Over the past couple of weeks, we have been working on a few projects that were initiated by children, and that are great examples of how rich literacy & numeracy learning can emerge naturally from children's interests.
One of these projects involves the creation of a giant puzzle. Children have been showing interest in using the big space that we have available to us in lots of different ways, such as building a train track that stretches across all three rooms. After some of these explorations, one child came up with the idea of creating a puzzle that stretched all the way across the school.
To start working on the puzzle, a group of children gathered together to share ideas about what it could look like. Several ideas were offered...all the children in the school at a party! The characters from PJ Masks! All the colors of the rainbow! An owl eating grass! We soon realized that we could combine these ideas into one cohesive whole by creating a party scenario with both human and animal guests. I sketched out a layout, and children chose sections of the party to begin working on. Later, other children joined in as well, excitedly drawing a self-portrait to add themselves to the party.
Projects such as this one benefit children for many reasons. As an activity that places their ideas as the centerpiece of a learning experience, it provides a sense of empowerment and the capacity to be an active agent in the world. The aspect of telling a story and representing ideas visually is a cornerstone of literacy development, as well as artistic expression. As the project evolves, opportunities for measurement, math concepts, and spatial awareness also come into play, as we try to figure out where exactly the puzzle will fit in our school.
Another child-initiated project stemmed from the eternal and important questions of "Who's bringing snack today?" "When is it my turn to bring snack?" I shared with children that we have a snack calendar on the computer, and families write their name down on different days. We decided to make a calendar that we could have in our classroom that children could look at. Two children began working steadily on making calendar boxes and writing the numbers. Sometimes they got stuck, and weren't sure how to write the next number. When that happened, another child working on something else nearby would chime in to help them out.
The intrinsic motivation that is evident in these activities makes them powerful learning experiences, and mean that the new information that children encountered in their work is more likely to be retained and integrated into the children's knowledge base.
We are looking forward to showing you our work when it's finished!