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." 





The Meadow Room - PRETEND PLAY

Parent: "What did you do today?"
Child: "Just played."

But here is what really happened: 
(because pretend play exercises three core elements of executive function, which is seen as a strong indicator of academic success)  

executive function allows us to: 
Make plans
Keep track of time and finish work on time
Keep track of more than one thing at once
Meaningfully include past knowledge in discussions
Evaluate ideas and reflect on our work
Change our minds and make mid-course corrections while thinking, reading, and writing
Ask for help or seek more information when we need it
Engage in group dynamics
Wait to speak until we're called on

They strengthened their working memory required to be in a role and interact with other children in other roles.  
Working memory is what enables us to keep several pieces of information active while we try to do something with them, like solve a problem or carry out a task.

They called on their inhibitory control - to resist acting out of character.  

Inhibitory control is the ability to inhibit or regulate strong or automatic responses.  It involves the ability to focus on relevant stimuli and block out what is irrelevant, like background noise.  It is also what lets us override strong but inappropriate behavioral responses.  An example is the child's game of Simon Says.  Simon Says is in fact a way to strengthen inhibitory control. 

and they exercised their Cognitive flexibility to adjust to the endless twists and turns of the developing plot -"now pretend we're on a trip and we have to bring supplies"

Cognitive flexibility is the capacity to shift or switch one’s thinking and attention between different tasks in response to a change in rules or demands.  
It has also been described more broadly as the ability to adjust one’s thinking from old situations to new situations.

Embedded in their pretend play is oodles of social/relationship work.  

On top of all of this, we ask the children to go to the studio to make props for their play where they get lots of fine motor work

information about materials

                                                                                                                 tacit knowledge

and the laws of physical nature

But before they can even go ......... they have to write a note (literacy), 

          and after they get there they first have to make a plan, which requires the prefrontal cortex of the brain  

Then they often have to collaborate with other children and support each other.

So that's what they mean, but can't tell you, when they say they "just played"

No wonder they are tired when you pick them up.

Vygotsky (a pioneering psychologist whose work has become the foundation of much research and theory in developmental and child psychology) believes that: engaging in social pretend play is critical for developing executive function skills in very young children

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Forest Room November What Does It Mean To Be A Friend?

                           What Does It Mean To Be A Friend?

Two children were running from sharks.  They ran and ran until the first of the two became tired. 

Panting, the first child stopped. 

The second child wanted to keep running and said, "Hey let's run.  They're coming, they're coming!"  

The friend: "No, I don't want to."  

The second said again, "Let's run! They're coming!" When this exclamation  didn't bring about desired results, a push jolted the panting friend. 

Reaching out to them a teacher said, "I wonder what you guys might be trying to tell each other."  To the first child, "What are you trying to tell your friend?" and then to the second child she asked the same question. 

The first said, "I don't want you to chase me." 

The second replied, "I want to run.  Will you play with me?"  

This became a discussion which evolved into a crawling game where giggling, they reconnected with each other for a few moments. 

The first got up and ran again, stopping a few feet away. The latter almost crashed.  With frustration came the question, "Why won't .... play with me?" 

Teacher:  "Sometimes our friends don't want to do what we would like to do.  Do you feel that way sometimes?"  

Her question was met with a nod and a new challenge of trying to balance on a line of raised bricks.

Our work in the Forest Room is grounded by a quest to explore relationships with each other.  "How can I play with you? How powerful are my words? If I want to play with you, will you want to play with me? Can I still be your friend if you don't want to do what I want to do? Will you be my friend if I don't want to do what you want to do? If I push you, will you still be my friend?  Are you OK? Is there anything I can do for you?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Forest Room: Watching the Gate

The children in the Forest Room are the youngest of our school.  Our outside time is spent in the Garden rather than the playground to allow these children room to run without being overwhelmed by the older preschoolers.

Daily we watch the middle school students walk through the gate from the cottage, cross the Garden where we are playing, and make their way to the Main House.  At first our children either ignored these older children or stepped back and eyed them warily.  We noticed some (but not all) of the middle schoolers did the same, skipping quickly past us, hurrying to catch up with friends.

Recently this scenario began to change.  Some of the Forest Room children have begun to see themselves as gatekeepers, watching with interest as the "big kids" go through the gate, looking carefully to see if "any more are coming," and closing the gate after all the middle schoolers have passed through.

I asked them, "Where do you think the big kids are going?" and got a variety of responses.  "To the playground," "to the Forest Room," "to their own Forest Room," and "to their own school" were some of their ideas.

To the children who told me the middle schoolers were going to our Forest Room, I asked, "Do you think they go to the Forest Room while we are outside?"  "Yes!" was the response, followed by, "they play there."

I invited some of the children to ask these older ones this question:  "Where are you going?"
So far, no one has followed through with my suggestion.  If they did, what would happen if the middle schoolers stopped to answer?  What kind of conversations might occur between the oldest and youngest members of our school?

And what do the middle schoolers think of the Forest Room children?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Forest Room November 10, 2012 The Unexpected


                                                     The Unexpected

         Provocation: A pumpkin placed on a table with magnifying glasses.  

A variety of materials for drawing, cutting and gluing are always available on a shelf in  our classroom studio.

When I have provided natural materials in the past, I have done so with the intention of fostering the children's ability to slow down and to notice details by sight and touch. Another intention I have thought important was to introduce children to "thinking pens", to use for drawing observations with care. These intentions are worth while because they are fundamental skills for children  learning to read and write.

This time I decided to see what would happen if I let go of my own intentions and just see what was important  to the children...

All of the children explored ways to interact with the pumpkin. They came together as a group sharing ideas, imitating each other and co constructing. 


Pedagogista: Ideas in the Wind

Ideas in the Wind:  

Educational Relationships Across the Country

I am struck today, as I watch a hurricane toss leaves--gold, orange, green, autumnal--across my backyard and into my neighbors', how like this is to our experience as educators at Sabot.  Our ideas--bright, myriad, new and old, alike in so many ways yet different--caught in the winds of progressive education, spreading to our neighbors; and coming from our neighbors all in astonishing gusts.

David Kelly at the Blue School.
This week I visited my friend, David Kelly, at the six year old Reggio-inspired Blue School in New York City.  Now in its architecturally stunning new digs at the city's old seaport, the work I saw there makes me eager for April when Dave will come and share his particularly deep brand of ideas on relationship with many of us at our spring institute.
 Dave introduced me to Val and Katie,  the teachers in a classroom of three year olds.  He stepped back as these bright young women told me the story of a parent evening, where they invited parents into the work of the children, but not their own child, the child instead, of another family.  And there it was, an idea we had  already put our own stamp on--that the work of one child informs us about all children-- but,their project offered a new way in, a clue about how to make this idea resonate more fully. 
 Katie and Val share their work.
Only a few months past, Anna and two teachers visited the Opal School in Portland, Oregon and returned with new insights on how to strengthen our ability to ask good questions, the over-arching questions that lead the work of children but guide the teachers as well. Now those questions are visually popping up everywhere in the preschool(PS)  and were the substance of  a PS faculty conversation last week--a rich and exciting interchange. I expect no teacher went away without a deeper understanding of their own practice.
 Images  from the Opal School in Portland, Oregon.

Last week, I heard from our friends Lella Gandini (the U.S liaison to Reggio Emilia who is eager to speak about teacher reflection to our institute in  April) and  Lynn Hill (the editor of  many books on the Reggio approach) who stopped by for a late afternoon visit.  And Grant Lichtman  dropped by, a new friend, who blogged about our school (  ) on his sabbatical trek across America, sharing our story and others' with  the educational community.  And then there is Paul Tough who writes about the value of a relation-based education and who Sabot will sponsor in a community forum in June and John Hunter (an old friend and band-mate of Pippin's) who will share his extraordinarily creative work on peace education this summer at Sabot. The leaves of ideas are a-swirling across the campus, and across the world of education.  

But returning to my window, looking through the rain speckled window, I can still see, beyond the blowing leaves, past the rain and swirling winds, a world I am familiar with, a structure I know, a landscape that shifts gradually, or sometimes even suddenly, but at the heart answers to physical and natural laws.  And so too,  in this landscape of educational change, with concepts flying, we at Sabot look into the new ideas--just a little deeper--and see that our work still answers to the laws of a democratic education--shared, respectful interactions, built on acquiring habits of mind which support learning for the individual within the group. As true for teacher-researchers as for children.  But meanwhile we are grateful we have both new neighbors and old whose trees of experience and wisdom add the organic matter that gives our yard a brighter look, and an exciting, energized feel.

Posted by Marty Gravett 

Emerging Literacy


 Take a look at the emerging literacy skills that we have been observing in the classroom! This interest is ubiquitous- we see it throughout the morning, in multiple parts of the classroom, with a variety of materials.

One morning the bananagram tiles were introduced. Cris and I had noticed how interested the Rainbow Roomers were with letters. We decided to provide letter-based provocations to support this interest. In this way the environment is the "third teacher", allowing for investigation and experimentation to promote learning. (The children and teachers compose the other two parts of the learning equation).

The first words that children enjoy spelling are their own names. Naturally the Rainbow Roomers were interested in spelling their names, but this process was challenging for many of the children. Hmmmm...where can you find a copy of your name? Cris asked. The symbols! As a result, many children throughout the morning obtained their symbols and dug through the tiles to spell out their names.


On a different day, the bananagrams were available in the other classroom. Here the children used them more for lining up and creative arrangement.

Here the girls are choosing specific letters to place on the tray.

Sometimes letters are formed out of various materials. Here the first letter of this child's name was arranged with the unit blocks. She then turned it into an abstact arrangement by adding additional pieces around it.

Over time, other names/words of  value become the next learning opportunity. This child wrote out the letters to his favorite superhero, then located the corresponding tiles.

More literacty pictures