Friday, July 30, 2010

Chenille Stem Sculpture Stories

This morning, we broke out the pipe cleaners/chenille stems. We store them in a bucket when we put them away, so they are usually a "wild heap" when we take them out.

The children love exploring with these inexpensive, bendy, and fuzzy material. As you can see from the photos, they manipulate the stems with their fingers. Can you also see how much they are using thier minds? Look at the expressions on their faces, you can almost feel the thought process and concentration involved.

"Can you take a picture of all three together?" (Of course I grabbed the camera immediately!)

Activities like this one are a great way for children to work on their fine motor skills and enjoy creating "cool stuff." (as stolen/borrowed from Teacher Tom.) Not only is it important for them to have the opportunity to make these cool things, but it also a great jumping point to work on language development and telling a story. After our time creating, I asked each child to select thier favorite sculpture and then we talked about them. Here are some tidbits of our conversations:

"Do you know what it is called? A Pointer. Well, It pointing to whatever way you can go, down or up or across. You know what? I could even put it in water and it doesn't even break. When I go swimming, I will bring this with me and it doesn't even break, and it won't. It is made out of metal and metal doesn't break in water, it doesn't right? You can do this and point whichever way. You gotta like spin it with your fingers and thumb."

"It is orange and sparkly and it got bumpies. Bumpies are when you touch it they go up and down. It gots a lot of things and lots of tools. LOTS OF TOOLS. It can build something, and it is a robot, a caterpillar robot, yeah. It is a caterpillar and it is doing things, a caterpillar or a robot."

"It is a caterpillar. It is white and brown and green. It doesn't have any eyeballs. I wrapped it around. That's it."

These are great little stories that help you get a feel for what the children were thinking when they made their sculptures. Making little videos is a great way to document the knowledge and skills they show through a simple art/craft activity.
Here are a few tips on helping children talk about their work:

1) Don't ask "What is it?" instead say, "Can you tell me about this?" By asking them to tell you about it, you often get a much more indepth answer. When you ask what it is, you are talking more about the product than the process. When you ask a child to tell you about their art, you give them a more open ended question and option to share with you what they would like to share. As you can see from the short segments of our conversations above, children were able to take that short prompt and offer the information that they were comfortable saying. It isn't really about the product, it is about the process. If the child was so engrossed in exploring the process and different ways to manipulate the material, they may not have an "it" to talk about. They may only be able to describe to you what they did, what it looks like, how it feels.... and that will easily come from them when you ask them to tell you about it, instead of what it is.

2) Offer feedback, not praise. Give the child an opportunity to feel good about their work for them, not for you. Try to stay away from the phrases: "I like" or "that's beautiful/pretty/etc" say things like- "I noticed you used.... (lots of colors, different techniques, etc)" This shows that you are being observant and that you are interested without giving your opinion. It helps if you are specific about details. It is great to validate the child's efforts by saying, "It looks/It sounds like you really worked hard on that."

3) When a child asks you... "Do you like my sculpture/picture/etc?" Think about how you respond. Bring that value back to the child. Ask them, "What do you think about it?" or ask them "Can you tell me about this?"

Use as many every day activities and projects as a jumping point to let the child tell you about what they are doing and learning!


Ticia said...

My kids love to play with pipe cleaners.

Anonymous said...

Those are amazing tips. Thanks so much for the suggestions.

My friend died

 I learned a hell of a lot from Dan Hodgins.  He was mentor, a friend, and a "bone shaker" for many of us in the field of Early Ch...