Play Based Learning
Cars and Blocks! 🙂 A three year old child decided that cars and blocks go nicely together and so began construction of a large one story building and some nice parking spots for cars. And some cars park upside down.
I absolutely love how this child decided the parking spots should be on tall polls! What do you think, is this the future of parking? Maybe when cars fly like on the “Jetsons”? 🙂 Again mathematics and yes, physics are happening here. This child put those cars on the pulls many times because gravity and balance claimed them. Finally with much persistence they stayed put.
Moving along from cars and blocks, we find that using scissors to cut play dough is a great way to practice proper form and to strengthen our fine motor skills. This child follows a normal developmental pattern of going back and forth between using two hands to open and close the scissors and using one hand to cut and one to hold the object needing cutting. As a mentor and guide in this situation, I modeled it once and let her try. I encouraged her to keep trying when she felt it was too hard. And she did wonderfully on her own! 🙂 The next time we used scissors for paper and for play dough she allowed me to model it once and she tried it until she felt satisfied.
Heidi Scott, BA & MIT The Marigold School of Early Learning 🙂
Come join us at The Marigold School of Early Learning! We would love to play with new friends and together plan many exciting and new projects!
Following the Interest of a Child
Before we went on winter break I captured these pictures from the morning preschool sessions. 🙂
Using puzzle pieces and a small wooden bowl I set up a provocation for the morning. 🙂
Here is a small example of emergent curriculum. I based this provocation off of what I saw happening in class. The week before a three year old child used dominoes and cars to create pictures, so I thought why not try the same idea using puzzle pieces. Again, I do not expect and am not crushed if a child does not take interest in a provocation, it is a learning process for both myself and the students.
What ended up happening is the puzzle pieces were moved to a piece of fabric in the Reading Corner and buttons were added to the bowl. And that is when a child’s imagination took over! 🙂 The puzzle pieces and buttons became cat food! And as I was documenting this emergent process I also observed a strong interest in cats. This particular child has a pet cat, so no surprise with the interest. This is leading me to adding a few more cat books to our Reading Corner and non-fiction ones as well.
Here is an example of little bear and a cat book. Since interest in cat behavior is showing up in play so strongly, I am going to incorporate facts about cats and see what types of provocations I can set up to entice young children’s interests in cats or other animals. The content areas that will be covered will include literacy, art, and science. How interested the children are in the topic will determine how deep we go into the content areas, but I can tell you from years of experience that when young children are interested in a topic, deep and meaningful learning experiences are the result. And the wonderful thing about it is that is all stems from the children and is not topics forced onto them by the Teacher. 🙂
Heidi Scott, BA & MIT
The Marigold School of Early Learning
Clay, Buttons and Oil Pastels
Using clay and buttons as a simple number provocation is another way to incorporate mathematical experiences into your classroom. Some children will come over and use the oil pastel to try and trace the number and the buttons. Other children will copy the number and buttons free hand. And still others may squish the clay and use the buttons to create something entirely different. Children not so comfortable with textures like clay will push the clay aside and use the oil pastel to draw instead. These are all things I have seen many children do each time I’ve done this provocation or a similar one.
Provocations like these are meant to get the children thinking. When asked, “what number is this?” “Zero!” is always the reply. Zero is also a circle shape, head, eyes, balls etc. Children will take this as a number symbol or use any of the other forms it takes to create a unique picture. Sometimes a child will have a lot to say about his/her creation and other times just the moments spent working with clay and allowing themselves to relax before engaging in other areas that require social interaction will be enough. What each child gains from a provocation is not always up to the Teacher. Children will stick to the surface or dive deep with their inquiries, explorations and creations. As a Teacher I am close by to push the child’s thinking a bit further when I can.
I chose an autumn theme for the colors of clay, buttons and oil pastels, but you could always choose the colors you see and hear your children wearing, choosing and telling you they like. This was my way of incorporating a seasonal color theme without all the “cookie cutter” close-ended units and lessons. I find it fascinating to be able to set up a provocation and wait to see how the children interpret the meaning for themselves. And I love being able to scaffold with each child, building onto and opening doorways in their minds for deeper understanding. The button alone could spark a brief discussion on the buttons a child has on his/ her shirt or coat. The child may remember a family member like a Grandfather or Grandmother having buttons to play with when they visit. Children have rich memories and experiences each brings to the classroom and I never know what provocations will spark special memories. Memories are worth writing down and appreciating.
I tried to pick out buttons that were similar in color yet have a different appearance. Each button is of a different size and has specific surface details. The picture above has two yellow buttons, yet each is of a different size and has a different number of holes. The surface textures of both have a different design as well. These are details I noticed and sometimes the children will notice these on their own and be interested in the differences. Other times children will not pay attention to these fine details because they do not consider them to be important details. This is where as a Teacher I can point out and question the children about what they see as being the same and what is different. Pointing them is a direction I would like them to notice sometimes leads to more questions from the children as to why the buttons are not the same. It can also spark memories of experiences with other clothing or toy items that are different and the same. Keep the conversations open and keep them going when you see an opportunity.
Color differences are also noticeable between the clay, oil pastel and buttons. This could lead you to set up more provocations with the color spectrum in mind. Exploring colors and how color is created could lead the children into a great scientific exploration. Discuss with the children things in nature that are green and all the different shades of green. Bring in leaf and grass samples to set up and compare the differences in color. Since it is Autumn you could also use this time to teach the children about how the leaves turn in the fall and why. Nothing too heavy because the children are ages three, four and five, but enough scientific information that keeps them asking more questions and keeps the topic open for further investigations. Let the children lead you in what you add to the curriculum. Rich learning and strong foundations for further learning happen when we, Teachers and Parents respect the interests and knowledge young children inquire and talk about.
Heidi Scott, BA & MIT The Marigold School of Early Learning! 🙂
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Create your own Doll House!
I’m so happy I was able to purchase some new wooden dolls! Boxes are a good example of how children can use recyclable materials to create a doll house complete with garage. The stamps are one way the children could decorate the doll house to add a more personal and home like feel for their little dolls.
If I were to set this up as a provocation I would arrange the boxes as I have, but I would have held a brief meeting to brainstorm the children’s ideas for each step they would want to take in creating the doll house. I would then ask each child what he/ she wanted to be responsible for and provide them with the materials and space to complete their creative idea. An example of a child’s idea would be of painting the boxes first. Another example would be drawing and painting a scenery for the doll house. Some of the children may want to create small furniture and so through our brainstorming meeting we would use smaller recyclable materials and tape to make their ideas come alive!
There are so many wonderful ways to stimulate a young child’s mind and encourage deep thinking using mathematics, art, language, literacy, communication skills and cooperative group work to come up with an emergent project in which all who wish to participate can. This project could take one day or the entire week depending on how involved all of the children or just a few children become as this project unfolds.
Heidi Scott, BA & MIT The Marigold School of Early Learning
Encouraging Dialogue through Block Play
Blocks are a favorite of almost every young child I’ve taught. 🙂
Blocks offer a child a gateway to the imagination. Add a few extra props, such as cars and the imagination explodes with endless adventure! Suddenly materials objects that may have had only one purpose have now opened up to many different ideas, yet sometimes young minds need a little prompting to get started.
Setting up a provocation like this can entice young minds to question why blocks and cars are set up together. Maybe they have yet to explore the two together which gives me the opportunity to ask some questions, find out what ideas the child has in mind and start a dialogue to see what I can help bring to light.
Sometimes all we have to do is ask a child a few questions and they will respond with their own experiences or story ideas. The story ideas usually take on the form of an endless run-on sentence if actually written down as they say each word. Or the child may recount the experience or experiences he/ she had with blocks from home or a friends house. This wonderful play experience could have happened recently or a year ago. In the mind of a young child three to five sometimes events transcend the normal time line us adults think of. We must remember a child’s mind is uncluttered and free to have crystal clear thoughts. 🙂
Either an event that actually took place or a story the child chooses to recount, this is a great time to type or write down those wonderful thoughts the child is willing to share. When we take the time to listen to a young mind and value his/ her words we are showing the child we value their thoughts and ideas and forming a relationship of mutual respect.
The more elaborate or creative the structure and use of other play materials, I notice the child can be silent as he/ she is in the mode of creative expression. And there are times when a child’s words flow freely as he/ she creates and I had better be fast enough to capture all the words spoken or else I will miss important details. 🙂 Whether the words are describing real life events remembered due to the provocation sparking a memory, or the provocation is a catalyst for an imaginary story, my purpose remains the same. I am here to be a support, scribe, facilitator and challenger of the mind. With a child’s permission I can frame those words, take pictures and hang up the memory or story for all to admire and appreciate. Displaying the child’s ideas with dignity and respect also encourages the child to keep growing and taking an interest in creating more fascinating structures with blocks and integrating other play materials into the projects.
As a Teacher I want to push the children to a state of disequilibrium only to the point at where they can jump to the next level of understanding. Challenges are meant to be attained. If the challenge is too difficult, or if there is too great of disequilibrium the child will become frustrated and give up. We don’t want a young mind to come to that. Remember in life we have enough challenges that may be too difficult to overcome. We as adults and Teachers do not need to create challenges that are too difficult to attain or else we will have successfully stopped the learning journey.
Encouraging dialogue is the best way to continue to show you value your child or students. So keep the doorway to communication and understanding open. We want these young minds to grow to be productive and positive influences on our every changing world. 🙂
Please share your block play or other fun learning experiences! I would love to read all about them! 🙂
Heidi, The Marigold School of Early Learning
Sunflower or False Daisy?
When I first looked at this oil pastel I thought, “hmm…sunflower!” Then I thought some more, “no, false daisy!”
When I asked the little boy who drew this picture he did not know the type of flower because drawing a specific variety was not on his mind as he created this lovely and vibrant color explosion.
I personally think the leaves look more like arms reaching out with little marshmallow muscles. 🙂
What variety of flower do you think this could be? Share you thoughts! 🙂
Heidi, The Marigold School of Early Learning
Oil Pastel Provocation
Oil pastels have such a soft texture and so much pigment! As you can see below in the picture frame, this four year old child was very happy drawing with about four different colors of oil pastels. This particular child did not use water to smudge the drawing, but rather his fingers, however the effect, I thought, is very similar to water color crayons. Don’t you think?
For this provocation I thought it would be fun to change the medium in which the art is applied to. A super thin board in the shape of a rectangle so that two children can create at once. Now that does not mean two children will have the same or even complimentary ideas, it does mean that this whole board will be decorated though! 🙂 Depending on the two children, each may decide to collaborate and create a story together, or their creations may briefly be made with similar thoughts in mind as they communicate back and forth with each other. Most likely, though, each creation will be independent of the other and stand alone as a unique creation. Either way, the effect in my opinion will be a masterpiece. I love children’s artwork because it is so pure, innocent and expresses such joy for life. 🙂
As for changing the medium in which the tools are applied, that is something thought provoking for a young child. At first both children may ponder what exactly to do, but once they’ve had time to assess the scene they will begin to create. I don’t usually rush in and give an explanation, because I want to allow the children to take in what they see and make a decision themselves. If I see the provocation to be too difficult to decipher, then I will give a clear explanation through dialogue. Each child is different in how he/ she interprets a provocation and I accommodate for each style of understanding and communication.
Using a picture for a small space and reducing the number of children from four to two in this interest area is great if you have other equally engaging interest areas set up around the learning environment. For more students to engage in this type of provocation you may also want to try to post a larger picture or poster on the wall and provide a larger table or floor space for each child to have elbow room. There are many ways in which to increase or decrease the number of children engaging in this provocation at a time; the choice is entirely up to you. 🙂
Please share your provocations because I would love to read them! 🙂
Heidi, The Marigold School of Early Learning
Provocations are not always ideas we adults come up with. Sometimes they are moments we’ve observed young children interacting with nature, with each other, with their stuffed animals etc. All it takes is a spark of an idea and a little more time allowing that natural idea to progress, which enables a provocation to take shape. The pictures you see are again simple provocations that we all do regularly, yet each time we meaningfully set up an interest area for young children to become curious about, explore and express themselves artistically and literacy wise, we allow for deeper thought and encourage a young mind to think beyond barriers.
As an adult I have many invisible barriers in my mind. Those barriers have been created by myself, my family, my educational upbringing and my society. It takes more effort for me to break down those invisible barriers than it does a child, who’s mind is still open and free to construct knowledge in a pure and unbiased form.
I can not change the fact that as an adult I have to break down barriers to my continued learning and creativity, but I can prevent new ones from forming and I can break down any preconceived ideas I have and allow my mind to openly and freely continue the life long journey of learning.
Early Childhood Education is my catalyst, what is your? 🙂
Heidi, The Marigold School of Early Learning
What Would You DO?
“Hmm…what can I do with paper, pencil and scissors?”
“I can draw anything I want. Then I can use my handy scissors to cut in any direction I want. OR, I could crumple the paper, twist it, shred it, make little balls…oh, I need a bowl or basket to carry my balls in! Then I can go around and show my friends and then maybe they will help me make more balls and we could then say they are berries! Yes, that is what I will do. Oh, I want to tell my story…I need my Teacher, she can write my words for me.”
Just looking at this picture seems like a pretty simple scenario, yet there are so many different ideas and directions a child might explore with three simple tools. Tools sometimes are simple, yet the hand and mind controlling them are much more complicated. 🙂
What scenarios, provocations have you set up recently that the children took in directions you the Teacher or Parent never imagined? Please share your stories, I would love to read about them too! 🙂
Heidi, The Marigold School of Early Learning