summer art/math

# Big Book Playground for 5 year olds

These five year-olds that I am seeing once a week this summer keep exceeding my expectations. I’m trying to engage them with relevant, age appropriate concepts, but they mostly seem to be at least one step ahead of where I expect them to be.

They will be starting Kindergarten in the fall. I am not expecting that any of them can read anything. I made this castle like construction for them so that we can play around with spatial relationships. This construction of mine has one low wall that bears the label “over”, which I wanted kids to look over. H promptly climbed over it bending one of the merlons, which made me complain. But H retorted, “but it SAYS OVER.” Grr. 5 years old.

What my thought was, for this past week, was to get the kids to pose with my castle/book such that they are acting out actions in 3D space.

I’m relying on this research https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/how-to-teach-shapes-and-spatial-skills-to-your-preschooler/    which says

“Clement, a professor at The State University of New York at Buffalo and co-author of Learning and Teaching Early Math, advises parents to use shape and space words, such as behind, under, deep, last, backward, triangle, and corner, in your daily interactions with your young kids. According to Clement, by saying things like, “Look, I cut your cheese sandwich into triangles,” and “I hid your shoes behind the sofa; can you find them?” you’re “mathematizing” your child through daily routines.”

The time goes so fast in these sessions. I think about ways to leverage our work/play so that it  resonates  To make the most out of our time together, what I am doing is taking photographs of the children posing with the castle, with the shapes, and with each other, then slide the images into Photoshop to create coloring book pages.

I will make copies for the kids, with a simple binding. Haven’t done this coloring book kind of thing before. Hope it works out. So far, it’s pretty adorable.

# Flowers, Shapes, and 4- & 5-year-olds

It’s summer. We’re surrounded by nature here in rural upstate New York.

There’s no question that I want the kids that I am working with to play with plants.. I haven’t had much practice with using summer-time foliage in my workshops. Well, I have more practice now.

I tried out a couple of ideas with my groups of soon-to-be-kindergartners. The little figures pictured here are the second project we did with things gathered from my backyard. I can’t stop looking at them, I like them so much.

I have goals that this project fulfills. I want the children to use their fingers mindfully, which is necessary to place the materials just so. I want to notice the shape of plants, including learning that most plants have round stems but mint plants have square stems, which they can feel when rolling the stems between their fingers. I want to talk to them about the names of plants. One of children surprised me by knowing the names of many of the plants: his “Nona” taught him.

The first plant related project I did with these kids had to do with geometric shapes. I found out that straight lines and plants don’t go together well.

Because I’ve done projects like this with numbers and letters, it seemed just fine to me to expand into doing shapes. Wrong.

I realized too late that doing geometry with plants is different than using plants so make numbers. The defining difference for these projects is that a wonky number 5 is still a five, but a wonky square is something entirely different from a square.

I compensated for the geometric imprecision by photoshopping in the requisite shapes.

I brought these photo reproductions of the childrens’ work in the week after we made them. I loved how the kids were up for me challenging their logic: What are these shapes? Triangles! Are they the same shape? NO!!! Huh? But you just told me they are both triangles, so they must be the same shape?!?! NO!!?! They’re different shaped triangles!

Tomorrow is the last day I see these kids. I will be bringing in cards with the flower people on them, and we’ll play a game with them that works on using words that describe relationship and position. I’ll be taking notes and writing about how that goes.

In the meantime, I’m just loving looking at these pictures.

# Counting to Ten

Today I did a numbers project with students who haven’t quite reached the number 10 yet in their studies. They have gotten as far as number 8. These are Pre-k students, all around the age of four years old.

My thinking here is that I want these students to create a visual that connects the numbers that they are learning to the fingers that they count on.

This is standard size copy paper, folded in half, so that students might be nudged into tracing each hand  in each half of the page.

Here’s something I found interesting: I’ve worked on this project with three pre-school teachers so far, and each of them were surprised that the students did so well with the tracing.

These children sometimes mentioned that they might need help tracing their other hand, but no one actually received or needed help.

After tracing, students labeled their finger tracing with numbers, then crayons were distributed.

I asked students to trace over their pencil lines.

It was quite wonderful to see how carefully they considered their color choices for their numbers and hands.

What started happening next in this class was a complete surprise to me.

Some students started to embellish their handiwork with ornament and drawings.

When these happy faces started showing up on the hands, I was delighted. What a great image for this student to carry around in her head, happy hands counting her numbers.

These four year-old students were completely engaged in this project, and I was enamored by their work. If you are interested in knowing more about why I would do this project, look at an article I’ve written, called Starting at the Beginning which was published in an on-line teaching artists journal ALT/Space.  This journal is full of a diverse cross-section of artists who are doing all sorts of dynamic, educational work. I highly recommend that you take a look.

In the meantime, smile when you count.

Addendum: April 12, 2015   Just came across this article that discusses why students should use their fingers for counting. http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/04/why-kids-should-use-their-fingers-in-math-class/478053/