Sunday, October 23, 2016

Mixing Art and Science As We Learn About Fall

Children love art!  They love to take paint, pastels, watercolors, crayons, colored pencils, markers and clay and create things of beauty.  The things they love to create when they have a choice are more about the process than the end product. They want to create lines and colors and see what happens!  We spent the first month learning how to take care and use the tools that artists use. I didn't have to teach them how to be creative!  They come to me creative!  They look at things with artist's eyes and create like artists, taking their artistic liberties by making rainbow apples and pink houses, purple horses and green people. It is my job to make sure I do not stifle that creativity with my view of what is art! They love being creative and creative thinking is one of the 21st Century Skills we want to foster.

We will always continue and have opportunities to look at things with artist's eyes, but we also need to learn how to look at things with scientist's eyes and record what we see with some accuracy.  We used the Fall season and our art materials to practice this. I set up the environment with experiences to get them thinking and wondering as scientists about things we are seeing this Fall, and then offered art materials for them to show what they notice with some accuracy.

Here they looked close at leaves.  They used fine-lined permanent marker to try to draw the shape and the veins of the leaf.  Some of these leaf shapes were very difficult and took a lot of persistence!  They tried to match the colors of the leaf with watercolor paints.

At this area they looked closer at pumpkins and gourds.  They used twistable crayons and colored pencils at this area to draw and write what they noticed.

Here they looked at pictures of trees and tried to create Autumn trees with clay.  They have learned how to create multicolored sculptures without pressing the colors too hard and mixing them together.

Here they were supposed to try to match the colors of the leaves, but instead they were experimenting as scientists and wondering about and creating different shades of each secondary color. 

Here are some examples of what we call "Observational Drawings" which is what we create when we look closer and document what we notice. As you can see, they are becoming very good at drawing what they see accurately!

The Reggio Philosophy says that children have 100 languages with which to express themselves and their learning.  Using art gives them some different ways to express what they notice and learn! It allows them to use both critical and creative thinking skills at the same time! For some reason, us adults tend to squash some of these languages by telling kids they have to do things the same way as everyone else. Year by year, they loose many of the 100 languages until they hardly have any creative thinking skills left at all and no longer know how to think outside of the box.  It saddens me, but here in our room, we will continue to foster the 100 languages and let them take pride in their way of thinking, doing, and coming up with solutions.

Here are some other things that have also been going on in our room!

Using clay and letter stamps to try to spell words phonetically.
Big Books we have read multiple times together are available for them to read.
We are learning how to partner read and to be a good, helpful partner!
Engineers are creating and sharing how their machines work.
Measurement and weight are being explored.

Matching our friends names to their pictures to help us learn to read their names.
Stringing hard words together as we try to spell phonetically.

We are also creating trees to represent the seasons as we experience them.

Tree Blocks made by my husband are being used very creatively in our building area.
Our room is definitely a very busy place!  I think we are ready to start an inquiry based on the students interests! This group has so many it will be hard to choose! Stay tuned to see what we do next! 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Co-Creating Our Alphabet

I used to have my classes co-create an alphabet, but I truly did not understand the philosophy behind it when I first started.  I thought it was more about having things in the room that were created by children. More for aesthetics than anything else. Because of this, I have had the same co-created alphabet up for the last four years.  It was beautiful and the kids did such a great job.  I thought of it as preserving history to keep their hard work up there.

Now, after reading more about the reasoning behind it, I realize there are more important reasons for co-creating an alphabet with each class. When the kids work together to make it, they take pride in the product that they collaboratively made.  They were part of the whole process!  They decided together what they wanted it to look like, what art mediums they wanted to use and what should be on it to represent each letter. When they see the finished product, they feel as though they did something important! They feel a sense of pride.  They are more personally invested in the product.  Because of this and the memories of working on it together, they tend to use it more. Here is the process of co-creating our Alphabet this year.

First we started learning the letters.  We focus on a letter and a friend in our class ever day for the first month of school. This gets us familiar with the letters and sounds and to make connections with our names and our friends names.  Then the kids came up with a list of things in our room that they have used or noticed to go on the word wall. Pardon the messy handwriting!  I was writing things down quickly!

They wanted to make the backgrounds colorful and chose water colors to paint them.  They also were adamant that they have glitter on them so we decided to make the letters out of glitter.  

Our next step was to add things that began with each letter to help us find and learn the letter sounds. We checked our list and started taking pictures of our friends and objects to add to our chart.  Here is an example.

We taped them onto our backgrounds and voila! We have our letter wall!

We left room on each one so that we can add each sight word as we learn them. That way they can use this wall as a tool to help them spell sight words and their friends names correctly.  They can also find the pictures with the sound they hear when they are trying to spell a word but don't know what letter makes that sound.  They will use this wall to aide them in learning independently. 

It was after creating this word wall with the kids that I noticed how important it is for each class to create their own.  They were so proud and I see them using it all the time.  It truly is personal and has meaning for them.