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
I’ve talked before about how young children sometimes will be curious about a provocation or not. I’ve also talked about how using the materials you have is a great way to incorporate recycling into your curriculum. Above I had set up a small provocation using boxes, blocks and wooden dolls, our fairies. And I used a piece of fabric to place them all onto. I had no idea if this would be an interest or not, but I tried anyway.
It turned out that one of my students chose to remove the blocks from the table and take them to the construction/ block interest area to build with. The boxes, dolls and fabric were all left behind. So I decided to follow this child and put the boxes and dolls in the construction/ block area too. At first block building dominated and no interaction with the dolls took place. However, just as I was about to give up on my provocation entirely, this student decided the dolls needed furniture. 🙂
It turns out that the provocation wasn’t a fail as I thought it was. This child made it her own and took it in the direction she wanted. She moved the blocks to an area she could build, then she used the blocks to make furniture for the dolls. She explored, constructed and planned using her own timing and ideas. I mentioned the word “planned” second because often times young minds construct first and formulate ideas and plans as they go. Constructing knowledge as they engage in hands-on projects enables their young minds to experiment with the many ideas running through their heads.
Sometimes it can be very difficult as a Teacher to sit back and wait. Sometimes it is important to follow the child’s lead and then step back again. Waiting, watching and listening are all part of the documentation process and of being a Teacher, Mentor and Facilitator.
As this child started to story tell about the dolls/ fairies she used our wooden tool bench, tools, and alphabet puzzle pieces and incorporated them into her story. This child was also integrating the content areas such as mathematics when building, for example, measuring, comparing sizes, shapes and balancing each block. She also entered into literacy development when she started story telling. Allowing young children to express their individual ideas and creative thoughts is all a part of a strong learning foundation. This simple example is what enables children to take risks with their learning as they grow older. We want children to have confidence and the ability to make difficult decisions as they grow into adulthood and become responsible citizens. It all starts in the early years of development.
Heidi Scott, BA & MIT 🙂
The Marigold School of Early Learning
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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Using textures and small manipulatives like buttons for beginning patterning provocations is another way to introduce mathematic concepts to young minds in a non-intrusive way.
This is an example of how you can display biggest to smallest using buttons. The idea when setting up provocations like this one with fabric and buttons, is to keep in mind this is an open-ended exploration. Watch, listen and observe how one or all four children at the table use the materials or choose not to use them. Revisit this provocation and from the observations and words of the children formulate questions to spark a discussion of possible uses for fabric and buttons. You may be surprised at what non-conventional ways the children will come up with. 🙂
Using different nature based or Autumn colors is another way to stimulate a child’s young mind in terms of creativity. Here is a cream colored fabric with yellow buttons along with leaf patterns and a star shape. These small details may be noticed by the children and this could inspire one or more to draw or paint a picture of leaves or stars. The children may ask for clay to sculpt a flower. You never know where a young mind will take a provocation.
Now you may be thinking this is too abstract, not enough information for a young mind. However, my expectations are for the young mind’s capacity to question, explore ideas and take risks creating things inspired by a provocation like this one. Conversation and deep discussion can come about from the children for different uses of fabric and buttons. Sizes, shapes, colors, textures are all a part of the natural and artificial world in which all children live and breath. Use what you have to provoke deep thought, questioning, exploring and constructing minds of the young children you teach or care for.
Patters are in real nature and they are in artificial nature. Here is an example of using the colors in the fabric to create with buttons a red and yellow pattern. Again this is a provocation which may lead a young child to extend the pattern, or it may inspire them to draw or sculpt. As a Teacher my ideas and adult expectations have to be put on the back burner. I have to be patient and wait to see how young three, four and five year old minds will interpret and create with exposure to a provocation like this one. The types of questions I ask to further exploration may differ for each age group or I may observe how each child of a different age influences another’s ideas and constructions based on this one provocation.
Give this provocation a try! See what your young preschool children come up with. Let me know how it worked out for you. Let me know if it did not work and how you changed the provocation. How did your discussions on this provocation unfold and what insights did you gain in terms of how each child interpreted the provocation? I want to hear from you! Please like and share!
Heidi Scott, BA & MIT The Marigold School of Early Learning 🙂
This may look daunting, but just wait, I will explain. 🙂
I set up a lavender rhododendron, purple and pink tempera paint (washable), two different paint brushes, green and brown crayons, small rectangular paper and finally blue play dough. I also made sure there were half filled jars of water with rocks at the bottom for weight. (No tipping 🙂 )
The idea behind this is for the children to explore a provocation with a multiple layer of artistic materials. Due to there being more materials to work with and the table being much more busy than with just one provocation, I like to have a class meeting to inform the children of items they will use. Then I like to generate a discussion with the children to find out from them what kinds of ideas they have for those materials.
Here are some ideas we came up with:
* making flowers out of the dough and painting the dough.
* counting the round dough and writing the numbers with the crayons and then painting over the crayon.
*painting the flower and using the dough as a name tag or marker for the kind of flower each person paints. Then using the crayon to add the stem and leaves.
*making flowers out of the dough and using the paint to outline the flowers. After that adding the stems and leaves with the crayons. Asking Ms. Heidi if she would write our words for our pictures. 🙂
*Ms. Heidi can write our words for our stories. 🙂
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