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.
“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.
I’ve been on a quest to explicitly tease out the connections between bookarts and math, This is the third summer I’m with groups of children who will be entering kindergarten in the fall so it was fortuitous that I saw this article https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/early-math-equals-future-success/ about things to think about when doing projects with the very young. The fact that Graham Fletcher gave it a thumbs up encouraged me to read this article carefully.
Am I looking too much at the fact that a Clements is supporting a Clements? Nonetheless Nicole….the article is spot on and thanks for sharing.
The first thing about the article that caught my attention was that “math gets an average of only 58 seconds per day.” in the average pre-school and kindergarten classes. So, even though I get only an hour a week with each of the groups, this time may actually be meaningful to these kids.
Here are a few ideas from the article that I am working on addressing:
“,,,kids who learned shapes and spatial skills also showed pronounced benefits in math and writing readiness.”
Shapes and spatial skills: this makes me think of paper-folding and books. (Yes, everything makes me think of paper-folding and books. So be it)
I had just come across a great way to make a paper bag, a way that seemed just right for the very young. During my first session with the kids we made these bags out of newspaper. You can see them in the first photo of this post. We’ll makes more of these bags the next time I see these kids, but next time I will use prettier papers.
The key things I want kids to actually SEE is:
the alignment of the middle fold lines when folding up the flap (fourth drawing above), so that the flap folds up evenly all the way across, and
how to judge folding an edge the paper so that the doubled over side is about the same size as the not-doubled over sides (as in the sixth drawing above). This folds the paper in thirds, but of course I didn’t attempt to talk about thirds to four- and five-year olds. They don’t grasp the IDEA of thirds, but they have no trouble seeing it.
I also want them to experience how they can, by themselves, transform a piece of paper into a bag. Making these bags was a delight for these kids.
We did talk about numbers, and did some counting, but we didn’t do rote counting. Instead, all the counting we did was related to counting ourselves. There were 10 children and three more. First we counted the children, then I asked them to guess what number we’d get if we included everyone in the room. It was fun to hear all their answers. Some children were “right” but I made sure to tell all the kids who weren’t “right” that all answers with are important because they are all on the path to the truth.
I have a thing about number lines. When I can figure out a way for the kids themselves to arrange themselves into a number line, well that’s the best. For this first time I let them arrange themselves by whatever means worked for them. They don’t all know the numbers, or understand this arrangement but, I found out that most of these kids know their numbers. The next time we do this I will intervene by asking them to use words only, rather than words that rely on gestures, to arrange themselves. Doing this aligns with the article I mentioned above: “ Clements urges parents and teachers to teach kids what he calls the “Language of space” – words like front, back, behind, top, bottom, over, under, last, first, next, backward, in, on, deep, shallow, triangle, square, corner, edge, etc.”
I never know how much we can do in a session, but I’m hoping to make this little four-page counting book with the kids: more spatial practice, more practice with the ability to “… identify the number of items in a small group”, a way to have a conversation about shapes, and, yeah, I just like making books with kids.
There are more things I am thinking about, will be thinking about with these summer projects, but now I have to get back to work prepping for tomorrow’s class.
Sometimes it feels like the universe is conspiring to remind me of connections.
Years ago I played around with decorating papers with colored bubbles.
“Bubble marbling” is a simple technique that can create some really fun images. I’ve hardly ever done this with kids because it can get really messy. I did teach it in an adult workshop at Dieu Donné Papermill, NYC many years ago. It caught the eye of Helen Heibert, and, in 2001, she included an image I made with a brief description of the technique in her book, Paper Illumninated, which is a gorgeous collection of instructions about making paper lanterns.
Yesterday I showed this bubble technique to groups of kindergartners. By delightful coincidence, I also heard from Helen Hiebert yesterday.
Helen is still making paper lanterns. With the proliferation of LED light strips and other safer options for illumination, paper lanterns make so much more sense now then they did it 2001. Helen was telling me about the on-line course she is teaching, which sounds fabulous, so I am sharing this info with you, too before going on about bubbles any further.
While it doesn’t appear that she showing any bubble marbling this time around, she is teaching an impressive array of projects that include paper cutting, tessellations, and pop-ups. I am happy to spread the word about this. You can allow yourself to be inspired by looking a video she made at http://www.helenhiebertstudio.com/classes/
You can learn about the bubble marbling from me. Now.
While it’s not required, it’s not a bad idea to dress up before making a mess. This sets a mood, but it also protects clothing.
Here’s what to do: put about a tablespoon of paint (tempra, acrylic, any strong pigment but not ink because you would need too much) in a fairly shallow container, preferably round. Add bubble mixture. I buy this ready made, or make it with Ultra Dawn, water, and a touch of glycerin. Now mix the paint REALLY REALLY well with the bubble solution. Place a straw in the bubble solution, blow gently, like blowing bubbles into milk. Make the bubbles just high enough to be above the rim of your container. Then GENTLY lay a piece of paper onto the bubbles and remove.
That’s it. They dry fast. You can overlay colors on top of each other. So much fun. But there’s more. There’s something to notice.
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.