Reason Number Three: Worksheets shut down thinking and only require passive thinking.
Worksheets are stressful since they usually have a right or wrong answer. When children are just starting to learn how to navigate school, how to learn and how to become confident learners, they will gain more from open-ended, hands-on activities that promote risk-taking and persistence. A worksheet shuts down thinking and promotes a mind-set that learning is all about guessing.
NOTE: Response sheets where students are illustrating or writing an idea based on a response to a prompt from a piece of literature, such as draw the setting or draw your favorite part of the story OR a documentation sheet, data collection sheet or “lab report” where information from science observations or data is begin recorded are NOT considered worksheets. Worksheets typically have one correct answer such as “circle all of pictures that start with the letter H” or “underline the words that rhyme with car.”
Block play can be used to challenge, scaffold, and
extend children’s learning through the intentional
placement of additional accessories.
An intentionally designed block center encourages students to construct meaning of their world, to encounter problems and discover multiple solutions, to interact and share with others, to extend their creativity and to reflect on their discoveries. -D. Honegger
Examples to intentionally design the block/construction center to incorporate academic standards: (this is just a sample…)
artificial plants, plastic animals, felt and/or material, and accessories to build habitats for the animals
Intentionally Designed Block Play for Geography journeyintoearlychildhood.com
Geography Provocations in Construction Play journeyintoearlychildhood.com
Geography: maps, road signs or the materials to make road signs, shower curtain laid out with grids, small wooden buildings or even individual cleaned out milk cartons to become buildings, Familiar signs, such as “One Way,” “School Crossing,” “Bus Stop”, “STOP”, tongue depressors for making fences, door and dresser knobs, small vehicles
Intentionally Designed Block Play with Natural Elements journeyintoearlychildhood.com
Earth and environment: natural materials such as acorns, shells, rocks, pinecones, wood cookies, stumps, and twigs. Stumps are great for encouraging vertical building.
Intentionally Designed Block Play Incorporating Visual Arts journeyintoearlychildhood.com
Visual Arts: clipboard with markers, colored pencils to add designs to the structures and/or to make a “blueprint” or map of the structure.
Geometry: 3D shapes (which rolls the best on a ramp- a cube, a sphere, a cone, a cylinder, etc.), tin cans, flat pieces such as a ceiling fan blade, long sticks (discuss parallel, perpendicular, diagonal, horizontal and vertical lines), tile or linoleum samples, PCV pipes. canning jar lids
Intentionally Designed Block Center Physical Science journeyintoearlychildhood.com
Intentionally Designed Block Play Wide Range of Cognitive Skills journeyintoearlychildhood.com
Wide Range of Cognitive and Developmental Skills: hard hats, food containers, dollhouse people, steering wheel and any other materials that will encourage dramatic play within blocks to move students building, design, and play to a more complex level
Four and five-year-old children are very capable and independent. If manila and colored construction paper, a few crayons, scissors, masking tape, and string are always available in or near the block corner, the children will begin to make their own signs and draw trees, people, and other things they need, thereby using their imagination in a constructive, purposeful way.
Note: The above lists are simply suggestions. Obviously, no teacher will ever put out all these accessories at once. However, the larger your supply of odds and ends, the better you will be able to help the children in the block corner when they begin to need accessories for specific purposes.
Provocations are materials or the way we present materials to create a context where the child can explore. They are an extension or a challenge to our children’s current thinking and theories.
This past year we have been exploring different ways to add provocations within the construction center.
We began by observing and noticed that the students were consistently building ships. We started talking about the different types of ships and added pictures of different ships and started reading books during interactive read aloud time about ships.
SHARING: SHIP and BOAT PROVOCATIONSIn this document, you will find pictures of different types of ships and boats, open-ended questions to pose and higher-level vocabulary to incorporate while engaging with students, and challenge cards to provoke students thinking.
Materials were added as students began to increase their thoughtfulness regarding ship building. For example, we included Duplo Blocks when the students drew their plans to build cargo or freight ships (note: students always made a sketch first of what they were going to build first to add in thoughtful planning. Many times when the students would add details to the construction part, they would return to their drawings to include those same details.)
and we added dowel rods, white paper and fabric, and tape when they stated they wanted to build sailboats and/or pirate ships. The problem solving that occurred to figure out how to attach the sails was amazing to observe but eventually the students figured it out. Reminder: don’t be too quick to jump in to offer assistance, let the students figure it out for themselves.
Math objectives added included size proportions with the size of different ships. The students decided that they did not have enough blocks to build many of the ships to the correct size but that they could build a rowboat.
Social Studies objectives added included where ships and boats sail- the bodies of water. We discussed which ships would sail where, what would they carry, why some people have to travel by boat or ferry, etc.
Since the students continued to be interested in ships, we turned their interest into a unit long STEAM investigation in which the students first became material engineers to determine what materials were best for shipbuilding (what materials would float).
We next read the book, Circus Ship by Chris VanDusen, stopping after the ship hits a rock and starts to sink. We challenged the students to build a ship that would float and hold the 15 circus animals. The students worked on their ships each day for a week- some continuing to add to their original ship and some starting a new one. We tested the ships and the students added 15 animals. Note: We provided more than 15 animals so that the students were required to count them as they tested each of their ships.
The students continued to explore with ships throughout the year. During an investigation of Farm to Table, the students started making ships and when we inquired as to how the ships relate to the farm, they shared that sometimes food is transported on ships! So to move our food from the farm to the factory to the grocery store, the students built and then play acted with both trucks and ships!
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.