Wednesday, February 27, 2013

It's All About The Process

Watching the children work yesterday I thought I would share this little exchange between two of my little ones. All of the kids were working on a mixed media project consisting of: Foam trays, Tin Foil, Scotch Tape, Foil Squares and Pipe Cleaners. Scotch tape is pretty new for this group but Addie and most of the other children had worked with it the day before. As far as I know Yoli was having her first experience with the sticky stuff and she wasn’t quite sure how it worked. 

The day before, I had shown the children how to cut tape and keep it from tangling by attaching it to the table, then dangling it roll side down so that it would stay straight instead of curling up and sticking to itself. The children were delighted with the project and wanted to work with tape again. Yoli hadn’t seen the process so she wanted to know: How does tape work? 

This is how she learned...

Yoli worked with the tape for several minutes trying to adhere it to the table but it kept slipping because she had positioned it sticky side up. As she worked, she got her fingers all tangled up in it then looked confused because she noticed Addie’s tape was sticking to the table. Yoli made several unsuccessful attempts at fixing the problem by moving her fingers on top of the tape (still sticky side up). She stoped for a moment; looked at her tape then looked at Addie’s tape, and repositioned her fingers several times but the tape still did not stick to the table. 

I allowed her some time to trouble shoot in her own way. She patiently continued to work and after some time I show her how to position it properly on the table. I explained to Yoli that the sticky side of the tape is the part that keeps it from sliding off the table and that the adhesive needed to be touching the table. Yoli studied the tape for a few minutes, feeling both sides as it hung there. 

She picked up the scissors then opened then shut them, watching as the blades moved back and forth. She looked at Addie as she cut strips of tape, placed them on the table, then repositioned the roll again. She looked from Addie's workspace to her own and appeared to be confused. I asked Addie to explain how to cut the tape so Yoli would know what to do. 

Addie said “Like this Yoli.” Then she moved to the side so that Yoli could see. She snipped the dangling tape roll, put the tape on the table and repositions it again. Yoli followed her lead and sucessfully cut the tape. 

The two worked side by side and Addie offered help by repositioning Yoli’s tape when it got too tangled in the scissors. Yoli cut several strands of tape then lined them up on the table next to Addie's. The two worked on the process of cutting and repositioning tape for twenty minutes giggling as they linded up the tape strips.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Writing Table

For our Valentine’s day project we are working with homemade bottle top stampers, paper, markers and hole punches on pink and blue paper. The children made the stampers the other day with foam stickers and milk jug tops, aren’t they cute? We found using bingo dabbers to load the stampers was much more effective than using the stamp pads we usually use because you can really load em’ up with paint. 

As the kids worked on their individual writing projects, Logan decided he wanted to make his paper longer so he asked for some tape. Usually I offer the kids masking tape because it’s a little easier to manipulate but this time I decided to switch it up and offer scotch tape instead. First I demonstrated several times how to pull out just the right amount of tape then tear it off by twisting and pulling downward. 

It took the kids several tries to get some tape off without getting it tangled up. Pretty soon everybody had fallen in love with the challenge of the new tape and wanted a turn to try it. Working with the tape was tricky and the turn taking process was SLOW. They had to be very patient until the tape made it’s way to their workspace. In the meantime the children did lots of peer mentoring and sharing of ideas as they worked with the other materials. 

(Logan's finished attempt at writing his name is in the bottom corner :)

Peer mentoring

  • Addie had pulled off a length of tape and as she worked it picked up bits of hole punch snowflakes. She was delighted with the effect and picked up a few more. Will watched her then scouted around the table for some of his own.

  • Sam watched Logan work and waited patiently for his own turn with the tape. As he watched Logan, he noticed Logan’s name on his paper so Sam asked for a sticker with Logan’s name on it. I watched him as he looked closely and carefully at each letter then he reproduced them on his paper. Logan saw that Sam was writing his name and traded his tape for a marker so he could give it a try. 

  • Logan wasn’t sure how to form one of the letters in his name and he asked me if I could write it for him. I reminded Logan that it was his project and that he needed to figure it out on his own, then I suggested he watch Sam. Sam demonstrated how to make the letter and talked Logan through the process, then Logan did it on his own.  

  • Carmen watched the other children working with tape and wanted to add some to her project too. She also had trouble getting the lids off of her bingo stampers so she asked for help. Sam and Addie helped her by showing her how to twist the lid the correct way. When they had moved on Carmen practiced twisting the lids on and off. 

  • Yoli was working with one of the hole punches. As she worked she kept trying to slip the paper into the back of the punch. The paper crumpled. I demonstrated how to turn the paper around and slip it in the slot. Yoli moved the stamper to several different places on her paper, positioning it correctly each time she punched a hole. Later she made the same mistake so she watched Will and figured out how to turn the hole punch around correctly.
By allowing the children the time and space to work on Valentine's projects in their own way, they learned how to develop their own ideas and look to each other for help. They also learned to be patient while they waited for turns and worked with new materials.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Glow Hockey

Glow hockey is a super fun game that was inspired by one of our little visitors a few weeks ago. Within minutes of seeing the light table and some crystal climbers Clara joyfully rallied us all together to play a game of glow hockey. Pretty smart for a seven year old! Clara’s idea was to use the small cylinders for puck launchers and the disks for pucks. The only flaw in her game was the fact that the cylinders made a horrid screeching sound as the launchers moved across the table. To remedy the problem I came up with this solution:

Materials: Four round cylinders, rubber bands, felt and four flat disks.

Puck launchers: I cut the felt into squares to fit the cylinders then attached them with several rubber bands and voila! no squeaky sound. 

Our play: This was the first time we were experimenting with this game and we had plenty of things to figure out. It was tricky for the kids to launch the pucks all the way across the table so our work mostly consisted of learning how to use enough force to launch the pucks. Once we figured that out, we had to come up with some rules for fair play but I wanted this to be the kids game so I left that part up to them. 

As we played some problems and disputes arose that inspired the rules for our game such as:

1.) No keeping all the pucks to yourself because everyone else wants to play too. (Logan)
2.) Keep your hands off the table while other people are playing or your fingers will get smashed. (Will)
3.) Do not launch pucks at each other’s faces because taking a puck to the face hurts. (Sam)
4.) It’s not nice to call other people “losers” because it can hurt their feelings, besides we don’t have any points yet so nobody can lose. (Ms. Geraldine)

Things we learned through play:
Visual tracking
Fine motor skills
Hand / eye coordination
Impulse control / turn taking
Innovative use of materials
Creative problem solving
How to develop rules so everyone can have fun

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Salt Trays on the Light Table

Like moths to a flame our little ones were drawn to this brilliant math and writing project. You may remember the other day I posted about the perspective taking table that Mark Bachle made for us, well he has just finished the second part of his masterpiece and we now have a huge light table! We are thrilled beyond words to have the extra space so that everyone can participate in light projects at the same time. Anything on the light table is sure to be a big hit with the kids, being able to include everyone at the same time instead of taking turns is pretty awesome.  

The inspiration for our salt tray, magnetic number and number card investigation came from a friend’s post on Facebook. Her daughter seemed to have so much fun imagining a snowy day scene that we decided to give it a whirl on the light table. The kids really enjoyed watching their drawings become illuminated as they worked. Each time they finished a work of art, they used the edge of a number card to smooth out the salt before beginning again. They experimented by pressing numbers in the salt, matching numbers to cards and writing with their fingers.
All of the children seemed to be particularly mesmerized by calming sensation of the salt running through their fingers onto the tray in little white mounds. As they worked we discussed the texture, temperature and movement of the salt. We also learned that salt is made up of tiny balls called “granules” then we compared salt to other white powdery substances that we have worked in the past with like sugar, four and snow. 
Some observations the children discussed and participated in while working:
“Ooo it’s silky!” - Addie 

"A circle goes round and round, I made an oval" - Will

Sam looked for matches between the cards and magnetic numbers. After matching several cards he drew some letters in the salt. 

Logan worked at the light table for a long time. As he worked he focused intently on the movement of his hands through the salt and he joined in on the conversation intermittently. After a while he decided to take a break from his project to work in the building area. He returned every few minutes to run his fingers through the salt, match some numbers to cards or just check out what everyone else was doing.
Addie scooped the salt over her hands over and over again. She watched as it ran through her fingers onto various objects below. She buried her hands, the cards and the magnetic numbers to seemingly facinated by the glowing effect of the light shining through.

Jackson pretended his salt was soap. He filled his hands several times as he went through the motion of washing his hands laughing and singing a song he made up. Later he experimented with hiding the cards under the salt as he watched some of the other children do.

Carmen worked with the salt for several minutes deliberately drawing lines in it with one finger as if she were writing. When she was finished she pointed to her drawing, stepped back, smiled proudly and announced it was her mommy.