I am a strong believer of viewing the role of the environment as a third teacher. This is the reason why I am very passionate about setting up a mini atelier in our home. The essence of this project is to provide a space where Le Xin could engaged in what she calls "work" at her own time and pace!
I am greatly inspired by what I read from the book "Making Learning Visible" written by the team of Project Zero-Reggio Children which states that Time will be a child's greatest ally. Giving oneself time to pause, to stop for a moment and reflect, often means giving quality to the learning that takes place and the relationships that are formed.
As inspirational as it might sound, it is probably one of the hardest thing to do. As a teacher and a mum, I find that it is so difficult to achieve this big idea of giving "time" to the children in Singapore. As we all know, in a fast moving pace country like SG, everyone seems to be using words like "quick", "hurry up", "stop wasting time" and "no time" almost on a daily basis.
Nonetheless, I wish that I can provide Le Xin this sort of "time" in her early years. She grows up too fast......before I know it, she is turning two soon. I know how stressed she will be once she enters a local Primary school. For now, I just wish to be there.... as a part of her learning and to document each special process. I hope my hubby will also be one of the member of her learning to help foster competencies and discoveries. Lastly, as a family, I hope we can develop a unique and loving family culture that only belongs to us!
Alright back to her Mini Atelier.
This is the first setup, it was supposed to be a present for Le Xin to welcome her home. (finally, she could spend her time with us daily) Le Xin appears to enjoy her time working on her projects. She likes to explore the little provocations that I have set up for her. So far, I have added more materials, I try to promote sustainability by adding recycled materials. (This also helps to save a little in terms of expenses)
Let's take a closer look at what's on her table; pencils, glue stick, training scissor, eraser, sharpener, coloured markers, ice-cream sticks, white board markers, crayons and two drawing boards for her to work on :) I store some of these materials in glasses because I believe Le Xin is competent enough to handle them. Plastic cups are too light and they do not look nice to me--> aesthetically. It is extremely difficult to wash them too when there are stains. The cons about glass is the obvious fact that it is fragile but I told Le Xin each time she used the glass that she needs to be careful. Sometimes she placed the glass inside a masking tape to ensure it does not topple.
And yes! Her favourite book - Look Out Leon as well as some pictures of chameleon as provocations for the story that she was interested in. She loves using them to knock on the table :p I bought most of the stuff from IKEA!
Once again presenting my $6 bookshelf from Shop and Save! Bought a set of brushes that comes in different colours and sizes, paint of different colours and a palette, A5 construction paper and plain A4 paper!
I placed chalk of different colours for the easel and sorted them according to colours. (yellow and orange together, light and dark green together, pink and purple together, light and dark blue together as well as white chalk) I suggest that you only purchase the brand PENGUIN because it's the best! I put a small cloth beside the chalks, as I gathered that it's easier for her little fingers to wipe the chalk board with a cloth rather than a duster.
So let's find out what Le Xin has been doing at her Mini Atelier so far.....
Here's Le Xin engaging in her first painting experience using her easel. She chose the colour of the paint that she wanted to use and carefully dipped the paint brush in. Then she moved her arm slowly towards the easel and started painting.
Le Xin was observing the different strokes she could form with the use of different types of brushes. I certainly prefer her to use thin fine brushes because she tends to scoop lots of paint with fat/thick brushes but it's alright at the end of the day it's all about exploration :)
Here's Le Xin using the chalks on her easel! This mark making experience provided her an opportunity for symbolic representation. Mummy took a step back and quietly observed her moves. It all started off with lines and dots but now she is beginning to develop an interest in forming circular marks...how interesting it is to see such a progression.
This is a simple learning experience that Le Xin appeared to enjoy very much as well. She used the glue stick to spread across her A4 paper that she took from her shelf. Next, she picked up lots of glitters and sprinkled all over her paper. She observed how the glitters were stucked on the paper and she was pretty amazed by it. This was her first experience with glue at home. Not too sure if she is using glue in school too?
This photo shows Le Xin looking at the chameleon provocations that I set up for her. She took her time to look at each picture and when I asked her So Le Xin would you like to share with Mummy which one is your favourite chameleon? She looked at me and picked up the second picture. Next, she used her index finger and pointed at it.
I explained to Le Xin that a chameleon can change its colour just like how Leon in Look Out Leon did!
Then I gave Le Xin a glass of coloured ice-cream sticks for her to represent her ideas on changing of colours. Firstly, she placed an ice-cream stick on the drawing board, next she placed another ice-cream stick beside the first stick that she placed on. I facilitated by asking her the colours that she was holding on to and asked her the reasons why the colours were changing thus explaining to her the big concept about camouflaging again. For example, if she placed a green ice-cream stick, I would ask her to think of a place where the chameleon is on. I know she might not be able to answer me but the whole idea was to keep her thinking. Perhaps she might be thinking about grass who knows? Then I suggest Wow your chameleon turns green, maybe it is on something green, let Mummy guess, is it grass? I am not sure if Le Xin understand but she nodded her head and appeared to agree whahahaha!
I bought this lovely whiteboard from Daiso for just $2, it is freaking cheap and good. Le Xin spotted this new material that was placed in her atelier. She was fascinated with it so she took her blue marker and started scribbling!
Here's Le Xin trying to form a circle, round and round she moved her marker!
Then Le Xin did a bit of show and tell with Mummy after her scribbles. I facilitated with lots of questions but I can't really remember what I asked. I could recall she babbled lots of her own found words haha which obviously I could not understand most of them. However, I truly find that by getting Le Xin to share with me what she has done was indeed a great way for her to pause and think, reflect and a big boost for her confidence! Well done Le Xin!
Le Xin using her training scissor confidently to cut a piece of A5 green construction paper for her project.
Le Xin using her glue stick to stick the construction paper that she has cut and her ice-cream sticks on the paper.
Then she decorated the rest of her project with her coloured markers. She was the one who suggested to me the materials that she wanted to use.
I see my role as a facilitator; being there just to scaffold her learning. It takes a lot of PATIENCE and TRUST not to 1) Tell her what to use! 2) Tell her what to do! 3) Question/Stop her ideas from flowing 4) Hurry her 5) Hold her hand! Please believe me! It seems very easy but it is extremely difficult, afterall I live in Singapore for the past 28 years of my life. People dictate what I am supposed to do all the time, I am really not used to using such approach to teach Le Xin but obviously she has helped me in improving this area of "work" all the time. At least, I am still not using "worksheets" on her yeah?
Did you notice that this post has no photos of the end products of the learning experiences that Le Xin was engaging in? That is the point I am trying to focus on "THE LEARNING PROCESS". Scroll up and take a look at the first picture, did you see a big black corrugated board which I mounted on the wall? This is where I displayed all her drawings, paintings and creations.
I was planning to post a picture of the board with some of her work but wait! The intention of me trying to do that is all wrong but why? Was I trying to show others what Le Xin has done? What was I trying to prove? What she could achieve? How smart she was? No no no no! I kept shaking my head and telling myself that her work which I have consolidated will all go into her special portfolio file.
Her work which I have displayed on the board were meant for her to revisit the experiences and for me to fine tune on how I can improve/enhance her learning experience.....It should not be meant as a "show off" so wait till I get my intention right, I shouldn't be posting it! hahaha:p
I know some parents are particularly obsessed with how their children's work will turn out to be. Is it neat? It is up to expectation? How many ticks? How many crosses? Did the teacher put a star? Did the teacher write "SEE ME"at the end of the child's work? What was the teacher's comments? Why didn't my child draw a margin on his/her K1 spelling book? Why was the word "Spelling Test" not in the middle of the page? I could still see the word that he/she has erased, why is that so? Why is my child playing all day long in her CCC instead of engaging in worksheet where he/she can practise writing? Comparing PCF with MFS and then with LV and then with EH and then with CH........the list goes on and on...... but do these things really matter to you?
I know how these little things mean so much to many parents, yes one day these will mean a lot to me too perhaps:) Afterall all mummies and daddies want their child/children to excel and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that right?
However, I have a serious thought about these issues and soon realised that my only focus should not only be based on Le Xin's performance and achievement, providing a powerful context for learning is just as important and that is what matters to me most at this point of time.