“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives” – William A. Foster
These past few months I have had forty minutes of teaching time, once a week, where I can implement a miniature lesson that serves to enrich the general classroom curriculum. I have continued to learn how to provide children with a learning experience of quality, when I have limited time at my disposal. This has been a great opportunity to work with a smaller group of children, to be able to closely attend to how they respond to what is being shared with them, to consider better and better ways to help them process new information and still keep the learning experience fun. It has become my challenge to create and deliver mini learning experiences that integrate music, visual art, literacy and numeracy. We know that when presented in combination, such experiences access and encourage children’s different ways of learning and their enjoyment makes the learning more meaningful for them.
Earlier in December, I presented the children with some songs and rhymes about winter and snowmen, which seemed appropriate given the season! Two of the rhymes I used – Five Little Snowmen and Funny Little Snowman – appear in an earlier blog post (http://earlychildhoodartsconnection.ca/?p=199 ). The children could explore small props and puppets, felt board pieces, and musical instruments. They loved looking at the gorgeously illustrated book Snowballs by Lois Ehlert. Several repetitions of the rhymes enabled the children to quickly learn the words. Singing the songs with accompanying actions also helped to reinforce learning the words. One child, when asked, proudly sang Five Little Snowmen all by herself, which was a real pleasure for me! Everything we did was a hands-on experience that prepared the children beautifully for the related art, literacy and numeracy activities that would follow.
In the classroom, I decided to take the hands-on experiences a little further, through exploration of the words in one of the rhymes, the concept of counting to five, and the creation of a collaged snowman, as inspired by the art work in Lois Ehlert’s book. For the written part, I created a print out of the poem Five Little Snowmen, leaving spaces where the children could print the words ‘five’ and ‘one’, and practise printing the numbers from one to five as well. I read through the poem with each child, pointing to each word, encouraging them to say the words with me. I then asked each child to find the word ‘five’ in the title, and copy it into the first blank space. If they were not familiar with the word ‘one’, I either helped them to sound it out, or provided the printed word as a reference. I gave help with printing the numerals when it was needed. All of this served to reinforce the literacy and numeracy piece – to connect the spoken or sung words to symbols that they see in print.
The more open-ended experience was the creation of a snowman collage. Many children spent a long time at the art table, enjoying the materials and chatting together. When their work was displayed, they had fun searching for the snowman they had made! For each child, the written work, along with the artwork, will eventually become a special part of an ongoing project – a collection of all of their work - all the product of the forty minutes we have together once a week. Forty minutes is not a lot of time but I have discovered that even in a small amount of time, much of value can be accomplished, taught and learned. On the cusp of the New Year, I resolve to continue on this path, to rise to the challenge of giving children an integrated learning experience of quality, even with only a small quantity of time. They are worth it. With that thought in mind, I wish you all the best for 2015 and a year of creative teaching!