Saturday, 6 September 2014

the importance of the spoken language...

We have embarked on a collaboration with Stureby Preschools, a collection of 6 city-run preschools. They have been working with a norm-critical thinking apporach, where the focus is not looking at those who are different and helping them to become a part of the "accepted norm" but to look at what the accepted norm is, to question that, to understand that an to see how that can be changed to welcome ALL in. It is about inclusion, acceptance and respect.

We at Filosofiska have the opportunity to learn more about this norm-critical thinking approach, and we will share what we have learned about using a philosophical approach.

We met yesterday briefly. The questions were great and I can see the benefits of being questioned on such a deep and meaningful level... but I also saw the problem in this kind of approach too.

The focus is of course we share what we know about philosophy for/with children - so of course everything that we do at preschool is not shared... we magnify the philosophy, which means there is a focus on the spoken language when we talk to others about philosophy.
sitting watching the water run into the drains... other children saw, and came to sit and watch too, sharing ideas without verbal communication

We were quite rightly questioned on this focus on the verbality of the dialogue, and that not all children learn this way, and that learning requires the children to experience, to have a hands on approach...

Which of course we do... everyone who has been following my blog will know that we have a very hands on approach to learning, there are experiences for the children to try out with their bodies, their emotions etc and opportunities to talk about it, play it... the dialogue part of the philosophy is a small part of what we do... the philosophical approach is there all the time as a guide for how we as teachers work, with the children, with the third teacher (the setting environment), with our colleagues and with the parents... it permeates everything we do. We need to question the what, the why and the how, so that it is always meaningful.
sometimes there has been no play possible, because the children have not been able to communicate anything except "mine". Through play we have been able to support the "community of learners" approach.
So, I begin to wonder, how it is possible to share what we do philosophically without making it seem like that is all we do - sit in a circle and talk...

ready for dialogue
How can I be better at communicating that our "pre-philosophy" does not have that focus, but that our focus is on children communicating ideas with each other, and learning as a community.... THAT does not require a spoken language... especially when you think that the youngest of our children do not yet have a spoken language but are fully capable of communicating with us and with each other... all teachers who work with the VERY young will witness this non-verbal communication.

this child had the idea of painting with feet and communicated this to other one year olds how much joy there was in this experience... two other one year olds expressed non-verbally that they too wanted to try this out, and also got the opportunity to do that... they experienced it completely differently and not with the same joy...
So easily we are focussing on the spoken word, and of course on reading and writing... something that is given so much priority as to what learning is... that a child is clever if it learns to read and write early... and a child with advanced social skills or motor skills is not given the same status as the reading and writing child... why is that?

What I have seen is that all children will learn to read and write IF they are taught when they are ready... trying to teach a child to read and write before they are ready can be disastrous, and can lead to problems much later on, when everyone thinks they should be able to read and write and the correct support is not given. Also when I ask children about when they will start school, it is always about learning to read and write... not about any other form of learning... why is other learning not given the same importance? (I am not saying that reading and writing is not important)

When I look at many websites and literature about philosophy with/for children there is ALWAYS the focus on the verbal communciations as well as on the written communication; children keep logbooks and write down their ideas etc...
reading stories together, acting them out, children learning to communicate directions/story and children learning to listen and act them out, books open to interpretation... each "director" brought their own twist to the story.

In a preschool the focus is on learning, on play, on a whole-child-development - individually and together. The philosophy we have been doing has not been just sitting down in a circle with a focus on the what is being said... YES, we do this, as children will benefit from this skill, but it is one skill of many. We have focussed very much on listening - when we are in dialogue, but also in our play, with the very popular bubble game, with pretending to be mirrors and copying what the person opposite does, with playing board games, with making constructions, listening to stories, playing tag etc games outside, by observing nature... everything we do supports the children in their listening, in the social interactions, in the learning... and as teachers we support the children to think critically... to look closely and wonder.... this does not need a spoken language to do. Sharing ideas can be done through art, play etc... but that kind of sharing is also much more subject to interpretation... the spoken language helps us get more detailed about our ideas... where we can confirm whether another person has interpreted your idea correctly or not... or whether their interpretation allows you to deepen your own understanding, change perspective, or make you more sure of your own thinking...
art as an exploration of ideas... perspective... why do I see things differently from you... how come the fruitbowl looks different depending on where you are sitting even though it is the same fruitbowl?
out in nature... do the snails want to be carried around, do they all want to go to the "snail Party" the children have arranged - if they attend to they HAVE to stay... many thoughts can be explored in nature, even silent ones as the children just explore and learn from their experiences.
limits... what are my limits, what are your limits, can I stay within the limits, what happens if I don't... ideas explored as part of an art session. (this was a part of the fairy porject last year)
It is not the spoken language that is the most important... it is the communication of ideas that is the most important... the spoken language is one of the tools that we use.

playing with shadows... why are they so big, is there a dinosaur on the other side of the wall, can I climb on the dinosaur
Of course, by having these philsophical dialogues we can also support the children in their language development... there is a clear structure of listening and talking, of taking turns, of being respectful... wonderful tools to build a language... and a speech therapist that has observed one of our sessions confirmed that the structure was beneficial for children to get a concrete grasp of how spoken communication is constructed.
the Together paintings... a way of exploring how we can work/play together... how we can share, how we can give time and understanding to the needs of others. There are lots of posts about the Together Painting if you want to find out more about this term long project.

the children PLAYING philosophy dialogue

Collaboration is important... not just the kind that everyone nods and agrees, but the kind that questions to get a better understanding of what is going on... to open up the possibility to a deeper understanding even for those who are explaining... learning is marvelous.