Sunday, 30 September 2012

Self Portraits

The Importance of Looking at Ourselves

The Hundred Languages of Children (from the exhibition catalogue)

"A child's most sought after goal is to recognize him or herself." Loris Malaguzzi from the Hundred Languages of Children

Beginning Self Portraits

We began learning about self portraits. I drew a picture of myself using a circle for a head, two small circles for eyes, a straight line for a nose and a curved line for a mouth. I asked the children if this sketch looked like me. Their response was a clear, “No!” We talked about our facial features and the realistic shapes of these features. I modelled for students using a mirror how to sketch a self-portrait that is realistic. We emphasized that it is important to draw what you see. 

When you look in the mirror what do you see?

J.N: My mouth.
A.R: Eyes, brown.
A: My nose like a triangle.
I.G: My eyes.
C.L: My eyelashes.
S.T: Eyebrows.

We will continue to post as the children explore facial features and self portraits. 

Saturday, 29 September 2012

The Dot Project

To celebrate International Dot Day, we read Peter H. Reynolds’ book, The Dot. This book tells the story of a caring teacher who reaches a reluctant student in a remarkable creative way. The teacher dares a doubting student to trust her own abilities by being brave enough to “make her mark”. What begins as a small dot on a piece of paper becomes a breakthrough in confidence and courage.

Making Connections

During the story, we learned that the main character, Vashti did not think she could draw. Some of the students made the connection that they too feel they cannot draw and often ask us to draw things like ponies and unicorns for them. This was the perfect opportunity to discuss the concepts of creativity and beauty. We discussed how even something as simple as a dot can be so beautiful. Our conversation about dots inspired a class challenge. Our challenge for students was to investigate how many ways they could create dots as artists.

How many ways can we create dots?

Explore and Engage

We provided students with many different round materials. 

Creating Dots with Paint

T: I am painting hundreds of little dots!
J: I am making big dots!

The children explored colour mixing and dot making while painting with bubble wrap, cork and paper towel rolls. 

A: It's green! Blue and the yellow paint is green.
E: There's so many circles.

Investigating Dots as Artists

We were so impressed to see some of the children using the materials at the art center to create colour patterns. (We have been learning about patterning in math.) The three colours of paint provoked students to create complex patterns. A few of the children decided to create ABC patterns.

Creating a Display of Dots at Light

M. investigated making dots at the light table. 

Making Dots in Different Ways

Everything begins with a dot.

Integrating the Arts

In addition to our initial colour inquiry, we decided to introduce the children to The Dot project as a platform for developing inquiry skills used in all aspects of the kindergarten curriculum.

This investigation was open ended and encouraged free exploration throughout all centers of the classroom. While students investigated “making dots” they were developing communication skills as well as problem solving and critical thinking skills that they will use as they continue to learn and grow in our classroom.

In a recent article, "How the Arts Unlock The Door to Learning" by Mariko Nobori, some important research highlights the importance of arts integration.
"Beyond engagement and retention...numerous other benefits of arts integration: It encourages healthy risk taking, helps kids recognize new skills in themselves and others, provides a way to differentiate instruction, builds collaboration among both students and teachers, bridges differences, and draws in parents and the community.  Plus it's just plain fun."


The project also provided the children with opportunities for collaboration. Collaboration is a new term we have been discussing in kindergarten this year. During the collaborate dot design all of the children were invited to work together with a common purpose; to create a masterpiece with a wonderful message about beauty and individuality.

B and R using a permanent marker to draw different sized dots. 

R, B, and T collaborating on a watercolour dot painting. 

Theories about Beauty

We lay out the children’s paintings for each other to observe and admire. The consensus was that the paintings were “beautiful.” To begin to understand the children’s ideas about beauty we asked: 

What makes them beautiful?

T.K: They are all different, some are small, some are big and that’s okay if we are small or big like friends you can still be friends.

M: They have so many colours, blue, red, green, yellow and circles are beautiful.

S.M: I like how its different colours.

“It’s beautiful
  because I    like  it!”  I.G. (SK student) 

Children’s Initial Theories about Beauty and Individuality

Our Dot Project exposed many of the children’s ideas about the concept of beauty. Children’s theories about beauty and individuality have provoked a new inquiry. 

Stay tuned and see what unfolds as we dig deeper into the concept of beauty. 

Colour Inquiry

Colour Exploration

Our aim was to have the students explore colour using the primary colours. 

We placed only the primary colours (red, yellow and blue) paint at the art center for students to experiment with. 

We wanted the students to discover naturally that when mixing the primary paint colours, new colours can be created. For some students, this became evident right away as they mixed red and blue to create purple and yellow and blue to create green and yellow and red to create orange. Many of the students mixed a lot of paint but it all turned brown. 

Exploring Paint

Extending Students’ Thinking

Students described the colours they saw emerge before their eyes. The discovery of mixing paint and creating new colours allowed for a conversation about colour mixing and which primary colours to use to create a specific colour.

S: I mix the red with the blue and it makes purple. Now I made green!

Ms. P: How did you make green?

S: I mixed yellow and blue.

Ms. P: What would happen if you added more blue to the green you made?

S: It gets really, really dark again.

Ms. Nitsotolis: You don’t have any green paint, I wonder how you made green?

R: Yellow and Blue!

J: I make yellow.

Ms. P: I wonder how we can make any new colours?

J. experiments with mixing new colours to her yellow. She mixes all the colours together and creates a brown colour. A little while later, J. returns to the art center and begins to mix paint while creating dots on her paper. J. creates dots that are different shades of orange.

Ms. P: How did you make your orange dots?

J: I’m making lots of dots for the contest,
look yellow and red.

A lesson in teamwork

During the colour exploration, the students displayed signs of collaboration by sharing their learning with one another. The excitement of their new discoveries made students eager to share with one another. 


Collaboration is a key component of our classroom. The children collaborate when they are engaged at play at the centers, exploring the outdoors, participating in projects and when engaging in group discussions. It was important for us to teach students the word “collaborate” and to have students begin to understand the benefits of collaboration. We began by reading Kathryn Otoshi’s book, One and discussed as a whole group why it is important to work together. 

Colour Sorting

We began our colour exploration by sorting some classroom materials by colour. The students worked together to sort the materials, cut materials and then place the items in jars. The product was six mason jars full of items and sorted by colour. 

The Collaborate Colour Collage

In order for students to see first-hand the benefits of collaboration, students were invited to work together on a class colour collage. Students first used watercolour paints to paint the background. The students then used the materials they had sorted by colour to glue onto the watercolour painting. While students worked on the collage, their discussions, questions and actions all defined collaboration. 

To expand on the concept of collaboration I asked students what they thought collaboration means:

Ms. P: What does collaboration mean to you?

T: Andrea’s helping to get the clean water for our brushes.

S: Teamwork!

Ms. P: What do you mean by teamwork?

T: We are all working together.

Many Hands, One Collage

The final product, a unique colour collage is an example of why it is important to collaborate. This collage would have been a lot of work for one student to complete on his or her own. However, together the collage encompasses the ideas of multiple students and it is a shared project that they can all feel proud of. 

As students worked on the collage they were engaged in conversations that discussed the placement of the found materials, their theories of colour mixing and their conversations highlighted a sense of respect as they listened to the ideas of their classmates. 

Even More Collaboration!

It is important for us to provide the children with many opportunities for collaboration. 

Acrylics on watercolour paper

C.Z. and R.S. observing the acrylic paint move in the bottle.
C.S: Why is it moving so slow?
Ms. P: Let's feel the acrylic paint. What does it feel like?
C.Z: Its hard and sticky.
Ms. P: I wonder what would make the paint less sticky?
C.Z: Maybe some water. 

These collaborative paintings sparked conversations about colour mixing theories. Students practiced teamwork skills as they listened respectfully and shared ideas with one another. 

Exploring Patterning

Identifying, Extending & Creating Patterns

This month, our class has been exploring patterning. Have a look at some of the ways students have been identifying, extending and creating their own patterns. 

Investigating Patterning with Paint

We were pleased to see some of the children using the materials at the art center to create colour patterns. A few of the children decided to create ABC patterns.

J. created an ABC colour pattern using the cork stamper.

J: I made a pattern.

Ms. Nitsotolis: What is your pattern?

J: Red, Blue, Yellow, Red, Blue Yellow. 

E. used the paper towel roll to create his pattern.

Ms. P: What kind of pattern did you create Eric?

E: I made a yellow, blue, red patterns.

Ms. P: What is another name for your pattern?

E: ABC pattern. 

S. also use the cork stamper to create an ABC Pattern.

S: I made a pattern?

Ms. P: What kind of pattern did you make?

S: ABC, yellow, red, blue. 

Patterning at Hands on Thinking

Ms. P: I see you have created a pattern. What is your pattern?

M: Green, blue, green, blue

Ms. P: I love it! I wonder if there is another name for your pattern?


Ms. P: It is! do you think we can label it?

M. labels all the green squares A and all the blue squares B.

M's pattern                                          I's pattern

After returning from computers with Ms. Piteo, I was excited that he had created a pattern on Kid Pix.

I: Look Ms. P it’s a pattern. Blue, orange, blue orange.

Ms. P: I really like your AB pattern. I wonder if we can label it.

I:  I don’t know how.

Ms. P: I will teach you, an A is two long sticks with a short stick. B is a long stick with a loop at the top and a loop at the bottom.

I. successfully labels all the Blue A and all the Orange B.

T. using materials found at the art center to create an AB pattern. 

B. creates an AB pattern at the Hands on Thinking center. 

Exploring Patterning at Light

M. created an AB pattern and an ABC pattern.            

M: I used white and the green dots and I made a pattern. White, Green.

Ms. P: What is another name for your pattern?


Ms. P: What other kind of pattern did you create?

M: I made a Blue, White, Light Blue pattern, it’s ABC.

C's AB and ABC pattern.

Creating and Identifying

Non-Linear Patterns                       

M: Ms. P come and see my sun!

Ms. P: That is beautiful M. tell me about it.

M: I made a sun and it is also a pattern that goes round and round. See blue then white, blue, white and I used this jewel for the middle of the sun. The light is shining like the sun. 

Counting Vines

Numeracy Development

Numeracy is a mathematical strand that is worked on throughout the entire year. The students have many opportunities to work with numbers and mathematical vocabulary through each of these experiences. 

At the beginning of each day we will include a student-made flower to our co-constructed flower vines. Each flower represents one school day. The aim is for students to gain an understanding of one-to-one correspondence and to work up to celebrating the 100th day of school. As there are five school days in a week, we will be grouping the flowers into bundles of five. Students will begin to develop the concepts of quantity and skip counting through this visual display.

The Project

Our aim was to have students create a counting manipulative. The hand-made flowers will represent each day the students are at school. The vines will act as a visual counting line for students. The flowers will be included to our Hands on Thinking center as a mathematical manipulative for students to use to represent numbers, to explore quantity, to create patterns, and so much more. 

The Process

We wanted to involve students in the entire process of creating a beautiful visual display, with a purpose. Students began by rolling up their sleeves and squeezing strawberries and blueberries into two containers. We then added water to the berry juice to make a natural dye. The students added the egg cartons to the natural dye. The students determined how long to keep the egg cartons in the dye. They learned that if they kept the cartons in too long, “they get too wet and break” and decided that they should only keep the egg cartons in the dye for thirty seconds. The students then put the coloured egg cartons in the empty water table to dry.

Exploring our Senses

The process of making the flowers provided opportunities for student to explore their senses. The students used their sense of sight to observe the changes of the berries as they squished the fruit in their hands. They continued to use their sense of sight to observe the egg cartons as they were placed into the berry juice. The children described the colours they observed, “it’s turning pink,” “it’s blue and purple.” The sense of touch provided students with great excitement as they dug their hands into the basket of berries and squished the berries in their fingers to extract as much juice as they could. With squeals of excitement the students used their sense of smell and described the smell of the berries. The sense of smell prompted students to use their sense of taste to taste the berries. Some of the berries became an early snack and the children could not resist licking the berry juice from their fingers!   

Finding a Solution

The students returned the next day and discovered that the natural dye colour had not fully absorbed into the egg cartons. They had once again turned grey. We had to find a solution to this problem, students decided that painting the egg carton flowers would be the best solution. Watercolour paints and paintbrushes were available for students at the art center that day to paint the egg cartons. While our initial plan for a natural dye did not work, the entire experience provided students with a meaningful opportunity to develop a wide range of skills that are central to our kindergarten program.  

Developing Skills

Through our conversations during this entire process, students practiced oral language skills. Our conversations provided students with an authentic experience to use their senses and to use inquiry skills such as predicting what would happen to the egg cartons once in the berry juice, questioning why the colour on the cartons disappeared, as well as, critical thinking and problem solving as students found a solution to colour the egg cartons.