About Me

My photo
Early childhood education has been my life for over 30 years. I have taught all age groups from infants to 5-year-olds. I was a director for five years in the 1980s, but I returned to the classroom 22 years ago. My passion is watching the ways children explore and discover their world. In the classroom, everything starts with the reciprocal relationships between adults and children and between the children themselves. With that in mind, I plan and set up activities. But that is just the beginning. What actually happens is a flow that includes my efforts to invite, respond and support children's interface with those activities and with others in the room. Oh yeh, and along the way, the children change the activities to suit their own inventiveness and creativity. Now the processes become reciprocal with the children doing the inviting, responding and supporting. Young children are the best learners and teachers. I am truly fortunate to be a part of their journey.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

MY CLASSROOM PHOTO OF THE YEAR

I take thousands of pictures in the classroom every year.  The ones you see are almost exclusively from the sensory table.  My pick for classroom photo of the year is a shot in a different area of my classroom.  It is an area of the room that most people would not consider a place of play and exploration.  The area encompasses green steps, a ledge, and the windows.
The ledge is three feet off the ground and a foot wide and accessed via the steps.  The children have appropriated this space for their own purposes.  Last year, I moved the color blocks to the windows so the children could look out to see the world in different colors if they so desired.

Now that you understand the space, here is my favorite classroom picture of the year.   I call it: Vestige of Play.
Are you surprised there are no children in the picture?  There are no children, but this picture reveals a  trace of something created by two children in the morning class.  The trace is rendered more impressive with the effects of the afternoon sun.

Like any good picture, there is a story.  The story begins with a serendipitous moment and weaves a continuing thread that actually lasts a couple of days.

It is cleanup time.  Two boys have been building with the color blocks on the ledge.  For cleanup, I ask them to put the color blocks back in the window.  Up until this point, the color blocks have resided in the lower window. One of the boys, who was not too thrilled about putting away the blocks, finally relents. But instead of putting the blocks in the lower window, he starts putting them in the higher window. He gives me a sideways glance as if to say: "If I am going to put them away, I will put them a way my way."  I just tell him: 'That works."  With no further prodding, they willingly stack the blocks in the higher windows.

This is what it looked like when they were done.  It was impressive, but when I came back in the afternoon, the sun had worked some magic to make it a stunning sight---and my classroom photo of the year.

The blocks were still in the window for the next class period the following day.  Two different boys asked about it.  They promptly took the color blocks down.  I did tell them that they had to take from the top.  After taking all the color blocks out of the window, they started to build again.
You notice they are not trying to make the edges line up with each other.  Rather, this is an exercise in free-form balancing of the blocks.

On the third day, another child noticed the blocks stacked in the two upper windows.  He set about stacking all the color blocks in one window.
Did you notice he is on his tippy toes on the bottom window ledge?  He is balancing the blocks while balancing himself.  That is quite a balancing act.  

During the next class, this window was taken down by some other children.  This all happened over the course of one week in the late fall.  The stairs, the ledge and the window are still open for play but have yielded to some other pursuits.

There is a second place photo of the year; it comes from the same area in the same week. Notice there are vents on the ledge.  Those are the blowers that circulate air in the room.   A child climbed up the steps to look out the window.  The blowers are blowing her hair and the color blocks are casting colored shadows all over her.  I call this picture: Color Me Free.

I am taking a week off from blogging.  I want to thank you all for a great year.  Come back again next year to see what is cooking at the sensory table.



10 comments:

  1. Love the photos Tom, Merry Christmas, have a great break.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Tess. And all the best to you Down Under

      Delete
  2. You really inspire me Tom. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. If you ever build something, please feel free to share. Or if you ever have any questions, please let me know.

      Delete
  3. Hi Tom,
    I love the window playspace! I am an ECFE teacher from across the river. I have a single set of color blocks, but two large sets of magna-tiles. I'll have to try them when school starts up again. I think I have the same heating system in my Kenny School classroom, though it is located in the built-on "portable" area of the building; the window frame may by narrower--not sure
    I was wondering if you have rules for "ledge play"--I'm thinking safety, (which is where my administrators would be questioning my "judgement")? I think it is a great way to come up with some additional play space, and access to the window is so nice for young children to have a close-up view to the outside.
    JCraig

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I moved into this classroom two and a half years ago. I had the green stairs so I set them up so children could look out the window. Gradually, though, they have appropriated the ledge as a play space. Sometimes it is just a place to sit and visit and sometimes is encompasses some very active large motor play, like jumping down. They cannot run on the ledge. Otherwise, I take a read on the play that occurs there because children are so inventive as the explore spaces and how they use space. If I think the play is not safe, I will talk to the children about my concern and ask them how they could make sure they are being safe in that space. They are really good at offering acceptable solutions. After all, they all want to be safe and giving them some control over that furthers their own ability to self-regulate.

      Delete
  4. tom this amazing...after 25 years of teaching pre-school I changed my career path in teaching and is now working with young adults who are mentally handicapped. I think this is something I can adjust for these learners too...thank you for the inspiration...elisma in SA

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Elisma. I would be curious to know how it goes and how you adapt it.

      Delete
  5. Could you tell me what the name of these blocks is, and where to find them?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. These are window blocks. They can be found in any early childhood supply catalogue under blocks.

      Delete