About Me

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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, March 23, 2019

March Madness II

March Madness is in full swing in the USA.  The big tournament has begun that will crown a college basketball national champion.   As I mentioned in my last post, I set up a basketball hoop in my large muscle area to coincide with March Madness.  In addition to the basketball hoop, I always added the steps so the children could create their own challenges as they attempted to make a basket.  And as the children jumped, I snapped photos of them in mid-flight.

I would show them their pictures and offer them the chance to draw themselves jumping to make a basket.  Part of the invitation was to hand over my camera so they could use the screen shot for reference when drawing themselves in action.

However, the children did not have to climb the steps and jump for me to take an action shot because there were really many ways the children made baskets.  For example, some children attempted to make baskets from the mat.
For documentation in the large muscle area, I often posted action shots of the children on the adjacent bulletin board.  One of the pictures I displayed was the picture above of the two children on the tippy-toes attempting to dunk the ball.

Because I usually kept the basketball hoop up for two or three weeks in a row, the child saw the picture of himself making a basket when he came back the following week.

Not only did he see himself making the basket, he noticed how he made the basket.  He made the basket by lifting his left leg in the air as he reached up on the toes of his right foot.
In the photo above, he looked as if he was studying the picture and recreating part of the action: the lifting of the left leg.

He then proceeded to go over to the basketball hoop to duplicate the very same basket from the week before.  
To me this looked like what happens when people, who are trying to build a certain physical skill set, use stop-action shots to comprehend and evaluate their moves.

So often in early childhood education we privilege a certain kind of representation, the kind illustrated by the child drawing himself making a basket.  However, by privileging one kind of representation over another, we may not even think to offer invitations for children to use their body as tools to represent their engagement in the world around them.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

March Madness

This time of year in the USA, there are a lot of college basketball games on TV, all leading up to a national championship.  It is called March Madness.  Each year at this time, I made sure I brought out a basketball hoop and placed it on the large muscle mat in my classroom.

In addition to the basketball hoop, I commandeered our green steps from the block area and set them up as an invitation for the children to climb as they attempted to make a basket.
That added a new level of physical challenge to their act of throwing the ball at the basket.  If the child chose to climb the steps, she needed to throw with enough force and the right trajectory while balancing on the 10"-wide step two feet off the ground.  

The children were able to change the degree of difficulty by adjusting the height of the basket between three different settings: 4, 5 or 6 feet

Another way they changed the degree of difficulty was to move the steps closer to the basket.

Of course, many children used the steps to create an even greater challenge while trying to make a basket.  They asked the question: Can I jump and make a basket?
This turned out to be a very complicated action because the child had to compensate the force of her throw in relation to the momentum of her body lunging toward the basket. 

It was always evident that the children had seen some basketball because they knew how to execute a flying dunk.

I have almost 1000 of pictures of children in midair as they attempted to make a basket.  I often showed the children these pictures.   I would usually comment that it looked like they were flying because their feet were not on the steps, nor were they on the ground.

The last couple years of teaching, I started to ask children---after seeing themselves in midair---if they would like to draw themselves making a basket.  For those who said yes, I suggested we go to the writing table where I gave them the camera with the screen showing their stop-action shot. 
With the screen as their reference, they gladly tried to recreate their basket-making prowess on paper.  

The child pictured above at the writing table made the following drawing.  When I looked closely at the picture, I saw a lot of detail.  He drew the cabinet in back, the red chair, the green steps, the blue mat with its sections, the basketball hoop, and the child on the mat who was watching him make a basket.  In his drawing, he even included representations of some of the pictures on the bulletin board next to the large muscle area and one of the florescent lights.

He was very proud of his drawing so he went over to the other teacher in the room to tell her about his drawing.

The children were always fascinated with these stop-action shots with them in midair.  They would ask me time and time again to take another picture and then ask to see it.  I am not surprised I took almost 1000 of these images.  However, I was genuinely surprised at how willingly the children drew themselves in stop action.  Children who rarely used the writing table seemed right at home when it came to drawing themselves in action.  Why? I can't help but think that it was because the basketball hoop with the steps was an unique invitation that both the children and I could mine for something richer and more meaningful than simply making baskets.