What Do Your Walls Say to
Your Students and Families?
- What values do they speak?
- 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)
Moving Away from Calendar Time… WHY?
- 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.
For more information on ways to embed math using developmentally appropriate practices, see past blog https://journeyintoearlychildhood.com/2019/03/06/math-during-free-choice-play/
LINEAR CALENDAR PIECES FOR HOME/SCHOOL and WEATHER
DOCUMENTATION of STANDARDS/OBJECTIVES:
COLOR SPLASH app
In early grades when children are learning through play and hands-on activities, we need a method of displaying the learning that is taking place in regards to standards and objectives. Visually documenting children’s learning is a tool we use to analyze the intent of children’s work, reflect on the learning and progress to inform instruction and to engage students’ in conversations and self-reflection. If the hands-on work in which children engage becomes visible, it becomes a starting point for conversations with children, families, colleagues, and administrators.
One way to draw attention to the learning in which we want to reflect upon is through the use of The Color Splash app. This app allows the focus to be on what the child is learning and accomplishing by coloring the parts of the photo in which you want to focus. A caption can be added to include the words of the child as he/she discusses the process of what is being learned or explored.
This provides an insightful glance into the learning that is taking place during hands-on learning activities.
Pictures hung at the students’ eye-level spark conversations, reflections on their learning and encourage others to recreate and expand on the process.
Color Splash on Google Play
Color Splash for Apple
Exploring American Symbols
Provocations for American Symbols
As President’s Day draws near, we expose young children to the role of the president as well as two of our most honored presidents, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington. At this time of the year, we also think about exposing our children to the American Symbols. Our youngest learners are introduced to many universal symbols such as a STOP sign, logos for gender on bathroom doors, a handicap parking only sign, etc. that are required for good citizenship. Some symbols children learn through daily routines and experiences and some require more time along with intentional planning on the part of the teacher, such as the American symbols.
It is important for young children to begin to explore the American symbols to build patriotism and pride in their country, to provide a sense of belonging to a bigger place, and to communicate the ideals of the United States.
The American Symbols document provides pictures of the American symbols, USA flag, liberty bell, the statue of liberty, and bald eagle as well as other famous USA governmental buildings and memorials to be posted in the block/construction center and/or the art/creation center to encourage children to recreate them. Ideas of materials to include in the construction center, as well as extensions for literacy including two poems and math, are included.
note: Send an email to journeyintoearlychildhood.com letting me know that you have signed up to receive my bi-weekly to weekly blog post and I will send you the American Symbols document for free.
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.
Pondering a Quote regarding Documentation:
I love the following quote to continue thinking about not just reflecting the work of the child- but how are we truly showcasing the thinking process of the child. I believe that if we had this goal in mind as we are hanging items on our walls and deciding how to document children’s learning- not just the end product but the process as well- it would serve as an incredible focal point for student conversations as well as provide an amazing visible display of what children are learning through play and exploration for parents, administrators and other stakeholders- what are your thoughts?
Documentation is not pretty pictures of engaged children. Rather, it captures
the thinking process:
What motivated [students] to begin, continue, change direction?
What were the breakthroughs, the pivotal remarks or actions?
How did they solve the problem?
The goal is to enable whoever reads a panel to understand what the child attempted and how they went about it, to see stimulus, process, and outcome. -A. Lewin-Benham
As we continue the discussion of intentionally designed environments and how we display not just children’s work but also the process of their learning, there are some key ideas I found helpful to provide some insights from Working in the Reggio Way by Julianne Wurm.
Documentation is important for not only the children to see the process of their thinking and their work but also for the teachers to grow in their craft and understanding of children.
Documentation can serve to illuminate the thinking, a change in thinking that occurred, what was learned or not learned, the evolution of the behavior, questioning, maturity, responses, and opinions.
Documentation begins with observation.
A couple of fun, engaging ideas that I have observed in classrooms include…
* Documenting student’s thoughts during different times of the day and placing those by the posted visual schedule.
* Taking lots of pictures and showing them as a slide show – playing the slide show each morning on the Smart Board to remind students of the learning that took place the previous day.
* A web of student’s thoughts and ideas as a project develops is a good way of displaying the process of the children’s thinking. The teacher would always be referring back to it with the children- the documentation was useful and children were able to gain the skill of reflecting on their thinking.
* Students reflection of their own learning posted next to their work.
* I saw a documentation board in one classroom that had pictures and one or two quotes from students for each month- although it wouldn’t capture the thinking through a whole project, it was a good way to demonstrate to students the passage of time. The students chose one to two pictures each week that demonstrated their learning. It was a great time to review the learning and also work on voting skills.
documentation of shadows
Kindergarten teachers in McLean County Unit 5 School District and the Prekindergarten and Kindergarten teachers in Union School District developed “elevator speeches” describing why play is critical during the early years based on snippets of information from the article, Crisis in Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School published by the Alliance for Childhood. These statements can be added to parent newsletters, etc. as a continual reminder of the importance of play.
Key Research Statements About Why Play is Important that Resonated with K Teachers