my email address: yvonnelau78@gmail.com

Sunday, January 31, 2010

AESTHETICS IN NATURE


















As I was watching the children during sand play last Friday, I remembered Andy Goldsworthy. I learnt about him when I did Aesthetic in Children's Art as part of my Master in Education programme. Goldsworthy is a famous British sculptor who uses nature (including sand) as his canvass as well as medium of art.

I am sharing my journal entry here to give an insight on the beauty of nature and how we can encourage our children to appreciate it. There are many activities we can do with the leaves, pebbles, flowers, sand or even twigs around us. Guess we just need to be more creative!
(Unfortunately, I don't know how to copy the pictures in my journal. However, I've uploaded some of his beautiful creations here. I've also included a website which explains his sculptures in greater details and you can find many, many breathtaking, yet ephemeral sculptures here. Just click on the title Aesthetics in Nature and it will link you to the site. Or just type Andy Goldsworthy and search for him in Google Search!)







April 25, 2009 9.20pm
Andy Goldsworthy : The Beauty of Creation



Andy Goldsworthy is a British sculptor, photographer and environmentalist living in Scotland. He produces site-specific sculpture and land art situated in natural and urban settings. He uses natural and found objects to create both temporary and permanent sculptures which draw out the character of their environment.

The materials used in Goldsworthy’s art often include brightly-coloured flowers, icicles, leaves, mud, pinecones, snow, stone , twigs and thorns. He often uses his bare hands, teeth, and found tools to prepare and arrange most of his materials.

As most of his works are short-lived and transient, he takes photographs of each piece. According to Goldsworthy, “Each work grows, stays, decays – integral parts of a cycle which the photograph shows at its height, marking the moment when the work is most alive. There is an intensity about a work at its peak that I hope is expressed in the image. Process and decay are implicit.”

Among some of Goldsworthy’s creations is one made up of rowan leaves arranged to create a hole. The second picture is that of pebbles around a hole. The two pictures are similar in the sense that there is a value of light and dark; the gradations of light and dark on the surface of the objects.

What does the hole represent? We are curious to know what lies in the hole. There is an aura of mystery surrounding the hole.

Goldsworthy also works with sand. There are structures that he has created along the beach. These structures are definitely ephemeral as the tide will wash away his creation.


We can encourage our children to work with sand. They can build sandcastles on the beach and sand box or making lines on a bed of sand with their fingers. They can enjoy the feel of sand with their bare hands, explore the movement of sand as they glide through their fingers as well as observe the transience of sand as a medium of creation. They feel the difference between wet sand and dry sand and how the wet sand holds shapes better that the dry one.


Another beautiful creations are pebbles which are carefully broken and scratched white with another stone. While it may be difficult for young children to break the pebbles or scratch off the colour, they could be encouraged to explore the texture, look at the differences in colour, size and shape and to build a collage of pebbles in the garden.


Another creation which I like is the making of a rainbow. This is a very simple creation that enthralls the children. I have done this in my school and the children just loved the rainbow projected on the wall, the paper as well as on themselves!

Goldsworthy created his rainbow by hitting the water with a large stick. I created the rainbow with a mirror, a shallow basin of water and the bright, bright sun!

OUR TASTEBUDS


We are doing a theme on My Senses and on Friday, we let the children try an array of food with different taste. Of course, we have the sweet chocolate and candies, the salty water and fried egg, the sour vinegar solution and orange as well as the bitter bittergourd.



The children were eager to try, but many did not expect the outcome especially when they tried the vinegar solution and bittergourd.







The younger children did not hesitate to spit out the bittergourd. The older ones were afraid and forced themselves to swallow their potion. Lokk at Jasmine and Cheryl's faces as they forced themselves to eat the gourd!


The sour/sweet orange. Most love it!



The bittergourd - well, the children's reaction let you know the verdict!


Friday, January 15, 2010

The Cat in the Hat

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This beautiful formation was made by a 6-year old girl who rejoined us recently. She left for another school last year as her parents moved to a new house and coming to and from school was too tedious and far. However, this year, she came back as she misses her friends and I guess, Little Beans is the right school for her.
I observed her playing with the glass pebbles quite often. She is very intrigued with the texture, the shape and the weight of each pebble. Quite often, she came to me and said, "Teacher Yvonne, this looks like a shell... or I like the star and the hearts. The star is heavier." I like the way she observes, experiments and compares the pebbles.
Today, instead of examining the pebbles, she laid them into the above formation. I asked her what it was, thinking that she was making a happy face. Instead she told me, "Teacher Yvonne, this is the cat in the hat. I remember that you taught me this many years ago." Notice the small hat on top!
I was touched! Yes, I did the theme on Dr Seuss, with great emphasis on The Cat in the Hat when she was only 4. I'm glad that this famous cat has left an indelible mark in her mind and that she has fond memories of it. I'm also happy to note that children indeed learn best through hands-on experiences and activities.
I look forward to doing more themes such as this, especially based on famous children's authors' books. I may want to revisit Dr Seuss again and his wackiness, his rich language, his rhythm and rhyme. Or perhaps, Leo Lioni's books.... well, better get my head cracking to keep them interested!

The Kissing Hand counting and pegging activity

As part of our Back to School theme, we introduced the book The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. This book is about Chester Raccoon who was reluctant to go to school. Mummy Raccoon took his hand, gave it a kiss and folded the palm. She told her that should Chester feel lonely or misses her in school, he can just put the hand on his cheeks and he would feel her love for him. The kissing hand provided comfort and security to Chester on his first day at school. This has helped some children settle in as well.


To complement the book, I came across an interesting counting and pegging activity. The cards are printed with a number of kissing hands and a selection of three answers. The objective is to let the child count the number of kissing hands on each card and use a peg to note down the correct answer.


This activity helps to reinforce counting and encourages a child to peg. Pegging is a very useful activity as it strengthens finger muscles as well as enhances the pincer grip - all vital preparation for writing. Pegging also develops concentration, especially this particular pegging activity as the child needs to peg it at the correct spot. A few variations can be made, by just changing the pegs. Some pegs are easy to use, others needs more strength and effort.


Do you know that pegs can also be used to make elaborate constructions? I have some children who can spend a long time joining hundreds of pegs together to make a train track, an aeroplane and even a robot. Unfortunately, I did not manage to capture any photos yet. I'll certainly post the pictures when I have them.











TRANSFERING ACTIVITIES

Transferring activities are part of the Practical Life activities under the Montessori method. Transferring activities are important as they serve the indirect objectives of:
  • enhancing hand-eye coordination
  • developing concentration and inner discipline
  • strenghtening hand and finger muscles and movement
  • developing the pincer grip - the way we hold a pencil properly
  • preparing for reading and writing - both requires discipline, coordination and concentration
  • developing patience

These are just the indirect objectives. In each of the transferring activities shown below, there are also direct objectives to be met. Each transferring activity is slightly different from the other, catering to different interests and age groups.

When preparing activities for the children to work on, it is imperative that the materials presented are aesthetically pleasing and attractive, the work must be challenging, yet achievable. My challenge this year would be to provide activities for different age groups - as the 5 and 6 year olds find some of the practical life activities BORING because they have done this and that already!

TRANSFERRING AND SORTING FRUITS

Let's look at the first activity below. This is the simplest form of transferring. It involves using a pair of tongs to transfer and sort the carrots and corns to two different containers. The direct objectives are to transfer and sort to different containers. May be simple, but to a 2 and 3 year old, sorting and matching are important skills for Maths later on.

The girl is only 2 and a half, but she has very good transferring skills and is able to work with the tongs effortlessly. She has very good fine motor skills. In the other transferring activities, she displayed the same skills, even though the other objects are relatively more difficult to handle.




TRANSFERRING GLASS PEBBLES INTO AN ICE-CUBE TRAY

The pebbles are more difficult to handle as they are smoother and heavier. However, this girl has no problems with this activity. She has very good pincer grip and I believe that if given a pencil, she would be able to colour or write effortlessly.

This activity is different from the above because it involves one-to-one correspondence. This means that they would be a pebble for each cube slot. Again, this is a vital Maths concept to grasp. Other examples include table setting for 1 person, 2 people, 4 people,etc. If I have 4 people for dinner, how many forks and spoons do I need?

I particularly like the glass pebbles because they resemble ice cubes. Don't they remind you of the nice glass of ice water?


TRANSFERRING CHERRIES ONTO A CONTAINER

I don't know how to describe the apple holder, but I saw it in shop and taught that it will make a beautiful addition to my shelf. In this activity, the child has to use the tongs and place the cherries carefully on each slot in the wooden apple.

This activity is more difficult as it involves very precise movement. The slots are small and are just able to hold the cherries, not much space to spare. I also want the child to put the stem facing up.

Another level of difficulty which I intend to introduce later is to use a pair of tweezers (instead of tongs) and let the child pinch the cherries by the stem and transfer them. Tweezers involve finer motor skills and are more difficult!





MAGNETIC TRANSFERRING

I thought that this activity will interest the older children. I found this beautiful steel chocolate mould at the same shop. Initially, I just wanted to do simple transferring and sorting with coloured counters. But, I just couldn't find any coloured counters on that day. Instead, I found these magnetics seeds and voila, this is even more interesting! The child gets to transfer, sort and discover about magnets at the same time!

While working with the little girl at this activity, I discovered that I did not prepare my control of error well. What do I mean? Control of error is important is many Montessori activities as they will help a child to work independently and to discover his/her mistakes by herself. In this case, the girl does not know where to put each coloured seed. Which cup is for which colour? She hesitated and I had to help her by putting in the first coloured seed in each slot.
So, I'll need to improvise by putting a colour guide (perhaps a sticker) at the outer rim of each cup for the children. See, that's why we learn together with the children at all times.





Transferring - there are many variations and these are just some of them. The more basic ones include transferring beans/rice with spoons from bowl to bowl, transferring into different sized containers. One which never fails to develop patience is transferring and sorting red and soya beans into different containers with a pair of tweezers. Try it if your child is overly active and cannot seem to focus!


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Go for 9 - 2nd song

So sorry that I just could not upload the second song. Guess the file is too big.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

GO FOR 9 - 9/9/2009

Looks like I'm in a marathon of posting tonight. Actually, all these posts are long overdue. In this post, I'll like to share the recording of the Go for 9 event which happened on 9/9/2009 at 9.00am.

This is part of the Malaysia Guinness Book of Record to have many people singing the Negaraku and This is My Country simultaneously throughout Malaysia. More than 13,000 people took part in the event. Lilbeans is very proud to be part of this event.

The objective is to instill patriotism and love for Malaysia among the citizens of our beloved country.

The recording is not really complete as I'm an amateur in recording videos. My apologies for that. There are two separate recording - one for Negaraku, the other one for the song This is My Country.


video


It's taking a long time for me to upload the other song. I'll try to do so in my next post.

BROTHERLY LOVE

I took this video some time middle of 2009. What prompted me to record this was the patience that Javen showed to Joshua. He was full of brotherly love and patiently taught Joshua how to hold the guitar properly. They, in fact, spent about an hour in the room. Why was I pleased?
Simply because Javen is a very active and impatient boy and what he did that day was a very nice gesture from him. It was the soft side of him that I seldom see - he's usually the cool, macho guy!

video


Guess brothers are like that - one minute they hug and kiss each other, the very next, they could be fighting! Whatever it is, as parents, we must remember that each child is an individual and in my opinion, we cannot treat each child the same. Yes, we love every one unconditionally, but at the same time, we must know how to guide and nurture them, differently if necessary. That doesn't mean that we love one more than the other. Don't you agree?

Our Cosy Sofa


Thanks to Teacher Mee, we have a sofa in Lilbeans now. I've always wanted a cosy reading corner for the children and this sofa gave me the idea to create just that!

It's not a brand-new sofa, but with a new cover, it looks as good as new. I like the bright sunny yellow as it makes the reading corner so jolly and cheerful. With a potted plant, some books which are changed frequently as well as some write-up on the happenings around the school, I would say that this is a nice place to be.

At one time, I observed a group of 6-year olds sitting quietly reading the books. Oh, what a joy it was to see them read. At certain time, children would just lie on the sofa to take a rest. Of course, some could not resist jumping up and down the sofa! We, the teachers, were very firm that they do not do that - they may hurt themselves and over the months, the incidence of ANY children jumping on the sofa has decreased considerably.

Until 2010 .... new children came to join us. They are not familiar with the ground rules and before we know it, one small boy vomited on it! Poor sofa ... we have to wash it and put it away until things are back to normal! Guess we will not see it until end of January, perhaps???

Anyway, I will still want to instill the love for reading, despite not having a very cosy corner yet. I'll start by reading to them, or telling them stories.

HAPPY READING, EVERYONE!


HALLOWEEN 2009













I know that this post is a few months late as Halloween was in October. However, after going through some photos, I feel that is it'll be fun to share some of the photos that were taken on that day.
I do not celebrate Halloween and have never celebrated it with the children at school. However, one of the teachers suggested that we do so; with just a brief Powerpoint Presentation to introduce them to the celebration. Honestly, I was quite reluctant as I was afraid of scaring them. Anyway, the presentation was very 'mild' and not scary at all! Either the children were getting braver or they were to young to know about vampires, ghouls, werewolves, etc.

The highlight of this theme was of course, the Halloween dress-up party. It was meant to be fun, not ghostly and I was surprised that many children actually came dressed up for the occasion. However, there was no scary costumes - more superheroes, princesses, angels, Ben 10, etc. We even have a Little Red Riding Hood, complete with a basket of fruit!

We also had a special "ghostly" breakfast. It was a protruding eye of a monster - complete with red veins and coloured eye ball. Actually, it was a pau, decorated with red icing and a smartie for the eye ball. Looked quite gooey and ghastly!!! But, it was delicious....

Look at the pictures and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

1st few days of 2010

Phew!!! It has been a hectic few days ... there are many new children coming in this year. And many of them are 3 and 4 year olds.

The first day was relatively under control as most of the new children were accompanied by either Mum or Dad. There was no separation anxiety in this case, except for two 3-year olds. I've actually advised the Mums to stay back and help their children to settle in. However, they believe that the children will only cling on to them. Well, what can I say? The poor children cried and cried! And, the poor teachers tried their best to console them. Fortunately, by today, they've already settled down. There is much less crying today.


There is another group of children who is so curious about the new school surrounding and took to exploring many things and materials. I would say that we have to constantly clean up after them. They have yet to be "normalised" - a term used by Maria Montessori to mean that the child understands the ground rules and has the intrinsic motivation to keep things in order, to take and return the materials in the proper position as well as work independently, joyfully and with a purpose. At this point of time, they are very excited and took many materials from the shelves, mix them up and often leaving them on the table and floors. That's why we are so...soo tired! And busy that there was no time for the first day, second day or third day photos!


However, I am very happy that our older children are happy to come back after the long break. They are happy to see their friends, meet their teachers and get acquainted with their new classroom and also to be reacquainted with the ground rules (some have forgotten!) We keep ground rules to the minimum and they are:

EYES ON TEACHER
HANDS TO SELF
WALKING FEET
INDOOR VOICE
CARE FOR MATERIALS


I'm glad to see many of them helping the younger/newer children to feel at home. There is a lot of compassion and care amongst the children. Despite the busyness (I wouldn't call it chaotic as there is actually coordination and purpose amidst the activities that are all happening at the same time), the older children are like an anchor that holds everything together. I don't know if you understand what I mean?


Let me try to make it clearer. They set good examples through the following actions:

The 5 and 6 year olds:
  • help to clean up and put back the materials on the shelves
  • know the daily routine well - where to keep their shoes, put their bags, their water bottles
  • know when it's time to line up and be attentive during assembly
  • are able to go up the stairs quietly and in a straight line (they couldn't do so when they were 4!)
  • eat independently and tidily
  • they share their stationery and are responsible enough to return them to the rightful owners
  • and many more that make me burst with a sense of pride.
Kudos to the teachers! We must have done something right last year to see the results now. I guess the children are also proud to be the older brothers and sisters this year.

As a teacher, these are the things that make our day. As I've always mentioned, academic progress is important. Nevertheless, these interpersonal and intrapersonal developments are equally, if not more important.










Sunday, January 3, 2010

WELCOME 2010!

The new year is starting tomorrow! It'll be very challenging as there'll be new children settling in, plus their mums and dads. Of course, our dear children from 2009 will be coming back as well.

We have been very busy for the past two weeks getting ready for the new year. That's the reason why I have not been posting lately. Was working right up till now, getting the school spick and span to welcome the children back. New notice boards, new forms and notices, new time tables as well as new materials and games for the children to work with.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow. Hopefully, things will be under control!

By the way, I've not finished my post on the Montessori Method. But, if you click on the title of the post, it'll link you to a website on this.