Sunday, 18 May 2014

Day Two of Philosophy

A slightly shorter day... but still a full on mind-extending experience...

Today we talked about how strict Bo had been yesterday, and the learning experience we had from that. That even though it made us feel uncomfortable (which was the aim, to push us out of our comfort zone) we were grateful of the learning experience... and of course that this strictness is not something that would be done with children.... but the discomfort we experienced could be the same kind of discomfort children experience when they have their thinking pushed/challenged. I think it is healthy that we also are reminded of how this discomfort actually feels...

The work of Sara Stanley was shared with the group and her use of story books as a opening for philosophical exploration with children. Last Tuesday I participated in a twitterchat lead by Sara via #EYtalking on the topic of Philosophical Play, that was intensive and rewarding. And there are plans in the works for Sara to come and visit us at Filosofiska - which we are all very excited about...
I recommend that you go to her website (using the link on her name) and check it out for some philosophical inspiration.

To give my brain a chance to rest I will end this post with just a few quotes from today...

Lipman - philosophy is to teach children to fight with words rather than fists

philosophy - it is not about winning but about building bridges

If we teach children to think we also create problems for ourselves... as they will start to challenge you

There is a difference between acceptable and unacceptable discomfort.

Children are not in school/preschool of their own free will (how will this affect how engaged they are/react to what we as teachers say/decide/arrange?)

Philosophy with children needs rules just as playing a game needs rules.

Does the size of the group affect how children participate/prioritise their thoughts?

The question board... today we watched a film about The Question Board from Sara Stanley, where parents and children went to the board and the children put their name on their decision (these were colour coded, and to help children remember later they took a piece of paper of the colour that they chose to aid the discussion later) When I was in Laurel Fynes classroon in Canada I got see a question board in action... this time it was the children helping and discussing with each other about their choices... those who could read helped out those children who could not. The children picked up their lid with a magnet on the back and a photo and their name on the front and placed it under the word they agreed with. The questions came from the children.... and on the board (just off shot to the left) children could write their questions to save for another day to be used on the Question Board.

I did not go deeper into how these question boards were used in Laurel's classroom... there was so much to see, to experience, to learn and to be inspired by, that the few hours I was there was too short to be able to soak up the wealth of inspiration on a deeper level. I rather hope that Laurel might add a comment here and share some more wisdom with us all. Laurel has a blog that is worth checking out... This Kindergarten Life.


  1. Attempt 2 - even off the iPad my comments sometimes disappear here. !!
    I loved seeing this photo splash up on my feed. Memories: students I miss because they're off to grade one in the nearby French Immersion school, memories of teaching 1/2 day classes twice a day (this was my afternoon group), and of course fond memories of your short but so meaningful trip to visit us at Thornwood.
    These 2 quotes stuck out for me:

    "There is a difference between acceptable and unacceptable discomfort."

    This is a topic we could really delve into with a #ReggioPLC chat. It seems easy enough to understand on the surface of it (e.g.; sometimes you have to wait, and that's hard. sometimes you are excluded, and that is unfair and painful.) but the more I think about it the more it becomes a lens with which to view issues in the classroom... say, a student whose behaviour during group meetings is so disruptive that we allow them to opt out (read a book elsewhere) rather than make 25+ others wait for that attention, quiet, focus. Then upon reflection I'm torn between my expectations (large group meetings got hard when the actual number of students made it a truly large group this year) and the need to let students have an out for when they are simply not ready to participate in a meaningful way. Or perhaps it could relate to outdoor play, with a student who truly does not like to go outdoors in the cold. We make do, offer extra layers of warm clothes, provide activities, but opting out? Not as easy anymore when it's not simply saying "you may read a book somewhere comfortable". Where would that child go?

  2. The other quote that stood out for me was this:

    "If we teach children to think we also create problems for ourselves... as they will start to challenge you"

    I suppose it stands out because in my eye the two are related for me. We do encourage students to make decisions, make choices, and even to disagree. We ask for students to think about our ideas or invitations, and they often come up with ideas of their own ("plans") that require more materials than we'd intended, or more mess than we'd bargained for, or even require us to ask around for materials. This sort of challenge isn't always easy (we may have a plan for that baking soda, salt, food colour or string a student really needs NOW) but it's about negotiation, and empowering students to have an actual impact on their inquiries. Other challenges require some nimble thinking on our parts, those challenges that crop up when some students don't want to share materials and have a seemingly sound reason for it. I was nearly dumbstruck last week when a boy angrily lamented that others in class were doing "his" experiment. Students draw or write plans to ask for materials on the shelves above our sinks. These materials aren't out for free choice access like blocks or paper, loose parts or books. It's just occured to me now that what we call a plan is somewhat more like a recipe: they make a visual representation of the items they'll need (bottle, water, colour, seeds, glitter, baking soda, etc.) and then give to us to help them gather. Maybe a shopping list/recipe. In any case, this boy became upset when others, obviously excited at the reaction of his vinegar, soap and baking soda mixture, asked if they could replicate the experiment. One after another, students lined up with my teaching partner Pooneh to make a fizzy colour volcano in a cup. He said "It's mine. I don't like it when people copy me. It's not okay". I was quiet a moment, and then mentioned how we'd earlier in the year had some big talks, about ideas, and then about inspiration. I reminded him of the teacher who tweeted our class, saying how much her class was inspired by what she shared from our photos. Inspiration became a big word in our class, but for this student, sharing ideas or materials is very difficult. I asked if he wanted to keep his plans for home, take them to try out at home instead, letting him know that ideas at school were meant for sharing and learning from. He said no, but I do wonder how next week will unfold. I also wonder if I handled that correctly...

    As for our question board: it was an idea adopted from Andrea Bolton, a fellow PDSB teacher and one of the instructors from my Kindergarten AQ courses. It began simply enough, with a question from the teacher for children to answer each day upon entry to school. Over time it evolved and looks different at different times: if there's a particular idea or problem to explore that may have arisen the day before, I'll think of a way to word it as a question for the morning (e.g.; do you want to help figure out a new way to stack our big blocks? yes/no). Students sometimes display an interest in asking their own questions, which is actively supported by us (as you saw when in my half-day class last year, we have sticky notes near the board so students can write their question ideas for the next day). Sometimes the questions aren't really answerable, and not fixing them leads to interesting conversations... if a student writes "What do you like to eat?" but doesn't give choices, it's an opportunity to play with words, come at it another way (a yes/no question, offering multiple options, leaving a marker for students to write answers) but this hasn't come up as much this year as it did last.
    So I'd say it's not philosophy or critical thinking we're getting at with the board, but that it has it's place supporting student literacy, both reading and writing.