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.

The Wonder Jewelry Shop

Welcome to The Wonder Jewelry Shop.  A couple of days before our Thanksgiving Break a few of the children started making paper purses in the art studio.  What began as one or two a day soon became a mass production.  When they realized they had such a large number of purses, they decided that the best thing to do was to open a store.  The shelves in the science lab were cleared off, and stocking merchandise began.  A few children suggested other accessories that might be sold in the shop, though purses continued to be the main attraction.

When we returned to school six days later, merchandise production went back into full swing.  As soon as the store was named, the very fancy sign seen above was designed and posted by the “door.” Two cash registers, an old keyboard, two old phones, and a mouse were added so the store employees could “work.”

One of the children informed us that purses with short or no handles are called bags.  These were placed directly on the shelf for display.  The longer handled purses are displayed on the walls of the shop.  I wondered aloud how a customer might know how much to pay for a purse.  So far the consensus is that whoever is selling the purse will just tell you how much it costs.

I was informed today that the Wonder Jewelry Store will have a Grand Opening at 2:00 on Thursday.  I’m not yet sure what this entails as the spokesperson did not give me any details.  Although, in the last three minutes of class, I did hear a rumor that lipstick might be on sale soon!

Want to know who is allowed to shop in this exclusive store?  Here is a soundbite the children made earlier today.  I just found it on Seesaw a minute ago:


And I found more!

I just found another clip on Seesaw.  This one was obviously designed as a commercial.  Note, adults did not have anything to do with the recording.  The children use our class iPad to document their learning and share it with their parents.  Near the end, you can hear an adult nearby suggesting that jewelry and purses are not actually gender bound.  Our voice-over artist isn’t so sure.  Sounds like a great place to start a discussion.

What can you do with a box?

One of our favorite pastimes in Pre-K is inventing something new with a box.  This fall, we had a huge assortment of boxes at our disposal.  Before we began designing, we read both Jane Yolen’s What to Do With a Box and Dana Meachen Rau’s A Box Can Be Many Things.  We realized that there were so many possibilities, it would be hard to choose just one giant project.  To help us narrow our focus, we closed up all of the boxes and pretended they were blocks, instead.  After some preliminary “block building” with the pieces we had on hand, a few ideas came to the forefront.

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Options provided by the children included a boat, a rocket, a cat, and a castle.  One morning, we all voted to find out which design we should choose.  At ten votes, creating a castle was easily the most popular choice.

In the past, we’ve always depended upon duct tape for our box construction needs.  This morning we began using some new child-friendly box tools.  While the hand saws were fun to use, they were a bit difficult for our Pre-K hands to manipulate.  However, I was quite impressed with the resilience of the many that returned to using the saws again and again.  The screws and screwdrivers were much more comfortably applied.  In fact, you might notice that many screws grace our castle as pure decoration.

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When the final walls had been battened down, groups of children went off on their own to create accessories.  So far we have a chair, a trash can, and two mailboxes.  Signs and flags were also quickly posted on the structure.

It’s hard to believe this entire project was put together in one morning.  I wonder what direction it will take tomorrow?

Corn on the Cob

Now that Applefest has wrapped up, we are finding lots of treasures left behind on the playground.  Yesterday morning, the children discovered a few dried corn cobs that had fallen off of the decoration stalks.  The cobs moved to the outdoor Maker Space where a makeshift factory was set up.  Small fingers patiently and diligently removed every kernel.P1270130P1270131P1270136

This activity continued in the afternoon.  Sadly, we discovered that our original corn collection had been accidentally misplaced by the older students.  (Chalk it up to practicing perseverance.)  No worries! We found more ears of corn to work with and many more classmates joined in on the project.  In addition to the kernel factory, an airplane was built nearby where corn kernels could be delivered via leaf plates for hungry passengers.

As we worked, a few of the children came up with a plan for the corn.  One child wanted to know if we could cook it.  Hmm….we’ll see how that experiment works a  bit later. (Don’t worry, we don’t plan to eat it.)

The Art of Fine Motor

Our invitation activity this week has been fine motor based.  The table is set with a choice of squiggles drawn on black paper.  Two bowls of dragon tears, otherwise known as flat glass beads, sit to the side.  This invitation is open to interpretation by the children.  Some choose to use the dragon tears to “follow” the line.  Others create their own designs.  Either way, little finger muscles must grasp each tear and place it in the desired position.

P1260623Just another fun way to exercise some very small muscles.

Nesting

The children were trying to figure out how they might convert our loft into a more comfortable spot for hibernating or adapting through the winter.  A few ideas sprang forward including making a burrow under the bottom, creating cave walls on the lower portion, and making beds in all areas.  While a few debated the possibilities, another group began scouting out the top of the loft.  They explained that they needed to find materials to make a nest that they wouldn’t fall out of.  Their plan was to create a nest and suspend it from the balcony banister. Thankfully, they realized the trouble with flimsy grass-like materials in creating suspension beds before any human trials were put forward.

Feeling that I might be able to provide them with some more safe examples of nest building, we pulled up good ‘ole Google images and perused nests of all sorts.  Now our interest became more fully grounded in materials.  Our quest to create the perfect nest began.

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This project is not yet done, but if you’re interested in making your own, here are the materials we used so far:

  • straws
  • brown paper (grass)
  • yellow paper (sticks)
  • many colors and lengths of raffia string
  • white and red Basket Box & Bag shred
  • twine

We moved it into the box as none of the children have yet come up with a plan for “sewing” (their words) or sticking the nest together, yet.  Although one enterprising student did suggest that I could tie all of the pieces together….  I think we’ll see if they come up with another suggestion.

Fine Motor Exercises

Between the ages of 3-6, children spend large amounts of time honing their fine motor skills.  As adults, we take controlling the tiny ballet of movement within our hands and wrists for granted.  Children, developing from the trunk outward, have a much better grasp of motions involving their entire arm.  This is why many young creators use both a fist grip and large sweeping motions either from their elbow or shoulder.  Practice controlling these muscles is the only way provide growth.  The funny thing is that children are built to learn this skill.  They naturally seek out activities that hone their use of all the fine motor muscles.  Below are some of the ways children choose to practice in our class.

 

Arranging and creating designs using found objects.

Manipulating small toys.

 

Sorting.

Pouring.

Hanging.

The most recognizable one: choosing to color or draw as a fun past-time.

All of these activities are self chosen.  Of course we incorporate many other opportunities for fine motor use throughout the day, but I find the ones they choose most interesting.