How do we negotiate learning with children?

The idea of intentional or purposeful play is one that has received a lot of attention in our Ontario context. As educators, there is a pressure to be accountable, to ourselves, to parents, to administrators.  What are the children in our care learning?  Is all play purposeful? How do we account for the learning that is happening in children’s play?

I’d like to thank fellow educator and blogger Aviva Dunsiger, whose comments and thought-provoking questions inspired this post and whose own post Calling into Question Purposeful Play on purposeful play began an interesting conversation   In commenting on The Beauty and Chaos of Free Play, she asked:

How do you find that your focused materials, discussion, and documentation varies from your free play ones? Continue reading “How do we negotiate learning with children?”

If I ‘home-stage’ my provocation, will it lead to better learning?

This is an idea that has been in my mind for the past year, percolating and trying to become a fully formed question. I am entranced by the manifestation that the idea of environment as a third teacher has taken in the form of beautiful activities set out at centres. I am inspired by the beauty of the many such centres available for viewing on the internet. I am captivated by the power of aesthetics and the idea of creating something that will entice children to explore, to create and to think with the materials laid out in a manner that inspires, attracts, and engages.

There is evident in many of these provocations a belief in listening to children and involving them in the learning, a desire to allow for their exploration and creativity and a desire to implement an approach of inquiry and emergent curriculum. I see the deep thoughtfulness of the educators as they respond to the children’s learning.

And yet I wonder…

What is the impact of creating such beautiful arrangements on learning?  Will my presentation of materials make a difference in the learning?

Continue reading “If I ‘home-stage’ my provocation, will it lead to better learning?”

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.

Continue reading “The Beauty and Chaos of Free Play”

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?

Continue reading “How Can Documentation Support a Sense of Belonging?”