Monday, December 18, 2017

"What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child."

George Bernard Shaw

When I was in training, my trainer Ginni Sackett, gave us a metaphor that has stuck with me ever since. She said, "the classroom is like a giant clock, full of ticking parts, and you are like the clock maker, you have to get the clock to work by itself. If you are moving all the parts, you are not doing your job right." (Or something to that effect.)

Sometimes I forget the above and am like a parent following a toddler around a room with a spoonful of food trying to feed him. Except in my case it's preschoolers and curriculum, not toddlers and food. And then the image of the clock maker comes to my mind. It is futile if I am the one moving all the pieces.

This happens mostly when I am tired. I recognize it.

I remind myself of what I want to cultivate instead:

To be able to identify authentic inquiry from the children, which can only happen through my own calm presence, observation and listening.

When I identify genuine interest, to be able to give just enough information so that it is a hook to their imagination, or to put the right material in their hands, to scaffold the next piece needed to fuel that fire.

Allow enough space and time for true exploration to unfold (and patience when that exploration manifests in a way I was not expecting).

When I don't know something, to say "let's find out".

Trust that children are always learning, and that they want to learn. That their learning follows their own internal drives and directives.

I am thinking of the ways to encourage motivation, interest, will to work, the internal motor of the children to run on its own and realize that the first thing to do is not be an obstacle for it myself.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Rainy Day Games

Occasionally during the afternoons we take out a bunch of games and building material for the children to use instead of doing regular classroom work. We have these as a reserve as well for rainy days when we can't go outside to play. I've been collecting games for some years, I can't resist good games or building materials when I see them in garage sales and have found some that really work well with our 3 to 6 year olds.

This afternoon it was too rainy to play outside so we took out the games and I observed the children working with them. I saw so many great learning opportunities! I know that our classroom is the foundation that makes these games successful, but I also see many ways in which the games support the development of our normal classroom activities.

This is the learning I observed:

  • Collaboration- many of the games involve 2,3 or 4 children. (I find that more than 4 children in a game at this age makes it harder for the children to manage well independently.) Games invite collaboration and learning to work together is what it's all about.
  • Taking turns- games are a great place to develop self regulation.
  • Following rules- the games we have are mostly simple and don't have too many rules, but there are always some fundamental rules that need to be followed for the activity to work.
  • Sharing- many of the building works involve sharing space and pieces. Learning to do this successfully is challenging. 
  • Responsibility- the building materials in particular can have many pieces and involve quite a bit of cleanup. In our room whoever takes the rug and work from the shelf is the responsible one for putting the work away even during collaborative work.
  •  Language- there is so much language exchanged during collaborative building. Because there is an element of free play to these works, there is opportunity for pretend play and a lot of language use.
  • Commitment to the work- choosing a game, inviting friends to play, playing the game, finishing it and putting it away is a big job.
  •  Inviting someone to play- learning to identify who is available and asking them if they want to play with you is one of the most exercised skills during afternoon games.
  • Social flexibility. This is probably my favorite aspect of learning during games. Because there is only a certain number of children that can play each game, permutations of social interaction get mixed and children often wind up paired with others that might not normally play with.
  •  Learning to lose graciously/ Learning to win graciously.
  • Organization- setup and group management are required for the games to be successful.
  •  And finally, some games have direct educational value aside from these indirect learning aspects: exercising memory, creativity, visual skills, language skills, counting and other math skills, motor skills just to name a few.

Here is our collection of games which we have curated over the years.


  • Spot it!

  • Balancing Moon

  • Color tower 

  • Mancala

  • Suspend

  • Castle Climb (with simplified rules)

  •  Jumbolino (with simplified rules)
  • Tic Tac Toe 
  • Domino
  • Memory
Building material:

  • Marble run

  • Magnet blocks  (Magnatiles)

  • Sticky blocks (Sticky Brix)

  • Sticks and cubes 
  • Lego
  • Duplo

If you have games that have worked well with your age group, please share!