Did you ever wish you could take a picture of your thinking?
When it comes to learning, one of the things that I treasure most is a “clock without hands.” When children are exploring, engaging with materials and figuring out how to make things work they just need TIME. Time to think, time to talk with other kids and come up with plans. Time to share ideas and time to borrow ideas. Time to simply put things together.
The ability to compare ideas stretches this process even further. For example, if they have the actual original drawing available along with a ‘worked on’ final version of a watercolor painting they experience a rare opportunity to “see” their thinking, if you will. It also gives them a chance to notice, and maybe think about themselves and others, their ideas and, in this case, the process of exploring with colors. This kind of activity also creates great ways to talk about “befores” and “afters.” It helps children see the changes and experience growth.
In Make-Believe Colors these children were involved in a different kind of exploration with paint and paper. Either way, children use opportunities like these to approach topics from multiple entry points, an important skill to develop. The more they engage in similar, but varied experiences the better children become at solving problems and discovering ways to not only answer their own questions, but how to pose different questions in order to reach an answer. They develop the ability to take perspectives and to use steps that lead to understanding something more deeply by taking multiple sides until they all make sense.
A few years ago, I met a young girl named Leah who had a fine time digging tunnels in the snow. At first, her tunnels went nowhere but she had a wonderful time with the process of making new ones, or working on old ones. Other kids took turns joining in, sharing an idea or two, but Leah was always there. Over time, Leah’s tunnels started to curve and she figured out how to get to the other side. Kids were drawn to this as they enjoyed sending trucks from one end to the other and smaller snowballs running like in a marble chute. One day, a boy named Noah tried to replicate Leah’s tunnel but got stuck. He let the entire playground know by welling, “I am stuuuuuuuuuck!” My response to him was always, “Oh, that’s great! I can’t wait to see how you will get unstuck.” I asked several open-ended questions to help him trace back his steps and come up with options, invited other children who could help, etc. Leah, from the other side, just yelled back, “just keep trying different things. One of them will work!”
The same goes for negotiating turns with toys. For example, I like to offer word combinations to help kids try them out to see what works. At times, they might try the same request in a million different ways until they find one that works – for them and for the other party. And, of course, I still remember the child who kept asking his second grade teacher how to spell certain words in the middle of poetry writing by the school pond, interrupting the thinking flow for a lot of children… From the other side, I heard, “just sound it out!” It was Leah.
Set-Up for Episode #30:
- Paper (it’s helpful if you have both, print paper and watercolor paper)
- Soft bristle paintbrushes
- Permanent/water-based markers
- Sponge/Paper towel for excess water
Have fun and Go Beyond The Classroom!
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