Mirror, mirror everywhere

I’ve noticed that mirrors are the newest trend in childcare classrooms (of course… Reggio Emilia preschool centres have been using them forever, infant classrooms have always had a mirror and the AQI states we must have a full length mirror in the dramatic area), so because of the fascination with mirrors I have decided to incorporate them into my classroom activities with ECE/ECA students. Now, before I  started using them in the classroom I had to first research the rationale for including them in play-based learning, “How do mirrors support children’s development?”, “What are some simple ways to get started using mirrors–students would need to know?”

Mirrors have an important place in the history of child development.

Jacques Lacan, a psychiatrist, noticed that when babies between 15 and 18 months old look into a mirror they recognized themselves (the mirror stage). This developmental milestone is regarded as an essential marker of the baby’s self-awareness and emerging identity as a distinct and unique individual.

Mirrors provide the opportunity for kids to explore:

  • symmetry,
  • reflection,
  • perspective,
  • angles,
  • their own movement, and
  • self-awareness.

Mirrors and other reflective surfaces are fascinating tools for exploration, discovery, and creativity. *Ding, Ding Ding!!

How to support exploration:

Location of Mirrors for infants and toddlers. Plastic mirrors mounted to walls, crib sides, and the ceiling over the diaper-changing station-would be a great place to begin. (Check the edges and if sharp, wrap in cloth tape)

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Show your emotion. Invite a child to sit next to you in front of a mirror. Demonstrate facial expressions that express a range of emotions—sad, happy, surprise, frustration, fear, or anger, for example. Challenge the child to name the emotion and to mirror it in the mirror.

Getting dressed or blowing your nose. Invite children to put on dress-up clothes in front of a mirror. Allow ample time for trying on hats, wigs, scarves, and aprons.

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Playing with mirrors to reflect light and wondering how our image is reflected teaches children a beginning understanding about the properties of light.

Bounce light off of different surfaces. A large plastic “baby” mirror, held freely, is especially good for this. Have children use mirrors to look behind themselves. “Catch” some sunshine and reflect it to another surface outside or inside. Children can use a mirror to examine their face to draw a self-portrait.

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Draw yourself. Place mirrors in the art area. Children are more likely to draw from the observations they see in the mirror and not from memory if they are encouraged to focus on parts of their face they don’t usually begin with, such as their nostrils. Ask, “Do you see the holes in your nose? How many are there?”

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Reflections of loose parts. Use a framed mirror as a tray for table-top sensory exploration. Gather a variety of soft, textured, loose parts. You might choose materials from nature (leaves, twigs, feathers, and grass)

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Okay so where to purchase mirrors?

Mirror tiles, available at home stores, are an inexpensive. Buy mirrors at a dollar store. “Baby” or designed-for-preschool plastic mirrors can be ordered from preschool, or scientific, education supply companies. Also available at home stores are large sheets of mirrored acrylic board. Ask to have the sheet cut into 2- by 4-foot pieces—they are easy to store and open the possibility of cooperative art and socialization activities.

 

Thank you to all the wonderful teachers and programs that capture these lovely moments in their classrooms and with children, you are inspirational. 

Why I use Provocations at the College level with my students?

One of my favorite parts about the blogging world is peeking into everyone’s classrooms. I am always in awe. Whenever I am browsing teachers public classroom photographs I can’t help but think about…

  • What their pedagogical values are?
  • How they have implemented them into their teaching?
  • In what ways are student engaged? with materials or other students/children?

This brings me back to my own [journey] pedagogical values…

There was so much to think about when I first started teaching, from how to dress and behave, to classroom policies and procedures, to what to teach and how to teach it, that it was easy to forget that without theory—without ideas about why you are doing what you are doing with your students, what you hope to accomplish with them in the class, and why it matters to you—teaching can easily become a robotic job of assign-assess-repeat, with little true value either for you or for your students. Just going through the motions of education, rather than genuinely participating in the learning process.

In Ontario, the curriculum is directed by provincial guidelines. At the college/university levels, however, in most cases I am responsible for determining what I’m teaching and how I’m going to teach it. Most importantly throughout my teaching career I have learned that the—WHY you are going to teach it —is often overlooked in the grand scheme of things, but in reality it can be the most important thinking that you do when you are structuring or revising an outline for the class. The engagement is also so, so crucial!

If your own pedagogical values are not reflected in your choices of what to teach and how you’re going to teach it, then your class will be much less authentic for you and for your students. They need the “why” as much as you do, and the more transparent you can be about the matter, the better off everyone involved is going to be, as well.

In the field of Early Childhood Education the Ontario document How Does Learning Happen? A Pedagogy for the Early Years has been so instrumental in helping me align my professional goals and educational goals for both the students and myself. Provocations have also provided me with a sense of inspiration.

For me provocations with students … are skillfully introduced  with the intent to create a spiral of learning where students construct knowledge.

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  • In the picture above, I have included the Assessment for Quality Improvement (AQI). I find that adult learners appreciate learning about the expectations from the city and their future employers, it helps ground their understanding.
  • I also place sticky notes for students to answer guiding questions on, these notes are usually saved and revisited at the end of class.

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  • In the picture above, I have written two points on the importance non-fictional books in the classroom, on this day we were discussing nature/science related topics. This helps start the conversations and possibly encourage students to think up other reasons for the placement of nature/science books in the classroom.

Provocations …. give students plenty of time to talk, to think through things in small groups or together as a larger class, while I can facilitate their thinking without dominating it. Model the kind of critical thinking and reflection I want them to do, and then give them the room they need in order to do it.

In many of my classes, I structure daily lessons around a question or a set of questions or an idea or set of ideas I would like us to explore, and we work together to create meaning and find answers through discussions.

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  • In the picture above, I have included the Early Learning for Every Child Today (ELECT), the goal was to have students holistically connect the learning experiences to the continuum of development. In the invitations to explore materials I like to include ‘real’ photographs of the learning experience in the classroom, this helps students visually see the set up in a classroom.

I love that provocations or environmental invitations grant me the ability learn more about my students as learners, I love to observe them and listen to their conversations as they engage with materials and discuss ideas. I also think, central to the explorative process, is reflection. I feel provocations provide student teachers with a comfortable space when they do not “fully understand” as teachers. The door is open to rich dialogue and critical reflection, practices that make us better teachers/learners.

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  • In the picture above, I have introduced students to “small world play” I have defined for students in a simple format and in addition not pictured above I have created an album on small world play and a handout for students to learn more about.

Provocations I think poke at something more specific and defined in education and why not use them with college students! At this point in the “spirally constructivist approach to learning” (love this! It reminds me of Loris Malaguzzi’s metaphor of the brain as a tangle of spaghetti) we have figured some things out and we are consciously placing something into that identified trajectory of learning, inquiry, theory development. Since the constructivist approach involves co-construction, we often think in terms of a scaffold (something that provides a platform for the learning so the child or student can reach the next point or make sense of an idea or concept in their unique construction of knowledge). The joy of teaching is that the learning and reflection never end!

Exploring Mindfulness

Inspiring Pedagogy: “Traditionally, educators have found that much of their communication with children involves directing them – giving instructions, telling children what to do, and correcting their behaviour – rather than really connecting with them in a meaningful way. However, an approach that emphasizes listening, responding to, and building on child-initiated communication and conversation can be a more effective way to promote children’s language acquisition and their development of social skills, empathetic understanding, and ability to pay attention.” (HDLH, p. 41)

I collaborated with Edane Padme, Certified Yoga Instructor at Padme Kids Yoga to deliver a Mindfulness Workshop for the students.

I absolutely loved how she so passionately sought to have the students embody mindfulness, it was very important for her that the students before sharing mindfulness practices with the children to have an experiential understanding of mindfulness through their own practice. I also agree that once we begin to develop our own practice, we will see how it impacts our classroom and our relationships with children more intentionally.

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The more we practice coming back to the present with kind awareness, the easier it actually is to be present — a vital quality for educators. As educators we make more decisions during the course of the work day, and the demands of the classroom require us to be able to have simultaneously both expansive and focused attention.

Role-model the calming strategies to ensure the children understand the process and are successful.

I believe mindfulness can enable us to connect deeply with ourselves so in turn we can authentically connect with others.

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Classrooms that practice mindfulness activities such as breathing exercises, sensory explorations, guided imagery, yoga, and spa like music, show reduced stress and anxiety, better mood, and improved choice making, impulse control, attention and memory (all executive functions!)

Educators adapt expectations based on the individual needs and personalities of the children. For example, shortened wait times or steps for younger children, or longer wait times for the children who have a stronger ability at self-regulation.

IAMYOGA8.jpegWhether you call it “brain breaks”, “time-in”, “yoga”, “meditation”, or “mindfulness,” participation enables children to develop an awareness of their inner state and the ability to soothe and refresh themselves. Every time we support children in consciously resetting and recharging their nervous systems there’s an investment in a more thoughtful, harmonious, and self-regulated classroom.

Educators are consistently explaining consequences in a calm manner. For example, calmly explain that hitting hurts and redirect the child to an alternate activity.

Some ideas I have come across to support self-regulation in the classroom:

Start the day with a silent or guided breathing or meditation technique that slows everyone’s inner speed and invites observation of sensations.

  1. Direct children to: (steps adapted from Dr. Reggie Melrose)
    a. connect /ground to earth (imagine being a tree or mountain)
    b. rest into the support of chair or floor (give in to gravity)
    c. breathe fully and slowly (in and out the nose)
    d. visualize something or someone they love (imaginary or real)
    e. notice how the previous steps shift their inner sensations (what happened, where?)
  2. Explore and identify physical and emotional sensations as part of social-emotional learning to help children build an awareness of their internal states and how to observe, name and manage them. This process develops mindfulness and self-regulation because children are harnessing the overlapping social –emotional brain and the regulatory.

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A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles by Thich Nhat Hanh

Pebble meditation is a groundbreaking and completely unique technique to introduce children to the calming practice of meditation. Developed by Zen master, best selling author, and peace Nobel Prize nominee Thich Nhat Hanh, A Handful of Quiet contains complete instructions for pebble meditation designed to involve children in a hands-on and creative way that touches on their interconnection with nature. Whether practiced alone or with the whole class, pebble meditation can help relieve stress, increase concentration, nourish gratitude, and can help children deal with difficult emotions.

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Mindful Pebble Experience

For the meditation activity, a pebble is chosen to represent four things in nature: a flower, a mountain, water, and space. Each natural item represents feelings and thoughts that one may want to channel during meditation and by holding the pebble.

Flower pebble: fresh, playful, joyful; the feeling of child-like freedom and peace.
Mountain pebble: strength, confidence, empowerment.
Water pebble: calm, peaceful, reflective.
Space pebble: free (i.e. from from worry, free from pain), still, quiet.

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Educators reinforce positive behaviours in the children. We acknowledge and support the positive behaviours exhibited by the children.


A finished glitter jar can serve as a visual timer for other practices, such as breathing practices. For example, you can shake the jar and say: “Let’s do some mindful breaths until the glitter settles.” Some families use the jar as a “calm-down jar,” to mark and measure calm-down time. Ideally, the entire family can use the calm-down jar together when there is a conflict: “We are all upset with lots of thoughts and feelings rights now. So let’s all take a break until the glitter in the calm-down jar has settled and then start talking again.”

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A glitter jar can serve as a visual timer for a breathing practice. You can shake the jar and say: “Let’s do some mindful breaths until the glitter settles.”


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Let the child pick their favourite breathing buddy [stuffed animal or pebble] to use. Have the child lay on the ground facing up with the Breathing Buddy on top of them over their stomach. Tell them to breathe in silence for one minute and notice how their Breathing Buddy moves up and down, and any other sensations that they notice. Tell them to imagine that the thoughts that come into their minds turn into bubbles and float away.

We are aware of the different personalities within the group and are able to anticipate situations before they arise.


To continue to build strong neural pathways for self-regulation, remember the 5 R’s:

  • Regularity – Schedule time to practice daily
  • Repetition – Builds neural pathways that become habits
  • Reflection – Noticing sensations strengthens neural pathways
  • Research – Support kids in becoming prescriptive with which tools work best for them
  • Reach Out to Families – Share tools with parents/ care-givers to use at home

One of the biggest lessons I gained from the Mindfulness Yoga  Workshop for Educators was while it is true that mindfulness can create conditions for learning by helping children self-regulate, mindfulness is empowering because it helps us see that in every moment we have a choice; we can choose to be more skillful, and there are concrete strategies that can help us bring more peace, love, and joy into our lives.

“I’m doing science!”

Blog Post inspired by my daughter Sophia’s statement:“Mama! I’m doing science!” and my teaching. Whenever I teach a topic to my ECE/ECA students I like to reflect: What does science mean to children and how can I best facilitate a discussion with my students about ‘doing’ science in early childhood settings?

Developmentally appropriate engagement with quality science learning experiences is vital to help children understand the world, collect and organize information, apply and test ideas, and develop positive attitudes toward science (Eshach & Fried, 2005).

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Meaningful science activities, which are relevant to children’s daily lives, allow children to make connections between what they already know and what they are learning. Further, engagement in conversations  promote children’s awareness of the learning and science concepts.

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After preparing for “Science in Early Childhood Settings with Preschoolers” [my classroom topic for the ‘day’], I wondered “What would be the best way to teach students about science?– immediately I went to: The Scientific Process not sure if this was right or wrong, but for myself it definitely has stood out for a long time in my mind. However, what was it about the scientific process that made it meaningful to me? Could it be the questions we ask? the experimentation? One thing for sure I wanted to communicate to students was:

Young children, like scientists, need to practice the process skills of predicting, observing, classifying, hypothesizing, experimenting, and communicating. Like adult scientists, they need opportunities to reflect on their findings, how they reached them, and how the findings compare to their previous ideas and the ideas of others. [Now, what could I do in the classroom to reflect this in a practical way]

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I find most of the time; children are naturally experiencing the world around them and developing theories about how the world works [WHY?]

The work of Worth and Grollman (2003), as been really influential in my classroom preparation: they have used a simple inquiry learning cycle  to provide a guiding structure for teachers as they facilitate children’s investigations. The cycle begins with an extended period of engagement where children explore the selected phenomenon and materials, experiencing what they are and can do, wondering about them, raising questions, and sharing ideas. This is followed by a more guided stage as questions are identified that might be investigated further. Some of these may be the children’s questions, others may be introduced by the teacher, but their purpose is to begin the process of more focused and deeper explorations involving prediction, planning, collecting, and recording data; organizing experiences; and looking for patterns and relationships that eventually can be shared and from which new questions may emerge. This structure is not rigid, nor is it linear.

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Reflection: What does the Scientific Process mean to me? (I decided to brainstorm see below)

Scientific inquiry provides the opportunity for children to develop a range of skills, either explicitly or implicitly. The following is one such list:

  • Explore objects, materials, and events
  • Raise questions
  • Make careful observations
  • Engage in simple investigations
  • Describe (including shape, size, number), compare, sort, classify, and order
  • Record observations using words, pictures, charts, and graphs
  • Use a variety of simple tools to extend observations
  • Identify patterns and relationships
  • Develop tentative explanations and ideas
  • Work collaboratively with others
  • Share and discuss ideas and listen to new perspectives

Materials reflecting sensory, science and nature encourage children to explore through cause and effect experimentation and observation. Continual exposure to these materials and experiences allow children to learn more about their environments.

13734435_154285541677651_1208070482_n1In the classroom students had the opportunity to uncover what “scientific thinking” meant to 1. themselves, 2. children and 3. within the context of childcare. My goal was to help students develop a framework for what the scientific process🔍 was meant for preschoolers and how teachers own scientific thinking impact children’s understanding. I picked three science activities most ECE/ECA’s have traditionally planned in childcare: 1. Mixing Colours, 2. Magnets, 3. Sink and Float, interestingly enough students soon discovered that –“scientific thinking is something we engage in everyday, [displayed as childhood curiosity, the popular question “why?”], and occurs naturally in all parts of the classroom as children engage with art, nature, sensory materials.

Students explore their science activities and drew many conclusions; one that I would like to focus on is:

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“Thinking like a Scientist”

“Thinking like a Scientist”–Most student express anxiety about science topics, as well as having enough scientific knowledge or wonderment about how to include more science content in their teaching. One student shared: “I’m not really very good at science, I don’t really know much about science.”

Drawing from the response I felt it was even more important to uncover our own definition of scientific thinking: We collaboratively defined:–  “scientific thinking is about the diverse ways we seek to understand the world and engage in “what if?”, “why?” investigations all these opportunities help us develop as educators scientificallysimply put you have to be as curious as a child and eager to find out answers.

Eshach, H., & Fried M. N. (2005). Should science be taught in early childhood? Journal of Science Education and Technology, 14(3), 315-336.

A Magical Inquiry: Louise Kool and Galt Showroom with Students

My students and I had the pleasure of visiting the Louise Kool and Galt Showroom. Our deepest appreciation to Cathy and Sonia for sharing in our excitement and granting us the opportunity to visit their gem of a treasure.

It was simply incredible to find a space like this to take my students. For any professor looking to engage students in discover, exploration, dialogue around materials I highly recommend visiting. It would also be inspiring for teachers alike.

The Showroom reads like a preschool/toddler designed classroom with an abundant of rich materials, many which are currently on my wish list, lol! My favourite areas had to of been Sensory and Construction. The possibilities for learning in these areas are endless.

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The goal of our visit was to engage in co-exploring and/or co-planning with a partner and to reflect together on the endless possibilities for engagement, expression and belonging that result from using an inquiry approach with materials. Students were guided to manipulate the “light panels” and “loose parts” found in the showroom.

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As educators we take enormous pleasure in unearthing loose parts and the power of light explorations. Below are some of our discoveries and wonderings:

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Students had many questions and wonderings “How do objects change when placed on the light?”, “I wonder if light increase children’s attention, focus and sense of peacefulness?”, “What are the different ways we can use the materials to support development?”

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Students played with “light,” the Reggio Emilia Approach acknowledges light as a material children use, a language, a way for children to create new languages and possibilities. My students originally began their explorations sorting, patterning, matching, stacking– students were challenged to think deeper:”How does light invite spoken and unspoken dialogue?”, “How can we create a sense of belonging for children?” —naturally they found two people and a story emerged. By changing the set-up –intriguing new possibilities grow.

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Working in the construction area students engage in discussion. Their conversations involved: classifying [farm/jungle animals], counting [number of blocks to build structures], community [families and children] and environment [traffic signals, nature].  Students were encouraged to tie in HDLH foundations and Ontario’s ELECT.

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One of my students said: “I have used loose parts to create a narrative, I’ve intentionally placed my materials.” — “The story is about meal time, in the wooden circle I’ve placed two characters whom are about to eat. On the metal plate dinner was prepared.” – In our class we view loose parts as offering children the opportunity to understand untangle their past experiences and to engage in realistic, complex representations of their daily lives. Such objects keep children in the present, provide chances to test multiple ideas and possibilities for future use. Like children my student was provoked by the materials at Louise Kool and Galt’s Showroom she planned, and communicated her inquiry using loose parts.

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“How can we Create a Provocation with Number? Here two students experiment with the concept “number” by looking closely and observing naturally found and bought materials –and my favourite: jewels, inquiry naturally emerges and the students wonder aloud. Students were challenged to deliberately and thoughtfully create a provocation for children. Seizing the moment the students problem solve together.