The Beauty and Chaos of Free Play

No, not a beautiful provocation but instead a picture of the real chaos that results from children deeply engaged in self-directed and exploratory play with materials – beautiful nonetheless.

Alison Gopnik, in her book The Gardener and the Carpenter, muses that children are designed to explore and that “the messiness of children makes a special contribution to human evolvability.” (p. 31-32) I take heart in this message, especially as I think of the creative energy and the jubilant manipulation and transportation of materials and loose parts I witness in my own Kindergarten classroom each day and the resulting chaotic mess of those materials that often results.

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How Can We Think about an Ontario Lens on Learning Stories?

The work of New Zealand educational thinker Margaret Carr has long inspired me. Her ideas on assessment as valuing have made an enduring impression on my thinking about what I do in my practice in regards to assessment.

As I have been reflecting on our new Ontario Kindergarten curriculum, I have been thinking about how it impacts my collection of assessment. How can I create a means of collecting assessment that honours the child, that values them?  How do I capture the full spectrum and richness of learning that occurs in so many instances throughout our days?

I am intrigued by learning stories, as discussed by Margaret Carr in her book  Learning Stories: Constructing Learner Identities in Early Education, as perhaps providing a holistic means of collecting this assessment within the scope of our new curriculum.  Continue reading “How Can We Think about an Ontario Lens on Learning Stories?”

Do I Really Need to Create an Aesthetically Pleasing Environment That Could be on the Pages of a Home Magazine?

‘Environment as the Third Teacher’ has become a common mantra in the early years community. As it has, beautiful classrooms, displays and carefully arranged invitations at centres have proliferated. Yet, is it all really necessary? What if we don’t have the money? or time? What is the intent behind it all?

Considering the environment as a third teacher has allowed us to think about the importance of the the environment in early years learning programs and that is crucial. There is no doubt that our surroundings have an impact on us and that in early years settings, they are of primary importance.

If, however, we want our environments to have impact, then it must be about more than decorating, collecting materials and following the latest Pinterest trend. We have to consider the intention and rationale of what we are doing.

Why are we doing what we are doing? How is what we are doing helping to promote and honour student learning?

Continue reading “Do I Really Need to Create an Aesthetically Pleasing Environment That Could be on the Pages of a Home Magazine?”

How Can Documentation Support a Sense of Belonging?

What does it mean to belong? This was my educator wonder at the beginning of this year. How can children learn from and with each other to establish positive classroom culture?  How do their actions and interactions create the learning community and develop a sense of belonging amongst those within? How could documentation serve as a pedagogical tool to support this?

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How Can We Value the Storytelling Lives of Developing Authors – Part 2

Vivian Gussin Paley offers us another way to value the storytelling lives of children – by honouring the stories they create in their play.

Young children are continually creating pretend stories. What Paley promotes is the value of honouring those stories. These stories of play are literacy at it’s finest – authors building on what they know to create and develop stories and plots, adding imagination and creativity and emotion, developing roles and creating sets and props.

Continue reading “How Can We Value the Storytelling Lives of Developing Authors – Part 2”

How Can We Value the Storytelling Lives of Developing Authors – Part 1

 

What would happen if we expanded our definition of early literacy to include and honour the stories children tell through their playful exploration of the materials around them? What opportunities, growth and potential for developing creativity would occur if we allowed for the idea in our classrooms that literacy – in particular writing – begins with and flows from the storytelling lives of the children? Continue reading “How Can We Value the Storytelling Lives of Developing Authors – Part 1”