Do the items posted on the walls continue to enhance the children’s learning or have they simply become visual noise?
You decorated your room at the beginning of the year but…
How do you make on-going decisions of what to put on your walls?
How do you decide the image you want to continue to portray through your room environment?
How are you demonstrating your values for how students learn through the displays on your walls?
What image of the child are you projecting through your environment and the items that you make an intentional choice to hang and leave hanging on the walls?
As discussed in the last blog post regarding intentionally designed environments, it is critical that we examine the environment as a place for students and it should be a reflection of them.
Patricia Tarr in the article, Consider the Walls, talks about how commercially made posters, etc. that we hang for educational purposes may actually be limiting children’s sense of who they truly are and true capabilities and stifles their imagination and creativity. She states,
“So too does the mass of commercial stereotyped images silence the actual lived experiences of those individuals learning together. An overload of commercial materials leaves little room for work created by the children—another kind of silencing.” The challenge for early childhood educators is to think beyond decorating to consider how walls can be used effectively as part of an educational environment. In Reggio Emilia the walls display documentation panels of projects that children are engaged in. These become the basis of ongoing research and dialogue between the children, teachers, and families. Panels of photos, artifacts, and text make “learning visible” to participants and to outsiders (Rinaldi 2001).”
Think carefully about what pictures, children’s work, or photos you place on the walls. Students absorb a lot from their environment; so, we want to use the space for demonstrating both the learning and the process toward the learning. When determining what you are going to place on the walls, ponder
is the item is important to your current educational goals and objectives (is it an old objective and now can be removed from the walls? can a picture be taken of an old anchor chart and placed in 8×10 binder for reference as needed? can anchor charts be hung on pants hangers and hung in a corner of the room for reference as needed?)
how can the items be created by the students instead of commercially or by the teacher (co-creating items helps students to have ownership and therefore, they are more likely to look at and use the resource often)
does it demonstrate beauty and is it aesthetically pleasing (note: it does not have to be “pinterest” worthy perfect- if it is created or co-created by the students and meets their needs as a resource for a learning objective- then it is beautiful to them)
10 Frames are magical tools to build number sense in our young children instead of just rote counting. A strong sense of “10” will enable children to see relationships between numbers. Children need to first develop this strong understanding of the numbers 1-10 before they begin to work with larger numbers.
They are two identical rectangles stacked on top of each other divided into five equal segments- thus a “10 frame.”
A 10 Frame is a tool to help children be able to visualize the quantity of numbers, compose and decompose numbers. A 10 Frame supports children’s knowledge of 10 by visually seeing patterns and numbers. For example, if the top row of 5 is filled and the bottom row has three, we want children to be able to automatically think of this quantity in relationship to 10 and state that the quantity is 8 because two are missing.
10 Frames can be incorporated into the curriculum throughout the day- not just to use only as a tool during math time.
Allow children to play with 10 frames during free-choice play time…
Allowing children to play with 10 Frames during free-choice play centers
Incorporating 10 Frames into a Behavioral Challenge…
Taking Attendance using a Question of the Day and a 10 Frame…
Allowing students to produce the number posters for the classroom…
We are Teachers provides some great hands-on activities to play using a 10 Frame.
Math practices and instruction need to focus on the children’s understanding of concepts and their ability to explain their thinking.
Young children need to be able to use strategies to work with numbers one through five. They need to develop math fluency to five.
Teaching a math skill once is not enough but we know that children need to do- to have their hands on- to learn.
National Education Association for Young Children states that children learn best through hands-on learning experiences and that developmentally appropriate practices include “teachers who “mathematize” children’s everyday experiences.
I was blessed to visit a couple of amazing Kindergarten classrooms in Tulsa, OK and was impressed by their calendar routine among many, many other experiences they are providing their students.
They are using a 7 day linear calendar to develop fluency with the number five. Also, so impressive that the Kindergarten classrooms use a visual schedule of their day to teach the concept of time- before and after.
THE BENEFITS OF OPEN-ENDED ART…
Children learn so many more skills than they would in the same amount of time completing a template art activity designed by the teacher that often holds no interest for the child.
Sometimes, we provide provocations to incorporate our learning objectives while still providing the students freedom to express their own creativity and personality.
A very reflective teacher chose a different way to create pumpkins this year. The students practiced cutting on a straight line on paint chips. They also then drew and cut their own pumpkin shapes instead of cutting on a teacher developed template. Students were learning fine motor cutting skills along with math skills of shapes and counting, critical thinking, problem-solving, and proportions.
EXPLORING THE COLORS OF AUTUMN:
This is also a great time to explore the beautiful colors of autumn.
Autumn is also a great time for classroom art projects in which students can choose to work on a project together- building collaborative skills along with creativity and fine motor.
More information on the benefits of open-ended art, see blog post: Honoring the Process
WOW! Teachers in the Union Public Schools in Tulsa, OK are incredible. I recently had the opportunity to visit some of their classrooms. They so graciously allowed me to take pictures to share with you the intentionality of their classroom design.
The environment in which children spend their day at school needs to support developmentally appropriate practices that allow children to freely move, to explore with hands-on opportunities, to engage in dramatic play experiences, to build social/emotional skills, and to develop their symbolic thinking and cognitive flexibility among others.
Learning theories from constructivism to social learning
to experiential learning underscore the importance of
active and inquiry-based learning, knowledge construction
through interaction with the environment, social contexts
and meaningful experiences.
-“Most Influential Theories of Learning,” Unesco Education
Intentional Design for hands-on exploration while encouraging symbolic thinking, problem solving, and cognitive flexibility.
Intentionally Designed Art Centers that encourage the process of art instead of the product, and free exploration of creative ideas instead of template art.
Intentional Design of the Classroom Aesthetics so that the students can live and breathe in a beautiful space. Use of natural colors as we use in our homes for a calming effect.
Intentional Design of Student Contributions, the classroom belongs to the students. It should be a reflection of the students instead of the teachers passions or “cutesy/pinteresty” type themes.
Intentional Design to Include Dramatic Play. Students require dramatic play experiences to build executive functioning skills.
Students into design of classroom and visuals on walls
Classroom walls are a public statement about the educational values of the teacher.
The challenge is to ponder how the walls can be used to enhance the educational objectives while including the students as a part of the learning.
If the students are allowed to create or co-create the displays on the walls, they will refer to, look at and engage with them more often making them learning materials instead of visual noise.
The walls should invite engagement, wonder and imagination; reflect the student’s learning, have an emotional or meaningful connection to the students and engage children in active interaction with the displays.
Classrooms should be filled with natural elements… not only are natural items great learning tools but they also enhance your space with beauty.
Displays should be hung on a simple neutral or natural background with neutral border to decrease visual over-stimulation.
UPDATED POST with Link to Pieces for a Linear Calendar
Our youngest learners are concrete thinkers; they live in the now. They are not ready for abstract thought. So, let’s ponder the effectiveness of a traditional calendar time that focuses on days of the week, months of the year, patterns, counting, etc. It is not until children are around the ages of 7 to 10 years of age that they are able to judge the relative time from a past event or until a future event will occur. Teaching the skills of time such as yesterday, today and tomorrow, days of the week and months of the year is not developmentally appropriate and can inhibit a child’s confidence in their skills. They may eventually stop participating and/or lose their confidence in their ability to achieve at school.
There is little evidence that calendar activities that mark extended periods of time (week, month) are meaningful for children below first grade (Friedman, 2000). National Education Association for Young Children learn best through hands-on learning experiences and that developmentally appropriate practices include “teachers who “mathematize” children’s everyday experiences. For example, they help children learn and practice math skills and concepts during block building, play with games and manipulatives, and movement activities” (Developmentally Appropriate Practice Third Edition). Children will learn patterns, counting, number relationships, etc. best through individual and small group hands-on, meaningful activities, not through the repetitive calendar activities which do not hold any meaning for them. (see https://journeyintoearlychildhood.com/2018/09/05/math-during-free-choice-play/ for pictures of incorporating math into free choice play centers)
If teachers still want to incorporate some type of short calendar routine into their whole group time, here are some more developmentally appropriate ideas:
Build concepts of later, before and after by reviewing the daily schedule.
Hold calendar time at the end of the day and include a student job of drawing a picture of one exciting event that occurred during the day such as we read The Hungry Caterpillar, we found a caterpillar on the playground, we built a big car, etc.
Use a linear calendar (7 days). For very young children, the linear calendar should be vertical, just like the daily schedule, and as they grow in their developmental skills, it can be horizontal. Use pictures of home and school- discuss if it is a home day or a school day. Count how many days we have been at school OR chart the weather and discuss how many rainy, sunny, etc. days. LINEAR CALENDAR PIECES FOR HOME/SCHOOL and WEATHER
Start to build the concept of week and month by documenting the work that is accomplished in the classroom. At the end of each week and/or each month, have the students choose 3-5 pictures from a group of pictures that you have taken over that period of time. They need to reflect on the learning they have done that week and decide as a group which pictures best represent that learning. Jot down children’s comments on notecards. Place the pictures with the comments in a scrapbook or on a large piece of paper to hang in the hallway or classroom. This is a great way to document and showcase children’s learning as well as to demonstrate growth over time.
Beneke, Sally J., Ostrosky, Michailene, and Katz, Lilian G. May 2008. Calendar Time for Young Children: Good Intentions Gone Awry. Young Children.
Coople, Carol and Bredekamp, Sue, editors. Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs. Third Edition. National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Friedman, W.J. 2000. The development of children’s knowledge of the times of future events. Child Development 71.