About me

Sunday, 9 December 2012

2012 Project - An investigation into Roundness

In this post I would like to give some background as to how this project and investigation into 'roundness' evolved.
In term 2 the Junior School were given the directive to produce a school show. The theme for the show was the 'Olympics' as it was topical at the time. Each class was asked to choose a country and to produce a dance item that reflected their culture of their country of choice.

I decided that our class would choose China as our country. I spent sometime researching on the internet about Chinese classical dance. Dance is not a strength of mine so I really wanted to find out what sort of movements they used in Chinese classical dance. In the course of my research I came across the Shen Yun which had a short promotional video. The company had interviewed dancers and had asked them to explain the underlying principles of Chinese classical dance. One of the concepts in Classical Chinese Dance that stood out to me was that of the roundness of movements, as opposed to ballet where the movements are quite straight.

Because I believe in child centered learning and that they are capable learners, I wanted the children to be involved as much as possible in the process of choreographing the dance. I decided this concept of roundness would provide an excellent foundation for our dance.
Over the term we explored this concept of roundness through a variety of ways including visual art, language, construction, and of course dance!

In visual art we looked at the artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. The children created their own Hundertwasser inspired art.

We used wire, pebbles and the OHP to explore the question ‘What is a line?’ We built up a visual concept of ‘roundness’ the children so the could start thinking about demonstrating 'roundness' with their bodies.

Through our exploration of roundness the children began building a bank of rich descriptive words such as; swirly, twirly, bumpy, wiggly, spirally, twisty, squiggly, jiggly to describe the movement of their bodies.

The children had been watching alot of the Olypmic games at home and so these conversations flowed into the classroom. Some of them where aware that the Olympics were in London which the children were keen to locate on a map. Other children in the class had travelled recently and were also aware of where they had been. This sparked an investigation into maps. I found various types of maps for the children to look at for example a map of the world, a map of New Zealand and a map of Auckland. This led to discussions about perspective and a 'bird's eye view'.

 I organised the children into 3 groups and they had to collaboratively choreograph their dance and then record these movements from a bird's eye view. Some of the children found it challenging and frustrating to work in a group to design their dance, so there was alot of negotiating and problem solving that we as teachers supported the children through.


The value of recycling and sustainability

How do we show children we value recycling and sustainability?

I strongly value recycling so the children are encouraged to bring in things from home for us to use at School. For example cardboard boxes, glass jars, wrapping paper, ribbon, card etc

We have regular conversations about how we can use things in a beautiful or useful way again. I think there is a lot of value in children looking at things that we would normally throw away and imagine the many possibilities beyond its current use.

It also means that we are able to reduce our classroom costs because instead of buying these materials to use in projects, we collect them. I also try and look for things that can be used as storage containers in the classroom for example glass jars instead of buying them from the shops.

Transforming things that might have normally been thrown away, or that are ugly/broken, creates a sense of beauty amongst children. One such project that evolved in my classroom was centered around a horrible cheap plastic chair that we had inherited as a 'birthday chair'. Not content with using this chair I challenged the children to beautify the chair. The detail in their designs was breath-taking and we settled on using elements of each child's design in the chair. The children then set about transforming the chair using papier mache, wire and cardboard. They completed the chair by painting it. It truly is a birthday throne which the children cherish and adore sitting in when it's their birthday!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Materials available in the classroom

What choices are we making and why? The materials that we choose to have available to the children reflect our image of the child. If we believe children are capable, what resources are we providing them with?

In my classroom the children have access to a variety of materials such as clay, wire, recycled materials, and a variety of other open ended resources for them to express their ideas with.

I have a strong sense of sustainability and recycling, so there are many different types of materials that are collected and available to the children.

Children are given time to explore many different types of materials in order that they will become familiar with the characteristics and properties of these materials. The children are then able to select the materials they want to use to represent their ideas.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

What is a project? Curriculum perspective

Where is the project coming from? Is it something that the children have shown an interest in? Is it a requirement?

Why do you think this is an important project for the children?

A project encompasses core values, key competencies, habits of mind, building learning power skills etc A project's underlying objectives is to teach the children how to learn.

A project may challenge you as a teacher to let go of your pre-conceived ideas about where a project should be heading. Sometimes you have to let go of initial ideas that you had about a project.

My projects are not planned out from the beginning to the end. My project planning is a living document.

Some projects I have not known what the main curriculum focus would be because in the initial sates of the project I was still gathering information about the children's ideas and theories. One particular project that was sparked by the children's interest in butterflies could have a been a Science - living world project, however I discovered that most of the children already had a good understanding of the life cycle of a butterfly. My curriculum focus then became a Technology focus, with a minor focus on the life cycle.

Other projects like one that was sparked by our school show, had a clear arts focus from the start. However it did have a minor focus on social studies and geography as the children showed an interest in countries from around the world, maps, and atlases.

Being open to the possibilities is key for me - letting go of 'this is the way we have always done it'. I don't keep any unit plans from previous projects because each project is unique to the group of children I am working with at a particular point in time. There is documentation of the project (something I will talk about later) but I have moved away from replicating the same learning experiences year in and out.

Another big change inspired by this philosophy, has been not to teach themes for example it is autumn so we are all going to learn about autumn. I do still embrace these sorts of 'world around us' topics but the way the topics emerge is so different each year.

"Each individual can thus not only learn how to learn, but also become aware of the value of learning as a quality of life itself, in order to organise and multiply the learning opportunities as well as enjoy them and find pleasure in learning together with others." Carla Rinaldi

Monday, 6 August 2012

What is a provocation?

In the Reggio Emilia approach to teaching and learning the educators talk about provocations.

What is a provocation?

Provocations can come from the teachers, children or external sources such as the community. It is something that sparks questions, interest, ideas, theories, discussion, debate and engages the children's thinking.

Provocations could be:
  •  A concept i.e. change
  • A problem i.e. children touching chrysalises and damaging them
  • An object i.e. a map
  • Nature e.g. children's fascination with sticks
  • A question from the teacher
  • Questions from the children
  • Song lyrics
  • An event
  • A book
  • An interest that a child or group of children have
  • A requirement i.e. the school show

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Classroom displays - the learning journey

A few years ago I decided that it was important to show how the teaching and learning in my classroom integrated many different curriculum areas. This meant moving away from having designated maths, writing and reading areas framed with different borders. This was a big change for me because I had traditionally always had a wall for writing, a wall for maths, a wall for reading and a wall for art.

How is the learning journey displayed in your classroom?

Displays are a powerful thing. I recently attended a lecture by Guy Claxton, where he challenged the audience to think about what we were displaying in our classroom. He spoke about displaying authentic work that demonstrates the learning process for example draft writing. Guy Claxton believes it is important for children to see what good learners do and that mistakes are a normal part of learning.

Monday, 30 July 2012

What is a project?

A project can be initiated by the teachers or the children
A project may start from 'requirements' i.e. everybody is studying the Olympics
A project may start with the seed of an idea or provocation

A project may involve just a group of children or the whole class
A project may be connected to other things
A project may start and be heading in a certain direction and then go off on other tangents
Sometimes you may not know where a project is going - this a good thing!

A project will have a big idea or concept behind it
A project caters for different levels and abilities
A project should spark more questions, more inquiry, more research
A project evolves and grows
A project will be open ended

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Where to start? Tinkering and Tweaking

The way I began tinkering and tweaking my practice to align more with the Reggio Emilia approach to teaching and learning, was to look at our inquiry topic for the term.

Is there another way?

An example of how I thought about our inquiry topic:

Our team had chosen "space - planet earth and beyond" for all the classes to study for the term. I decided that instead of presenting the children with the topic of "space", I would go from a concept base. The concept I thought would work well was 'change' and from there I presented the children with the question "What changes can we see around us?"

The children came up with many ideas such as losing baby teeth (they were 5 and 6 years old). They also noticed the seasonal change outside - it was autumn. They also noticed the change of day and night. Over the term we explored these three aspects of change. I met all of the curriculum requirements just like every other teacher in the team, however my investigations were child led, concept based, thought provoking, based on the childern's interests and were my first tentative steps in embracing the Reggio Emilia approach to teaching and learning.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Aesthetics of the Learning Environment

In Reggio Emilia the environment is seen as the third teacher. My interpretation of this is to look at how spaces can be organised to inspire and engage children in learning. How am I setting up learning experiences for the children? How are materials or resources organised? What is available and accessible for the children? What do we value as a learning community and how is this portrayed in our space? I believe it is important to purposefully design the learning environment.

One of the first ways I changed the organisation of materials in my class was to organise my art materials by colour. I sorted all of the coloured pencils and felt pens into containers based on their colour. It makes accessing the materials easier for the children, as does keeping it tidy, but it also inspires them to see all of the shades of red or yellow. This way of organising art materials also enables the children to carefully think about what colours they want to use in their work.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

What is Reggio Emilia? Part 2

The Reggio Emilia approach to teaching and learning is interpreted by teachers in their own contex, working within the framework of their culture, values, environment and National curriculum.

Becaues this approach is interpreted within a framework, there are no templates or formula. This is the challenge for us as teachers because we are not waiting for someone else to figure it out and tell us what to do. The challenge is for us to interpretate this philosophy. There is no destination that you will arrive at that says "You are now Reggio". This is a journey. I am challenged on a daily basis as I am inspired to align my knowledge of the principles of Reggio Emilia with my classroom practice.

Monday, 16 July 2012

What is Reggio Emilia? Part 1

The Reggio Emilia approach to teaching and learning is an educational philosophy founded in the Italian province of Reggio Emilia. Reggio Emilia is not a pre-set curriculum, rather it is a process of inviting and sustaining learning; it is a philosophical approach to working with children. The key principles of this approach are:

  • The image of the child
  • The image of the teacher
  • The pedagogy of relationships
  • The learning environment
  • The pedagogy of documentation - making learning visible
  • Provocations, investigations and projects