Haere mai! Welcome to Mairtown Kindergarten's blog.

Nau Mai Haere mai. Welcome to Mairtown Kindergarten's blog.

21 Princes Street, Kensington, Whangarei, New Zealand

Phone: 09 437 2742

Email: mairtown@nka.org.nz

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Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Making visible the movement of children's understanding

Last week I set up the provocation of some model giraffes along with a beautiful photograph from the book  ‘A shadow falls’ by Nick Brandt.  As children came over to wonder, to enquire and to explore this area, we began to discuss these graceful animals. We shared our knowledge, ideas and experiences of giraffes and before long we entered into completing some ‘observational drawings’.

We encourage the use of observational drawings as a tool for learning frequently at Mairtown. As Kolbe (2009) states, “Observational drawing invites children to look very closely at things and to notice all the details. In turn it encourages children to make more intricate drawings than they do from memory alone, often leading to joyful discoveries. It is part of the process of ‘learning to see’”

On this day however I also had another objective - to encourage the children to think about their own learning and accrual of knowledge - to self-assess their work. Of course children naturally do this as part of their play and work all the time, they are definitely the best reviewers of what they have done and achieved, but this is not always visible to us as adults.

How did we do this? After completing their first drawing, we looked again at the photographs and models of giraffes and had some further discussions. Then I invited the children to draw a second picture, after which I asked the question, ‘What are the differences between your two giraffes…what have you discovered and learnt?’.

Here are a few examples. From the drawings below and the responses of the children, I think you can clearly see how their knowledge grows and develops with each repetition. The drawings and conversation show the movement of the children’s understanding - this is learning in motion.

Revisiting the same experience or question throughout the course of an inquiry is a common and simple strategy to gauge the growth 
of student learning. Students can express their understanding orally and/or artistically. This strategy allows teachers to ascertain, over a period of time, whether students are incorporating new information or experiences into their growing understanding, and if so, what they are learning and how they are learning it. It also fosters self-assessment, making the assessment process transparent. When students are able to revisit earlier work, their self-confidence increases because they can see concrete evidence of their own growth (NCAA, UK).

 “This one (drawing 1) doesn’t have a mouth or eyes or enough spots on the face. The tail is shorter whereas on this one (drawing 2) it’s longer and thinner which is better. This one (drawing 2) is better, and look at the photograph it looks like that more cause its neck is curvy and wider at the bottom, I didn’t do that on that drawing (drawing 1) as I didn’t know. And look (pointing to the legs on her second drawing) those ones are fatter and have spots, that one doesn’t (drawing 1) but real giraffes, see (pointing to the picture) look you can see they have spots on their legs, and face, almost all over” (Claudia).

 “This one has better spots (drawing 2), like the photograph, look this one I did is a triangle” Now pointing to the first drawing, “Oh no, I didn’t do a tail, it didn’t have any hooves. This one has a neck but no body.  It has 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 legs, but they only have 1,2,3,4 legs. It has no ears. It looks so different. This one (drawing 2) has a curly mane” (Kate G).

 “They have spots on their head. This one’s better (drawing 2) this one's not as better (drawing 1). This one can reach the leaves (drawing 2) cause it’s so so long. They have horns but they are too long here (in drawing 1). The head is better here, look…(drawing 2) and the spots are good and big. It looks just the same as the picture (pointing to the photograph)” (Wyatt).

 “My drawing is skinny (drawing 1), this one (drawing 2) is fat, and I took notice of the body that time. See, there the body is wrong. On this one (drawing 2) I drew a tail with hairs on the end of the tail, and spots more like that (pointing to the photograph). Do you know Christine, giraffes have lots of spots” (Kate B).

A week on, it is wonderful to see these same children re-visiting more observational drawings of giraffes independently. Each drawing is becoming more detailed, each with the addition of something new. As the children continue to study giraffes and complete their drawings they become more familiar with this subject, they recall past knowledge, construct new theories and pose new questions; we are able to witness the movement of learning and understanding.

“Look, oops, I did no tail on my first drawing, my drawings are getting better and my spots are better, they are different now. On this one I’ve added nostrils, I haven’t had them before, but you know giraffes, giraffes do have nostrils” (Kate G).


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Enchantment and Imagination with Sprites and Fairies

Nau mai haere mai, welcome to our fourth term at Kindergarten.

 As part of our set up this term, we have created the beginnings of a fairy woodland inside. Our vision is that over the next few weeks this tiny grove will continue to develop and flourish with the children’s input and imaginative ideas.

The fairy grove was one of the first things that Ben noticed when he arrived at Kindergarten yesterday. Ben was very excited about the beginnings of this space as he had spent lots of his holidays creating ‘traps’ for fairies and sprites in his garden at home. Ben has a wonderful imagination which was further influenced by a special book he had taken out of the library.

Today Ben arrived with this book to Kindergarten; it is from the Spiderwick Chronicles and is titled ‘The Care and Feeding of Sprites’.

“We can all use a little magic in our lives and the imagination can fuel some pretty magical moments. Picture books portray amazing fantasy worlds, providing inspiration for children to think imaginatively on their own.” – Brim-full Curiosities

Ben was really keen to share his favourite pictures with many of his peers. The sprites in the book are influenced by real images in nature; with a strong focus on insects and flora. As we are working to capture the children’s ideas and thinking about fairies or sprites, I suggested that maybe we could find resources to create sprites of our own.

Using Ben’s book as a guide and inspiration, a small group of children got very busy at the hot glue gun table. As the morning progressed many beautiful woodland sprites and fairies began to emerge in the play…

“When the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies.” ― J.M. BarriePeter Pan

 “Mine lives at my home. This is my family sprite. Sometimes it goes in the leaves. It can’t fly in the rain cause the rain makes it bend and fall. My sprites name is Makaluee and he can talk in my language” – Ben

“My fairy can fly and it can fall on it’s tummy but it doesn’t even hurt because it has a hard tummy. My fairy can dive, it dives to the bottom of the sea to see sharks! This can do magic powers to kill sharks” – Joseph

 “My fairy lives at my house. It flies” – Jaimee

“My fairy flies around all day and has some friends, their names are Bianca and Theatre and Bounce. Her name is Diamond Crystal. Her special thing is to fly around.
Did you know my fairy can hide in the bushes and when somebody makes something like a treehouse this fairy goes there to sleep. It likes it and it flies around happily in it. It has specially powers, to disappear cakes!” – Liliana

 “My Fairy does special things, she does the dishes, she goes to bed at nightime. She lives up in fairyland. Her name is Mia” – Mia

“My fairy lives in a tree and everyday it sleeps in my bed. My fairies name is Julie. She has powers and can turn people into monkeys!” – Emma

“My fairy lives in fairyland, her name is Moon” – Eleanor

“This is a boy fairy. He lives in the house” - James

“On these magic shores children at play are for ever beaching their coracles. We too have been there; we can still hear the sound of the surf, though we shall land no more.”
J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Educationalist and philosopher Steiner described imagination as emerging from perception by means of the senses, causing an active thinking process to create what he terms ‘living pictures’ in the mind of the observer. These ‘living pictures’ are flexible perceptions, able to expand and be refined as and when further experiences present themselves (1996).

Young children have the physical development, language and thinking skills to be very imaginative and creative with everyday objects and their surroundings. They are often ‘lost’ in the world of make-believe. By providing interest, support, props and provocations to support children’s imaginative play, we are encouraging them to use their imaginations in play and develop a problem-solving approach to learning. 

“Educating a child’s imagination is therefore an important way to prepare children for the future” (Isenberg & Jalongo, 2001).

Nga mihi, Kim