About Me

My photo
Early childhood education has been my life for over 40 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.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Mini trampolines - part two

Trampolines are made for jumping, right?  But even as children jump on the trampolines, their play naturally flows into other developmental domains.  In the video below, the children count as they jump.  In essence, they are playing with numbers as they jump.  Sometimes the counting matches the jumps and sometimes not.  Sometimes the counting is sequential and sometimes not.  In addition, they are managing their own turn-taking.  Two times, the first jumper starts to step onto the trampoline as another child who has not had a turn steps onto the trampoline at the same time.  And both times, without any hint of conflict, the first jumper steps back to give the new jumper a turn at jumping and counting.

Trampoline: jumping, counting, taking turns from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

This play is totally child-directed.  It is their idea to count.  Are they using the counting as a way to measure the length of their turn?   Think about this in contrast to a teacher counting to measure the length of a turn.  A teacher would count so each child would have the same amount of time on the trampoline.  For the children, it is the gestalt of counting and jumping with no concern about who jumps more.

The turn-taking is also child-directed.  Again, think about this in contrast to a teacher directing the turn-taking.  A teacher would line the children up in row so each child knows who comes next.  And there will be no butting in.  However, when children organically take turns with no adult interference or enforcement, the children get a real chance to self-regulate. 

In the children's eyes, the mini trampolines have an unlimited potential for play in other developmental domains.  For dramatic play, the children below use the trampoline along with a baby blanket from the housekeeping area to serve as a bed to advance their play scenario.

How about literacy?  Two children use the trampolines as platforms for writing.  I suppose they could sit, but why not get real comfortable while they write?

And here is a type of literacy which usually flies under the radar.  The child below is "reading" the picture taken the week before of some children trampoline running.   His understanding of the action in the picture offers an invitation for him to do the same.
I use this type of documentation in most areas of my classroom because I like to show what the children actually do in any given area.  Often, I do not use words, but let the pictures talk to the children.

And sometimes, something extraordinary happens.  The child below has notices the little pictures inside the bigger picture.  She is reading pictures inside a picture!

Are trampolines made for jumping?  Yes, but for children they are so much more.  Children read space and materials differently than adults.  So often, adults read the space and materials with their head: I know that a trampoline is for jumping.  However, children read space and materials with their body and their head.  By using their body and head together to explore the space and materials, the children create a richness, that if appreciated, is mind-opening for adults.  More importantly, though, it is fulfilling the need for a body/mind connection as children inhabit and make sense of the world.

P.S. My last four posts have highlighted large muscle play in the classroom.  I have not forgotten about sand and water tables.  In fact, many of the dispositions informing play in both areas are the same.  If you are attending the NAEYC annual conference and would like to join a discussion about the need for children to move to learn in the classroom and outdoors, three of my colleagues and I will be holding a three-hour session on Wednesday morning at the conference.  It is entitled Teaching with the Body in Mind.  If you come, please come up and introduce yourself.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Mini trampolines - part one

In my most recent post, the ledge-part 2,  I had a picture of a child jumping from a ledge onto a mini trampoline.
One person commented that she hated those mini trampolines.  That got me thinking that I could probably do an entire post about how many different ways the children use them to create their own physical challenges.

It helps to know that I had a large muscle area in my classroom that was always open during free play.  One piece of equipment that was rotated into this area several times a year was a mini trampoline.  And most times, there were two trampolines out at the same time.

Adults pretty much see the mini tramps as something that the children use for bouncing.

In addition, adults usually view these small trampolines as a large muscle apparatus to be used by one child at a time.  They often see it in terms of children lining up to take turns.  Children can have very different ideas than adults.  Two and even four children can fit on the mini trampoline at one time.
That is just the beginning of how children see the mini trampolines.  For them it is a challenge: How high can I jump? 
Pretty high.  The bar on the trampoline makes it possible for the child to jump so his feet are higher than the bar.

Children know intuitively that a handle is not just for holding onto.  It is also useful for giving the vestibular system a good work out. 

Children also intuit that the handle can also be useful for working on balance, whether that is upside down or right side up.

The children know that sometimes two trampolines are better than one.  In the video below, the children are "trampoline running."  Notice how they determine their own order and their own pace in this activity.  Their flow gets temporarily interrupted when the child in the yellow shirt bumps his knee or shin and takes himself out of line because it hurts. 

Trampoline running from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

The interruption is no more that four seconds before the trampoline running continues unabated.  And then three seconds after that, the child in the yellow shirt rejoins the fun.

Because the children can move the mini trampolines, they can calibrate their own risk.  The child in the video below has moved the two trampolines close enough together so she can confidently jump from one trampoline to the other.

Dual trampoline jumping from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

In the previous post, some people took issue with allowing children to play on the ledge.  They did not necessarily disagree that children need physical challenges and some of those challenges include climbing.  A solution that was suggested was that I could purchase equipment that was specifically made for climbing.

I don't necessarily take issue with that point of view, but I do think it is rather limiting.  Children---and adults, for that matter---are always finding uses for things for which they were not intended.  In fact, that might be one definition of creativity.   Case in point: the trampolines.  They are made to jump on.  Indeed, children jump on them.  But for the children, that is just the beginning of what is possible on the trampolines.

In this post, I gave examples of children using the trampolines to foster their own physical development.  In my next post, I will show examples of children exploring using the trampolines in other developmental domains.  

Saturday, September 8, 2018

The ledge-part two

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post called the ledge-part one.  In that post, I said that the children had appropriated a space for their play that was unforeseen and probably out of bounds for most adults.

The space was a ledge that was 14" wide under a bank of windows.  I originally had steps so the children could look out the window.  However, the steps were an invitation for the children to climb and play on the ledge.

Once I decided it was OK for the children to be on the ledge, it became one of the most important place spaces in the classroom. This was a horizontal space above the floor that they discovered on their own. The exploration of this space with their bodies expanded their play exponentially. The examples I highlighted in the ledge-part one were pretty tame.  In this post, I would like show examples of more adventurous play that emerged from the children on the ledge.

They used the ledge for building with the hollow blocks.  On the left, they used the blocks in such a way that they created a narrow path between the blocks and the window.  On the right, a child used the ledge so she could build her block tower higher.

What made this block play so adventurous was all the balancing that went on.  With a narrower ledge, it was harder to pass on the ledge without bumping the blocks.  And it took a tremendous amount of balance for the child to stay stable on the ledge while reaching out horizontally to place another block on top of her tower.

Believe it or not, the ledge became a place the children used to measure their jumping skills.  Some children would sit down on the ledge to hop down.  Other children freely launched themselves into the air.  
I did not put the mat there for their jumping.  The mat was always there because it defined the large muscle area in my classroom.  How serendipitous.

I showed the child pictured above the stop-action photo I took of her jumping.  I then asked her if she would like to draw herself jumping.  She did, so I set her up at the the writing table with the screen of the camera showing her jumping.  This was what she drew.
Note the specificity.  She included the window blocks, the bucket of balls, the mat and the pictures on the wall.

The children found multiple ways to jump.  One child was so creative as to build herself a rod that she used as an aide so she could jump with confidence.

Measured jump from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

Not all the kids felt the need to jump from the ledge.  However, those that did often challenged themselves by jumping over, around or onto what was on the large muscle mat at any given time.

One year, a couple of my groups discovered the ledge met the narrow ledge of an old chalk/bulletin board.  That created on opportunity for the children to further challenge themselves with even more adventurous play.

And since climbing back and forth on the little ledge was not adventurous enough, some children challenged themselves to jump from the small ledge---onto trampolines.

Climbing the wall from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

I did show the parents these photos and videos and joked that the children in my classroom were literally climbing the walls.

My role as the adult in the room became much more complicated once I let the children play on the ledges.  I continually had to gauge the play in terms of safety; I was constantly forced to make decisions about the ability and the confidence of each child on the ledge.  That process included reading, on a moment-by-moment basis, the gestalt of the physical and social environment.  Let's take for example the earlier picture of the child building with the hollow blocks while standing on the ledge.  I had to make the decision as to whether she was stable enough reaching out from the ledge to stack yet another block on her tower in such a way that it was not going to fall on the child on the floor below.  That was a moment-by-moment decision of trying to understand all the moving variables as the children operated in this multidimensional space.

I said earlier that allowing the children to play on the ledge---both ledges---expanded their play exponentially to the point that it became one of the most important areas for their play.  One of the main reasons it became so important was because they defined what was possible in this space with their explorations and actions.

I have included only a small sample of some of the play that emerged as they explored and conquered that space.  To be clear, I do not expect other adults to let children physically challenge themselves in the classroom to the degree that I did.  However, I do think children must be given license to define some spaces in the classroom in their quest to create their own physical challenges.