ICS Early Years Center Blog

Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland

March 17, 2015
by Heidi Harman
4 Comments

Listening to Children’s Theories and Ideas About Our World

How do you know the wind is there?

Frequently perceptible, but often invisible, the wind can be a fascinating weather phenomena. Its mysterious nature can bring the languages of science and imagination together. When thinking about the question, ‘How do you know the wind is there?‘, the children‘s voices and illustrations were inspirational. They motivated us to explore the science of wind while relishing in the magical fantasy of it.

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We read many fictional books about the wind. A favourite was ‘Millicent and the Wind‘ by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Suzanne Duranceau. In the story the wind adopts a human persona and becomes Millicent‘s friend. We all particularly enjoyed the stories where the wind is portrayed as a living being with its own personality and thoughts, and some of the children felt motivated to create their own fantasy fictional tales and story pictures related to the wind. A strong thread, which ran through many of the children’s stories, was the power of the wind and its sometimes unforgiving nature.

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Pippa’s drawing to illustrate that the wind is there.

“Trees are windy. The leaves blow off. The tree is bending. See her hair like that? That’s the wind.“ – Pippa

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Jacob’s illustrations of how an artist may convey “twisty wind that goes round and round like a hurricane”.

To begin to learn about the power of wind, we have been experimenting and playing with wind in the classroom. We observed how the fast moving blades in electric fans generates wind and how we can produce a gentle current of air by blowing through straws. We had an amazing time trying to paint using wind from different sized fans, hairdryers and by blowing through straws. It was interesting to observe the children quickly learning how to gain a certain amount of control of these different types of wind forces either by pointing the equipment in the desired direction or by holding them closer or further away from the paint.  We also tested to see if any of these winds were strong enough to make certain objects fly across the room.

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Our experiments led to the question, “why is the strong wind from the hairdryer more successful than the strong wind from the fans when blowing the paints across the paper?“ Some theories included:

“It‘s easier to hold the hairdryer close to the paint.“Thomas

“The hairdryer is stronger. I mean the hairdryer wind is stronger.“Jack

“It‘s smaller, that‘s why it‘s better.“Wille

We now have an anemometer, which we can use to measure the speed of wind. This may help us to discover whether the wind from our hairdryers is moving faster than that from our fans.

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While continuing to consider the question, ‘how do you know the wind is there?’, we decided to construct wind chimes to hang outside in our Early Years courtyard, so that we could look and listen to observe and hear whether there is a wind causing them to move and make different sounds. Everyone brought in various re-cycled materials from home to make our wind chimes. These objects were carefully selected for their beauty and/or interesting form or for their ability to make a sound when moving or knocking against another object. Our completed beautiful outdoor wind chimes, are a perfect way to help us know whether the wind is present.

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After reading information books about the wind and the various forms it can take, we researched some more on the internet, and we particularly enjoyed listening to the range of sounds different types of wind make. We focused on the noises created by a strong wind, a hurricane, a gentle breeze and a tornado. While listening to these different sounds, we each had ideas about how the winds look and make us feel. Letizia said that, “The hurricane sounds like a dragon. It sounds like a dragon screaming. The tornado is a bit like a train.” Pippa liked the gentle breeze as, “It makes me rest.” As we concentrated on each wind noise, we made marks or drew images on paper, which we felt represented each sound. Some drawings were our ideas of how an artist may convey wind, while others were illustrations inspired by the sounds. Afterwards we each put our completed drawings together and made them into individual wind books, which depict our unique interpretations of the different wind sounds.

Building on the children’s interest and reflections about wind sounds, we took it a step further during a music session. The proposal was to create wind stories with musical instruments. Our hope was that the musical materials would provide another way for the children to express their understandings. A group was invited to explore different types of sound makers and share ideas about how the wind might tell a story. The children shared and developed their ideas with each other.

Ellen chose scarves and shared, “I’m doing ballet wind.” She then elaborated by adding, “The day the wind was really strong she pushed us away.”

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 Sharing a story about “ballet wind”.

Jacob chose a black scarf and used it to represent “a scary black wind.” He then blew into a tube and suggested this sound could be the “hurricane roaring like a dragon.”

Lily chose some triangles and told us, “That’s a gentle breeze. It’s only winding.”

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                    Exploring sounds to create musical wind stories. 

When discussing the different wind noises, opinions were mixed as to which was our favourite sound. Some preferred the calmness of the gentle breeze rustling the leaves, while others loved the excitement of the roaring tornado or the screeching hurricane. We now have a graph in our classroom to document and display which wind noise we each like the best. We have recorded each wind sound on separate recording devices, so that visitors to our room can also listen and then add their preference to our graph.

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Jacob chose to explore the science of tornado winds further and read some information books about tornadoes and how they are formed. Jacob then drew his own picture representing how a tornado is formed. After discovering that both hot air and cold air are involved when a tornado forms, Jacob wondered whether he could cause his picture to turn into a tornado! To test his theory, Jacob placed part of his drawing on the warm light of the overhead projector (in the ‘hot air’) and left the remaining part off (in the ‘cold air‘). “Look! My picture will turn into a tornado!“ Jacob cried.

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Our class inquiry into both the science and mystery of wind is still on-going. We have observed the children continuing to choose to look at wind-related books and including the idea of wind in their imaginative role play games. Unexpectedly the concept of feelings was explored fairly deeply during this project. This was particularly evident when we considered the different emotions wind sounds can evoke and when the wind assumed a character in our fictional stories.

Text and photographs by Heidi Harman and Andrea Mills.

September 15, 2013
by Heidi Harman
0 comments

Fostering language development in the Early Years

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In the Early Years we have many learning outcomes related to the four language strands of reading, writing, listening and speaking, and viewing and presenting (some outcomes addressed in this experience are listed below). Our class recently engaged in a wonderful learning experience, which helped to facilitate the development of some of these goals in all the four language strands. Together we read the lift-the-flap book, ‘There‘s a Dragon at my School’ by Philip Hawthorn and Jenny Tyler, which Ms. Judith in the library had ordered specially for us. During this shared story time, the students were encouraged to participate as active listeners. They also had the opportunity to help with the story-telling by taking turns to come and lift the flaps in the book and talk about what was happening in these hidden pictures. The story has repetitive phrases running through it, which while helping to develop language for all children, is particularly helpful for children learning English as an additional language (EAL). It wasn‘t long before everyone was joining in with these familiar phrases and we were all reading aloud together. We all agreed that we wouldn‘t want this dragon at our school, as he was always breaking the school rules! The children were encouraged to draw their own picture of a dragon at school and everyone was incredibly enthusiastic to make their dragon as naughty as possible! The children showed a real desire to draw and write and were keen to dictate the meaning of their picture stories. We put all of our drawings together to make one story book and we even made it into a lift-the-flap book! Everyone was so excited to share and present the page they had contributed to our re-told dragon book and it has been delightful to see the children imitating adult demonstrated reading behaviours as they share it together. Our book has now become part of our classroom library and is a very popular read!

Here is the link to a video of some of the children reading the book:

The password to view the video is: icsz

Language learning outcomes

Speaking and Listening

Look at the speaker when they are listening in a pair, small group or large group

Participate as speakers and listeners in group activities

Retell or tell a story with regard to sequence of events

 

Reading

Understand that both illustration and text carry the message, but that the reader is reading the words

Demonstrate conventional book handling skills   eg. Turning pages carefully, pointing to text, understanding left to right directionality

 

Writing

Continue to convey meaning through drawing which may then be described in dictated text where an adult scribes

Respond to correct pencil grip (when drawing)

 

Viewing

View and listen to media

April 8, 2013
by emmahorsey
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Community

During the last week of term all three EY2 classes demonstrated how they share learning within their communities.  Inviting parents in to see the evidence of learning that is taking place helps to communicate how and what  children are learning and assists in strengthening relationships as parents are involved in the  process.  After attending all 3 sessions I was struck by the sense of joy, participation and community, it was truly a delight to attend these occasions.  We hope that by holding morning such as these, inviting parents to be involved in the daily program and through the Blog and newsletters we continue to build these relationships!

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