capturing friendship

the little girl on the right hands a pouring cup to her friend at the water table.

Kindness begins so early.
Friendship begins so early.

Give and Take.

It can happen in a brief lovely moment, especially when you are living the very young life of a two-year-old. Sometimes, you are just enjoying a sunny day and you need some water...

The friend on the left has received the pouring cup from his friend in the hat.

Hmm...had the boy offered water? OR had the girl started with the motive of getting water?

Educators and cameras cannot always Capture Friendship in the exact moment it is happening.
This was a moment that really struck me because these two children only came to school a couple days a week, and this was taken early on in the school year. Perhaps they had a previous connection, yet I don't know that for certain.

The cognitive process for both children to engage in this exchange was quite lovely to witness: The girl intentionally gave the boy the measuring/pouring cup.
In the first photo, it was difficult to see that the girl was holding a watering can, so we could have thought the giving of the pouring cup was a sweet gesture.
The second photo, we see the boy holding the pouring cup and perhaps seeing that the girl had a watering can.
The third photo, could be read as the girl having had motive to have the watering can filled OR the boy having seen that the girl had a watering can and he decided to offer water to her.

The whole exchange had no words to document.
Between the two children, there must have been something else they were understanding together, only between them, in the language of two-year-olds that usually relies a lot on eyes and hands.

In YOUR classroom or outside at your school...
if you look close, daily, you will SEE friendship happening in many forms. It might SOUND like friendship, it might FEEL like friendship, it might MOVE like friendship. Get your camera ready, have it with you always. You never know where friendship will show up, yet when you are around children you can't help but to discover it.
Look for it. Capture it. Share it.

"I know all about infinity"

eliza tells me all about infinity while balancing on one foot.
Children come up to teachers every day to tell us information, perhaps to share about a vacation, a play-date, their favorite shoes or what they have in their snack bag.
Children need to be able to express themselves, to have a sense of being an expert, and to offer unique knowledge about something.
Eliza had told me she had a big discussion with her father and really needed to pass on this news about INFINITY.

Teacher Jeanne: Eliza, were you just telling me about the biggest number?
What was it called again?
Eliza: Infinity...
TJ: Infinity? And how did you learn about that number?
Eliza: From daddy...
TJ: From dad. So, how big do you think infinity is?
Eliza: Well, if you add a bigger number it gets bigger!
TJ: It gets bigger! So, that's kind of surprise, huh?
Eliza: So, no one can ever count up to it...
TJ: Oh, my gosh...
Eliza: You can think you can count up to it but you can't...
TJ: Eliza, do you want to give me an example? What's a number that's pretty big like infinity but then there is a number bigger than it?
Eliza: A Hundred.
TJ: A hundred? And then, is there a number bigger than a hundred?
Eliza: Infinity.
TJ: Infinity is right after that?...
Eliza: Yes, Infinity is right after 100!
Eliza's new information about INFINITY was something she was compelled to share. It seems clear that some of her facts were answers to questions she had posed to her father and was now passing on her findings to me...
"If you add a bigger number it gets bigger!"

"No one can ever count up to it."

"You think you can count up to it but you can't."

This simple, short exchange with Eliza is an example of how children are empowered with language and build trusted relationships as exhibited by listening with her father at home and speaking with me at school.
Everything Eliza told me was true and she had absolute confidence in her facts. It didn't seem to matter to Eliza if I might have already known about infinity - she believed she was giving me new, valuable information.
Eliza was the expert on infinity.Period.

what if you had a pen?

the monster made of circles, squiggles, zig-zags, & curves.
The having of a pen.
Swirls. Numbers. Colors. Shapes. Books.
Letters. Words. Airplanes. Trucks. Monsters.
Invitations. Celebrations.

Children experiment with writing and drawing tools throughout the school day... PERHAPS during early morning time before many other students arrive at school.
PERHAPS during a small group experience to try out a new technique or new drawing surface. PERHAPS during the open work time where students choose where they wish to explore for long periods of time.

the swirls, the dots, the letters...this penned piece even has a handle for flying.

friendship book all in purple...sometimes you just need one bright pen.
yellow 'space stations' and black-penned monsters...the having of your own idea.
numbers are the most challenging shapes/lines to form when you are four.

making her own maze to follow in pen...well done.

Most of the children who have created the drawings, invitations, books, and designs in the photos today are four- or five-years-old.
The purposeful-ness of their work indicates that they have been able to explore and invent with pens for years leading up to these works. 
this boy started the school year uninterested in drawing or writing...voila!
can you tell that this girl named Sophie R. wrote a note to herself?
this boy had incredible hand-eye coord...he could mimic the fonts from different print sources!
these girls were hunting for words around the classroom for their 'word collections'.
one page in this boy's 'book of words' -  written in rainbow.
Their work indicates they value their own efforts on paper.
Their work indicates that the 'having of a pen' has given a voice and life to their explorations.
PERHAPS you will see the joy, the colors, the humor, the friendship, the focus, the calm, the intention.
The having of a pen. Is. A. Gift.
a program made by children for our performance play (credits written by the teacher).


the world of the easel

holding the brush can be tricky yet the exploration continues.
The easel.

It can be such a wonderful place for exploration of color, of tools, of materials, of drips drips drips. 

The easel can be a wonderful space for private work, for friendship painting, for group experiments. 

It can be a new experience to stand up to be an artist, to angle your arm, to hold the brush or tool just how you want it so it gets to the paper without paint landing on your shoe.

It can be a new experience to have your paint available on a palette in one hand while painting with the other hand. It can be a new experience to look down, look up, look forward. 

The easel is a wonderful place to create the world you know or the world you imagine.

Below are examples of many of the above ideas. 

There are a zillion other examples that could have been here - outside paintings, jars of paint, variety of paper surfaces and textiles, squeeze bottles of paint, rolling brushes, scrapers, HANDS in paint, things that sparkle, natural objects, murals being made, easel painting while sitting on a stool...oh, and Music playing or songs being sung while painting.
I hope YOUR classroom has so many different ways to investigate and explore the large tool that is the Easel!

stripes of color, mixed colors, and dedication to fill the paper.

purple is all this friend needs to form his lines and shapes.

paint colors, mixing, choices choices choices!
deliberate dots, lines and shapes - individual creations with a friend nearby.
have you ever created a piece of art WITH a friend??
respecting childrens' ideas, comparisons, and understandings of their world.
group painting is an unique experience to share ideas, laughter, tools, colors.
part 1: the beginning strokes of this boy's world...
part 2: the boy on the right, amid his friends at the easel, has his own plan.
part 3: the boy's completed easel painting... who could have known how he would describe his work unless we asked him, listened to him, ensured that his voice would bring his artwork to life. stunning.
The art of the easel.
To offer the large tool for children to experiment in ways that are unlike other classroom experiences is a gift.

When is the last time YOU used an easel?
What would YOU paint, explore, test out, invent?
What would YOUR paint colors have to say?
What would YOU have to say?

the small stuff

complex lego sculpture with pieces, wheels and people.
There are so many different ways to think about Stuff.
Ideally, educators call Stuff using words that offer more respect and specificity - like Manipulatives or Materials or Found Objects or Collections. For the simplicity of this post today, I will say Stuff is what you need to offer - not too much, not too little, pleasantly arranged - in your classroom. When you have the Stuff, then make sure you offer the Time for children to engage, explore, and experiment with Stuff. When observing children working with Stuff, they will change how you think about the Stuff and will help inspire you to offer other high quality Stuff. The classroom will become a more challenging and interesting space to be an explorer of Stuff. 
masterpiece with magna tiles, cones and tubes.

shells and round magnets deliberately arranged in a trail.

domino house with such careful placement of flat, sideways, & upright pieces.
commitment, precision and intentional design within a magnetic tower.

kapla blocks (wow!) with bears atop in colored rows.

The incredible work of children.
When the teacher knows how to go slow enough, yet challenge enough, yet question enough, yet stay quiet enough, yet encourage enough...the incredible work of children will be right in front of you, daily, with startling images and inventions for you to document and photograph and share with your own school community. 
The small Stuff gives birth to a new way of understanding children learning.
Get some Stuff. Give some time.
The children will show you the rest.

the carrot whisperer

Working with young children is a privilege. As educators, we are privileged to witness learning, to witness trust, to witness friendship, and - usually - to witness many many undocumented moments daily. Sometimes the moments are fleeting, surprising, touching, humorous, powerful, outlandish, sincere.
Sometimes the moments are ones that linger for years and years...
because of the quietness, because of the beautiful quietness.

Katrina whispered her carrot to life.

I was sitting at the art table during mid-day rest time. The art table doubled as the teacher desk when children were not using it because it was the biggest surface to work on. That year, I was working in the oldest classroom of 4s and 5s at a full-day child care center. Some children went home right after lunch, some children stayed all day and took a rest, and some children arrived at school during this hour.  
I had already helped the full day children get comfortable on their mats to rest or read books. We put George Winston on the tape player and the mood of the room was peaceful and cozy.
I started working at the art table, further documenting some of the childrens work from the morning, and quietly unpacking some new supplies that arrived. A few minutes into rest time, my five-year-old friend Christina arrived with her mother. Her mother gave a silent wave and smile to say hello as she signed Christina in at the entry. I got up to meet Christina at the door and walked her back to the table with me. 
Usually, Christina didn't want to rest. Usually, Christina sat with me at the art table, doing quiet art work, drawing, writing, painting, or looking at books for about half an hour until her friends started to get up from their rest time.
There I was, doing some writing, and glancing over to Christina to give her a smile and nod of "how are you doing?"

Christina, having been quite busy with her crayons and paper for many minutes,
gently nudged her chair closer to mine, 
always being politely quiet to let her friends still rest. 
Christina then leans so close to me,
cups her hand toward my ear and whispers...
"I know how to make a need orange, green and brown."


I see Christina's face every time I share this story. Her hair was straight brown and her smile would crinkle when she was pleased with something. Her eyes were very deep brown and had a sparkle because she loved life and her family and school and her friends.
Christina's sharing of her carrot knowledge is lovely to me because it is so simple. It is so simple yet powerful enough to hang in the air long after it occurred. It is similar to when you see a child learn to balance on a two wheel bike or catch a ball or swim across the pool. You don't need a camera for these moments because they are lodged in your memory. To be a witness to knowledge and skill is such a privilege. To have children offer such knowledge directly to me, well, that is a uniquely stunning and quiet gift because it stops time for the actual moment it is happening. Who knew that a whisper about a carrot could stop time?  [smile].

fudge brownies for $99

Two four-year-old boys are working in the sandbox during outside Exploration time. James and Sean have collected buckets and shovels and are quite focused in their cooperative work in one shady corner near the double slide.
James and Sean working together to create their fudge brownies.

I hears a few words about 'brownies' and 'for sale' and am curious to know more about their work together. As I get a bit closer, James quickly informs me that they are, indeed, making fudge brownies...

Tchr J: So, tell me more about those fudge brownies, James.
James: They are 99 Dollars.
Tchr J: They are $99?! Sean, what's in the brownies? What do you use to make them?
James: Oh, there are sprinkles in them, rainbow sprinkles!
Tchr J: Oh, yumm. And then, do you have to cook them?
Sean: Yes.
James: Yes. You have to get them all into that bucket – all this wet sand into that bucket – then you have to put it into that oven then we put sprinkles in it then people can eat it for 99 Dollars.
Tchr J: How hot is the oven when you put the brownies in?
Sean: 99, umm...
James: No, millimeter!
Tchr J: One millimeter for hotness? And then how many minutes or hours do you cook it?
James: One.
Tchr J: One what?
James: One minute.
Tchr J: One minute for cooking then it is all set?
James: Yea.

Working and talking about their business plan for $99 brownies.

Tchr J: Nice. Thank you. Oh, how many brownies are you making to sell?
James: Oh, one hundred and two probably...
Tchr J: Oh, 102 probably?
James: No, one hundred and nine actually.

Tchr J: 109, ok.  Sean, what do you think?
Sean: There are a lot of cavities in here.
Tchr J: There are a lot of cavities in it?
Sean: Yea, there are like a trillion and one in here.
Tchr J: Oh, so people shouldn't eat a lot because they will get cavities?
Sean: Yea...
Tchr J: Oh, ok...
Sean: Actually, there are a trillion and two...
Tchr J: Oh my gosh...
Sean: That's a lot...
Tchr J: So how many should people eat so that their teeth are ok?
James: One, probably...
Sean: No, this is the best...Zero!...Save some.  [smiles].

Sean and James continue their brownie business discussion.
Please admire the boys' rich social interaction as they invest time in using sandbox tools, friendly dialogue and an invented scenario of making and selling brownies.
Interestingly, the boys' number use in terms of money, degrees, time and quantities are age appropriate as they apply various figures in their brownies baking business.
For this age group, playing with and applying language on their own terms is part of their connection and social function  - agreeing and disagreeing with each other, thinking out what numbers to apply
for an explanation, and changing their decisions as they speak.

the umbrella hat

If I could be a five-year-old story writer, THIS is the story I would dream of inventing. There is mystery, intrigue, child-power, adventure, kindness, religion, quirkiness, truth, joy and cleverness.
It is a story that I had the privilege of documenting many years ago.
This is the story that made me say, "Oohhhhhh, so THIS is how a story can be told by a child. Oh, so this is how a teacher should LISTEN to a child to get the story told. Oohhhh, now I got it."

Ironically, for many of you who are familiar with Vygotsky's ZPD (zone of proximal development) - "scaffolding" - I realized that on the day that this story was created, Hillary, the author, was the one who scaffolded my technique of how to uplift childrens multi-page stories. 
Being a teacher means always being a learner. Thank you Hillary.

Lilly's Umbrella Hat, by Hillary.

Page 1.
This is a girl with an
umbrella hat.
Her name is Lilly.

Page 2.
Lilly went to her garden and wanted to plant a flower, which was a daisy.

Page 3.
She went to the beach then. Here is the shovel she used to scoop up the sand off the beach and she could make a sand castle. 
You cannot see Lilly because she is swimming underwater. Lilly knows how to swim.

Page 4.
Lilly was inside the rainbow because she found the ladder that goes up there and she climbed up.
She was o.k. up there.
You can see a little brown - that is Lilly's head - because she cleaned the black window a little to see out.

Page 5.
Lilly had dug a deep hole in the front yard. This tulip grew.
Then Lilly dug another hole and climbed underground.
So, you cannot see her again.

Page 6.
Lilly saw a low cloud so
she climbed up a flower to the cloud and then to this cloud and then to another cloud and then
to the sky.
Through the cracks in the sky,
Lilly could see God.

Page 7.
This is a baby flower that just got planted. Lilly is underground printing on the computer.
You still cannot see her because she always goes a lot of places.
Sometimes, she swims through puddles.

Page 8.
The End.

Things to note about Hillary: She was the daughter of a single mom. Her mom had her own gardening company. Hillary and her little sister were both spirited, happy girls who were allowed to experiment on the computer, help in the garden, and express themselves. Hillary's mom was warmly protective yet encouraged the girls to be independent. Hillary's world at the time - her family - was the culture that she incorporated into such strong elements in her Umbrella Hat story.

"If there is a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet,
then you must write it."
Toni Morrison.

bug catcher carnival

My five-year-old friend Kassia was a kind-hearted, whimsical girl. She would dress as colorfully as she would dance and speak - she was a unique spirit. I can only imagine she continues to be a unique girl these many years later. Although, to me, she will always be five-years-old and telling stories that make the world a better place.

Kassia would take care of bugs, of pieces of leaves, of the tiniest morsel of something that perhaps to someone else would seem like nothing. Kassia was the care-taker of the small and meek. Of course, to any young child, roly poly bugs are an attraction...Wow, something alive that can curl into a literal ball? Wow! Something that has tiny, wavy legs when upside-down? Wow! Something that travels across dirt, mud and grass? Wow!

checking out the bug catcher carnival.

Kassia's sincere sweet story about her care-taking of a roly poly:
"I am taking care of my roly poly because I love her. Her name is Ariel-Mary-Flower-SnowWhite-SleepingBeauty-Katherine-Sarah. I have her in this cup so she won't escape. I will feed her grass and plants that are good for her so she won't die. I will also put her in the carnival - a bug catcher carnival where all the bugs play and have fun. There is also a pretend bug to keep them company if there is only one."
How loyal is it that Kassia makes sure that her roly poly has a beautiful name, and there is food, there is fun and there is at least one friend? Wouldn't it be better for all of us if - on the right occasion - we had a pretend friend so we wouldn't be alone? Children always have the best ideas.

let there be tape

paper strips, TAPE in place, eyes and nose attached.
There is so much to be said for tape.
[Ideally, schools have tape available for children's use - it is a perfect item to eternally have on your 'wish list' for parents and visitors to donate to your classroom.]

We have lots of name for our different tape: Clear tape, Colored Tape, Skinny Tape, Wide Tape, Double Stick Tape. Once children realize they are allowed to USE the tape, then the creations are fabulous and endless.

paper party hats, yarn, scraps, staples...and TAPE.

Sure, perhaps initially there is over-use as children are fascinated with P-U-L-L-I-N-G the tape off the roll.

Yet, that exploration is the same as the giant puddle of glue on a blank piece of paper as the glue bottle is upside-down and s-q-u-e-e-z-e-d endlessly.

 So, after the big pull of tape (maybe a few times, sure) then there is room for some "oh, I see you are interested in the tape...what were you hoping to do with this long bit of sticky tape?"
marker note, cut and ripped paper, framed, sealed with TAPE.

Then children take the looonnngggggg piece of tape they just pulled...Maybe it'll just be bundled in a ball - ohh, that could be interesting.
Maybe it'll just be stuck to the table - hhmm, that could be interesting.
Maybe something else (artwork, the child's hands, a friend's sleeve) accidentally would get stuck to it - yes, that would be interesting.
butterfly, rhino, elephant, bunny, turtle...crumpled paper and TAPE!
Start the conversation of exploring with tape.
How it feels. What it does. What it can do.
What YOU can invent with IT.
 Tape is a tool.
Let there be tape.