Friday, December 13, 2013


Last week we introduced tempera paint in the mini studio.  We started with a large piece of paper on the wall and a limited palette of color -  black, white, blue and green.  After a day or two we replaced the blue and green with red and yellow, leaving the original paper on the wall.  The finished painting is hanging down the back stairway if you would like to take a look.
(a side note- Painting or drawing on a large vertical surface helps develop the larger muscles of the shoulder and upper arm.  Children strengthen these muscles first, and then the smaller muscles in the forearms and hands; all necessary for proper pencil grasp) 
A few years ago Robyn and I had the good fortune to work with Fran (Forest Room).  At circle one day she showed the children that they could make the outline of a shape with one color of paint and then fill it in with another.  We repeated that demonstration for the children this year and they have been trying it out in their painting.  It helps define their image and thereby make it more "readable".  

Ultimately we would like the children to develop some skill with a variety of materials.  Some materials will even become a "language" with which they can communicate their questions and ideas.  Throughout the preschool the teachers offer a range of experiences with a variety of materials so the children can explore many.  Not all materials will become languages for all the children, but finding the one that matches your voice can be transformative and is richly valuable throughout life.  Exploring a broad range increases their options, their skills, and their understanding of various materials. 
Magna tiles continue to be an extremely popular material for many children, and so we have decided to take them on as an intention this year - to learn as much as we can about what they can offer, their limitations, how we can support and extend their usefulness.    Are they an "intelligent" material, one that can be transformed?  Can they become a language for some of the children?  We have seen that they support their pretend play, but do they inspire and challenge?  Does their ease of use make them undesirable?   These are some of the questions that we are thinking about. 
We know that as parents you make decisions about materials and toys all the time too.  We would love to hear your questions and thoughts as we explore this and other materials. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"You do stuff better when you slow down!"

Shayna recently wrote a story about fairies:
Silvermist and Rosetta
They laughed and laughed because Rosetta tickled Silvermist.

Rosetta went home and Silvermist followed. The door was locked, so they used the key, but the door was still locked. The door stayed locked!

So Rosetta went to Silvermist's house. They went inside and played and played and played. They had so much time.

And then it was tomorrow.

Children spending time with a
special tree- part of an ongoing
classroom project

Like adults, time is on our children's minds. We are all feeling rushed, particularly at this time of year.

I asked Shayna if Silvermist and Rosetta enjoyed all the time they had that day to play. She nodded yes.

Do they feel rushed when they play?
Again, she nodded yes.
Do they ever run out things to play?
She shook her head no.

I asked the group around me at this point if they also feel rushed when they play. Generally they agreed that, yes, they feel like they don't have enough time to play.
Why is that? Do we have too many activities in the classroom? Are we scheduling them too much during or after school? Or is there more to this that didn't manifest in the conversation? Perhaps play feels unsatisfactory sometimes (which happens frequently with young children) and there's a perception that more time devoted to a particular friend or narrative will improve the potential for fulfillment; that at some point everyone will play in harmony. "More time" in this context means we're still working at this, not we don't have enough hours in the day. 

Eventually questions about adults and rushing circulated around the snack table. A full discussion about time developed involving the whole group.

Children enjoy quiet time in
the classroom with each
other's company.
Question: What do grown-ups do too quickly?
Looking at the black bunny
Getting dressed
Brushing teeth

Why should grown-ups slow down?
They might fall down and hit their head
They might hit their children
They might eat and vacuum at the same time and food will spill

Children have the time and space in the
classroom to explore and investigate at
their own pace.
What about teachers? What should we do slower?
Walk more slowly
Eat more slowly
Drink Slowly

What's the good part of slowing down?  (I really wanted some comments that were positive about slowing down, not just about getting hurt or making mistakes. This was a hard question for them to answer).
You might do something wrong if you go too fast!

These girls are using the playground
space to continue their fairy game
that originated earlier in the classroom.
What about me? What do you want me to do slower?
Writing (my arm will get too tired if I write quickly)
Eating (I think someone noticed me eating and walking at the same time)
Shushing at circle. Slow down how you shush. (This child is right! It makes a difference to quietly and slowly blow your air out with a shush. This is a new part of our circle routine!)
You do stuff better when you slow down. If you do it fast, you might do it wrong.

These comments were really enlightening. I had no idea that the children are noticing how quickly adults move around them. It's like we're all moving in a particular orbit, but the adults are spinnng around the children at a high speed while the children are moving at the "just right" speed. There's a collective understanding among these 4-year olds that moving too quickly, or rushing, can have bad outcomes. And I was reminded to slow myself down, to breathe properly and calmly at circle, and to always listen to those hidden gems in children's stories. Thanks to Shayna for bringing time to my attention!