What do your walls say?

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)

Building Friendships through Intentional Design of Centers

friendships centers journeyintoearlychildhood.com

Aristotle once stated,  “who would choose to live, even if possessed with all other things, without friends.”

Many of our students struggle with the basic components of building friendships such as asking to join in play, suggesting play “Let’s…”, sharing, taking turns, changing perspectives, cooperating, and using respectful language.

We, therefore, must directly teach friendship skills through intentional, deliberate discussions and opportunities throughout the day. These opportunities can be embedded into the activities and work that is already occurring in the classroom setting.

Intentional Design of Free Choice Centers and Small Group Learning Centers:

  • To encourage sharing, do not provide materials for each student. For example, if 5 children are working on a project that requires glue sticks, only provide three. Teach the students how to ask for the glue sticks instead of grabbing and model how to share.self reflection form FREE DOWNLOAD journeyintoearlychildhood.com
  • Have students complete a self-reflection sheet on friendship skills following center time. Example of a Self-Reflection form. (FREE DOWNLOAD)
  • Designate students who are the distributors of certain materials. For example, in a small group, Carlos has all of blocks, Juanita has all of the magnetic letters and Ian has all of graphic organizers and pencils. Each student must ask their friend for the materials needed by using the student’s name and by using kind words.

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Art Centers to Encourage Creativity

A beautifully designed art space encourages creativity and     inventiveness in thinking.

 

  • Children draw, paint, design, build and sculpt using their creativity.

  • art center
    Beautifully designed art center to encourage creativity journeyintoearlychildhood.com

    They use thinking skills to plan, organize, make decisions, and represent their ideas as they express their ideas through a variety of media.

  • Children grow cognitive, problem-solving, and decision-making skills while experimenting with color, line, shape, size, proportions, and dimensions. 

 

Stages in Block Play- Moving Our Students to Complex Play

stages of play featured imageStages of Block Building:

All children progress through specific stages as they use blocks in play, building, and designing. Knowledge of these stages helps teachers provide the materials and questioning that will nudge children forward in their abilities and lead them to more complex play. 

Stage 1: Carrying blocks: Blocks are carried around but not used for construction. (Generally, very young children or very inexperienced builders.)vertical

Stage 2: Building Begins: Children mostly make rows, either horizontal (on the floor) or vertical (stacked). There is much repetition in this early building pattern, which is basic functional play with blocks. (approximately around age 2-3 years)

bridging

 

Stage 3: Bridging: children create a bridge (or portal) by using two blocks to support a third. (approximately three years of age)

 

 

enclosure

Stage 4: Enclosures: Children place blocks in such a way that they enclose a space. Bridging and enclosures are among the earliest technical problems children solve when playing with blocks, and they occur soon after a child begins to use blocks regularly. These spaces are often called cages in a zoo or pet store. In this stage, children will want to add additional accessories such as figures for dramatic play or gems for food. (approximately four years of age)

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complex 5Stage 5: Complex Structures: With age, children become steadily more imaginative in their block building. They use more blocks and create more elaborate designs, incorporating patterns and balance into their constructions. Children may incorporate several different block accessories as their play becomes more involved. (approximately 4 or 5 years of age)

Stage 6: Complex Structures with Elaborate Dramatic Play: Naming of structures for dramatic play begins and engagement in elaborate dramatic play scenarios occur. Before this stage, children may have named their structures, but not necessarily based on the function of the building.

This stage of block building corresponds to the “realistic” stage in art development. Children use blocks to represent things they know, like cities, cars, airplanes, and houses.

 

Stages of Block Building

Resources:

Wardle, Francis. (2002) Introduction to Early Childhood Education: A Multidimensional Approach to Child-Centered Care and Learning. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

The Block Center.  The Institute for Childhood Education, L.L.C.  www.WeEducateTeachers.com

Pictures are of block structures created by K and Pre-K children in Union Public Schools.

journey blog

 

 

Intentionally Designed Environments: Pictures of Classrooms

journeyintoearlychildhood.com Intentionally Designed EnvironmentsWOW! 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 learningintentional design of environments journeyintoearlychildhood.com
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.

Making Number Posters with Natural Elements

NUMBERS with NATURE

Number Posters with nature FREE DOWNLOAD journeyintoearlychildhood.com

 Incorporating…

  • 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.

 

  • Natural elements
    • 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.

TEMPLATES FOR NUMBERS

                      The students measured the length of the stick needed using cubes.

Honoring the Process: Open-Ended Art

 

 

When we provide children with open-ended art experiences, children are…

  • learning initiative
  • taking risks by showing originality
  • expressing her/himself through representation
  • formulating unexpected connections
  • building confidence and self- worth
  • engaging in play with art materials that have no “correct” end product
  • exploring in their own way with their choice of materials
  • constructing independent decisions and/or rethinking their decisions based on ideas shared by peers 
  • building theories
  • making decisions
  • developing fine motor skills
  • problem-solving
  • persisting through challenges and staying engaged since it is creation of his/her choice

For example, one child may be painting on the easel, another stringing necklaces of noodles at the sensory table, another creating cookies from play dough, another is creating a dinosaur from collage materials, while yet another is drawing with crayons the illustrations on a self- created picture book- all children do not need to be experiencing art in the same way at the same time.

NO MORE TEACHER DIRECTED TEMPLATE 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.

Provocations can be provided for children to encourage exploration of a specific skill (ie. color blending, making of lines, shapes, 2D representation to 3D representation) while still allowing students to explore and design based on what is meaningful to them.

Example:  One project was cut by teacher and all students made the penguin at the same time, waiting to move to the next step until all children were completed step by step.

One art work was completed by the teacher setting out pictures of penguins, black, white and yellow paper. Teacher joined the center to discuss the design process, ask open-ended questions and provide choices to help students make thoughtful decisions.

process art

open ended art featured image