Alex, I’ll take “Things You Didn’t Know About Mme Emily” for $100 please.

In 1984, Mme Emily strapped on the first of many pairs of these pink slippers.

Answer, for the daily double… ballet slippers!

Yes folks, from then on I was hooked… and I still am.  Now, I’m not nearly as bendy as I was at the height of my dancing days but I still value flexibility both physically and intellectually.  What’s been surprising me lately is the way that students use materials flexibly.  I’ve been astounded by the number of times I’ve discovered the children playing with something in one area of the classroom that I thought would never wander from its home.  It’s fascinating.  Children collaborate and work independently as they put materials to all kinds of new and interesting uses.

This is the bin we use for our inside shoes. Now it’s a house. You can’t see it in the picture but she also has a clipboard propped up against the wall and she was very busy writing with it.
This is a piece of driftwood I collected as a child and a stick that the children brought in from outside. It’s now a musical instrument.
Reading in the block centre… we took the shelves out so that we could fit in more blocks. It turns out they make perfect reading corners. Very cozy and great for sharing!
Turtles and dominoes no longer in the mathematics area, now being used as inventory and currency in a store… which is also a throne, I think.

Follow that play!

It’s been a busy few weeks in my life, as you may have gathered by my complete absence.  Three days of praying, one while fasting… it takes a few beats for me to wrap my head around teaching again.  What’s been catching my eye?  The diversity of play.

I’m constantly impressed by how the children use the room… they’re everywhere.  They find the most interesting corners to climb into.  They’re under my desk, in the art studio, surrounded by blocks, lying on the floor, tucked in behind the puppet theatre.  They are everywhere and anywhere.  My challenge is to follow them.

As I’ve explored documenting their play and experimentation over the past few weeks, I’ve been struck by how challenging it is to document some kinds of play and inquiry.  When children are sitting and playing or while they’re making art at a table or easel, it’s pretty easy to chat with them about what they’re doing, to take pictures and video, or to transcribe their conversations with each other.  I can eavesdrop without imposing or interrupting.  Much harder, however, is documenting play that moves around the room, that runs, that rolls, and that crawls.  I’ve been wondering about this, particularly as it relates to boys.

Ship building part 1, working together

While I hesitate to generalize, boys’ play tends to be very active.  There isn’t a lot of sitting still.  It’s a real challenge to document that kind of play.  If you were to sneak a peak into my classroom when I’m documenting you might get to see me walking or crawling while simultaneously trying to take notes, photos, and video; I wouldn’t call it graceful.  How easy would it be to miss it altogether, to assume that there really isn’t anything of value happening, to be sidetracked by the teacherly need to keep everything orderly?  I’ve been making a conscious effort to insinuate myself into this very active dramatic play – in the last week I’ve observed monsters, wolves, spaceships, pirates, and a ticket booth.  It’s an ongoing project and, as we take our first steps into outside inquiry and exploration this week, I’ll continue to struggle to figure out how to capture their active inquiry and to do their learning justice.  There’s just so much going on… it’s an embarrassment of riches.

More ship building... this time a narrow design.