Friday, November 11, 2011

on theory and practice

The Hundred Languages of Children has made itself at home in my backback, I take it out for a read most days on my commute to and from work. This section in Eva Tarini and Lynn White's chapter has been earmarked and reread several times over the last week. 

Role of the Adult
Our contact with Reggio educators has caused us to reevaluate the role of the adult in the classroom. We believe that simply providing materials and then managing the group is not sufficient in helping children extend their thinking. Instead, working alongside children for long periods of time helps us all arrive at deeper and richer understandings. We have found that a stronger presence can be very important in helping children focus for longer periods of time, in helping them rise to new challenges, and in helping them express themselves in ways that are more creative, more communicative, and more thoughtful.

As we continue to introduce and expect children to revel in the creative possibilities of open-ended materials it has been a daily reminder - that children need support in imagining the possibilities for such materials.

What I found this week in offering a myriad of colorful glass beads and rocks is that my expectation for children to create representations and stories with the material was met with the reality of their frustration and boredom with the material. I found children 'done' after 10 minutes at the light table, showing me a table covered in a sea of beads . A huge 'oh no' and 'ah ha' moment for me. It could only be through my support (not merely) an introduction of the material that they would be able to maximize its potential. This led to a week of scaffolding, sometimes side by side and other times, a more silent scaffold.

Before this photo was taken (and before I intervened), the light table was a sea of glass beads.

I used paper as a tool to help children organize and design within a space.

Within the spaces, children were able to create representations and give them meaning.

Next week I will make the materials available at the light table again,  to see if the support in using the material helped children in internalizing the creative possibilities. However, I don't think my role is done, I think the potential to unlock imagination and storytelling is present in these beautiful glass rocks and beads but I think I will need to be a part of that discovery process alongside the children. It's a constant reflection on when to watch and when (and how) to intervene. That's really the beauty of being an educator, it is our job to actively think every moment of the day.

What is your view on the subject? How do you support children in using materials or in acquiring skills with a new medium?

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure I've mentioned this to you before (and someday, perhaps, we'll have a coffee together so I can remember what we have talked about) - but I think that scaffolding is both my love and my fear. I know that my role is to facilitate and support, but I fear "showing" children things and having them approach a material in only one way. Its a bit of an irrational fear. Today, we were playing with legos and a child really wanted an intricate structure that another teacher had made the day before (I'm not one to "show kids up" by drawing well or making something the children cannot), and instead of giving the child the building, we sat together and looked at the building and each created one. I pointed out features in the building she wanted, and we each built as we talked about what we saw. I love legos as a material, and in this instance we had an exemplar.

    On the other hand, I introduced salt dough for the first time today, to children who are used to play dough as the only moldable medium. We talked about how they could keep what they made; and I did model a few techniques that I knew they could already do: snakes and balls. I think this got them started.

    This is a great conversation to have - an important one.




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