Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Vision

A Child Had A Vision

Patience   Acceptance  Cooperation

This relationship where S provided a chair for every one at the table transformed into a vision of other children as well. He accepted their ideas.  We have observed that the idea of one child often becomes the idea of the group.  The class now sat joyfully at one table for snack!  These powerful interactions forged new relationships between the children.

                                                                     S had an idea.  
                                    He watched his friends reading chairs and began moving chairs.

                                            P was interested in what he was doing.

                             His idea involved a lot of heavy work and yet he persevered.

                            When he had moved most of the chairs he counted them 
                                                      and said,  "A chair for everyone!"


                                       P helped prepare the table for snack.

                                        B came with his snack and had another idea.

                                         S watched while B moved some of the chairs.

              S accepted B"s idea of arranging the chairs so that G could sit between them.


Monday, December 10, 2012

The Care of Friendship

Here is a very sweet story of friendship, and the thoughfulness of children.  

Two girls both went to sit in the same purple chair at the snack table but as one got there first, the other was very sad and began to cry.  Noticing this from across the room, a boy, without saying anything, went to the other side of the table, got another purple chair, picked it up and moved it around beside the first one.  

Coming back  to the art table where he had been drawing he said to the teacher "I switched the chair". 
Teacher:  "That was nice of you."
Boy: "I know it was"

At the art table he is trying to remember what a peacock looks like so he can draw one.  The girl that he helped says she can show him, and so she stays to draw instead of having snack, even though she can't really remember what one looks like either.

Boy: "You're gonna be invited to my birthday party"
Noticing her drawing he says: "That looks beautiful"
Girl: "Thanks"

Friday, December 7, 2012

Closing the Circle

Circles of Connection

Close your eyes and turn in a circle. Stop randomly and open them. Can you find something round or spherical? How many circles can you find? In fact, you probably can't find anywhere without circles. The images of circularity are ubiquitous in our lives.

Think about this unique concept. A circle is something that has no sides, no beginning and no end. It’s infinite. And it’s everywhere.

We have noticed circularity in
the Rainbow Room...

We have a daily circle meeting, sometimes twice a day, where we come together as a group to share thoughts, ideas, and our work. The children are careful about where they sit; it is a big decision. They quickly notice if our circle is broken or discontinuous. It only feels right when a circle is formed with our positioning. We try to fill in the gaps, connect the group together as one unit, a circle. It is important to everyone.
We’ve introduced the coffee grinders, a satisfying kinesthetic and sensory activity involving the cranking of a handle round and round to grind beans into grounds. 
Gears provide another vision of circularity- if the teeth of two gears are interlocked, one gear can move its partner; they’re linked and interdependent.
Despite the lack of sides, circles can be created from other shapes that have straight lines and angles: an array of triangle magna tiles can form a circle (almost nearly), something without beginning or end.

And the act of turning a screwdriver counterclockwise can remove the tiniest of screws holding crucial parts of a camera together so we can now see the mysterious inner workings.

Familiarity with an individual is
comforting and paves the
way for deep connection.
But I’m also noticing a different type of circularity in the Rainbow Room- the circle of connections between children. That's what a relationship is, the reciprocal back and forth connection that an individual has with another individual. The relationship forms a circle, a forged link between two individuals not possible in solitary.
Some connections develop over a
common interest in materials.
Although the drive to connnect with others is innate, the skills necessary to form these connections are often not. Instead, these skills are learned in early life from infancy through early childhood, and fine-tuned or tweaked over our lifetimes. To be understood, to make oneself clear, takes practice. And vice versa, to really connect with someone takes an ability to perceive them, to understand them.
To enter into a connection with someone
for the first time may require persistent
efforts to understand and be understood.
Imagine those first few days with your newborn child. Staring into their eyes while they gaze back. Remember the connection you felt? You closed a circle of connection with your child, and it was complete. A bonded relationship developed.
Joy is found in each other.
As young children venture into the world, often through a preschool experience, the desire to connect with other people is strong. This need is a basic human instinct, born out of the need for protection; there is strength in number. Despite the differences in temperament, whether someone is outgoing and assertive, or reserved and careful, the drive to make a human connection is present.

Connections are strengthened over
the pursuit of a common goal.
Connections can develop from
delightful and unexpected situations.
Our role as teachers and parents is to observe and consider the individual child's way of experiencing the classroom (or other setting). What kind of connections will be meaningful to this child? How can we empower them to be understood? What skills need to be developed so a child is open for information? How can we support in closing the circles of engagement? What is necessary for the connection to be sustained?

Even when disequililbrium occurs in a
connection, the circle can be re-established
and is often stronger as a result.
I've been thinking a lot about this notion, that circularity (or reciprocity) is the crucial component of relationships. As I've observed the Rainbow Room children closely over the course of our school year, I've noticed that relationships are diverse. It reminds me of the orbit of planets and moons: some individuals orbit each other closely, while others only overlap occasionally. But we're all part of the same universe, each of us a unique and separate entity linked together through our relationships.

Some connections are maintained
over an extended period of time, throughout
the entire space of the classroom.
(Stay tuned for future discussions about how circles of connection are specifically supported in the classoom).


Rethinking Parent Dialogues

Parents shared adjectives
that describe their child
At Sabot we believe parent dialogues are an important part of who we are as a school. We’ve seen how these dialogues build community through mutual understandings, shared experiences, and how they can create a format for support. In the planning of our recent Garden Room parent dialogue we asked parents to RSVP to the preplanned date that was set on the calendar. When we discovered that only a few parents could attend, we began rethinking the entire evening. We shared our feelings around the importance of these dialogues with the parents and asked them to help us find a time that would work for the majority of the group.

While we knew it would be impossible to find a time that works for everyone, collaborting with the parents on a date and time allowed almost all of the families to participate. Not only were most of the families able to attend, but two mothers took it upon themselves to organize child care for those families that needed it. We moved the start time of the dialogue to an earlier time to accommodate those families taking part in the child care. This meant that many parents were coming straight from work. We then threw out the idea of having
some food to sustain us through the meeting. The parents quickly signed up to bring in food and drinks to share with one another. With these small changes, the evening became much more of a collaborative time during which we were able to come together to think about the image of the child.

We really appreciated how thoughtful the parents were in thinking about children. They shared their awareness of the potential of children and the need to nurture and protect this potential. There was a group understanding that the very traits children have that we as parents and teachers can struggle with- persistance, passion, high energy- are the same traits that we need to keep safe from the mechanisms of society.

We know that nothing is harder than being a parent. Particularly in today’s fast-paced society where it is hard to find time to simply be with our children, let alone join in their quest for knowledge and their desire to explore the world. During the dialogue parents wondered how to keep the phrase, “We don’t have time for that!” out of their daily vocabulary. After all, dinner needs to get made, laundry needs to get done, and work emails need to be answered. Plus, when can parents find time for themselves?

"For me it's a looking for growth through times of shared reflection, 
through opportunities for exchange, 
comparing points of view, taking our reflections further, 
so that I am closer to my child as a parent, 
so that we grow together as a people." 
The Hundred Language of Children
The parents offered one another some good advice around these questions. One mother shared her insight that it is easier to be fully attentive and present with her child when they leave the house. Then the "to do" list is not on her mind and she can focus on simply enjoying time with her daughter. Another parent shared that their family puts their cell phones away from 4-7pm. It's built right into their cell phone’s calendar, which rings to remind them, should they forget. This same mother brought up the importance of knowing your child’s tempermant. She explained that she needs to prepare herself by drinking tea or closing her eyes and doing deep breathing, before picking up her children from school. This mentally prepares her to be the calm and collected so that her children are free to melt down should they feel the need. Other children might need quiet time after school, while others might need to process their day through conversation.

Another family I know reclaimed Sundays by deciding that they would decline all invitations - to birthday parties, school events, etc. - and stay home as a family. Other families I know make Friday night their weekly game or movie night and some make Saturday mornings about being together around a special breakfast. The point is that in today’s society, we need to reclaim time with our children. Time where we are completely focused on on being together and listening to one another.
Children were eager to hear their parents' adjectives

Our evening dialogue about the image of the child also left us thinking about the image of the parent. We feel particularly fortunate to be in a community in which the parents collaborate with the teachers on such a deep and meaningful level. We’ve learned from this experience that we’d like to collaborate with parents on the organization and topic for our next parent dialgoue.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Meadow Room - THE TOOL BOX


Conflict is uncomfortable and scary, but it is a part of relationship, a valuable part.  It often unveils a treasure, a bit of information about the other person (or ourselves), that gives us a deeper understanding, creating new bonds, and strengthening our connections.

At a recent conference we heard about a classroom using a small suitcase with suggestions for solving conflicts between children in play. We liked that it made the solutions more concrete for the children. We adapted the model to our philosophies, having the children generate their own ideas. We call it a TOOLBOX for fixing problems. We hoped that making the ideas more concrete would make solutions to conflict more accessible to them.

Early in the year we asked the children to think of ideas for the box. We wrote them on cards and invited the children to illustrate them. We keep the cards in a box on a shelf within reach.


When conflict occurs we give the children some time to solve the problem, but if they are stuck we ask if they would like to get the toolbox, which they have been very excited to do. We look at the cards one by one. The children involved, and often onlookers too, decide if any of the ideas will help. If there are none that they can agree on, they continue to generate new ideas, and as they do, we increase the tools in our box.

The children have begun to seek the box for help on their own.  It has become a tool that they know they can turn to. We are hoping they will begin to assimilate the individual ideas into their own internal toolbox, so that they no longer need the cards and so the ideas are available to them at any time.

Something we have noticed that we did not anticipate, is that the children are much more willing to tackle conflicts when they arise.  We think there are two reasons: 1 - we hypothesize that the tool box makes the conflict less emotional and less personal, it is seen as a problem outside of themselves. 2 - they are thinking and working together to solve the problem, so that instead of feeling like players on opposite teams, they come together on the same team working to solve the problem.  

I can't help but wonder about other ways the tool box might be helping.  The other day I watched two children in conflict, one in heartfelt tears and the other unwilling to let go of their idea.  Interestingly, the child who held tight to her position was the one to get the box.  I watched the most amazing transformation.  Within less than 2 minutes the tears slowed, then stopped, and turned to joyful laughter as they ruled out one card after the other.  They did not resolve the problem, but they found a way to reconnect, to come back into relationship and went off together to some other happier activity.  I wonder if the transformation occurred simply because the wounded child felt the care of her friend.  I know it is true for myself, that in my deepest upset, solutions are not so important as just being heard and understood.  I am reminded of the proverb - "Trouble shared is half the trouble, joy shared is twice the joy".   It is almost magical how relief comes from really being heard.

   Things we wonder - 
One of our original questions around relationship was - "how can we bring grace to children in conflict?"  We wonder if the tool box will help in that goal.

We know that the tool box brings conflict resolution into metacognition.  But does providing external support in any way diminish the children's ability to draw on the skills they have already internalized? 

What do you think?

If you have heard the children reference the tool box we would love to know about it.  

Teacher - "Hey, what are you doing with the toolbox, is there a problem?"
Child, returning the box to the shelf - "Yeah, but we figured it out"

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Learning how to wait.

One day T came to a teacher and said he missed his sister in the 1st Grade.  He asked to write a note.  The teacher and T co-constructed a note together.  It said "I want to visit my sister in the first grade."   So T put it into an envelope and the teacher addressed it “First Grade”.   We were not able to deliver the note at that time so T had to wait until the teacher could continue with his request.

 The next day T was able to deliver his note downstairs to the mail boxes. 
 T wanted to go for his visit right away but the teacher explained that he needed to wait for a reply.  He was very disappointed.

I wonder  what will happen next?

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Forest Room: The Rat a Tat Tat Song

One year our umbrella project centered around music, and since then we have tried to have a few musical instruments out year round rather than only sporadically.  This year we have drums out on a shelf.  Often some children pull them out and sit on the carpet, beating out a rhythm and scaffolding drumming ideas with each other.

One morning the children were particularly taken with drumming, so much so that at snack time I could hear them chanting rhythmically, "Rat a tat tat!  Rat a tat tat!"  (Occasionally I also heard, "Rat a tap tap!  Rat a tap tap!") It sounded a great deal like a drumming chant! This infectious chant was repeated throughout the day. The children seemed to love the sound of these words.

I even heard children running through the garden outside, calling out, "Rat a tat tat!  Rat a tat tat!" Since they seemed to enjoy this chant so much, I invited a few of them to come sit in the grass with me and share their song.

"How does this song go?"  I asked.

"Rat a tat tat!
Rat a tat tat!
Rat a tat tat!"

They all looked at me expectantly, so I prompted, "What comes next?"

As we worked back and forth, the children were encouraged to share and expand on their ideas, and the song quickly began to take shape. The children were so enamored we sang at circle, inviting other children to join in with their own ideas.

This charming scenario is reminiscent for me of another year, when a group of children wrote a song about monsters that became a favorite of the class for the entire year. This year's group seems to love rhythm: drumming, chanting, and songs are relished by nearly all. Inviting the group to mesh their love of music with the opportunity to add words is a wonderful opportunity for them to deepen their experience with both language and music.

We will be observing and listening to find out where the "Rat a Tat Tat Song" goes from here. Will the children remain interested in it? Are there other avenues for  exploring drumming and rhythm? What are some other ways we can invite the children to make connections between music and language? Some language (like poetry) is so beautiful it seems like music. Do the children feel that way as well?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

EATING THE ALPHABET: Emergent Literacy in the Garden Room


Emergent Literacy in the Garden Room

One day during snack a child held up a pretzel: 
“It’s a P.  I took a bite and it’s a P."

I handed him the camera so he could take a photo of his pretzel P.
Then he stated:
“If I bite that bit, it will make a D!”
So he did, and then announced: 
 "Now it's a D."

Next he took a photo of this new letter.

The children at the snack table were clearly delighted with the transformation of the pretzel.

That same day, out on the playground children were busy hunting for sticks, pebbles and leaves.  The bright autumnal weather had made the soil very dry and dusty and it wasn’t long before the children noticed that they could make marks in the dirt with their sticks.

 A block of wood became a “smoother” that could erase letters, wiping the dust flat to create even more letters.



What we see in these little moments are examples of the power of emergent literacy – children are transforming objects into letters through a process of deconstructing an object (biting a pretzel), which is then constructed into something new (an alphabet letter), only to be re-constructed (a different alphabet letter). 

The dusty playground dirt is also a place of transformation as children create letters, erase them and create more letters. 
Children are masters of finding the potential in the mundane, whether it’s a pretzel or a small area of dirt.  These small creative acts are evidence of very powerful thinking.


The Me of We: Three Year Olds Represent Relationships


A child draws her body.

She adds some lines.

The lines represent the house of her friends.

Her body becomes a map that denotes friendship and relationship -- a powerful metaphor.


A group of children then work in the Studio elaborating on the idea of a map that represents connections and relationships.

When working on this map,one child remarks:
"They are connected.  
The children are connected.  
Friendship is like that."

The children have enjoyed using this map to find their own individual place and it also provides a way to trace their connection to friends.
This beautiful map provides us with a glimpse into how children think about relationships.  The children have managed to represent how they are connected and how each individual is part of something greater, in the words of Carlina Rinaldi:
 "making it possible to transform a world that is intrinsically personal into something shared.  My knowledge and my identity are also constructed by the other."