grab an iPad, hit Pause, then Draw: a 4-year-old IN ACTION

I am always in search for the Next Story for my blog. As in, the Next Story that tweaks my interest when I see or hear something about young children's innovative methods for learning.

I had the good fortune last week to be speaking with a parent in the 3-5s class in which I teach. The dad, Vlada, and I were talking about his 4-year-old daughter Zoe and  - voila! - my Next Story. How amazing that this creative technology story came right to my lap when Vlada told me about how Zoe had been exploring with her iPad at home.

Zoe working at home with her iPad - pausing a scene so she can use her sketch paper to draw a favorite character.

Vlada shared with me how Zoe uses her iPad to watch short children's shows and also do other games on the iPad. A couple weeks ago, Vlada said Zoe started using her iPad - along with paper & pencils - in an unique way:
Zoe would be watching a favorite show on her iPad, then Pause it at a certain point, then turn to use blank paper and pencils to draw details of her favorite characters from the show. Zoe would view her iPad, hit Pause, draw, hit Rewind for a different detailed freeze frame, Pause, and draw further. Zoe would engage this way for long periods of time and has returned to this invented activity many times since Vlada first witnessed Zoe's iPad + Paper art experience. [genius!]
As an educator, I was particularly struck by Zoe's seamless integration of technology, small motor, choice-making, representational efforts with drawing tools, self-direction, and being an agent of one's own learning.

Of course, it is no surprise that children are the best teachers to show us HOW things can be used, turned, pushed, pulled in ways that we as adults would never dream up.
Of course this tech idea came from the best source - a 4-year-old in action.

* Technology use by early learners has been a hot topic for a number of years. Earlier this year, NAEYC put out its statement on Tech + Media. Here is a link to a previously written blog about technology and young children which includes links to the NAEYC Statement: Authentic Ways to Use Technology.

Special thanks to Vlada and Zoe for allowing me
to share their story and photo. 
What do YOU think of Zoe's inventive way
to incorporate technology with her interest in art?
Do you have other children's examples of playing with
or incorporating technology?

children + movement from the ground up

The work of children to learn movement, to coordinate their arms and legs to move themselves forward, to gain muscle control, to keep their head up while in motion, to establish a sense of balance and .... well, there is so much learning going on in every moment for very young children.
Quite impressive, really.
Rowan on her own adventure in the park with dad John and pug Stella up ahead.
My college friend Jennie posted this photo on a social media site of 14 month old daughter Rowan. Jennie shared that Rowan, dad John and pug Stella were at a local park. When John went ahead to catch up with Stella, Rowan took the initiative to catch up with them. Jennie took this wonderful shot of Rowan's adventure forward.

Appreciate the WORK that Rowan initiated for herself to cross this field.
The photo struck me from an early childhood educator lens in 2 ways.
First, I was in awe of Jennie's perspective taking to give Rowan the focus, her left arm in grand reach motion, her back right leg seemingly just slightly in motion as well. Dad John and pug Stella are blurred in the background yet clearly the goal for Rowan as she tackles crawling one arm/leg combo at a time. How far does Dad and Stella look to Rowan - a football field away?

Arm, leg, head up, hat on, and In Motion.
Second, I was struck simply by Rowan. The photo really allows me to appreciate - to almost feel - the effort required by a 14 month old to move across the grass field. Think about what Rowan might be thinking: I want to be with my dad and dog. Think about what Rowan might be feeling: With every movement, her knees and shoes and hands FEEL the cool grass, the tiny flowers, the clumpy dirt, and any other obstacles that anyone who is not crawling would not feel. The smell of the grass deepens with every movement. Think about if your own head was merely a foot above the ground, straining to look up and forward, to keep that neck muscle working to keep the body in position to move forward. Wow. I am a little exhausted just thinking about attempting this in my 40+ year old body!

This photo made me think about how each young child is really on their own "independent study" as though in graduate level course work at a university:
  • Each child is on their own to feel motivated, to be allowed freedom to move, to test out their body's abilities, to engage in their family life in the way that they can at their age and developmental level.
  • No one can "teach" Rowan to crawl across this grass field nor motivate her to do so.
  • No one can teach Rowan to coordinate left arm with right leg, then the opposite.
  • I love that Rowan has her freedom to GO in order that she can do her own needed work from the ground up.

Quite impressive, really.

As Rowan moves forward in her abilities, she'll be able to establish more complicated ways of engaging with the ground. Here are "future" possibilities for Rowan as development and peers and tools are incorporated:

1. Maybe Rowan will want to stand and play with water and share with a friend.

2. Maybe Rowan will want to crawl under and across a parachute!

3. Maybe Rowan will run and capture a parachute in motion with friends!

4. Maybe Rowan will run with a hula hoop in motion and try to capture the hoop or even dive through it on the field!

5. Maybe Rowan will try on 2 hula hoops, put her hands in the air and put her whole body in motion to get both hoops in motion! [wow!]

BEING IN MOTION is amazing, complicated and healthy.
However, LEARNING TO BE IN MOTION is quite an incredible journey from a very young age and requires time and time and time to give it a GO.

MANY THANKS to Jennie, John and Stella the pug for being part of this blog post today. My special thanks to Rowan for inspiring me to appreciate the joy of learning to be in motion from the ground up. 
Quite impressive, really.

what if the beach was your classroom?

My husband and I just returned from vacation to Kauai, Hawaii. While of course we did our own adult exploring, dining, surfing, boating and such, my eye was never too far to observe children at play. I find it fascinating to see how parents 'allow' play (or don't) when in a vacation setting. 
Free Play? What if the beach - the idea of the beach - was the mentality of how you ran your classroom and determined your role along with the children's roles?
When we were walking along the beaches of Poipu on the south shore, I observed these children playing on the rocks, holding various nets. There was a male adult standing just off the water's edge and as the children would run up the beach, the adult would casually follow to be nearby yet never interfered or directed where the children 'should be.' 
[I must admit, I took some photos trying to look like I was taking a photo of the shoreline - not wanting to appear oddly stalker-ish - yet I was trying desperately to get some shots of the children (no faces) as they embraced their rich play at the water's edge.]
The children would do their own independent searching for treasure of one kind or another then return to their huddle to share their findings.
The adult supported the very youngest child to join the four explorers.
 So, what IF you set the tone of your classroom in the spirit of beach exploration and the adult who was nearby yet not involved directly in the children's play?
So, what IF you set your environment with the basic needs for exploration - blocks, paint, sand, peers - and then you yourself faded into the background ever so sleekly?
So, what IF?
So, why not?
You can YOU CAN allow the environment - the beach, the mountains, the desert, the city - to be your inspiration for exploring in the classroom. Give the children their space and time and - Zella's motto - the children will show you the rest.

authentic ways to embrace technology

There has been a great deal of talk about what is appropriate tech use for young children in the classroom. Hot topics around who has access (economic), how to address fairness (gender, timing, ability) and what is quality technology (software, resources, support). NAEYC addressed technology content and issues around classroom use in their 2012 Statement this year. Check out NAEYC's presentation via Erikson Institute's Webcast of Tech + Media as Tools  
The Statement is a rich tool to use at your own school to discuss and debate what and how you can address technology and media usage for your own students.

Simple machines such as a pencil sharpener have the "how does this work" concept just like technology
Over the years, I have been lucky to be able to incorporate technology in diverse ways. I have never felt pressure to 'teach' technology.  None of the constructivist values that I believe in have been compromised by the integration of technology. The blending in of another exploration area (technology) in developmentally appropriate ways is an educator responsibility I take seriously to ensure children are always active agents of their learning.
3 important realizations regarding technology: 
ONE - I have been able to OFFER it as a CHOICE
TWO - I have been able to INCORPORATE it as a TOOL
THREE - I have been able to USE it for REFLECTION and COMMUNICATION.

Here are some examples of how technology might BE in the classroom:

One child describes with his hands how something just Flipped in an art program.
1.  Computers can be used as a social tool. Software that is open-ended and creative allows for children to work together and test out ideas.

holding a camera, looking thru the viewfineder and Clicking!
2.  Children have Hands-On use of cameras or other tech items such as keyboards. You can have "play versions" as well, yet allowing children to authentically use cameras gives them a relationship with technology that is much more intentional and authentic.
Leaning atop of a keyboard, this child copies letters!

3. Children use photos as reflection tools or memories from a field experience. This child had come back from a visit to an independent theatre where we got to see how the projectors made the movie get to the screen. The child represented the complexity of the machine in her pen drawing and described the action, as well. (read in photo). (This was a long-term project on Movie Theatres  - many children made photo-reflections from our field experience which we made into a book).
Pen drawing of a film projector with a photo being the memory from the field experience to the local theatre.
Light table materials have endless possibilities.

4. Light is technology.  Examine how the relationship and usage of these materials change when the child uses them on the light table. Tech and media let children think in ways that are unique for materials and in turn allow children to think differently about color, shape, layering and space.

This boy decides on an area of his canvas that he wants us to photograph.

Visitors marvel in our Art Gallery of canvas masterpieces and I SPY frames.
5. Technology can allow something that is small to become The Focus. 
Children were involved in a long-term art project with a professional artist/parent in our class.
When each child completed their large canvas (see below), they use their smaller "frame" as an I SPY within their own art project.
We took photos of their special interest areas, printed them out, and then the children described these smaller art pieces below their original large piece.
The Art Gallery of their work allowed visitors to see the process, art, and photo close ups of the children's favorite parts of their work.
Doing this kind of "layering" to understand children's thinking about their work is perfect for technology to be used. The photos allowed breadth and depth for children to truly own and give voice to their work.

Painting was the children's choice - computers are right behind them!

6.  Technology is seamlessly embedded in the design of the classroom. 
Children, at right, paint at the large easels while the computer area is available right next to them behind the doors that area always ajar and the computers are always ON for them to choose to use.
Printed examples of children's work is displayed on the folding doors.

Communication at the entry for slide shows and field experience video.

7. Classroom communication at the entry.
Here, children were working on a spring project while the monitor and media equipment are seen behind them. The monitor was used for parent communication of photo slide shows, educational evenings, video review for children when we returned from a field experience, and photo reviews or studies. Right below the monitor are the children's "mailboxes" for communication, art and mail in hard copy. There is also a large wipe board easel that was used for written communication for parents, easily living next to the technology option.

What word would YOU choose for your artsy message?

Do you know the musical, hilarious story Big Pumpkin?
8. Technology as a literacy tool.
In the left photo, we use the nuts/bolts drawers from a hardware store to hold words or names that have value to the children. We have this Word Bank in our Writing Area and children love to find their name or favorite words in the different drawers then tape or glue the papers onto art or messages.

In the Book Area, we have a NO HEADPHONES listening center so that children can have a social, dynamic reading/listening experience with whomever joins into hearing the story. The tape recorder  - and the books and cassettes - have symbols so the children can 'read' Start, Stop, Pause, Rewind. Children have full use of the listening center and require virtually no help from educators.

Documentation is a rich integration of technology and observation by educators during a project.

9. Technology as a teaching tool makes learning visible. Teachers using documentation as an archival tool to display children's discoveries on a topic is a rich communication tool for visitors, parents, and the children themselves. Teachers use documentation as a significant reflective tool for understanding learning and respecting children's ideas.
This was a Birthday Project where we studied children from birth to age 5 to understand how we - as Young Fives students - had grown since being babies, then ages one through four. It was one of the most fascinating projects I ever did with a group of students.

There are so many ways to USE technology or to CHOOSE technology without having it take over or be overwhelming.
How do YOU embrace technology? What are your challenges?

four stories

Seeing children as meaning makers of their world.

Comment ca va?
Today is July 14. Bastille Day. The best day to celebrate French culture.

In honor of Bastille Day, I will share
4 posts that offer a lens to see children as powerful thinkers and meaning makers of the world

Because it is your name.
(pencil, mirror, and one's own face) 
(a very special post that I hope you have the time to read - following emily might just be the "Aha!" that you have been needing without realizing it! )

Way too fancy for preschoo
3. "Because It Is Your Name"
(very significant from birth. how names are used by children)
(is there such a thing? children and their sense of style from an early age)

Children as active agents in their own learning. Amazing. 

respecting children's learning

Most of you know I am a dedicated constructivist educator. I believe in ensuring that children have the time and materials to investigate, explore, problem solve and invent. I truly believe it is a child's right to have - not to be given, but to have - the time and materials to make meaning of their world.

I had the privilege of visiting my colleague Pam's school in Marin, California. Stretch the Imagination offers a "Reggio inspired" program for 3-5s that is filled with discussion, exploration, natural materials, and field experiences to local [incredible] venues for research by the children. Click here to read more about Stretch and founder Michelle Lawton.
I attended an evening event held by the school where teachers were presenting to parents their interpretations regarding their class's discoveries and growth for the year. The presentations were not recounting the calendar experiences of the children. The presentations were an overarching, deeper and wider perspective on the children as a class group from more of a teacher-researcher lens. 
[huge side note: I strongly believe that these are the teachers that should become leaders in our field because Respecting Children's Learning should be modeled, modeled, modeled, exactly as they have done.]

I bring a few photos to afford you a peek into the classroom's documentation and the stunning work by the children. In the classroom, all the children are represented, yet not all the children are represented in every project. This concept allows for a room to breathe, and it allows for educators to be intentional in what they choose to document or display to uplift the overall learning that occurred.

Cheers to the teachers' efforts. Bravo to the children's words and works.
The following images travel from
Self to Artist,
from Words to Photo Memory to Sculpture,
from Sensory to Still Life.












"Sculpture has been a large part of our artistic endeavor, both at the Audubon Center with natural materials and in the classroom with found objects."



Take yourself to another school.
Bring a fresh teacher lens to really SEE the learning that teachers make visible.

Look UP, look low, yet especially, look INTENTIONALLY for the children to be the most vital part of the school.

Thanks to Pam and Michelle for inviting me for such a rich visit to a true school for children.

window on learning: teacher field trip!

One of the best best best ways to invigorate my own teaching is by visiting other preschool classrooms. I had the privilege of observing a full morning at my colleague Laura's site [the site name and location remains confidential as per the director's request] which is in the San Francisco Bay Area in the beautiful state of California.

Peek through my 'window on learning':

One student glues the bones of her invented dinosaur to her paper - maybe a long neck? a t-rex? Students had "discovered" bones the day before in their sensory table and this day each child formed their own dinosaur with their findings!

Laura works with one dinosaur designer to name and explain his prehistoric discovery.

Collaboration at its best when many many hands are in on the formation of this flat block design.

Color, shapes, order, sequence, tall, low, and oh-so-organized.

This kind of math exploration is complex and intentional. Do YOU think these children have done this before?

This kind of work is no accident. Dedicated focus to stack stack stack turn turn turn.
Outside writing space under tree, slanted roof, fence-posted mirror and trays of accessible marking tools.
This is an over-sized garden planter box that is a dirt-filled construction site today!
Nature and more nature, crevices for play, large spaces for play, over, under, far and near. Makes you want to Go Play!
The teachers took apart a 'plastic play house' and attached the walls to the fence for dramatic play in the sand box - the red door swings open and the oven on the left pulls forward for all your baking needs! I've never seen this idea before!
Planters, huge trees, and of course children working with dirt and more dirt!
This huge tree is a favorite for climbing, I was told, and check out the swing attached to the pole through the tree! Love it!
Laura has a little meeting with a group in the tire building area - maybe planning a party? solving a debate? talking about their dinosaur inventions?
This girl was fascinated with these small gem of fruit from the tree above her. Laura and the girl figured out they were small "white" plums!
Approaching these tubes is quite a challenge to balance just right, to lean this way, and have your arms that way - then Let Go!  Impressive!
This Peg Board worker explained to me how the orange was "going around and around and around" the red stick.
When I came back to the Peg Board worker, she had started another "around and around" with blue pegs - and this time with a friend helping!
When is the last time YOU laid on your stomach on the carpet, grabbed a sunflower pen and started writing Right There with three pages ready for marking?!!
It is wondrous to visit another school and live the daily routine as the children navigate their way through what they know is School. Seeing my colleague Laura in action with her students was a gift for myself as she is such a talented, kind and patient educator.
Have YOU visited another school lately? It is such a rich professional development - and professional support - experience that allows you a window on learning that would be impossible via blog, article, or video.
BEING THERE amid the life of a school day is priceless.