Teaching for Understanding
What is understanding?
How does it develop?
How might we know it when we see it?
What can we do to create learning environments that support and nurture the development of deep understandings?
-From Making Learning Visible p307
Using pictures of children's investigations, actions, and interactions, recording their words... can reveal the genesis of ideas and then in being shared with others, can lead to new thoughts, questions, and discoveries.
Since we were making ice cream with the children today, I thought it would be meaningful for the children to include big blocks of ice in the water table. It seemed like it would connect very nicely (So very teachery of me)! I was anxious to discover what they would say about the ice, or how they would interact with it.
However, once again the children taught me that they make their own connections.
A big block of ice magically appearing in the water table holds NO meaning for them. The children in both classes quickly dismissed it moving it aside in favor of the funnels, seals, or cups.
How could I change their perspective? Perhaps it would create more meaning if they were to choose a container, fill it with water, and put it in the freezer. Then, we retrieve it the following week to "see what happened?"
Of course, this might be difficult with the small amount of freezer space we have available???
It did become clear to me that the children are still deep in the midst of funnel investigations. They did not require anything extra this week in the water table.
So, we will wait a few more weeks before trying additions of ice.
The pictures above and below perfectly illustrate the children's desire to understand the funnels.
B. asked her mother to hold the funnel.
Her mother showed her how she could place the funnel in one of the holes of the shelf and it would hold itself.
Then B. worked carefully to try and place her cup below the bottom of the funnel.
She seemed to indicate she wanted to pour water through the funnel and catch the water with a different cup at the bottom.
This was a complex task that required some extra coordination from Mom.
B. moved on quickly to a different task after this one was completed.
Did we provide enough (or too much) support to create understanding for B.?
What was she trying to understand?
What will happen during next week's class at the water table?
We plan to plant our indoor garden with grass seed. In order, to maximize the meaningfulness of this experience, I wanted to provide the children with an opportunity to explore this new material by itself.
Children can't be expected to understand planting a seed until they've had time to explore the seed itself first.
The children poured seeds, smelled the seeds, some even tasted!, and you can see they used their sense of sight to carefully and closely explore this new material!
Carpentry is an area of deep interest by children and adults of all ages.
The children were able to show us that they already understood a lot about the "language" of carpentry.
Looking at the pictures we can see that the children understand:
- How to hold the hammer
- How to turn the hammer around to extract the "nails"
- You must hold the "nail" with one hand and hammer with the other to get it started.
Questions and observations were also made by the children.
B's Mom recorded her daughter saying:
"Look it goes down!"
"Where is it going?"
"One go up, one go down."
We read the Story, "Not a Box" by Antoinette Portis.
I hoped it would spark the children to "think outside of the box"!
Children are quiet adept at doing so because they don't have preconceived notions of what they are supposed to do.
We encourage that way of thinking by giving them materials and toys that have multiple possibilities. Consider a motorized children's vehicle toy that looks and sounds and drives just like a real vehicle. This type of toy does all the "thinking" for the child. A box can be turned into not only a car, a house, a train, a fort, the options are endless. But... the child has to be able to imagine these possibilities and maybe even possibilities no one has thought of yet!
B.'s caregiver paid close attention and wrote down what B. was saying:
"I chose the big one!"
"It's not a car, this is an airplane...this is a bubble gum!"
"Go to the Choo Choo train!"
"We are here! It's Disney Land!"