teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Posts tagged ‘questioning’

Puzzling it out

Puzzles are wonderful. We all know the benefits of them in regards to cognitive skills and fine motor dexterity. We know we can encourage reluctant learners with puzzles aimed at their interests or introduce new concepts or views through divergent art styles. However, when I was sitting and watching two children do puzzles the other day, it got me thinking about how we approach problem solving. Some people never want to look at the ‘big picture’, instead choosing to work with the constants. Matching things they know together so that it all fits. It’s so logical and precise that you can see how, once finished, their pride is based on being able to compartmentalise and make the world ‘fit’ to their way of thinking.

Others know that they need space to think, they don’t want your help as they look at what is laid before them, assessing their options and coming to a solution in a more abstract way. By connecting pieces that match their memories of how things should be, they are recreating the picture.

Both are valid options. Both get the same results. It’s the process that differs. And it’s the process of problem solving that gets me thinking about learning, resolving ideas, creating opportunities and seeing things around us. I love what is happening around the world as “Occupy Wall Street” becomes an international concept, one that gets us thinking about what we see, how we reconcile what we live with what we know. What we accept as we see and what we feelย  we can achieve.

Living in this world is an ever-changing puzzle. As people and events slide around our boards, we keep trying to make it all fit so that we feel safe and stable.ย  I know it’s not easy, sometimes it feels exciting and other times it feels exhausting. But either way it’s happening and we need to ensure that our role as educators, family members and a complex society, encompasses teaching out young people to think. To understand the decisions they can make and the repercussions of their actions. To take responsibility for the little things, so that they can step up when they need to and say ‘I am owning my actions and mistakes.’

From social interactions to caring for our environment we all have choices to make and that’s why it’s so important for me to see that our children exercise their thinking skills, have opportunities to develop and discuss their ideas. After all these kids are the ones who will be looking after my world when I am old and vulnerable and I’d like to instill in them the skills and ideals of people I’d want to trust.


What’s it like at your place?

My internet connection is having all sorts of dramas at the moment and I am incredibly frustrated by the inability to post up photo stories! So you’ll just have to believe me when I say that I was incredibly proud of the connection I was able to make with this child and so happy that his Mum was able to see that! As a family new to child care, she has many worries of her own, by following up on a conversation with this activity, I hope that alleviated just one of her concerns!

It all started after Mum left and we were having a cuddle whilst discussing what activities we had available in the yard.

My young man and I talked about what he would like to do and he replied ‘I want to make a machine that turns water into food’.

And there it was. My own kids movie watching had paid off. I knew this was a movie reference and was able to ask questions that could confirm this and extend our discussion.

“what sort of food?”

“Cheeeeez Buurger”

“what does it look like?”

“It has a circle on the top and one on the bottom. A place for water to go in and a bzzzzzzz for the cheeeeezbuuurger”

“What do we need to make it?”

“First we need Yellow Paper!”

(sooo lucky that I happened to have yellow paper amongst the colours I’d put out that day!”

I quickly took notes on what was needed then drew a basic picture of the machine as he’d described it.

By now other children were becoming interested in this conversation and we went together to collect collage items so that we could all invent something.

Masking tape, scissors and glue, paper for planning and we had a class of inventors!

My man and I worked on how to connect things together as we created ‘a machine that can turn water into food!’ Facing challenges of height, balance, fit and shapes we managed pretty well to identify everything’s needs and abilities!

I even made him a ‘cheeseburger’ out of cardboard and carpet off-cuts – which he declared ‘Yum’ ๐Ÿ™‚

So as I reflect on this connection between home, family and child I feel positive and validated. Watching movies can create positive interactions with those around us, develop thinking skills, help clarify concepts and create opportunities for creative play!

After all, it’s not every day that you can say it’s “cloudy with a chance of meatballs!”

Furry and cute, but not a dog!

Lately the caterpillars have started to come out. As much as they remind me of the ‘itchy bugs’ of my youth, I welcome them now as one of the few interactions we get with animals. I’ve seen children search for them, create homes for them, gentle rotate their hands so the bugs have ‘steps’ to climb. But most of all, there is a lot of watching and discussing going on.

When this one was found it was climbing the wall, we watched as it wiggled its way upwards, marvelling at how it stuck there. Children reminded each other to be careful with it and not to squash it or hurt it, reminding each other of earlier misadventures.

One of the children grabbed a cup and gently scooped it up to be placed on the floor for more viewing.

By now, the poor caterpillar was scared and rolled up in a ball. This gave us opportunity to talk about what would make it feel more comfy, what it needed to survive and how it could stop being scared of us.

A new ‘home’ was quickly found by the kids, with exploration for leaves and food. Once our little caterpillar was moving again, I helped release him into the wild, after all it’s not fair to take a creature from its home.

But to keep a bit of a memory of our ‘pet’ we grabbed some paint pens and created images that represented our ideas and experiences with our furry little friend ๐Ÿ™‚

Shhh, don’t tell! But sometimes, working in Childcare is REALLY fun!


One of the things that every good boss should tell you, is that you really need to look after yourself. Some days at work can be stressful and demanding, but when they’re not, ENJOY them! Stepping back and letting yourself play in the now is as rewarding for the kids as it is for us.

I could see the kids in the sandpit were starting a game of burying their toes in the sandpit. Unfortunately, the recent rains had made the sand cold and it was closing in on the end of the afternoon – so I took the bullet for them ๐Ÿ™‚

I offered myself up as the one to be buried, so that they could keep their shoes on and their bodies warmer. It took no time at all for them to grasp the game ๐Ÿ™‚

You can see one die-hard fan of being buried on the left. There was no way that she wasn’t going to enjoy the sensation, so I let her. Together we became mermaids. Quite cold mermaids, packed in sand but happy none-the-less. You’ll also notice my toes poking out at the end. That’s because my friend in the stripy jumper wanted to be able to tickle my toes:) It was only when she offered to take off my hat and bury my hair that I had to start getting worried!

Although the insistence that I have large and perky ‘boobs’ had me worried that Disney may just be infiltrating our images too much! Then I remembered that just about every mermaid I’ve ever seen has been drawn in this buxom manner. Are there any older, wiser and saggier female mermaids out there? In The Little Mermaid 2 thereย  was an older mermaid. THey covered up her entire torso in a corset-like number and gave her perky boobs.

Between body image and some of the gyrating hips I see when we dance, I think it’s time to bring back in classics like the ‘shopping trolley’ and the ‘sprinkler’, cause heaven knows that my non-animated chest isn’t up for jumping about like Stephanie from Lazy Town!

Now it’s time to say goodbye…

Our little chickens have been through quite a lot this year. Surviving a night without their heat lamp on, one ‘prematurely hatched’ by a curious toddler and all the manhandling that comes about from growing up with 80 kids around you! Last time you heard about them, they looked like this.

We each took joy in watching them ‘peep’ and finally hatch. Interestingly, each chick I saw erupted into the world in their own way. Gently tapping their way out, quick exits and entries, slow and deliberate movements and the one I missed but loved hearing the story recounted about – the one who cracked their egg completely around the middle and pushed both sides out like a superhero escaping an avalanche!

I did however catch this little one confusedly making it’s way out, spine first.

Last year we had 8 yellow chicks and 2 black ones. This year we have 6 black chicks and 3 yellow (although if you count our premature hatchling, that could have made 4)

AS the chicks have gotten bigger and braver, so have the kids. The more they handle them, the more they learn to accept the skittish movements or flutters of wings whilst balancing.

We’ve even let them start to explore our bodies as we’ve learnt to sit still and quiet.

Some of the chicks have gained a bit of wing strength and can hop/fly as they travel along our bodies!

Some of us have even been gifted with the chicken making to the top of our heads! But most of us are just happy to get up close and say hello!

I’d really love to keep a couple at school for a bit longer, as the kids really enjoyed the visit from last years chickens.

It’s Electrifying!

I feel like so much has happened in the last week! I haven’t written any posts because I had a surprise visit form a friend I haven’t seen in over a decade ๐Ÿ™‚ And as everyone working with kids should know, it’s important to look after yourself and not try to do everything at once. However, I was still taking pictures and still thinking of what I was doing and what I wanted to write about.

I was enthused last month to rediscover the joys of maths with my Kindy Kids, and seeing their interest and enthusiasm fuelled a new learning area – Science and Discovery ๐Ÿ™‚ย  As it often happens in my life, when I think I’d really like to find something, the universe lays it out there for me. I was taking a detour through Kmart and happened to pass a small display of Plasma Balls. I know these are fantastic and ended up buying one for school and one for home. For those of you not familiar with them, they are usually glass balls filled with a specific mix of invisible gases that show up the electric charge being sent out by the centre unit. (google it for a more in-depth analysis!) They react beautiful when your hands, fingers and noses touch the outer ball, with the free running electrical currents coming in to focus on your touch.

Here you can see a child’s hand illuminated by the electrical connection.

The stream of ‘lightning’ will follow your fingers and share its energy between different points, if more than one hand is touching the globe.

Which is just as well really, because this previously ‘dead space’ in my classroom, is now a centre for sharing space, hypothesising and exploration!

Because of the lightning like effects, it has opened up discussions on weather and thunder, asย  well as the opportunity to ‘play’ with electricity whilst learning to be respectful of it. Which comes in handy when we want to explore the effects heat has on popcorn. We used a large electric frying pan (something I’d not done before) because it had a larger surface area for the kids to see how the popcorn reacted. It was a lot harder to shake the popcorn around in, so we did end up with more uncooked popcorn and burnt pieces than I am used to! The kids were more than forgiving as they eagerly lined up to be taste testers!

Figuring that most children would be able to connect to popcorn as a savoury we opened up our taste testing with plain popcorn, then salted, then icing sugared and finally a batch with a cinnamon-sugar topping. Smelling the ‘raw’ ingredients and connecting those to flavours and previous knowledge lead to a great discussion!

Applying the toppings is always fun and filled with complex physical skills as well as intrinsic learning – but we don’t have to tell them that ๐Ÿ™‚

Sifting and shaking take different skills, but ones that many of the children already practice in the sandpit.

I’d love to end this with a group shot of happy children trying our the flavours and picking their favourites – but it was a busy time and the camera was less important than sharing discoveries and seeing what flavours we preferred. Salt came in a solid first place, with icing sugar a close second. The Cinnamon mix was dead equal with the plain – both having only two people who counted it as their favourite…despite this, each bowl was empty at the end of the experiment! Which means it was a rather successful event, yes? ๐Ÿ™‚

Outdoor Classrooms

Our Centre is not one that can easily support indoor-outdoor play. We ensure a large amount of play time in both areas, but are just not equipped to fully supervise both areas, without putting too much pressure on staff, thereby losing quality interactions with our kids. It’s something we have learnt to work with and although we dream of the centres who can allow free flow between their indoor and outdoor learning environments, we rate the quality of our interactions and supervision higher than that wish.

Which is why I love coming across images like this on the computer ๐Ÿ™‚

This shows me that the girls from the other room have valued their children’s interest in water play and have tried to encourage it in a positive way – especially during our colder months! You can see here the old boat run we have. Some of the rubber stoppers have worn away and it is prone to leaking. It has been used for ball runs and water play in summer months, where puddles abound and the kids can enjoy the cooling water on their feet.

The children are actively involved in getting the water moving, using scoops and watering cans to add more water to the track – which extends into the sandpit and disappears until the sand forms walls that push the water further down its waterway. The concepts of maths, science, environmental effects and sharing jobs and space would all have come into play. Not that they knew the words, but they certainly learnt the ideas!

More building and construction to continue the waters flow, working together towards a common goal – not an easy task as any teacher form a two-year old classroom will tell you! This activity was done over the school holidays, so the mixย  of 3-4 year olds in with the 2 year olds probably helped with the sharing of ideas and building on the raw concepts. It’s a great activity, I wish I was there to share in the fun! But I’m so glad that this happened while I was away too ๐Ÿ™‚ It just goes to show the quality of our team, the pride they take in creating play based learning experiences, and the love they have for our kids! Well done girls!