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Month: January 2017

Eat, Sleep and Learn: In A State of Perpetual Practice

Eat, Sleep and Learn: In A State of Perpetual Practice

Practice is a kind of severe devotion… This kind of discipline creates muscle memory, but even more so, this internal sensitivity andfamiliarity with the craft opens up and sparks invention and improvisation. Any kind of regular practice makes way for discovery and subtlety, and imaginative nuance will follow. -Gail  Swanlund-

I’m starting a new unit: How We Express Ourselves- We appreciate both the patterns that occur in the natural world and the ones that we create. During my first week of pre-assessment my mind says “No, no, no–these plastic toys and manipulatives, they are eye catching and helping them to develop the concept of pattern, but I want them to observe the natural world and get inspired by the lines, shapes, and colors they see!”

I can’t begin to tell you how mixed my emotions were–most of my students are on target, as they seem to understand the basics, copying, extending  and creating models, but this unit is supposed to be about the appreciation of the aesthetic, I have to dig digger and find ways to induce a state of curiosity and wonder in order to develop creativity and expose the limits of their imagination!!

If any early years teachers accustomed to teaching 3-5 years old were to look at these photos, they would be content with the approximations and, in some cases, clear understandings of the concept of pattern in our first week of our unit.  I think these learning tools are excellent ways to develop the structure of how we can manipulate shape and color, and it also gives them practice at creating repetition in forming patterns. However, as much as I love these little people’s effort, I know if I am to continue in this vein for this unit, I am totally missing the mark of the transdisciplinary theme.

I grabbed my laminated line drawing cards and dragged our lovely art teacher into my room to help me think about my classroom design and how I can organically teach pattern in lessons. I knew as soon as I began collaborating, I was out of my depth–I am not an artist, or at least that is how I perceive myself. (God help me when I sit down with the music teacher.) Panic began to set in….

So I  have begun to convert my classroom into different “environments”. One will be “water world”, “forest world” and “human world”, respectively.  And, if I was to really nail this unit, I was going to have to work on developing my craft so I could faithfully explore the idea of the aesthetic so the kids would demonstrate higher forms of creativity and irules-coritanventiveness.

With that in mind, I have decided to embark upon a learning journey, to jump into this inquiry as if I was the student and not necessarily the teacher. I’ve signed myself up for an Introduction to Image Making MOOC  from a graphic design perspective, and start to explore how I can incorporate some of these class assignments into my classroom. As I think about this endeavor the “rules” by Sister Corita Kent really speaks to how I can approach areas of my practice which are not as I am no as comfortable and familiar with.

Since I have decided to use the context of different environments to observe patterns, I have begun to consider how I might devise different provocations in which we can look at animals and their markings. Here are just a few ideas I have for the unit during our exploration and finding out phase of the inquiry.

  • Animal tails: I was thinking about a “cover and peek” activity. Using some of the language from the Visible Thinking strategy, I See, I Think, I Wonder, we can look at pictures of animals with only their tails showing. Later, the students would be offered the use of materials like string and felt to create wavy, spotted and swirly tails.
  • Thunderstorm: I was thinking of listening to sounds of different types of storms and have the students give me words to describe what they hear.
    • Then I would give them some instruments and let them try to model what they hear. Later I would offer some drums, but I was thinking that I might cover the drum with some white paper and tape some different color crayons on it. In that way, when they are making their sounds, there would be markings on the paper.
    • Also, I plan on offering the colored water and droppers. I  was thinking that we could make rain drops using those materials, and they could watch the concentric circles form, as they drop the colored water into a tub of clear water.

These are just a couple of ideas that I was inspired with after 1 week from that MOOC. The longer I teach, the more I come to understand how important to do things that stretch me so that I not only cultivate a classroom rich in learning but that I model the growth mindset in my classroom–even if these ideas fail, at least I developed some opportunities to show the creative process over product. I want to endeavor to experience this inquiry as a participant, as much as I am the facilitator, so I am equally excited about what the students will come up with once the reins are taken off their imagination.

Community, BIG and small

Community, BIG and small

On my teaching evaluation a few years ago I got a recommendation to do community service projects with my kids. Truthfully I kind of dismissed it–I teach 3-5 years, for goodness sake–how am I supposed to do authentic community service with egocentric little ones?!!  It’s taken me a while to really take on this challenge to develop the spirit of community service into practice. However, little children can be so incredibly kind hearted and caring naturally,  I have come to the understanding that I really need to think about how I can bridge this sweetness into a larger view: the Community.

Well, this past unit seemed to be the perfect impetus for this. Our central idea was: People can help our communities by working in different ways. One of the key concepts that we were working on was responsibility, so I really wanted the kids to understand that no matter what age or ability level, we can be helpers in a community. Secondly, we were exploring the attitude of appreciation, so I wanted them to demonstrate ways that we can say “thank you” to others for their help. These 2 learning intentions solidified into a final project, in which our little classroom community came up with a way to say “thank you” to helpers in the larger community.

After much reflection and class discussion, we decided that firefighters have a really tough and dangerous job. Since it was around Christmas, we thought cookies would be a sweet treat that they would like; also, I knew it would be a selfless act to give away something that they really wanted for themselves (cookies!) to another person which would teach what it means to be of service. We also made a card with a special message to our everyday heroes.

I was really surprised that the kids didn’t complain about not tasting the cookies, and they really enjoyed making them. When we visited the fire station to deliver the cookies, we dressed up in some festive Christmas hats to spread some holiday cheer. Originally, it had been my intention to just drop off the cookies and say thank you, but the firemen would have none of that–they had to give us a proper tour of the station. Although I am not posting all of the pictures of the trip, they really went far beyond our expectations of a field trip to their station. They took us through their training courses, putting on uniforms, climbing ladders and let the kids try to operate their tools. It was awesome! Everyone really got to appreciate how hard they have to work to do their job.

After the “day in the life” of a firefighter, we gave them our present of cookies and our cards. It was an incredible experience. I hope this first experience of a community service project helps to develop the concept of giving, in which, when we give from the heart, we always get more than we give.

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Judy Imamudeen

Judy Imamudeen

Developing learners as leaders is my joy! As a highly qualified International Baccaluearate (IB) teacher and educational leader, I am committed and passionate about executing its framework and empowering students in creating a future world that works for everyone.

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