Authentic Children’s Work

To me, one of many things that separates the pros from the joes is if they can distinguish authentic children’s work. Can you? 🙂

Contrast these images with an image search of “authentic children’s bulletin boards” Indeed, the bulletin board is the worst offender. Usually completely designed and conceptualized by the teacher, the child simply paints his or her circle green and the teacher assembles it into a caterpillar, plant or leprechaun. The child has absolutely no idea why he is glueing cotton balls onto lambs or cutting strips of paper for a lions whiskers….

So let’s take a look at some ACTUAL work of children….
At first glance, the taping of the doors makes you mad. “Who taped the doors?” you want to say. But wait a minute and look at the larger picture. This is a fully purposeful taping. They are taped to prevent them from opening and so to keep the tension on the rope tight.

— Heidi Echternacht (@hechternacht) December 11, 2014

I think they were measuring the length of the cabinet and realized they couldn’t hold two rulers there so they taped it. Totally logical.

Contrast this completely student created center on “Horses” with the former science curriculum consisting of guessing how many seeds were inside the pumpkin and then counting them. Do we care?

This student included skeletal models of horses, research books and a book she wrote with a partner. A teacher never would have thought to include horse jumps in a science center on horses….

Making a “soup”. We later noted that the beans puffed up when they were in the water, but the popcorn did not.

When you lose it behind the bookcase, it’s lost. Unless you can devise a system for retrieving it… 🙂

What does this say about this student in math?

This child’s self-designed project simply involved folding paper and counting the squares. Wallah, multiplication.


Social Studies
So this child made the flag, now how to get it to stand up? Well tuck it into the tape dispenser, obviously….

When teachers say they “have the students come up with the class rules” at the beginning of the year, do they look like this?

Art The scrap box is a fantastic source of art.

I just have to include this because I think its absolutely incredible

This is a whole ‘nother topic I’ll leave for a next post, but here’s a related project

Well taped to the wall, this authentic student work lays out the plan for how to get a turn (you only get one) and write your name on the piece of paper. The student also has started to list the individual classrooms by grade (1C, etc)

This student driven project blurs into STEM as we work to design “non-fiction” centers. The ballet studio was a busy hub for weeks.


Authentic student work is completely driven by the student. The teacher is there to guide, question and help form the habits of mind and culture that takes the child to the next level of wherever it is that they are.

Can YOU recognize where students are? Can YOU discern REAL authentic children’s work?


The New Shape of Teaching and Learning

So I just completed a three week Tri-Edu-Thon :D.

It started three weeks ago when I was invited to be a panelist at the #NYSAIS at the Lower School Heads and Early Childhood Conference held at Mohonk Mountain House in NY. Wow! Such a beautiful location. I met some really wonderful, unique and “with-it” people. It was a true pleasure to be a part of that group and help lead an “unconference” session. I want to Thank Josie Holford, Head of Poughkeepsie Day School for connecting me to this fantastic group of Educators and to Barbara Swanson for welcoming me so warmly and for organzing such a remarkable event.

There I talked about tech fluency, literacy and “the app trap”. You can see my talk outline here.

From there I beat feet to #ISTE12 I had never been to Southern California before and I decided to make a two+ week adventure out of the journey. #ISTE12 was great because I had the chance to meet up with other colleagues from both my online connections as well as my own school. My school, for those who don’t know, is part of an International Network of Schools. We spent the better part of Sunday meeting with Tech Coordinators and Teachers as well as having time to talk with people from my own school.  It was interesting to hear their point of view on technology and realize, in general, how isolated the tech integrators are from the classroom. In fact they are often two entirely different skills, as they generally deal with the “hardware” problems “my computer won’t work” or “what are the intricacies of a 1:1 ipad program” or “what are the advantages and disadvantages of a BYOD program”. All were discussed at length that day.

However, the other topic that came up over and over and over again, and one that I have come to simply shake my head at is “how can we all communicate with each other better?” Over and over I hear this question from people still living in the silo-ed world of not actually USING technology to communicate and ie to become connected.  There are gigantic and complex Narnia-ic worlds of which the majority of folks have no knowledge of- even tech integrators!  WHEN to use a doc vs a form vs a blog vs a wiki vs a livebinder vs a chat vs an app, not to mention the how of each of those applications.

As for which #ISTE12 I had a new approach this year and I spent way more time networking than attending sessions. Don’t get me wrong, I floated in and out of multiple sessions from: Allen November, David Warlick, Sylvia Martinez, Gary Stager, Adam Bellow (who took the place by storm!) But I focused more on meeting up with many of the people I have been chatting with on a regular basis as well as meeting up with  new friends. I even stumbled into presenting in one of Steve Hardagon’s famous “off-grid” presentations on BBCollaborate, though I am told the recording  cracked out halfway through bc of internet connectivity issues. haha, at #ISTE.

I also attended a “Birds of a Feather” SIG (Special Interest Group) for Early Childhood Technology. That part was probably one of the most interesting of the conference and continues to be so as I wade into the waters of learning the politics, history and special interests of those living in the space of  Early Childhood education and Technology. I felt really proud and keenly aware of #Kinderchat unique voice in this area as well as the scale of innovation that is happening within this (IMHO) incredibly unique Network.

Network. It always loops back to  Network! I find this particularly interesting as, looping back, my school is a Network school and thinking about how these things are formed and what it actually means has become a definite fascination for me.  (See more below)

One of the most humbling parts of being a connected educator is realizing how fortunate you are to receive such support for Professional Development. So many of my #Kinderchat colleagues must pay their own way to conferences. I would never have been able to participate in #ISTE12 without the support of my school and I  am very grateful to my school for sending me out to San Diego.

Now for #EdCampKinder

The Quickdraw: Matt’s, The roster: Michelle’s, The reporter: Karen’s, The group: Stacey’s, The wonk of meeting f2f: Mardelle’s  Michelles second post: the ripple effect
Owly Images

From Michelle in British Columbia:

Our meetings spanned the entire time we were in Vegas, but instead of being in a conference room, they had multiple locations…the airport, the hotel lobby, the street as we walked around the city, the pool, the restaurants we ate in and everywhere in-between. It was a four day, intensive conversation that had started on twitter and finally resulted some very special personal time.

Web Activity Flower Graph

article on web literacy- what is it anyway? from dml 

Reflections on a School Year

Whoosh! Another year is over! I can’t seem to believe it! I keep pinching myself and saying “I don’t have to eat at 11:20? I don’t have to teach math at 8:30 or remember to make a card by 2:10 on Thursday? I don’t have to remember who is going home with whom on Monday, but not Tuesday, but every other Wednesday?

Yes, I’ll admit it, after this year, I feel cynical, optimistic, angry, sad, happy, exhausted, totally energized, lost, found and, most importantly, the sweet taste of freedom has never felt this good! Two days in and I’m overwhelmed with this new sense of time and belonging to myself.

This is real- this is what teaching IS. It’s not apples and aprons and neat packages. It’s blood, plenty of sweat and lots of tears. Some of my parents left without even saying “Thank You”, others were so kind and grateful, I wanted to cry. This is why I have to write this, because I still don’t think people actually  get what we are doing and the amount of energy, learning, professionalism and experience it takes to do it.

Teaching is really hard. Not hard like roofing, but hard like roofing with 28 five year olds with you. Not hard like customer service or the restaurant industry, but hard like if-you-think-they-didn’t-like-their-dinner-see-how-they-are-when-it-comes-to-their-children.

I was thinking about all of the pressures we face. Teachers, on the whole, Bless Us, we don’t and probably can’t actually communicate to you EXACTLY HOW LOUD AND TRYING EACH DAY IS BY NATURE. They cry, they engage in confrontational behaviors from 8am-3pm and times 20 children, they push, they test, they lie, they fight, they cooperate, they help, they are sweet, they are sour. THEY ARE HUMAN. And so are WE!

So, not only do you have the pressure from the parents, administration, PD, you HAVE THESE CHILDREN FOLLOWING YOU EVERYWHERE YOU GO! ALL DAY LONG! 5 DAYS A WEEK! ALL YEAR!

Have a continuous birthday party for the same amount of time with 28 kids (God Bless Erin Rocklewitz and Cara Johnson and all the others out there with huge numbers- I’m not sure I could do it with the same professionalism and poise you each did) and let me know how you are doing afterwards. Its a beating.

I feel worn down. I share this not to be the old debbie downer, but to be honest enough for the people who are doing this work everyday to know I am talking to you.

For me, this year it has always come back to #Kinderchat. You have lifted me up when I felt like the crappiest teacher in the world. You let me shine when I felt like the best teacher in the world. You let me fall and helped me up and kept me smiling. You were and are my community of colleagues. I hope each one of you had similar experiences, albeit I wish for you the successes!

Just look at this that came through just as I was writing this- from the wonderful educator and friend, Michelle

here’s the previous tweet she’s referring to:

#Kinderchat is not an organization about “the me”, it’s is an organization about the YOU. It requires one to listen, to create, to learn, to fail, fall, succeed, share and most importantly, to celebrate each other. This is what we are doing. It s not about endless chatter of Section C, Article 39 of whatever document is next in line, it is about ANGELA’S TOOTH. And from Angela’s tooth (and why it was such a big deal it fell out on the Thursday before her going off to first grade.) THAT IS COMMUNITY. THAT is empathy, THAT is learning, love and all the things we are trying to do in Early Childhood.

#Kinderchat, don’t let the turkey’s get you down. We only get stronger through your sharing, loving, laughter and wonderful sense of community.  And to those still in school, YOU CAN DO IT!

Nothing is better than watching the waves of the #Kinderchat school years begin and end. And nothing better than the support and friendship I’ve found among this wonderful community. Thanks all, now let’s BRING IT ON HOME!

#EdcampKinder “Dessert in the Desert” is in 27 (?!) days. Get ready to party.

Fostering fluency in 2012

Well, this one has been brewing for a bit. I start, I stop, I lose my train of thought. Oh if I could only insert a zip drive thingie into my head sometimes! Maybe then I wouldn’t lose the thought before it gets from my brain to the keyboard!

I just posted a video I made with my class. It documented the process of one of our projects. After I attended #cmk11 w @garystager it became all about process for me. I knew beforehand that learning, real learning, is in those visible yet invisible moments. Visible to the teacher who can see the lightbulb, visible to the parent who can reflect and see the progress their child is making, but often invisible to the person themselves. And what is rewarded in our lives and society is often the product, thereby obscuring this mysterious stage even more.

I’ve come to think of it as the sleep mode, or the chunky mode a kid goes through when growing. They go from a little chunky to suddenly shooting up and going through three shoe sizes in two months! It’s this time of seeming stagnation, our nightly sleep, the winter, that helps us spring forward and burst forth the bloom of our efforts and work.

And everyone grows and changes at their own rates! Which is why what I teach a child now may not embed itself until much later, or why values parents instill in their child at a young age will suddenly surface as their Mom’s voice calls out from somewhere inside their head “don’t do it”. Just because something is dormant doesn’t mean it isn’t as alive and vibrant as a forsythia in full bloom. Dormancy is the yin to forsythia’s yang. It works this way in learning, too. 

It’s why we need vacations and summer and weekends. And it’s why I shun terms like “continuous improvement”. True improvement (a word I find derogatory btw) really doesn’t look all that continuous, at least within a span of one, two or three years. And certainly the more you improve, the lesser are the measurable increments of that improvement.

I think about my own learning when it comes to technology. I look back a year ago and reflect and think, “I didn’t even have a blog yet!”

True! At least the #kinderchat blog didn’t get up and running until January of last year. Wow! I look back and see all I have done, learned, made in just a year! Amazing I must say so myself! Now I have 3 wikis, 3 blogs, 4 websites and 5 twitter accounts. There’s more but it starts getting embarrassing. 😀

I by no means- NO MEANS even consider myself “proficient” in technology, but I would say I feel “fluent” or at least approaching some degree of fluency! And fluency is the whole reason this blog post came to be.

Did it all happen in one year? Well, sort of, but if you look at the extended timeline, it started years ago. But once I broke through that initial barrier, things got way easier and my confidence and curiosity, way stronger.

So often we try to teach (teachers, children, students, anyone anything) by instruction. I am beginning to recoil at the word! “Here, let me instruct you on how to do it. Oh, and btw, here is my 16 page outline of my guidelines and policy on how to be successful within the given instruction time.” In the past, we called this learning. In the present, we are often forced to call this teaching as well.

There is a huge difference between the word “instruction” and the word “foster“. I was thinking about this in the car today on the way home from school. One is hard, the other soft. One is teacher centered, the other requires the teacher to be learner centered enough to know what to even foster. The past is sharp edged categoried boxes vs the now of circles and swerves.

And who has fostered me? Helped me? Been my guiding light over the last year? The fabulous teachers, educators and friends of #kinderchat and the mentors I have found here on the internets!

I am very grateful to all who have shaped my learning and helped me “feel fluent” in technology and in life. Here’s hoping 2012 brings the world and each one of you more joy and fluency in whatever field you choose and more love in life and learning!