Laughter…

Many of the children suggested that laughing makes them feel better if they are feeling angry or sad. They seem to have a sense that when laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy. Humor is infectious. The sound of roaring laughter is far more contagious than any cough, sniffle, or sneeze. I decided to discuss laughter with the groups to find out more about the children’s ideas.

“Every body laughs.”

“I laugh at jokes.”

“Audra is sticking her tongue out at me and it makes me laugh.”

“It’s like you’re doing funny faces and saying silly words and you laugh a lot a lot.”

“Playing soccer with Makoto make me laugh.”

“When my dad blows a raspberry on my tummy. It tickles and I laugh . He does it at bed time.”

“When I tickle on my foot it really tickles.”

“When I got tickled under my arm it really tickles.”

Even talking about laughing caused much laughter. Children shared jokes with spontaneity and  made silly faces to encourage more laughter.

“I like to make people laugh by saying silly things.”

“I like people to laugh and be happy.”

Some of the children really enjoy making their friends laugh and have a desire for others to be happy. We laughed together as a group, beginning with fake laughter that quickly became contagious and real, just hearing laughter seems to prime your brain and readies you to smile and join in the fun. An emotional sharing that has the capacity to build strong and lasting relationship bonds, also contributing joy, vitality, and resilience.

The feelings were so strong, we were moved to compose poetry about laughter.

The Tickle Laugh

Tickling on my neck

Tickling under my arm

Tickling on my tummy

Blowing on your tummy with your lips

Very tickly

Tickling someone

Tickling me

Everyone is tickled

We love tickles

It makes us laugh

Laughing is good for your body

by Blue Group

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“I’m worry…”

Due to an unusual situation at school I have been unable to have a full time presence with the children. Instead I am going in for a short time each day to engage in discussions about emotions, feelings and relationships. There have been a few messages from parents who are concerned that their children are feeling a bit anxious recently, so we spent some time investigating ideas about feeling worried or anxious or under stress.

Stress is a normal, everyday occurrence. It’s our body’s response to feeling afraid, overworked, overstimulated, threatened or excited. We tend to think of stress as a bad thing, but a certain amount of it actually helps us feel alert, energised and interested in life. However, too much stress, particularly when we don’t have any control over it, can make people unhappy and can interfere with their ability to respond to everyday tasks and challenges. Stress can also lead to health problems. Even young children experience stress.

The children bravely discussed events that they feel worried about,

“When I was first coming to school I felt excited and nervous. Excited to see my new class. Nervous there might be new friends, they might not like me.”

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“I worry about the thunder, lightening, noises, dreams. It scares me when it thunders and lightening. When I splash in the puddles I feel better.”

“I worry about the dark and lightening. When it’s dark I can’t see. I am scared of the lightening. I need to go to my mum and she hug me and kiss me. Sometimes I go there to sleep.”

“I’m worried about when me dad takes me to school and he has to go and I am staying alone in school until 2 o’clock.”

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“I’m scared of my mum and my sister going somewhere in the car. My mum and my sister going to everywhere but not school, I am at school. I think it will always be a long time but actually it isn’t a long time.”

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When my bus is here, I don’t have any time to hug my mum and dad. I’m sad when my mum and dad is gone.”

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“When I am asleep alone, I worry about a monster saying, ‘I am going to eat you!’ When my mum comes, when my mum sleeps with me, I feel better.”

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“I’m scary, I’m worry lightening go to my body.”

There were common themes which seemed to be causes of stress for the children,

  early or rushed mornings, being hurried

  exposure to new situations

  separation from parents

  difficulties with peer friendships

  fights or disagreements with siblings

  transitioning from one activity or place to another

  • new beginnings such as starting kindergarten or child care

These discussions further reinforce the vital importance of relationships. It serves as a reminder about the way we get along with children and how this influences them. The environment must be set up to interface the cognitive realm and the realm of relationship and affectivity. My hope is that over time, we can provide a safe context for children to learn to understand and love themselves and to develop empathetic understanding of others.

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Inside it’s like a volcano exploding!

It’s the beginning of a new school year and I am carrying out some research into Emotional Intelligence.

It seems that Emotional Intelligence represents an ability to validly reason with emotions and to use emotions to enhance thought, being a capacity to reason about emotions, and of emotions to enhance thinking. It includes the abilities to accurately perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth. Emotional intelligence is involved in the capacity to perceive emotions, assimilate emotion-related feelings, understand the information of those emotions, and manage them.

Discussions developing understanding of Emotional Intelligence will connect well with our Units of Inquiry, specifically, our inquiry into ‘Learning to Understand Ourselves’ an inquiry into human relationships, including families, friends and communities and cultures, responsibilities. An exploration of what it means to be human. Goleman, suggests that, “…our deepest feelings, our passions and longings, are essential guides, and that our species owes much of its existence to their power in human affairs.” (p.3, 1996). Our Learning to Learn unit, focusses on learning with and through others, and how we can become a learning community. Emotional Intelligence will be a key element of this inquiry. A third Unit, ‘Learning to Understand Societies’ demands that we consider the world of relationships and the role of community. Thinking about Emotional Intelligence will certainly enhance the development of these inquiries.

This week I have asked the children to talk about their ideas about feelings.

I was touched by the level of depth to their responses. The children began by suggesting some of the feelings that they have,

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“I can feel happy.”

“I can feel angry and sad.”

“If I am nice to my friend, they feel nice and I feel nice.”

“On the bicycle I feel happy going super fast.”

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“I feel happy when I see rainbows and butterflies.”

“Building with magnets makes me happy.”

As the children identified different feelings, I was surprised at how they were already aware of the extent that we are connected to others through our emotions. There seemed to be some understanding that the way other people can affect the way we feel and also that we can affect the feelings of others.

“I was happy because I had friends. My friends help me. We play together and take turns.”

“Monta make me happy.”

“Be kind to your friends, it makes me feel happy. And if they are feeling sad and blue it makes them feel better.”

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“You can share and be nice, it makes me feel good and happy and kind.”

“It makes me sad when people are sad.”

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The conversation developed into sharing theories about what is going on inside you when you experience different feelings. I find it fascinating to explore ideas about the invisible and challenging children to consider what can not be seen, thus activating the meaning-making competencies of children as a basis of learning.

“It comes from our brains and hearts.”

“Your brain gets the idea and then you tell your heart and then you say.”

“If you are sad all of your body is sad.”

“From whole inside your body.”

“They work together as a team, your brain and your heart.”

“The blood turns red when you are angry.”

“The blood is red and helps you to think and feel angry or sad or happy.”

“The heart gets black when you are angry.”

The children made graphic representations of their theories and shared their drawings. For some of the children, it is easier to express their thinking through drawing rather than verbally. For some children drawing helps them to clarify their ideas as they find ways to illustrate their ideas on paper.

“The heart and the brain makes you smile.”

“Inside it’s like a volcano exploding. Hot lava and rocks coming when you are getting mad.”

“Hugging makes me happy. The brain and the heart work together. They are a team.”

‘When I feel happy, it’s like flying.”

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“Feeling mad. Big sharp teeth. The bones and the heart are getting ready to punch. They are angry too. Tornado in my brain. Steam is coming out of my ears. My head is almost exploding.”

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“I have a volcano in me when I am angry. I have a volcano in my belly.”

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“When I’m happy it’s like I have rainbows and colour dots in my body. It’s like the sun is shining.”

“My brain goes black when I am sad.”

We tend to move slowly, discussing theories, interpreting ideas and re-interpreting together. I felt it was useful to spend several sessions exploring our ideas about feelings. These are ideas we will re-visit many times over the year as we try and understand ourselves and others. These sessions have been successful in helping the children to be aware of their emotions, to see a connection between their emotions and the brain and to begin to consider how they manage their own feelings.

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Learning with and through others

 

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In our class, we embrace the pedagogy of listening and we believe that the children’s ideas are worth listening to and that their comments are not just cute and frivolous but are intelligent efforts to make sense of the worked. The children also view each other as resources full of knowledge and seek out each others opinions and ideas. This has been evident in the childen’s projects to build homes for the playground creatures. through  group learning experiences , the children learn not only how to support but go further to become responsible for each others learning.  In groups we encounter new perspectives, strategies and ways of thinking that enable us to learn from others. We also learn with others, modifying, extending, clarifying and enriching our own ideas and those of others.

There were many many discussions, informal and incidental as well as planned meetings. The children have researched in non-fiction books and readily shared their knowledge with their friend. Often a suggestion they make is backed up with a reference to a non-fiction book. Below is an extract from a meeting when the groups had made good progress on the construction of the homes. It shows how the children listen to each other and respond to theories put forward by their friends.

“We are all done with our pictures. We need to make the rainbow and then we can make the flowers.”

“We need real flowers too.”

“Sometimes the butterflies like to eat cake.”

“That’s impossible, they like to drink flower.”

“We need to still make the swing and the ants, lots of ants can go on the swing because its a giant swing. They can crawl around and run and run. The big ants are the mum and dad and they can wait in the playground. I can make a seat for the ants to sit on. We could make a seat long, as long as a big ant, from clay. “

“We can add more things in the playground, more stuff like an airport.”

“We need to build houses.”

“But butterflies fly.”

“And they also drink flowers.”

“They don’t drink water, they drink nectar.”

“Next box we have to put sand everywhere and make a house and put glue and make the webs and the water. Also for the jumping spider. Also a statue of a spider.”

“That’s so hard to make.”

“We might need some bugs for them. Spiders need to make their own webs.”

“Make a jumping course for them.”

“A trampoline because spiders like to jump. If they want to jump more higher we can make a trampoline.”

“Some spiders are not easy to handle. In the pond we might find a fishing spider or a swimming spider. Not all spiders are the same.”

“You need a swimming pool for the swimming spider.”

“There is also a banana spider.”

“We’ll need a bigger house for all these spiders! We need food for the spiders and a big tree for the banana spider.” 

Through our work in groups, we give value to the understanding of learning groups and the learning outcomes of the group as well as individual.  We give value to the learning dynamics, accomplishments and context of the learning group. The relationships , subjectivity and interdependence of learners, children and adults are important.  Giudici reminds us,

“ It reveals young children’s ability to engage in mutual learning and to build a learning community where each child is responsible for the others’ learning. It illustrates how the culture of participation and the value of democracy is embedded in the concept of participation.” 

(Giudici et al. 2001, p.42, Making Learning Visible: children as individual and group learners)

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“You have lots of ideas instead of one!”

Working in groups

“Education will vary with the quality of life that prevails in a group.” 

John Dewey,  Democracy and Education

The children have begun the challenging task of working together in a group to design and construct a home for the creatures in the playground. The children have naturally formed groups depending on interest. One group is planning a butterfly garden, another a city for ants and the third, a spider house. Much of the learning that goes on in and out of schools happens through the interactions of groups. The desire to learn from and with others is powerful. I often contemplate how I can support and deepen the quality of learning that occurs whenever individuals are together in groups.

I am interested in the learning processes and outcomes involved in solving problems or creating products  that are considered meaningful. This type of learning engages children cognitively, emotionally and aesthetically. It is situated in real world problem solving that draws on critical and creative thinking as well as disciplinary knowledge and skills. In groups we encounter new perspectives, strategies and ways of thinking that enable us to learn from others. We also learn with others, modifying, extending, clarifying and enriching our own ideas and those of others.

In order to increase my own, as well as the children’s awareness I thought it worthwhile to discuss and reflect upon these ideas  with the children. I asked, “I often ask you to work in in groups, what do you think about that?”

“It’s pretty fun working in groups than being by yourself. You can share ideas. If you work in groups it is more fun. You have lots of ideas instead of just one. You can ask somebody in your group for another idea.”

“If you be by yourself you will be lonely. If you have friends in your group. If we all choose spiders, then there would be no butterfly group and no ant group. So you can do the group that you want to do.”

“When we do in groups we all have fun. In groups is more funner. Groups will work everything, alone it won’t work.”

“I like groups with boys and girls. Both. Boys and girls because we are friends.”

“Maybe one girl in the group, but really boys because my friends is boys.”

“Mixed, the same amount of boys and girls to make it fair.”

“It depends on what we are doing.”

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“Half boys and half girls because it is fair.” (Grace)

“Both, but boys prefers boys and girls prefers girls….but sometimes both.” (Violet)

“It is better in a group. You can finish your work faster. With one is is hard the the work won’t finish faster.” (Malak)

 “I like being in a group. But sometimes you want to be by yourself and do it yourself.” (Huck)

“It depends on what you are doing. I like to work with more boys like for soccer, and girls for like when you do painting.” (Kaiwen)

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“Groups with girls when it is not rough.”

 “Yes! Girls are more calmer and respectful and peaceful.”

 “I like in a group because you won’t be lonely and there is often kids with you.”

“I like working in the group because when we have groups it can be more fun and con’t be lonely. So we can be happy in groups.”

 “If we work in a group our work will be faster.

 “But if we do it too fast, it won’t be good.”

 “I like to work alone because then I won’t need to hear any loud voice and no one will disturb me.”

“Sometimes I like to work alone, sometimes in a group.”

 “I like to work in a group with my friends.”

“It’s sometimes not so easy because we have different ideas.”

Through our work in groups, I hope that the children  become individuals who know how to listen, who acknowledge and respect diverse points of view, who work with others to solve problems, and who can interpret and understand the world in increasingly complex ways.

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Numbers are serious

This week, in their explorations of numbers, the children have shown ways in which they try to construct their own knowledge and achieve understanding within the context of reciprocal relationships with their peers and their teachers to create important connections for themselves. The process of learning involves making connections and relationships between feelings, ideas , words and actions. Through the course of making these connections, and guided by the belief that learning is a spiraling process in which ideas, opinions, and thoughts must be expressed again, children consolidate their ideas, thoughts and feelings into meaningful and cohesive wholes. Having good number sense involves an understanding of the many relationships that exist among numbers, but also the children show how they connect feelings and have empathy with and for numbers. I find it so beautiful the ways in which children, as they learn, don’t separate imagination from cognitive or the emotional from rational.

Some thoughts and images about numbers from the children:

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What images does ‘ten’ make in your mind?

“10 cupcakes at home.”
“A clock, 10 o’clock.”
“10 smiley faces.”
“10 circles.”
“10 on the number chart.”
“10 butterflies.”
“10 triangles.”
“10 lego men.”
“5 triangles and 5 triangles, so 10 triangles.”
“I see a 3D ten.”
“5 columns of two triangles to make 10 triangles altogether.”

What do you know about two digit numbers?

“Like 2 digit numbers are like 2 numbers joined together into one number.”
“2 digit number is like a 1 and 1 is eleven.”
“It’s like maths, 2 numbers sticked together, like 89.”
“It helps you to learn about different numbers, like 1 and 8 makes 18. You make different kinds of numbers, very hard numbers.”
“How about a 1 and a 2, it is twelve.”
“2 digit numbers start from 10 and end at 99. Then there are 3 digit numbers. And before 10 there are 1 digit numbers.”
“After 2 digit numbers comes 3 digit numbers like 100. After 3 digit numbers comes 4 digit numbers like, 3025. 4 digit numbers are very serious. I like numbers.”
Digit numbers keep on going. Numbers never end.”

Numbers are lovely…..

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A beautiful, important and interesting design

So we had four possible designs with common threads of friendship, dancing and beautiful things such as rainbows, flowers and insects. I was excited to see what the children would decide for their chosen design.

The designs were placed in front of us all and the children were asked to comment on them, maybe offering a definitive choice of what we should use – although with trepidation because exclusions is a delicate situation.

The children were very complimentary of all the designs. It was agreed that Amon and Violet would take all of the elements that were considered to be important and construct a design to include ideas and images from all. A challenging responsibility but one which they rose to with care and sensitivity.

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“Shall we do it butterflies dancing on top of the rainbow?”

“This is the daddy and the flowers, and i’ll make a beetle.”

“What about flowers?”

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“And the baby flower, where is the baby?”

“And I’ll make a ladybird here.”

“Maybe I draw a bird here. Tree for bird and nest and eggs. Apples. I’m making an apple tree. Worm getting out of the apple.”

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Amon and Violet shared their proposed design to the group which meet with approval and acknowledgement that they had successfully included a little bit of everybody’s suggestions.

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“It makes me happy.”

“It makes me hot.”

“Lots of colours.”

“Beautiful.”

“It’s not really my favourite.”

“This one is squares.”

‘It has lots of colours, and it makes me feel a bit silly, like the blue and the orange.”

“The one with lots of colours that make me feel too excited. When we did the butterflies we learnt about colours that make me feel calm and colours that make me feel excited.”

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“Calm.”

“Nice.”

“The second one is my favourite because it makes me feel calmer.”

“This one is more beautiful with fresh trees.”

“Calm and sleepy.”

“The green one is nice and calm and I like it.”

Colour and emotion – what is the relationship?

We can take make suggestions from artitsts and take a moment to look at products to catch the suggestions that artists, give us with their super sensitive antennae. The children are sensitive to the nature of colour and how colour sings and expresses itself through various hues  Showing the children some examples of how other artists use colour helped them to consider their ideas about colours and emotions and then make the connection to how they would like to feel in our class library. I suppose that particularly to the children, a colour is not a colour unless it possesses an expressive identity. There exists a certain poeticness to colour and children can be excited by their evocative , expressive power.

“We should do a calm one. Calm one had blue, green.”

“We wanted to feel calm in the library, not running around.”

“I would use blue green and blue violet because they look beautiful together.”

“You could use a green pencil and a blue pencil on it, use it sideways, light.”

“It needs to feel fun.”

“Calm.”

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This discussion helped the children to make thoughtful and intentional choices about the colours they chose for the design of the mosaic. This exercise in colour shows that the children have a natural love of colour and respond to it spontaneously. Their choices offer to us a design with  harmony, serenity, attractiveness, luminosity and cheerfulness. They gave  preference to a modulation of hues, half-tones, hybrid colours.

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Combining images

How can these images be combined in such a way as to produce a meaningful relationship?

“Put all of them in a circle and have a vote, like we did with the books.”

“In pieces of paper write it then you put the name like Amon’s beetle or Violet’s butterfly and put it in a line and see what people stand behind and see what people want.”

“Combine the ideas. If Violet’s was here, if they made bits of a sun they could combine them, like a puzzle.”

“Maybe we could just agree to each other. Talk to each other.”

“What if we take one butterfly for Violet , one piece of drawing from  everybody and put it together. Choose from everybody and take the thing that we like.”

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The composition phase is most delicate. The various subjects conceived at the beginning by children as a large collection need to enter into a meaningful relationship, a procedure that is made more difficult by the collective design process.

We used the traditional method of photocopying the drawings, changing the size, cutting them out and placing them on base sheets to try out different compositions. In small groups the children began constructing their draft designs. The children could move the pieces around in the space, trying out different relationships and compositions. Glue was only used when the composition considered most suitable had been chosen. We also took photographs of the trials.

So we had four possible designs with common threads of friendship, dancing and beautiful things such as rainbows, flowers and insects. I was excited to see what the children would decide for their chosen design.

The designs were placed in front of us all and the children were asked to comment on them, maybe offering a definitive choice of what we should use – although with trepidation because exclusions is a delicate situation.

The children were very complimentary of all the designs. It was agreed that Amon and Violet would take all of the elements that were considered to be important and construct a design to include ideas and images from all. A challenging responsibility but one which they rose to with care and sensitivity.

 

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“We can make it calm and beautiful!”

Every day the children experience a myriad of encounters with materials where they explore how  materials behaviour, how they can use them and possibilities to change them. The children bring a wealth of experience to the mosaic project. The idea for the project arose when the children were constructing butterflies to hang in the library to create an atmosphere of warmth, beauty and comfort. As we embarked on our focus on materials and their properties it seemed timely to draw on this suggestion from the children and delve into it more deeply. This is a project that we worked on over two months in collaboration with Jen Krembs our Atelierista. This project connects with so much of what we have been thinking about over the year – including our unit of inquiry into the properties of materials, continuing ideas about making the library a beautiful and welcoming space, finding ways to learn with and through each other and finding ways to collaborate and relate to others.

What materials could we use?

The children initially offered suggestions about possible materials and ways of working in order to construct a mosaic. An interesting discussion ensued and below are some of the comments,

“Cement is very hard and you can not even break it.”

“It’s hard, like stones because stones are strong just like cement.”

“Iron is harder. Iron or stone for making it. We can make a stone thing and put the cement in the stone.”

“We need to make the parts really stick. We could put these materials on it and then put iron on it. Iron can make these kind of materials stick.”

“You could put some stuff on it and put plastic on it and put melted plastic on it. Melted plastic might stick to wood.”

“We can paint the stones.”

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“We should have all of us make it so it’s fair.”

“Wood. Whenever me and my friends go to the Atelier we use wood and plastic.”

“We can make a design, we can make swirly stuff. We can use rocks. Paint them and put them on and put iron.”

“But how could we stick it?”

“But I know how to choose the thing to stick. We just have to agree together. Which ones (materials) the best ones? We can find the materials.

“How can we stick everything on the back of the thing? I have a good idea for the spiral, these glass.”

“Baby rocks and sand.”

“Sand is a good idea.”

“Jewels.”

“For the metal, glue the magnet to the wood. When it is dry you can put the metal on and pull it off. It could be like a puzzle.”

“We can use these stones, tiles.”

“With clay we can make tiles. I can make tiles with clay.” (Kaiwen)

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The conversation took a different turn as some of the children reflected on the colours that had been carefully chosen for the butterflies that are already hanging in the library space.

“When we were going to make our butterflies we choose two colours.”

“We choose calm colours.”

“Blue , green and purple and violet. It was light colours.”

“The bright colours make us too hot, the blue colours make us calm, the other colours make us happy.”

“We should put the sunset colours in the background.”

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Why do you like to spend time in our library?

I felt that it would be useful to ask again about the library and how this space makes us feel, why do people like to read books in our library or spend time there?

The children describe it as a welcoming space and a place where they can enjoy reading.

 

“Because I like to read to read books and its fun.” (Haein)

“I can read a lot of books and study hard to read books.” (Jie Qi)

“Because I like the butterflies in it because it is pretty. It’s calm.” (Jaya)

“I feel calm.” (Malak)

“Because I like to read books. I like to read books so much and see what the story is about.” (Kshitij)

“Because I like reading books and the pigeon drives the bus.” (Nalin)

“Because we get to pratise reading and we get to sound out the words.” (Grace)

“Because I can read.” (Tale)

“Because there’s lots of books and everybody can read now and everybody can take turns at reading to everybody else and there are books about birds and flying and the big year book and funny books. It feels nice and calm because of the colours of the butterflies and there are the pictures of everybody in the class. I like how the shelves are ABC and the stands for the books.” (Violet)

What are your ideas about the design?

I wondered what kind of subjects might be suitable for the mosaic?

What is the most suitable image for the mosaic?

The children were invited to  draw their ideas, subjects often acquire a clearer identity through the process of drawing

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“Butterflies, like 100 butterflies flying around. stripy animals are really poisonous. And then three caterpillars. Sunset in the background.”

“The butterfly is flying into the flower and drinking some flower soup. One caterpillar was on the leaf and they became friends. The caterpillar has spikes.”

“There is two butterflies and they were friends and they went to the park together.”

“To make lots of insects and butterflies and flowers.”

“A spider web between bushes, a lady bird on a leaf. A worm on the grass. A butterfly and a sun.”

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“First I’m going to draw the grass. Then I’m going to draw a tree.”

“I’m going to put a sunset colours and flowers and trees and I’m going to draw the sun going down.”

“Flowers and trees and grass and a sun. The sun set is going down and the stars come out.”

“Beetle, worm, ants, tree, sun, star, grass.”

“A house, people, butterfly, flower and ants on the grass.”

“A house and my mum and my dad and then I will put some butterflies.”

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“The butterfly is flying in the garden. The birds have a lot of eggs. And the caterpillar is trying to eat the flower. And the tree is growing growing. The sun is still shining. The butterfly has beautiful wings. The flower is getting more and more beautiful. The bird like the butterfly. The bird be friends but they can’t play together because the bird has a baby. The tree already growed. And then it becomes a beautiful garden.”

“The sun is going down. The butterflies are trying to think what to do for their butterfly garden. They went to school and told the teacher why are the butterflies growing up so quickly.”

“The butterflies are trying to think what to do. They go to school. The teacher give them something, a seed to grow the flower. The flower grow and grow. The butterfly is happy and drink it.”

“I am making an aeroplane and a hotel and a person and a green mountain and a blue sky and a sun.”

“Flowers, paper stars to stick on, sun and wind, sky. I’m going to do some more and apartments.”

“I drawed stars, cloud, sun, butterfly, my dad and my mum and flower and a tree with birds, apples and spider.”

“I did a pattern on the caterpillar and a snail. A flower blocking the ants and the caterpillar.”

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The children represented things they consider to be beautiful, important and interesting.

We seemed to reach a clearer definition of the image that could then be developed. The important elements seemed to be that it would be beautiful, that the colours should be predominately blues, greens and purples to blend with the butterflies that are already hanging and nature seemed to be an underlying theme. Images of butterflies, beetles, ladybirds, caterpillars, all the creatures the children delight in finding in the gardens outside and of flowers and plants.

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“The year book is for everyone! Even the teachers!”

A Learning Community

“Education will vary with the quality of the life that prevails in a group.” 

John Dewey, Democracy and Education

Much, if not most of the learning that goes on in and out of schools happens through interactions of groups. The desire to learn from and with others is so powerful that children find ways to learn from and with one another. Recently we have been discussing our pages for the Year Book and through these discussions I really got a sense of how the children understand that they are part of a learning community and that we can learn from each other. The opportunities we provide for detailed dialogues, conversations and commentaries between children and children and adults have changed the nature of the relationships and interactions. The children are willing participants in discussions we make in the class and they can lead and share responsibility. With great seriousness they embarked on the collaborative task on making decisions about our Year Book pages.

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We began by thinking about what a year book was,

“Yearbook is a thing that you all did. You have to write it down. Like a diary or something.”

“It has year pictures and stuff and it’s a book about the year and people get to sign on it. People can sign their names because I signed my name on someone I know.”

“A year book is very important. You can learn with it.”

“Everybody gets one.”

“I know now, I have one at home!”

The children made a democratic choice about the layout by organising a people graph and interpreting which layout was the most popular. The children who did not get their choice accepted the class decision.

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We had been asked to construct some statements about learning in our class. The children made thoughtful contributions which showed how much they have grown over the year. The children are speaking up more in small and large group activities and in other situations.What is more noticeable is that their talents and capabilities are becoming more visible and the growing understanding that they each contribute to the learning of the group.

“Making friends and playing together. I was trying to make lots of friends. They help me to make something.”

“Important is learning and doing drawing and books.”

“When the High School came to measure us was important.”

“Making friends, sharing stuff and playing together. Shaking hands. Dancing together. Hugging and friends are important.”

“I learn to be kind to everybody and help them when they fell down. I found it out, how to be kind.

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“I learn from the music room, how to sing.”

“I learn good because I do home school links.”

“I learn in KB sharing and talk nicely.”

“When the High School came and helped us learn to measure.”

“Make exercise and play and swing together and having fun.”

“Building aeroplanes.”

“Learning with friends. When I don’t know something I can ask my friends.”

“Learning with new friends and on the monkey bars.”

“I learn because I listen and everybody listens too.”

“Playing outside makes you learn. Getting more energy so you are not tired and it’s good for your brain.”

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The next step was to consider the types of photographs the children would like to be featured.

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“We need all of the people even you (Clair). Pictures of our buildings and stuff.”

“In the big one we can have all of us together and the teachers.”

“Us singing.”

“Dancing.”

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“Outside being a Chinese dragon.”

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“Playing on the monkey bars. Me and Aahana.”

“Playing outside.”

“Doing some stuff.”

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“Pictures of sharing and playing together.”

Some of the children borrowed a camera from the library and worked hard to photograph each member of the class. Photographs were selected from many and shared with the group. The children were really appreciative of their friends photography efforts and showed genuine delight in the images chosen.

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“I really like the pictures of me and Jaya and Malak and Tale. I like the shots and I like Violet’s and the backgrounds.”

“I like Jaya’s picture because it’s like sunset colours. It’s a little bit dark. And Jaya looked very nice in that picture. Jaya’s was the mostest goodest.”

“Grace’s picture is nice and Jaya’s. I like it. I think Haein’s picture is nice. The first picture of Haein and Aahana was good too.”

“I like Jaya’s and Grace’s because they are smiling.”

“I like Grace’s and Jaya’s because Jaya’s is shiny. I like the first one, Aahana and me. I like Kshitij is silly in the whole wide world. And Maya carefully reading the picture and the word. The pictures so beautiful and nice.”

“I like Jaya’s face because it was different colours. It was bright and dark and I like all the smiling faces.”

I was touched by the sensitive and mature way the children made decisions about their Year Book pages and the way in which they seemed to sense the beauty of being a member of a learning community. Individuals who learn to listen, who acknowledge and respect diverse points of view, who work with others to solve problems and who can interpret and understand the world in increasingly complex ways will make for a brighter future.

 

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