Concrete and Abstract Thinking

Early each year I set out the dragon tears (flat glass rocks) and some simple line drawings. They are wonderful for fine-motor practice, but more importantly they are lovely, special things to play with. I added them to the art studio last week after observing many of the children placing a variety of toys in rows and lines.

On purpose, I didn’t explain how they might be used. I wanted to see the ideas that the children bring with them.

This year, a few children decided to use them to line the simple drawings. One child used the lines as boundaries and created their own design within the marks. As I walked around the room observing others, some of children took their exploration further.

Moving from concrete materials to abstract representations of those materials is a perfect example of the developmental growth we see in Pre-k. For younger children, it wouldn’t occur to them to re-make the activity on paper. Their learning focus is on the tangible, the feel of the rocks, the swoops and straight lines, the act of moving the stones. While the older children also found this enjoyable, they were driven to represent their experience in another medium.

We will see this in all areas of development throughout the year. Children will move from activities that involve direct manipulation to those that can represent their experiences. We hope to capture as much of this growth as we can to share with you.


2015-10-01 (246)We introduced ten-frames the other day. In Pre-K we begin by using them to tell stories.  As you might read in the link above, ten-frames are frequently used when children are beginning to practice subitizing, quickly assigning a verbal number to a set of objects.  This is an important mathematical skill, but at this time it is not our main focus.  We are focusing on one-to-one correspondence, oral language, turn taking, working memory and basic structure of a ten-frame.  Each child approaches the task at their own level, expanding their knowledge and experience.

The students start with a blank ten-frame. We call it the “garden”.  They also have chosen ten glass stones known as dragon tears or dragon seeds. Mrs. Pless or I then tell them a story.

Once upon a time, a wee little [Katie] elf planted three dragon seeds in her garden.
(everyone places three stones in the squares, one for each square starting at the top left)

Along came a bird who dropped two more seeds.
(place two more seeds in their plots)

The sun shone, the rain came down, the dragon plants grew and grew.  Use your fingers to show me how many dragon plants grew in the garden.

The fun begins after they have practiced a few teacher stories.  Now it is their turn to tell stories to each other.  One narrates while the other reenacts on their garden.  Stay tuned for a recent tale…..