Friday, October 2, 2015

Fall Reading - Teaching with Intention

This summer, I read and reflected in my own personal book study. I really enjoyed that process and it helped me think about and apply what I was reading. I thought that I would continue that process this fall with another book.

I asked for suggestions from my Twitter friends. I received a couple of suggestions and decided that this time I would read the book Teaching with Intention by Debbie Miller. When I read the introduction, I knew this would be a good fit for where I am now in my thinking.

Debbie Miller writes: "I'm convinced that success in the classroom depends less on which beliefs we hold and more on simply having a set of beliefs that guides us in our day-to-day work with children. Once we know who we are and what we're about in the classroom, we become intentional in our teaching; we do what we do on purpose, with good reason." (Teaching with Intention, p. 4)

This book seems to be a good follow-up to What If Everybody Understood Child Development? and the thinking that Rae Pica generated for me. While I've always wanted to teach with intention, many of my days in the classroom seemed consumed with what I was supposed to do and know what I believed I should do. I was so concerned about what we needed to explore/learn that I didn't always plan how we were going to explore/learn as well as I should.

(And I still always recommend the post that started me thinking about intention a while back, one of my favorite posts from Not Just Cute - Intention Deficit Disorder.)

I'm looking forward to reading and reflecting on this book. Please share your comments and ideas as I go, especially if you've read the book, too.

And feel free to suggest other books I should be reading. I'm keeping a list!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

We Play With Our Eyes First?

Have you heard the "rule" regarding cooking and presentation? "We eat with our eyes first." People usually say that when talking about how a plate looks - if it looks enticing and pleasing, diners will be ready to enjoy the meal.

I've been wondering if the same thing is true with activities. I read a lot about "invitations," setting up materials to invite kids to play. I certainly have a lot to learn about this. I try to place materials in a pleasing and inviting way. But sometimes just arrangement isn't enough.

Recently we had a story that included a well. I wanted kids to think about that (since it is out of the experience or knowledge of most of my kids). I thought building a well in the blocks center could be fun. (Of course, there's always choice and kids can build whatever they choose.)

I put out the blocks like always. I set the two small pails with "rope" nearby. Then I make a small "starter" well, one that could convey the idea of what I was thinking without doing the activity.

A boy came over. He's been my architect, building all kinds of structures and adapting to create just what he wants. He asked about the set-up.

"I thought we could build a well," I said. I explained what a well is briefly. "You can build something else if you want," I added.

He looked at what I had done. "I can build it better than that," he said.

He took down what I had done and began to work.

I love the finished structure. It certainly is a well and functioned wonderfully.

As I thought about this, I wondered what would have happened if I had just put out the block bin and the pails, as I often do. I try to set up materials so kids have an idea of what I was thinking they may do. I hope the materials communicate without a lot of comment from me. (More noninterference!)

I'm thinking more and more about those invitations, creating more welcoming arrangements of materials. I hope to spark imaginations or trigger ideas. (Not dictate direction.) I think the arrangement can impact the outcome.

Maybe we play with our eyes first, too.