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Posts Tagged ‘Found materials’

September is for new beginnings. This year, I have another new classroom… and it is not as appealing as some of my previous classroom in its aesthetics. The light gets absorbed by the dull green walls, cupboard doors are missing in various units, the paint is peeling, and the chalkboards are faded and marked with residue of tape.

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Hard lines.

 

Divergent green walls.

Divergent green walls.

 

Storage without doors.

Storage cupboard without doors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first priority for my new room was making it as appealing as I could using some “found” materials. I brought in baskets, containers of shells, glass jars, hanging beads, a small carpet, two (plastic) Muskoka chairs and burlap. This is a grade 6/7 classroom. I wanted to create spaces to allow for some movement away from their regular seating. Currently we have 31 desks, however tables have been ordered and are expected to replace the desks within the month. So, I focused on a library with seating area, a carpet for gathering/discussions, and an atelier or art studio.

The room has a cloak room that runs along the back of the classroom with two entries. The storage cupboard wasn’t needed, and is adjacent to a window. It seemed a secluded yet observable area for a small table with a couple of chairs, to allow for exploration with a variety of materials. So the shelves have been filled with materials that are accessible to the students who want to use the area.

Shelves in the centre of the room along the wall under the windows were previously holding a variety of dictionaries and textbooks. I moved these to the back counter and created a fiction and non-fiction browsing library with labelled bins for organization and an area to display some larger hard cover texts. The chairs are set facing the shelves (and the windows), inviting students to this space. During our reading workshop, students are selecting these seats for reading and also for meeting to discuss work during other times in the day.

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Class library.

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View of atelier from classroom.

Atelier

Atelier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although I was temporarily tempted to hang posters and “decorate” the room to brighten it up, it has evolved quickly in the last week to include the materials that students can use to inspire and support their work that is taking front stage and hiding the peeling paint.

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As I mentioned previously, this is a newly acquired space for Kindergarten. Unfortunately,the environment has to evolve and develop while resources and time becomes available. There are many details and layers to add as I work with the children, but the following photos document the most basic changes to an area as it has changed in the last two months.

The building blocks are an integral part of the Full-Day Kindergarten program. In September, I was provided with a large library book bin to hold blocks. When the big blocks arrived I placed them in the bin, and the children used the carpet to build on.

 

The box lasted about two weeks. The taller children were able to reach inside and access the blocks, but some of them were dangling from the sides and I envisioned them falling head first as they were independently attempting to use the blocks. So, I moved the bin out of the classroom and rethought the space. There are built in shelves under the window that I could use to hold the blocks. So this was the second major change for the building area.

 

This new area was beside the math centre. There was no clear divider, so I would need to find a unit to define the areas. The blocks were now visible to the children and at their level to see and access easily. I observed the children as they used the area and I noticed that their space was smaller, but they were working more collaboratively with the same number of students. To anchor the space and make it more inviting, I searched for a carpet that would fit the space.

After asking friends (which they are used to) for a carpet they were no longer in need of, my friend provided me with a great carpet. It fit the space, and the colours of black, green, and beige were neutral to fit with the materials. I then moved a small bookcase to use as a shelving unit for the math centre, and the back of the unit defines the space for the building area. There is a basket of clipboards that will be introduced soon to encourage drawings of plans and finished products. There are also baskets for recycled materials (paper towel tubes and boxes) that can be incorporated into the builds. The children also often use manipulatives such as cubes and counters to integrate with their structures. The biggest change I noticed after adding the carpet was that girls were selecting the building centre more than previously. The carpet provided comfort to an inviting space.

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I have returned to teaching kindergarten, but it is my first experience with full-day kindergarten. September has been a month of community building and establishing routines. I knew it would be like this, but from where I left in June with my Grade 1 & 2 class, I need to remind myself that things will be different (especially for the first few months!).

My classroom has been a challenge, as it was formerly a Special Education classroom and is a basic rectangular room with little architectural detail. Although it is October and I know in my mind’s eye how the room should look; being at a new school and with limited resources it is taking longer than I expected.

The art studio is always one of the first areas of the classroom that I like to develop. So many children feel comfortable in this area and are able to demonstrate their skills and interests. In the first two weeks, the students were creating pictures with a full assortment of markers. I wanted to observe their representations of a natural object using a controlled palette. So, I set up a small table with a vase of hydrangeas, as well as a jar of pencil crayons in an array of pink, green, and brown shades.

The results were as I imagined. The children showed more use of detail, such as the outline of the vase and the distinct stems. They also considered the appropriate colours when presented with a limited selection.

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In a Grade 1 and 2 classroom, children are more selective about where they sit and what they do. I have noticed this difference coming from a Kindergarten classroom, where many children just talk to whoever happens to be sitting beside them. To encourage collaboration as well as support our theme of inquiry regarding hope, textiles, and communities around the globe – I brought in a make-shift loom. The children had shown an interest in weaving after seeing a demonstration at a museum during a class trip. This loom is set in the centre of the classroom, not a corner. It is placed on a table with two chairs intentionally placed on either side as an invitation.

It is interesting to observe the unlikely partnerships that have collaborated together at the loom. Without instruction, they have slowed down to collaborate and weave using one shared piece of fabric.


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Keeping an eco-approach to our learning helps direct our art activities in the classroom. I have steered away from construction paper and pipe cleaners in the last few years and moved towards a collection of found materials. The book, Beautiful Stuff: Learning with Found Materials by Cathy Weisman Topal and Lella Gandini is a great starting point if you want to learn more about integrating found materials into your program. If you are looking for something more, Lella recommended the following book to me at a conference earlier this year, Children, Art, Artists: The Expressive Languages of Children, the Artistic Language of Alberto Burri by Reggio Children.

The art projects pictured here, integrated learning in language and visual art. Instead of making picture frames, the children created stands using recycled thread spools. A controlled palette was provided with an assortment of buttons, shells, and pearls. The children created individual pieces that were then used as gifts for their families.

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johnaleslietdsb

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