Friday, October 31, 2014

Knowing vs Understanding

I love fall. It has become much more interesting to me since I moved to Tennessee several years ago.

In my former home, the trees didn't really change color or do that cool autumn thing. Sometime in mid-November or so all the leaves would turn brown. One day (or night) a wind would blow through and all the leaves would be off of the trees. That's it. (A comedian said that you would hear a loud WHUMP one night and the leaves were off the trees the next morning.)

Then we moved to Nashville. Our first October here we saw trees begin to change to yellows and oranges and reds. My wife and I would drive around town, looking for colorful trees. "Look at that one!" we would practically shout at one another. Such wonderful color.

As I drove home the other day and saw a variety of colors in the background, I thought about that first fall here. I still love to see the trees change. I still smile at the bright yellows and oranges.

You see, I knew about fall. The leaves change colors. They flutter to the ground. People rake piles of leaves. Kids play in them. They get everywhere. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I saw the calendars and photos. I knew what fall was.

But then I experienced it. I saw trees change - first a few leaves and then more and then the entire tree. I now pick leaves from the windshield of my truck and watch them blow out from the bed as I drive down the road. I think about raking them...and then don't. I now understand what fall really is, at least more than I did before.

That reminded me of teaching kids. We can tell kids information. Kids can know facts. They can tell us all kinds of things. But do they understand what they know? How can we help them understand it? They must experience it.

They must see butterflies emerge. They must mix red and blue to get shades of purple. They must connect those odd shapes to sounds - understanding that those letters make their names. They must have context. They must experience it.

Do your kids know? Or do they understand?

What do you do to get kids to experience and learn? How do you make it hands on?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Painting That's Not Painting

I love to paint with young kids. I enjoy seeing them explore and try new things.

But I know many teachers of young kids that struggle with painting. They don't want to do it or they do it reluctantly. They don't want to make a mess or to lose control.

This week we did an activity that I think these paint-shy adults would enjoy. And their kids will, too.

We drew on coffee filters with washable markers. We used just red, yellow, and orange. (These colors coordinate with our talking about fire. They are great autumn colors, too.)

Kids drew whatever designs they wanted. They used one, two, or all three colors as they chose.

When they were finished drawing, they "painted" over the drawings with water. We used watercolor brushes to better control the amount of water that was applied.

The paper towel under the coffee filter was just to catch all the "bleed through." But most kids liked those designs, too, and took them home.

One boy wondered what would happen if he put a paper towel on top. So we tried it. He took home three designs!

I don't mind a mess. But we really enjoyed this less messy "painting" activity. And watching the lines blur and spread.

We always try to remember to write our names. One thing we learned: write your name before you paint with water. The pencil won't blur and it's hard impossible to write on wet coffee filter.

Some great paintings that really were not paintings!