Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Day Two: Working with Mosaic Tiles

Yesterday we worked with mosaics and the children figured out how to use a square and a triangle to create a house. One house turned into a neighborhood, one neighborhood turned into several neighborhoods and the final result included backyards, garages and an ever evolving story about the people who lived there. 

Taking a cue from the kids work, I decided to continue their understanding about shapes and patterns by setting up stations to practice replicating more complex patterns. I knew the task was going to be pretty tricky for them because it involved a lot of complex mental work. First the children had to determine the kind of tiles needed, then they had to choose correct number of shapes to complete the project. After that they had to take the image apart in their minds and then recreate it on paper. I’m exhausted just thinking about all that thinking!

Before starting the project I asked the children not to take the teacher made designs apart so that everyone would have a chance to try all of the designs. I also set up a few other projects so that they could choose to work somewhere else if they needed a break from our complicated task. 

Our original set up:

Watching the kids, I discovered that some of the designs were too difficult for them to recreate so I reconfigured them into simpler designs. When the children got stuck in their work I talked them through the process of recreating the design. 

Some of the questions I asked to provoke their thinking included:
“What shape do you think you will need next?”
“How many triangles do you notice?”
“Hmmm it looks like your design is not quite the same, what do you think is different?” 

Some of the children were really into the project and they were focused like laser beams in their work. Other children floated in and out of the area working for a while, then moving on to try something else. When one of the main builders in the mosaic area had a breakthrough, the others came flocking back to see the new idea or experiment with the new information.

While Addie was working on this rocket ship she became frustrated that she couldn't quite figure it out. She paced around the table rubbing her eyes, and wringing her hands as she puzzled over what was wrong with her copy of the design. She walked away from the table for a few minutes looking pretty frazzled. Since she seemed to be working through her frustration on her own I sat back and let her to her figure it out on her own. After a few minutes she came back to take another look at the two designs. Sam watched Addie then studied the two rockets for a moment. A look of surprise crossed his face as he realized the problem. He offered to fix her trapezoid so that she could complete the design, Addie accepted his help gratefully then continued her work. 

Once everyone had decided they were done recreating patterns, I opened the area up to allow them to generate their own designs. I found it interesting that all of the children tended to choose one or two kinds of tiles to work with. I wondered if they were trying to gain a better understanding of how to use specific shapes, or perhaps they were continuing the sorting project we had done the day before.

Carmen seemed particularly interested in the green triangles. As she worked she stood them upright - this was unlike any of the work the other children were doing at the time. She accidentally knocked them over several times as she reached for more triangles, then she patiently stood them back up again and counted them by placing a finger on each one, saying random numbers.

Logan watched her for a moment then added some standing mosaics to his work.

Sam watched Carmen and Logan then decided he wanted to make a “domino” game.  
After some experimenting with standing tiles, all of the other children moved on to various different projects and Sam was left to continue his work alone. 

Using what he had learned from our force and motion projects, Sam devised a domino game that involved shooting a marble at a row of dominoes. He tried straight rows and then curved rows. As he worked I overheard him saying things like “Grrrr!!! I keep knocking them down but I’m not going to give up Ms. Geraldine.” 

Eventually Sam’s hard work paid off and he created a cause and effect game in which the marble pushed a row of dominoes, that pushed the end domino off the table and into a bucket. When he was finally successful, he enthusiastically shared his discovery with all the other children. 

Everyone came running back to the table begging for marbles and buckets so they could recreate the domino project for themselves. Sam offered to let the other children try his “invention”, then he taught them how to set their dominoes and buckets up for themselves. He also helped the other children figure out what went wrong when their projects didn’t give the desired dropping in the bucket grand finale.  

As for Carmen, she watched all the excitement for a few minutes then settled in for a nice quiet story time with her baby - completely unaware of all the domino fun she had instigated with her upright green triangles. 

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