Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Blogpost to support "Play, Learning and the Democratic Preschool" at Futura School

This post shares some of the images from last night's presentation and some links to posts on my blog that will help support reflection of last night's presentation.

to create a democratic preschool it is not about letting the children do what they want and making all the decisions... it is about creating an atmosphere where all the children are participating, they are all able to influence their learning, their play, their situation and their preschool with the teachers; it is about being valued equally,,, and equally valuing others... as people and their thoughts and opinions.

from the Swedish national preschool curriculum, the very first words.

not just listening to the children, but also encouraging the children to listen to each other - otherwise the teacher still has all the power. By supporting the children to value their peer's words you are handing over the power and responsibility - the children will be able to manage things much better rather than always needing to come to you.

Pedagogical documentation is a great way to listen to the children... it is also a way to help the children listen to their own learning, and to what is happening in the group... and if the children are active participants in the analysing and planning parts then thhe pedagogical documentation is also contributing to creating a democratic preschool.

I have a series of blogposts about pedagogical documentation which you can read here - the last one includes a film
Pedagogical documentation - a beginners guide 1
part 2
part 3
part 4

Together painting as a way of creating space for dialogue and problem solving... here is a post with more information about it... Why Together Painting

a reminder of some of the ways to reflect on how we have a different perspective of the same thing
Philosophical Flowers

a reminder that play can take many forms... that children can often have a different opinion from us how play looks, sometimes just observing others children feel that they are playing, other times they do not.
what is play?

sensory play - this can be a great way to support play, especially with a group of young players - in the sense that their play is younger than their years... then it can be good to give them more play experiences connected with younger children for them to explore and for their play to evolve naturally. Not all children like getting messy - so there always needs to be something for these children to do once they have given it a quick try (if they dare)
painting Morocco

a reminder that some children need to learn about crossing lines - and that painting in this way, where trying to keep in the lines is not about paiting in the right way, but a chance for the children to resolve and explore what happens when you don't paint within the lines... as it affects someone else. Sometimes it can get a little heated - "you painted over my bit, where can I paint now" - but with the support of educators the children got to safely practice how to manage quarrels which they could apply to other situations on their play.
Kandinsky inspired art
curling Kandinsky style

more from the curricululm

the process of letting the children develop skills that they can then later use in the project (Together on the Square Project... you can find many posts about it on this blog)
2D maps to 3D maps

here is the post that ended up totally dark... where there is a photo of the square that I altered to be faded in order for the children to draw their plans on.

BIG portraits - a way for the children to see their own identity and also the group identity... to see their similarities and differences...
big portraits

exploring emotions and empathy through art
Thinking about Jackson Pollock
also it can be done with spaghetti (or string)
winter jackson Pollock

light and dark exploration - check out posts about project light and also project fear.

exploring the colour of Christmas on the light table... asking the children about their traditions rather than us adults always giving children "our" perspective...
I have posted several of the Christmas blogposts on my facebook page during the last week, so you can find the links there... here is  a youtube film

taking the time to allow transitions to be moments of learning and play... cleaning paint is a chance to learn a great deal... as can be washing hands, putting on clotjes and taking them off to go in and outdoors... see each moment as aplay and as learning rather than as the bits between the play and learning
painting with one year olds

sadly I did not get to talk about this as we ran out of time... and I will save the other images for another day... but here is a link to a post about rules.... and also about getting the children to take responsibility for each other...
Scaffolding children
The democratic preschool
The hundred languages of democracy (letting the children comfort each other)

I think this will be enough to get your reflections going... if you have any questions then please leave feedback here and I can get back to you.

Monday, 27 November 2017

The same activity a different reaction

I have been helping out a few days a week at a local preschool...

The other week I shared a blogpost about the space project sensory play... where images were projected onto the wall (using translucent fabric to capture the images before reaching the wall and thus allowing the children to feel as is they were in space - OK with a bit of imagination!!!).
I did this with the group of children that I have been helping out with since September - I have got to know these children, we have created a relationship, they know my limits and my expectations.

I arrived at the preschool last wee and was told that I would not be working with the same group as usual, but that the parallel group wanted to  experience space in the same way. I had zero time to prepare... this will affect the outcome - I did not know the children in the same way (although the children like and trust me, which is an important start) - I did not have the memory stick with all the space images that i had downloaded in preparation - images that had been carefully selected from what I had learned from the children - what they knew, what they were interested in and images that would surprise them and offer them new areas of learning in their play. It meant I had to quickly download  some images in a space of 10 minutes that could be projected (working out the computers at the setting rather than my own computer which I am much faster at).

The activity was also at the disadvantage that we as educators had not talked with each other about how the rhythm of the morning would flow - which I believe is essential.

And finally it became clear that this was a group of children that had huge problems with listening - listening to instructions to find out what was going on, listening to each other (and therefore respecting each other's limits) and even listening to themselves of understanding what they themselves wanted... it meant they had a very short concentration span.

So despite the children coming in as small groups they all seemed to experience the space light sensory on a very individual front with minimal interaction... yes they could inspire each other to test things out, but they did not engage in social play in the same way the previous group of children had.

Of course the fact that it was all very last minute could have had a huge impact. BOTH groups have children that are in need of a support teacher being in the group to enable the social functioning of play - but in this second group there were almost half the children that did not listen to the adult or anyone else - and for me this presents a problem...

Children cannot be empowered if they are not listening - they miss out on important information, they get themselves into situations that negatively impact others and then refuse to listen to their peers when there is outrage... The whole group is not functioning optimally if there are so many that refuse to listen to other, that refuse to respect others, that are unable to see the social boundaries that allow us to interact positively with each other. They are able to see injustices against themselves but feel entitled to do the same thing to others and run off laughing.

To be honest, there needs to be a whole load of work being done before we get to this kind of play with the expectation that there will be a social play of the usual kind... the play is younger than what it should be in the sense it was side by side as the youngest children at preschool - rather than the 3-5 year olds that this involved (although these are still young children). The play was immature.
The play for children is always in the place where the children are... what I have to do as a teacher is shift where I am to support the children develop their play and to learn more form it...

This is why it is so important to get to know the children you work with... their interests, their needs... so that the play, the activities, the experiences that are being offered not only challenge them appropriately, but support their development - and also so that you as an educator know what to expect (even though children can always surprise you).

It means changing the environment to meet the need of the children - adapting activities - and changing your own perspective.
Since I started at the preschool there have been a lot of changes in the environment - a lot to do with the fact they have children that easily get over stimulated and the setting is designed like a giant corridor where parents and teachers and children have to walk through the entire preschool to get from one department to another (I really wonder what goes through a designer's head when they think this sort of preschool model design is a good idea... it is not... I have yet to meet a teacher that says this sort of design is anything but terrible - as they attempt to engage the children as others march by and disrupt on their way to going outside - not their fault, they are just being children. BUT if you are a designer and are reading this PLEASE don't make preschools where a class has to walk through another room where children are learning and playing just to get outside or inside - make corridors that go by the learning spaces instead!!!!).

I think as educators we need to start with the children, of enabling them to communicate with each other and to really listen and respect each other... because then the play and learning will happen on a deeper and richer level. It does not mean that you should not be doing fabulous experiences, it simply means you need to be aware of what the potential outcomes might be if you want the children to engage in complex play before they are ready for it... we have to learn to crawl walk before we run - it is the same with play.

the children did start building - but only two of them were truly engaged - unlike the previous group where all were interested in testing and trying out in their own ways and together

exploring shadows... it took more work from me to engage the children this time round

last time the children went looking for more materials to test out... this time the children were not as interested... this is fine, not all children need to be interested, BUT had I known the children better I would have been better equipped to provide materials that would have sparked their interest.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Experiencing the universe...

This is a just a quick post to share some images from this week...
I am helping out some days at a local preschool on the days that I am not writing or travelling to Gävle...
The preschool has a space project happening at the moment... so the two days I was there this week I took in some of my materials for the children to experience a sensory approach to space...

The first session the children got to play with small lights, loose parts and coloured rice on a tray I brought back from Palestine (it is big with large sides, so perfect for sensory play on a small scale). The children were engrossed in the play... exploring how light went round planets from what they have already learned about space - but mostly it was about feeling the rice, experimenting with the lights and interacting with the materials... it was about filling and emptying and not so much about designing patterns... but I also think this indicates what their needs are right now... they have a hunger for sensory play. The play was peaceful, the children talked with each other, and it was enthusiastic... peaceful in the sense that they were able to sort out differences through their words (and well chosen words) rather than using their bodies...

Today I hung up two semi-transparent curtains with a small space in between so that I could project images of space onto it... going through the first then the second and then onto the wall... each layer also displaying the image projected... it gave the feel of being in space. I put a big mirror on the floor too, in order to give it a more infinite sort of feel. I would have liked the room to have been darker to get a bigger impact of being in space... so maybe waiting to do this in the afternoon would be better - as it is dark by 15:20 here in Stockholm at the moment (it will be earlier than that before long!)

The children came in groups of four to be able to explore the experience... and once they had the chance to do this they could come back and start using construction materials to create a space station... the images being caught on the materials... the shadows found themselves in outer space.

Enjoy the photos and films...

spreading out the coloured rice... blue and black...

experimenting with light

light from the bottom

light from the top

the rice was out of date... I had bought it for my daughter over a year ago... cheap rice for her student days... but being a family of rice snobs this was not yummy rice and she did not like it all, so she let it just sit at her student home... I rescued it and it is now being used for a much needed sensory activity

glass beads and light exploration

some of the loose parts that could be used

experimenting with light and movement

The next session
the set up

one of the teachers needed to test to it too!

we dressed a duplo figure (female one) as an astronaut... using silver tape