opportunity to make their own risk assessments and not rely on adults protecting them... but I will write about that next week! Instead of collecting lots of sticks - it became a morning of moving and co-operation - and this was something we did not want to disturb.

rock-sliding was a popular activity - slide down. climb up, slide down, climb up.
today the children were mostly together (often they break off in smaller groups) and after a while one of the children seemed to need a break, wandered off a short distance and sat herself down. I watched and observed as she sat there deep in her own thoughts looking at the sky and the tree-tops.
After a while she got up and went back to play with the others. When I asked her about what she was looking at - she said she was watching the clouds... small wispy clouds were floating by in the wind in the bright blue sky - yes it WAS worth pausing a moment and just looking. Sometimes we need a 2 year old to remind us of the importance of just being.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

the theatre continues

The children have continued their interest in the story Room on the Broom - and this time we were a little more prepared - with a pointy hat and wand - and even a cauldron to add to the fun...

AND as yesterday the children got to continue role-playing the book after we had put on a performance with five of the children - this time Ellen continued as witch - to see how this would support the role-play (as yesterday they just sat and listened). The role-play was definitely more active this time - the story also changed a bit too.

It is always interesting to see how young children "read" the book - yesterday the child had told the story as she remembered it, in some parts word for word. Today the child read the pictures to tell the story which meant it turned into a slightly different version - (it can be fun to do that - to just read the images because sometimes they CAN really tell a new story - and several different ones depending on interpretation). AND in todays version the dragon was a wolf - something that this child had mentioned as one of her fears (dragons have not been mentioned).

We have got The Gruffalo and Gruffalos Child out ready to introduce too - as both books take up fear and how to deal with fear - as well with great rhyming and repetition to support language development - I wnder if these stories will be turned into performances once the children become more familiar with them?

mixing up magic and chanting the magic formular - in Swedish it is "Risteri, rosteri, rustari, rast.."

role-play fun - coming together to listen and act out one child's version of the story - it takes concentration to follow the story AND make sure everyone was doing what they should be!!

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Language, philosophy and books...

We have been reading Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson a lot recently - what with flight connections and witches and dragons fitting in with our talks about fear. The children love the rhyming and have been getting involved by joining in the story - especially completeing the rhymes (and yes it is translated, fairly well, into Swedish - its never quite the same). Today Ellen had made herself a big pointy nose out of paper - and this inspired us to take the book to a new level and act it out - five children helped Ellen act out as I read the story (and there are five eager children waiting to act it out tomorrow). Afterwards the children were encouraged to read and act the book out themselves...
The chairs were placed in a row, as if they were the most magnificent broom, and one of the children "read" from the book. I can't say there was much acting out - but they seemed to enjoy sitting there listening to the abbreviated version of the story.

putting the chairs together to make the most maginificent broom

 Having met the speech therapist this morning, as she observed my group, one child in particular, she congratulated us on our use of story telling, use of rhyme, use of story cards and structured transitions to support the children, especially the ones with language issues - whether pragmatic, or second language, vocabulary or delayed language development - transitions can be a confusing time when verbal language is not explaining fully what is happening...
She was also thrilled with the philosphical dialogues we have with the children - as they not only support language through being very structured (turn-taking is VERY clear) but also supports the children to listen and keep on topic which can be tricky for many children in their language development. AND the fact that ALL the philosphical dialogues are documented word for word means we have an excellent source of material so we can see language development also. She was interested in learning more about philosophy for children as a tool for language development.

Through discussions with her I have got ideas to develop new materials for the group to support their language development - not just the children witha language disorder or (in the case) Swedish as a second langauge - but will in fact support all children in their language development.

I will share with you - as I create... and as we do...

But for now - I am going to return to fixing some photographs ready to put up on the board tomorrow - on Wednesdays is my planning/documenting/reflection time...  So all these images for the blog are also produced for the preschool, minus the "Interaction Imagination" text and not having to blur out faces!!

another promise

when making a promise to one child - others become inspired - today another child insisted I take a photograph t share with everyone. So here is the monster building - complete with monster spikes!

Monday 21 October 2013

Keeping a promise - no.2

as promised - sharing a dragon -
I saw the process of this dragon and it started with a long body and then out frew the wings, spreading further and further out.
She was so proud of her dragon that she wanted to share it with the world!

Sunday 20 October 2013

One Year of blogging

Today marks the day that I have been blogging for a year

Tomorrow will start my second year.

So I thought that this was a good a day as any to reflect on the whole blogging part of my life.

I have really enjoyed the journey - I have also really enjoyed the connections with people from all over the world that provoke my thoughts and allow me to think deeper and more critically about what I do and why I do the things that I do... but self -critical is probably not something I need help with - it IS something that I am a bit too good at - and in a sense the blog as allowed me to see what I do and to feel proud of what I am achieving - and not the continous "I want to do more", "I want to be better", "how can..." - I think balance in life is important...

Balance is something I still need to work on - my preschool part of myself is maybe the most dominant side of who I am - for better or for worse. It is very much an enormous part of my identity - as well as being a mother, a wife and just plain old me...

I think I do the blog for me... YES, I think that sharing ideas and inspiration is vital - and it is part of why I am so active... but my brain is always so busy that it is actually VERY nice to pour out my thoughts onto the blog and then let myself sleep instead of lying in bed churning over the ideas and ponderings...

My husband says I think too much - which is probably true - everyday I go back on what I have said and done during the day - could I have said it differently - as I said I am very self critical...

BUT that means that I have a hard time accepting status quo - that others just do things because they have always been done like that - so it means I question EVERYTHING - and I guess that is not always appreciated at first... and it is something that I am grateful that age has helped me with - to understand the diversity of everyone - and the wonders that brings and that the frustrations are a part of those wonders... and the more you concentrate on the wonders the less frustrating the frustrations become - does that even make sense?

I have a huge curiosity to learn more and more - and the only way to do that is to ask more and more questions - why do you do it like that, what happens if you do it like this instead, how can you make that work when... I have seen others do it like this, I have done this before and...
I guess it can make me a royal pain in the bottom in some groups - but I never assume I am right, I am always digging for more knowledge - and sometimes I can be passionate about something but can reflect later and assimilate ideas and let my own philosophy about children and how I work with children grow and develop.

I never thought many would bother reading my blog - and it really does suprise me that so many do - and from so many parts of the world - it truly humbles me - that I am a small part in a whole world wide interest in making learning fun and meaningful for children - people who believe in the competence of children and also want to be inspired ... by me ... as I am so inspired by many others - and I am grateful for their time, their thoughts and their devotion to sharing ideas.

I keep thinking that maybe its time to step back a little from blogging - and blog a little less. Not sure if I will be able to do that... but I think it is something I need to do to find balance in my life.

As fun as this journey is - and as much as I love the time and reflection of what I do at work it does take time... So I am sitting here trying to work out what to do - do I say - "no more than x blogs a month" or do I just let it flow... ?
I have never felt I had to write a post to keep the blog alive, it has always been a case I had so many thoughts spinning in my head that a post was a great place to sort them...

... kind of scary to think that you have all been inside my head for the last year... but I guess that is about sharing. And everyone who has taken the time to comment - either here or on my facebook page Interaction Imagination I thank you - because your feedback is what helps me in my own learning journey.
The FB page also allows me to collect other ideas and inspiration from a wide range of inspiring people and places - in a way this blog is my reflection time - my page is like a big basket for collecting ideas - that I just happen to share with anyone that is interested...

So thank you everyone for being a part of my first year of blogging - and let's see what the coming year brings...

I hope it brings opportunities to meet some of the amazing people I have met through blogging and other social media.

Thursday 17 October 2013

Time travel

Have you ever thought about it - time travel?

My first degree is in History and Ancient History - I knew aged 7 that I would study history at University - I LOVED visiting castles, I loved how my imagination would travel back in time -

and I soon discovered that I preferred the really old history where there was still some kind of creative licence to piece together the puzzles of what was or what it could have been by putting the shreds of evidence together...

I have spent a week as a volunteer with Kalmar Läns Museum doing time travel as a method of teaching  history - using actual local history to colour the re-enactment of a specific time in history - when I was there I did the middle ages with seven year olds, the 19th century with 16 year olds and the viking era with 14 year olds etc

I adapted my experiences at Kalmar so that they would work with with 2-6 year olds travelling back in time - to the first Thanksgiving - the children getting new names once they had travelled back 400 years - the ACTUAL names from the first Thanksgiving (like Wrestling) - and then doing lots of Thanksgiving activities for the day, like washing the dolls clothes by hand... Of course to do time travel like this DOES require a lots of research - but for me that is such a fun part - and I would compile information packs for colleagues to enable them to go into character and make the time-travel more authentic.

I have also done time travel with three year olds as part of a dinosaur investigation - which was GREAT fun to see how the children built their time machines in groups and then used them in role play - and how when they travelled back in time some of the children turned into dinosaurs.

 Time travel can happen - and I am quite keen on giving it a try -
yes it may be 2013 here in Sweden right now - but next month is the Islamic new year and it will be 1485! In China it is 4711! In Ethiopia it has just turned the year 2005 - you get the idea - time travel is a possibility - just depends how you look at things -

And then there is the time differences between one side of the planet from the other (and in between) - the whole idea that right now it is tomorrow already in Australia - that is just SO wierd - I mean tomorrow today - which means that we are yesterday for them... more time travel.

At the age of 5 my daughters had this totally worked out - it's part of the reason Father Christmas could make it round the world because the night is sooo much longer than you think. AND they had also worked out that not everyone celebrates Christmas - and  that Christmas is not even celebrated with the same Father Christmas/Santa - here in Sweden it is a Tomte that comes in the afternoon of Christmas Eve... and yes, they had thought of time-travel in the sense that time stands still for him to fix the rest...

And WHY is it that sometimes five minutes can feel like forever - and other times an hour can feel like five minutes?

 Time is a VERY funny thing once you start thinking about it...

Wednesday 16 October 2013

"how high dare you climb" art.

Just a quick post to share our process art session today...

We challenged the children with the fear of height - how high did they dare climb? On the step, on the chair, on the table or all the way up the step ladder?

ALL the children wanted to go up the step ladder - ALL but one went to the very top - one child was almost at the top!

First they chose a scary colour of paint - and this was dripped down onto the paper below. The idea was to have a lots of splats - but the children were far too interested in feeling the paint - so when everyone had challenged their fear of height (which there did not seem so much of - but maybe we simply need a bigger step ladder?) then they got to mix up the colours to a new scary colour!

Colours used...
night, dark black
blood red
ghost white
poop  brown
monster blood green
snot yellow
scary blue

I think we might need to do something similar again - climbing up the step ladder was POPULAR!

Monday 14 October 2013

Fairyland turns into Scaryland

At the start of the day the children were already expressing an interest in getting in touch with the scary side of things - they had asked for the torches as light was a good thing when you were scared of the dark - and then asked if we could make it darker...
So I asked if they would like to take the fairies down and make the corner a little scary instead - there was MUCH enthusiasm for this - and so "Choice" today was between going into the forest to see if the bike there could be dismantled more and brought back to preschool or to stay inside and start on making things scary... the majority today chose to be inside...

What do we need to make it scary
  • we need ugly things
  • we need scary things
  • what is an ugly thing?
  • It's a thing -ugly thing. I am not sure.
  • I think an ugly thing is my doll and my airplane, that is ugly. And my plate is ugly.
  • beans
  • scary witch tops and ugly beans and ugly cars and ugly stuff'someone who stamps noisily and is green and blue and is ugly. And if something is green and mixed with yellow it will then become pink
  • what are scary things?
  • scary things are the doctor. I think scary is when I go into a room and a ghost comes. I dreamt about a ghost at home  and I was really scared.
  • witch, monster, ghost
  • wolf, witch, cars (why) because they can knock me over, blood, bears that have blood, a girl is scary with blood
  • for me scary is witches and bears, blood when they hit you (on the arm) and then blood and meat comes from the skin - THAT is scary
  • witches and blood and then I think ghosts and cars and wizards.
I read out the words again and we noticed that many had commented that ghosts were scary and that maybe painting ghosts would be a good place to start to transform the area from fairyland to scaryland! They all agreed.
Black paper was decided would be the scariest.

And then we squeezed some ghost blood onto each piece of paper and each child got to choose an extra scary colour to add a little extra to the ghost - and using sponges they created ghost shapes - I reminded them to focus on the shape of their ghost - did they want a head or arms and legs - or did they want a tail instead? One child wanted to just fill the page, but this time I put the breaks on and insisted that there would be time for fillling paper with paint later, but that right now we were painting ghosts - this was NOT easy - either for me or for her - I like the children to experience paint, but at the same time I KNEW she wanted to paint a ghost and it was my responsibility to help her with this process, even though her arms wanted to continue moving the paint around. She did stop as I pulled out the googly eyes...

The children washed their sponges and set them aside for drying and then I asked how many eyes they needed. I wanted them to plan - not just enjoy the rhythm of picking up a googly eye and glueing it on, but to actually think beforehand about how many would be needed and where they would be glued. All the children said two except for the last child who said three - the other children reacted - loooking at me like something I was wrong - and I simply said "ooo scary, three eyes" and expected the other children to ask for more eyes (they didn't) - but they all accepted that three eyes was perfectly OK for a ghost!

I have read about how googly eyes are frowned upon by some - but I simply think they are a bit of fun - and I remember how much I loved them as a child - and could see the same delight in these childrens' eyes too. I placed them on the table, challenging their fine motor skills in picking them up and gluing them onto their ghost. But if there was ever a time to have googly eyes it is at halloween - to try and get the balance between scary and humour so that the children can deal with their fears in a safe manner.

In the afternoon during snack the ghosts flew into the room saying "booo" and the children shared with their friends that had been outside in the morning what they had been up to - and also I wanted to see if they remembered which ghost they had made - all could identify their own ghosts and most could identify the other's too.

Later in the week we will be talking about fear with the children in our philosophy sessions - but this time we will be dividing the children into two groups - so that it is slightly more intimate while we are talking about fears... and discussing how we can meet them and overcome them...

ghost blood was transformed into ghosts - the top one with a LONG arm

Ode to a cleaner

Here is my heart felt thank you to all those amazing people who keep preschools clean - the ones that take pride in their work and really make the place clean.

Because as a preschool teacher I am on the floor a lot - so my appreciation of cleaners is HUGE. To be able to move across the floor without the feeling that you are cleaning the floor with your clothes is so much appreciated - and I am quite sure the children who are on the floor, playing on the floor, lying on the floor and then sticking everything that has been on the floor in their mouths would also agree (if they much cared about these things) - but I care.

So, Monica... who cleans the preschool where i work right now. This is for you...

Your hard work is appreciated! Your hard work is need and an important part of our preschool!

Sunday 13 October 2013

a slow walk

Sometimes the simple things in life really are the best. We are lucky as we live right next to a lake - and if we follow the lake round we get to Vinterviken - maybe a good place to go right now as the Nobel Prize winners are being announced - as it is in Vinterviken that Alfred Nobel had his factory.

We though had ideas to go for a long walk - but there was just so much to do and see that we kept getting side-tracked and in the end went to Aspudden Park instead (I shared that on the Parks and Play in Stockholm page).

We took a mini electric fan with us to see what we could do with autumn leaves - working out the difference between dry leaves and wet leaves, big leaves and small leaves - and leaves with long stalks and short stalks - it all makes a difference you know.

The sculpture with wood caught our eye - although Michael was a little disappointed that he couldn't crawl into it - he was just a little too big to get through that opnening!!

Hoping there are lots more sunny autumn days left before winter comes. The great thing about sunny autumn days is that you slow down... you notice things, hear things and have the time to stuff conkers and other treasures in your pockets.

Wednesday 9 October 2013

MY Reggio - another visit...

Jeanne Zeuch from Zella said Purple posted a break up letter with Reggio Emilia yesterday (you can read it here)  It is worth taking the time to pop over and read it.

My own relationship with Reggio Emilia is very clear (to me), and I feel that Jeanne is going to enjoy her "break-up" but more importantly I hope that she will have encouraged many others to "break-up" with the image/facade of Reggio and delve into what it is REALLY about. 

It IS a friend 

Reggio is my friend not something I put on a pedastal, not something I want to clone - it is guidance, inspiration and the power to set you out on your own journey - the "problem" is when educators etc board the boat but forget to set sail! 

Each boat will be different - it needs to be adapted for ocean seas, small rivers, row boats, steam boats, viking boats, cruise-liners, ice-breakers - 
each work in different ways, relevant to where they are, to meet the needs of those on board and the place they find themselves ...
- I also believe that on this journey you will have to transform your boat as you venture into new waters and new passengers board!
It requires new and evolving skills -as your row boat evolves into a steam boat instead of oarsmen you will need engineers   - each part of the journey requiring a new need to learn to ensure the journey proceeds. Don't foget your map making and map reading - sometimes you will enter uncharted waters - you will need to document so that next time you pass this way you will have a better understanding.

And of course on the journey you stop off in new lands to see and meet more inspiration, load your boat with supplies (known and new) before setting out again...
Occasionally you will want to explore the great waters below you to better understand what it is that you are floating on.  You will have to learn ship/boat building so that you can meet the needs of yourself and the passengers and the requirements of the waters. Each stage, each process needs to be documented so that next time it is easier, next time there is more understanding, next time you can enjoy the process in a different way and notice new details.

 I have always loved REA - because it gave me the freedom to do what was right for the children and not have to adhere to a certain methodology. It gave me guidance as to how it could be done in a respectful manner - but I think I was Reggio before I knew Reggio, discovering the approach just gave me the strength to believe in my own journey. I have always looked for inspiration and understanding from all walks of life to support my work with children. My inner child has always valued each child, their learning, their joy, the newness of discovery... their need to learn through play and joy and the pride in being competent. 

Yes, the Reggio Emilia Approach is much better as a friend, not someone to emulate, but a good and respected friend that will question you in your choices, support you and inspire you... 

the journey you make as yourself ...

A boat.
What kind of boat are you steering right now? What adventures (projects)? How is your map collection (documentation) is it supporting your journey - or are you entering uncharted waters using guides from others whilst creating your own maps?

making a boat water-worthy...