Sunday 28 December 2014

Reflections on a project

This term has flown by - it feels like all terms seem to be flying by faster and faster these days... but it means I have been reflecting on what we have done, what we have achieved as a group together... my own growth, the children's and the group as a whole.

Of course I started with the project...

 Our aim had been to start off with play, imagination and exploration through fairies again as we celebrated International Fairy Tea Party which would move into magic powers, as we had seen how the children were playing magic powers all the time and to extend and deepen this play seemed a natural and exciting thing to do.

Now I am here in December reflecting on the project and feeling that we never really got deep into the project of magic powers... it was there all the time... but there was a feeling of diappointment. Why had we not deepened our understanding of magical powers...

It did not take long to realise that our real project has not been magical powers but helping the children project their voice... to make informed decisions, to listen to each other and to enable the children to influence preschool on a daily basis... and for real.

Enabling children to find their voice (what they really want) takes time... and this is where we placed our time, it just happened to be wrapped up in magic power wrapping paper - the gift being collaboration.

And by collaborating I mean adults and children collaborating together... not adults doing things for the children, or the children doing what they are told by the adults... but an understanding of cause and effect, of empathy, of mutual respect...

 The whole week's routine was designed to enable the children to influence what we do - and to do this collaboratively.

  • Mondays... the morning was reserved to do what the children had planned together on a Friday... this could be done as a whole group or in two-three small groups.
  • Tuesdays... philosophy session followed by outdoor play
  • Wednesdays... two small groups (the groups we as teachers chose based on our knowledge of the children). In these sessions we re-capped what we talked about in the previous day's philosophy session (meta-dialogue) and then the children worked out how we could play these or one of these ideas talked about. We then spent the rest of the morning playing the ideas.
  • Thursdays... two-three groups. The oldest children started on exploring artists and philsophical ideas (more communicating and listening) but this soon evolved into a portrait exploration - learning more about themselves, together. The others went to the forest to explore.
  • Fridays... song meeting with the whole preschool followed by outdoor play. We came in early before lunch to reflect on the week together and based on our reflections work out what to do on Mondays.
All planning is for the mornings... the afternoons are devoted to free play in various forms (art, role-play, stories, indoors/outdoors etc etc - the idea being that the children are given the time to explore their own play, and for us to see how we can then support/challenge their play in the mornings).

If you read this post (Making Decisions) you will see how our first session of reflection and decision making on Fridays went... and to be honest it never really took off. We tried various ways, as we did not want to give up on giving the children an important say in the daily rhythm of preschool life, but they really did not seem interested enough to want to stay and make a decision.
So what we did was present two things that we had seen the children involved in during the week and how they could possibly be further explored on Mondays. This was something the children were happy with - making a decision about what they were to do, knowing it was based on what they were interested in (we made their play and learning visible to them through discussion and photos)...
This was very much a process for us, as teachers, as it was for the children. Learning about what these children need to be able to make decisions, to have a genuine influence. It means learning to listen to the children... their words, their expressions, their silences, their emotions, their play, their sitting... in fact I think I have learned to listen with parts of my anatomy that I did not know I could listen with.

According to Malaguzzi there are "a hundred languages" - this means there must be a hundred ways to listen too. And I think that today far too many think that listening is about hearing words - and then comes understanding/interpreting. But yet what I have been learning over the years is that listening is much more complex than that... in my post The Art of Listening I explored listening and the ideas of what Carlina Rinaldi, as well as Alison Clark and Peter Moss comminicate about listening.

I quoted Moss and Clark

"It is important to understand listening to be a process which is not limited to the spoken word. The phrase "voice of the child" may suggest the transmission of ideas only through words, but listening to young children, including pre.verbal children, needs to be a process which is open to the many creative ways young children use to express their views and experiences."

 and I feel this is important to keep in mind that the "voice of the child" is the transmission of their ideas rather than their actual voice... especially when so many of us in early years work with pre-verbal children. These children are not devoid of ideas and opinions - they simply need us to be able to listen to them in the appropriate manner for them to be heard.

The Wednesday sessions felt meaningful, even though at first it was a strange concept for the children ... making decisions together. At first the children kept saying "I want..." "I want..." and I needed to remind them what do - "we want" - as we could not do all six ideas together (as the purpose was to help them learn how to work together rather than "well we could do everyon'e idea one by one), but that we needed to work out, through talking and listening, what we were going to do (we had the meta dialogue of the philosophy session and I could also confirm and support that with the notes that had been taken during the previous day). This was a process of presenting an idea and of why the idea was good, of saying why you did not want to do a particular idea with either a new idea presented or tweaking the first idea. The children got better and better at this, as they soon realised that the more they listened to each other, the quicker they could make a decision together and the more time we had to play.
You can read more about one of our Wednesday sessions here (Playing Fairies)

I look back on this term and see our learning journey... as adults and children, as individuals and as a group - and it has not been so much the project... there have been all sort of ideas and possible directions that the project could have taken us... but by listening to the children this was not where they wanted to go... they seemed to need to keep on practising their listening skills, their decision making skills. They hav eneed to work out who they are within the group and how they can influence others, the group, the preschool - and also how they want to be influenced by others.

The project of getting the children more involved and being more influential started off as "our adult" project while the magic powers was for the children... their interests... but it turned out that the children had the same interests as us - and although magic powers and "Frozen" has been with us from start to finish - it has not been the in depth exploration that I thought it would be, or hoped it would be.

The project was the structure. The project was the voice of the child. The right to talk and be heard. The right to listen and to be listened to.This has come in many forms during the term... testing and trying out until we found a way that suited us... "magic powers" was always with us, but was not explored as deeply as the "voice of the child".

Sunday 21 December 2014

Child perspective and child's perspective

 Just a few lines on this...

There is a difference between a child perspective and a child's perspective - and as educators of children it is something we need to be aware of...

How are we doing things based on our knowledge of children and adapting what we do for their needs and how much are we actually taking the time to find out what their  perspective of all of this is?
I think many tend to forget to take the time to really listen and hear the opinions of the children and take them into genuine consideration when planning preschool activities. Much of what is done is based on adult knowledge of children.

I am in no way suggesting that we only listen to the children, but it does need to be a balance. We need our adult interpretations of childhood, of play of imagination and learning... we also need to listen to the children's perspective of all of these things too.

What consitutes a ‘child perspective’, and how this might differ from the perspectives of children themselves is an imaportant question. The answers have important implications for building progressive and developmental adult-child relationships. How we respeond to children's perspecyives does not seem to be universal and there is little written about how this can/should be done.

To re-cap...

child perspective is the adult interpretation of what is best for the child/ren...
while child's perspective represents the child's experience, thoughts, feelings, perceptions and understanding of their world.
It is the distinction between the knowledge of children or from children... the latter requiring the children participation and interactions with the adults, the former recquiring observation.

So how much are you listening, responding and acting upon the children's perspective and how much is your own child-perspective? How is your balance?
Take the time to reflect and see if you want to make an adjustment to that... why and how... or if you feel you have the balance right...

would love it if you could share your thoughts and process in the comments...

Saturday 13 December 2014

Magnetic art....

I have finally got round to putting this post together... I have wanted to all week, but there simply has not been the time... and even now I feel I will not be able to share in a way that will do the experience justice... it really was great fun.

It started off on Tuesday where we asked the children "What is Christmas?" - the first answer was about "cars need them to get about" - where it dawned on me that the Swedish word for Christmas (jul) sounds more or less the same as the Swedish word for wheel (hjul)...
Once it was established WHAT we were talking about the children started talking about Lucia buns, pepparkakor, tomten and presents...

Then we asked "what colour is Christmas?"... that was a MUCH trickier question... do you answer your favourite colour or a colour connected to Christmas? Pink, red, white, purple, blue, black, orange and gold were the colours suggested...
Reasons were given as to why they had chosen that colour and the children then could decide whether or not they agreed with the arguments presented. The three colours that the most children agreed were Christmassy have been selected for the magnetic art process... tested out today by one of the group... (this is an experiment for us adults as well as the children!)

White, red and gold are the Christmas colours that the children chose as a COMMUNITY of LEARNERS.

On the Tuesday the magnetic art was tested together with just one child as this is a child that need a little more time one to one for language development it is beneficial to do sessions like this where my words and the child's words can be more easily heard and that there is time to communicate in an undisturbed way on the child's own terms.

It also gave me the opportunity to learn more about how this magnetc art works - and that there was enough paint on the top to be able to lift two images on paper... which meant that the children could work in teams and both be able to print off a paper artwork at the end of it. I like collaborative artwork just as much as individual artwork... to be honest for this age group I prefer collaborative artwork - the focus of comparing their own skills with others is reduced as the children isntead focus on the collaboration - and learning from each other.

I also learned that it would be interesting to put this over the light table, and not just on top of the table (which worked fine). In the second session I looked at the colours briefly without the main lights on... and while the effects were great it did not enhance the colours, and since this was all about the colours, the mainlights went back on again (but I would be interested in doing amagnetic art with a blob of black paint and the room being dark except for the underlit magnetic art - as then it would be ok for the art to be more silhouette like).

Glitter was also added to the extra session (this did not add a great deal to the paper art print... but the effect of the ball rolling through the glitter was really cool... and there was the added learning of how the ball moved different depending on what it was rolling through/on)

 The children gathered round as we introduced what we were going to do with the Christmas colours... the children were immediatly interested in the smell of the paints.

 The children had the option of standing, sitting on knees on the floor and sitting on a chair - they could find the position that worked the best for them. Most children found it difficult to direct the ball at first... and some of the paint blobs were tricky to roll the ball through at first... but not impossible, the children simply had to be persistant. Only two of the children found it quite tricky throughout the session - hand and eye coordination not quite working with them, and not quite finding the technique that enabling them to control the ball with the magnet.

 Most of the children spent some of the time getting close to the experience and really watching what was happening. Severla of the collaborations were like role-play sessions - with kissing metallic balls!!

You can see from this short sequence that the children were having a lot of fun. There was plenty of laughing.

The children chose what colour paper... I helped with this choice in their reflection of how the paints would be visible on the paper. They then placed the paper on the upturned box (a clear box from Ikea upturned over a light-table using empty juice boxes for lift - oh yes, I learend from the first session that the juice boxes should be part-filled with water, so that they were more sturdy). The children stroked the paper, to help the paint transfer, and then lifted up the art captured on the paper... It was rather magical... each child amazed by what they found on the paper.

The final works of art...

What I noticed when looking at the photographs afterwards is that it really was  great for fine motor skills.

Sunday 7 December 2014

Sunday quotes

On Sundays I try to share an inspiring quote, or a thought provoking quote, or a heart warming quote...
I actually enjoy looking for quotes that I feel a relevant, for me in my journey as an early years teacher, as well as for others... and finding the photo that seems to tell a similar story as the quote - that photo and quote enhance each other...

Here are some of the quotes that already have been shared... and keep an eye out on my facebook page for more... I try to post them every Sunday...

Thursday 4 December 2014

the portrait project

It has been exciting watching the children continue with their portraits... and how it has been influencing their drawing and their play (playdough for example)

We started off with mirrors, pencils and then coloured in with oil pastels and water colours

The next portrait was using the children's photographs underneath plastic. The children used a permanent marker to trace round the outlines of their own photo - and the following week we then put the plastic portraits on the overhead and were able to create enormous portraits on the wall.
you can read about these processes here and here

 Playdough has been used to create self portraits too... and interestingly when the child looked at the photo of her playdough portrait she decided to make changes to the mouth, until she felt satisfied.

Today we returned to the giant self portraits and decided to try and make these ones more realistc in colour than we had with the plastic.
We started with the background... gluing on tissue paper, and wrinkling it on purpose as a special effect, as we all liked the unpredictable nature of the blue tones getting lighter and darker in the wrinkles.
Next they created their own skin colour - they mixed colours until they felt satisfied that they had captured their own shade skin colour. They then did the hair and clothes and finished off with details of eyes etc.
Since we used any colour last time, the children found this portrait more tricky to do... as last time when they got "bored" of a colour they simply changed... this time I would not let them deviate, unless, I told them, they had a good reason; and as they did not come up with ANY reasons for changing the colour scheme we stuck with the colours that were most like them in real life.
This was most certainly a test of their awareness of what they were doing - as I am open for things to change, as long as they have thought through why they want to change, how they are going to change etc... they did get a chance for some free painting with the left over paints afterwards.

Having seen the film on papiermaché that I linked up on my blog facebook page I am beginning to think that it would make a great next medium to explore self-portraits....

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Children learning together - (Iceland post.)

On my first day of preschool visits (or should I say Playschool visits) on my #PlayIceland2014 trip we got to spend the afternoon outside watching the outdoor learning and exploration.
I also got to witness some shared learning... from the very beginning until the end of this play exploration... it was exciting to watch how a child accidently made a discovery and then went to get friends to share and show them how...

 This is the pint where the discovery is made... that the cup could be catapulted into the air by the foot on the other end of the board... the first time the cup barely lifted... then it was done purposefully two more times where the cup lifted more.
 The child went round the corner to share his discovery with friends and encouraged them to come and see.
 he showed them his dicovery
 and then showed them how they could do it too, when they asked for a turn.
 More children took an interest and they were also shown how they could catapult the cup into the air.
 The children experimented with the positioning of the plank and the pressure of their stamp down to vary the height of the cup... the cup flew at considerable height at times. There was also the learning moment where a child stood too close to the cup and it flew into the child's chin... the child did not sustain an injury and was more shocked by the experience than anyting else (these were empty yoghurt pots, so very lightweight)
But all the children learned something from this... that there was an element of risk... after this incident there was not the same confidence when the cup flew into the air and the children protected their faces. But they also learned that the risk was not big enough to stop their experimenting.

translated post from Lärande Framtid

 A translated post... from Erika Kyrk Seger's brilliant blog Lärande Framtid (Learning Future)
 Take the time to pop over to her blog - especially if you prefer to read it in Swedish... and also to explore some of her other very interesting posts...

"Today you will meet your child's preschool teacher - what will you share?

There are many blog entries about the
assignment of the preschool teacher. In a way all the posts tend to be about the reconquering of the profession. A profession which in many ways is wavering. A profession that we understand in many different ways depending on education, experience and the colleagues / business we work in.

My understanding of the mandate reflects my professional capacity -  if I do not see the preschool's role as important I will then not understand that I, as a teacher, am important in children's learning and development.

In this kind of "mission dialogue" that takes place within establishments, universities and social media there reveals a lack of understanding of what a preschool can be. In this post I am thinking above all of the adults - not forgetting the children - but I'm thinking about pre-school as a workplace. For as I have written in several posts, I meet a weariness, bitterness and people who need to be confirmed - and all of this is at the expense of the children. But I choose to put the children to the side and instead think about preschool as a workplace. There is a dissatisfaction with resources that they experience there is a lack of, there is a bitterness of the profession not being what they thought, there is a need to be appreciated and rejoice together in the workplace.

  To be seen is important, to learn and smile together.

I know we have to talk about the profession - we have a mission for our service. I as a teacher I have  been employed for this task and there is nothing I can do to contradict what is in our curriculum - and I am against documenting, from starting from the children's interests or if I do not want to reflect on the activities - I ought to find another profession. Preschool is no charity where we meet up with people who no longer want to work there but nevertheless it may look like it at times. And I want to strike a blow for the human in this. For those who know that this is NOT something you want to do, our settings will not feel good by tyour presence and it will affect our work, the children's everyday lives, our educational learning environments and more.

What view of humanity do we want to convey to children and colleagues if I want is to go home again. How will the fact that there too many children or too much documentation requirements affect me as a person - how will I live fully in the joy?

I feel grateful when I encounter this joy - for it is privilege to have been part of setting in where colleagues long to work, which together raises the profession to something more than just "watching children", who, together with the children, explore the day and with them face life with curiosity and constant preparation for the unexpected. But I am also sorry for the people who once chose the profession of these reasons, but  got stuck somewhere along the way - and where the firey passion of the profession nowadays is hardly a glowing piece of coal that now meet, without passion, the children who want to learn but do not get an antithesis.

  To retrieve the glow and get the fire started again requires a lot of work and patience - processes that are not easy for either the "educator" or for the person behind the educator.

It requires many somersaults and body will be full of learning and aching bruises.

 But we need to catch these people - for the setting falls otherwise with them. We are only as strong as the weakest link and it is a collective effort to take the embers and build a fire together. It is not just the manager's job - it is our common job - all preschool teachers and childcare workers. (here she talks about the name of "barnskötare" - which is hard to translate into English, and therefore this line is hard to translate in a meaningful way)

We must also safeguard the future as there is a  huge shortage of teachers in preschool, we need people who put wood on our fire and the wood we find in college our students. But if the wood is placed on extinguished coal - it will not take. Students will opt out of the preschool if there is a lack of activity. If there is only bitterness and fatigue that meet our students when they come out or when they read in social media so they choose not to put their sticks on us old coals.

     We, acting preschool teachers, have a responsibility to convey a great profession to these students.

A profession with huge opportunities where we as adults have (as a colleague of mine said) the honor to accompany the children in their exploration of the world.

And maybe, just maybe ... you'll meet students today who will explore with your children or grandchildren tomorrow - so what preschool teachers do you want to meet your child?"

A translated post... from Erika Kyrk Seger's brilliant blog Lärande Framtid (Learning Future)
 Take the time to pop over to her blog - especially if you prefer to read it in Swedish... and also to explore some of her other very interesting posts...

Tuesday 2 December 2014


While I was in Iceland there was a dialogue about gender that has got me thinking. One educator was thankful that she had two males at her setting that could do construction/engineering - and this bothered me... why should we be thankful that we have males to do that? In fact should we not be encouraging the females to do these exact activities, so that the young children can see that certain activities do not belong to a certain gender... that in preschools and schools we should be working extra hard on breaking the stereotypes with our actions so that these children can grow up thinking they can do/be anything regardless of gender...

Later in the evening I was pulled up (quite rightly) on the fact that I had talked about my all-girl schooling between 12-15 as something very positive for girls (I definitey found it so) - and how did that work with my thoughts about breaking stereotypes.

It took me time to work out why could I possibly think this...
 and I realised that IF I had been to a preschool/school where males and females all did the same activities, that males did not do stereotypical male things like build and engineering and the women didn't do the sterotypical girl things... IF I had grown up in a society where girls were given the same amount of space, if the colour pink was of equal status as other more "boy" colours... if being called a girl was not an insult, if running like a girl was not an insult...
watch this advert to get the idea

IF I felt that, as a girl, I had the opportunity to be anything... then maybe being in an all girls school would not have been anything special... being with only girls made me feel strong... It made me believe I could be anything... I was allowed to take space... but at the age of 15 the school system changed and boys started... and as a 15 year old it was VERY clear that boys took more time and energy from the teachers than what the girls did - suddenly I felt less seen, there was less time for us... and in my class there were a 24:4 girl/boy ratio but boys got at least 60% of the teachers time and energy... and I was nerdy back then - I observed stuff like that. So I always wondered if it was always like that in all mixed schools... do boys take more time and energy than girls... and why?
Because I don't see that boys need more than girls in the preschool groups I have had over the years - so what is happening?

It would be interesting to hear about other experiences of school and whether as girls you felt less seen, less worthy... or as boys you felt more worthy than girls? Because I can have this all wrong...
 but you can read  here (gender bias),
here (about gender equitable schools)
here (impact of gender roles on socialisation)
here (a look at the gender gap)
here (education gender gap... lots of articles relating the the gender gap in general)

Schools are a part of society... so this is not something that schools and preschools can do on their own... everyone really has to help so that children can have an image of themselves of being able to do anything they want regardless of gender
Take the time to watch Emma Watsons speech about gender equality

For me it is always about equality... about allowing boys AND girls be able to partake in alla activities, to be equally respected, to have equal opportunities, to have equal value... and we in preschool we can really start this process... but it does need to continue throughout school and throughout the whole of society... so that there is no need for an all girls school to make a girl like me feel strong, powerful and seen.

Reflections May 1st 2018
I have re-read this shortly after attending a talk by Mats Olsson about men in preschool, which partly referred to his own personal journey as a preschool teacher (I will share more about that talk in the coming weeks) It was interesting to listen to him talk about not wanting to represent men, but to be a teacher... just as a female in the branch should not have to represent women, just be themselves and be an educator.
Of course there was talk about the perils of society being suspicious of men working with young children - and the damage this does to the self esteem of male educators when there is a fear for leaving them alone with teachers.
So there is a need to break down stereotypes... to allow men to work in preschools without suspicion, to allow women to work in male dominated workplaces without being bullied or sexually harassed - that boys and girls are allowed a full range of emotions, that we are also inclusive and thoughtful about those who do not define themselves as either male or female - in other words we do not have to be so definite in a binary system of what is male and what is female... but allow people to be the human they are.
We need educators, male and female to break the norms, to explore them, to widen them and to help create preschools as a more inclusive place for all genders - for those that work there and those that attend... adults and children alike.