Playing with Collecting, Organizing & Interpreting in Kindergarten

As you browse you are invited to be inspired and come learn alongside me, one of my goals for teaching mathematics in kindergarten this year was create opportunities for children to represent their mathematical understandings in ways that are meaningful to them – for example, by writing or drawing on paper, by using pictures and/or numbers and some words, by using materials such as blocks or stickers, pom poms.

This post is about my learning journey creating opportunities for children (It certainly does not capture the myriad of experiences, conversations, voices of the educators or children it is simply a reflection).  — OE19 collect, organize, display, and interpret data to solve problems and to communicate information

A Summary of Overall Instructional Strategies I used include:

  • having students generate questions that can be answered using simple methods
    for collecting data (e.g., by placing stickers on a graph);
  • providing opportunities to sort the same collection of objects in a variety
    of ways;
  • discussing ways to sort objects using obvious attributes (e.g., colour, size
  • providing opportunities to create and discuss concrete graphs,
    and pictographs;
  • providing graphing mats to help students organize data in people graphs and
    concrete graphs;
  • having students conduct surveys involving questions that have a limited
    number of responses (e.g., “What is your favourite colour?”);
  • discussing and demonstrating different data-collection methods (e.g., placing
    a picture in the appropriate section of a pictograph, making a tally);

Ice Cream Vote as students entered the classroom in the morning for sign-in. Children were encouraged to pick their favourite flavour of ice cream, each child coloured their very own ice cream scoop, we discussed the results as a class. (Instructional Strategy: Providing opportunities for students to vote in order to make class decisions). Favourite Colour this was our introduction to pictographs.

Clipboard Graphing Ideas students had the opportunity to use the various graphing templates to ask their classmates questions, or create their very own questions. (Not pictured: We placed various cutouts of superheroes, Disney movie princesses, pets, and movies-students could create their own questions using the cutouts see example photograph #5)

Posting Success criteria to describe, in specific terms and in language meaningful to children, our learning goals. This really helped in naming the learning we observed in the classroom, especially during play-based learning.

Math Words the math words that we used during our discussions were posted, this was used as a reference in conversations we had with the children. Some of our older Year 2 students were able to read them and refer to them during play.

Tally Marks Visual Tally marks are a quick way of keeping track of numbers in groups of five. Posted on the wall we had a visual of 1-10 One vertical line is made for each of the first four numbers; the fifth number is represented by a diagonal line across the previous four.


We worked on encouraging children to use tally marks as a quick way of keeping track of numbers in groups of five. The objective is that the child will understand that one mark is equal to one object.

Data collection often involves conducting a survey. When students plan and carry out surveys, they take ownership for identifying a survey question, learning efficient ways to collect and record the data, and organizing the data in different ways to make sense of them.


Tally charts are particularly useful for gathering and organizing data (A tally chart is a table with tally marks to show a valuable data set). Math Invitation: We placed various cutouts of superheroes, Disney movie princesses, pets, and movies-students could create their own questions using the cutouts. Below are some of the rhymes we used to help children remember when to cross on 5.

Classroom Graphing Mat

In the classroom students enjoyed using a graphing mat to help organize the objects. The graphing mat pictured was made by Sandy Gomes my partner in the Kindergarten classroom. If you don’t have one a graphing mat can be made using a plastic shower curtain. Grid lines can be created using electrical tape. Students categorize objects or pictures by placing them in the columns of the graph mat.

Playful Beginnings Organizing Data in Graphs:

The skills and concepts that students develop through experiences in sorting objects help children understand how data can be organized in graphs. Students learn that data, like objects, can be sorted into groups and categories.

As children develop skill and independence in gathering data, children were provided blank templates that allowed them to organize the data. Giving each child their own individual baggie of objects for them to sort and then organize independently provided them with a sense of ownership over their own work.

Concrete graph: In a concrete graph, objects are used to represent the data.
Each object is placed on a graph template (e.g., a graphing mat) so that students
can easily count and compare the number of items in different categories

Pictograph: Pictures or symbols are used to represent the data in pictographs. By organizing data into categories, it is possible to compare the quantities in
different categories on a graph.

With some of our students we introduced  titles, symbols–components that help to communicate information in a graph: (this was done in small groups or one-one with children during play-based learning. Some of our learning was focused on the following:

  • The title introduces the data contained in the graph.
  • Numeric values into which data are categorized.
  • In pictographs, symbols (e.g., pictures, icons) represent the data. Each symbol
    can represent one piece of data (one-to-one correspondence)

It all began with… Sorting

(Ongoing throughout the year sorting activities were always available to children however, focused sorting instruction took place in late September early October).

Sorting involves examining objects, identifying similar attributes (e.g., colour, size, shape), and organizing objects that “go together” into groups. Along with learning to sort, children learn to classify, that is, to identify a common characteristic of all items within a group.


Read Aloud: Bear Sees Colors, by Karma Wilson

Sorting Colours and Pom Pom Manipulatives 

I paired poms poms with a muffin tin and Bear color printable (from Students were encouraged to sort the poms, poms by color into the appropriate cups of the tin. Reinforce the colors from the story by talking about what Bear saw in each color as children sort their poms, poms. Do they remember what Bear saw that was red? Purple? And so on.

First, we tried the sorting activity in the Sensory bin and then placed it on the table, during play-based learning, this time the pom poms, could be sorted in whatever way the students wanted using the wooden trays.


I learned that students progress in their sorting skills when they are encouraged to find different ways to sort a variety of materials, when they observe how others sort materials, and when they reflect on different ways to sort materials.  Some questions I had handy to help me extend their sorting:

• “How did you sort these objects?”
• “How are these objects alike? How are these objects different?”
• “Why does this object belong here? Why does it not belong here?”
• “Which other objects belong in this group?”
• “What name could you give to this group?”
• “How could you sort these objects in a different way?”
• “How did Anhil sort the objects?”

(adapted from A Guide to Effective Instruction in Mathematics Kindergarten to Grade 3)

What I have learned: 

Throughout the day, we can create an effective environment to support young children’s learning of mathematics by providing mathematics experiences that focus on particular mathematical concepts and by identifying and embedding significant mathematics learning experiences in play, daily routines, and classroom experiences.


Our 3D Figures Inquiry in Kindergarten

We spent lots of time identifying, describing, and sorting three-dimensional objects. Many of our families contributed to our 3D figures museum in the classroom. During the math inquiry our goal was for students to manipulate three-dimensional figures, and as they manipulated the figures to begin to make connections between what they were touching and the characteristics of the figures (e.g., flat faces curved surfaces, corners).  

We also set out many learning opportunities for students to explore 3D figures. Students participated in matching 3D figures to pictures, illustrating their very own 3D pictures in mini books, sorting real life objects, presenting their home 3D figure to the class.

Our goal was to have student engagement in various 3D tasks

As we continued with our 3D Figures inquiry we would add to our Math Wall, encouraging students to revisit their learning journey.

3D Figure Math Talks

Describing the figures, prompting students by asking questions, such as:
• “Do you feel a corner?”
• “How many corners do you feel?”
• “Do you feel any flat faces?”
• “Are there any round faces?”
• “Are there any curved edges?”
• “Are there any straight edges?”


Our Assessment of Students with 3D Figures:

• identify three-dimensional figures;
• describe three-dimensional figures;
• match three-dimensional figures to pictures.

As we observed students, we may of prompted them to explain their thinking.
• “What object looks like a sphere (cone, cylinder, cube)?”
• “How could you describe this figure?”
• “How do you know that this figure matches this picture?”

Building 3D Structures with Wooden Geometric Figures

Students were provided time to explore a variety of three-dimensional figures during play-based learning explorative time (either commercially produced or found items). After students had time to play with the manipulatives, many were encouraged to draw or write about their structures using labels and new vocabulary. 

Transitioning from manipulating the 3D figures to reflecting and naming learning.


Playing 3D figures Bingo

The bingo cards feature both real-world examples and simple 3D figures for children.

Sorting 3D Figures

We worked on sorting figures in the classroom, this was first introduced during a whole group lesson and gradually reinforced in small groups and independently during free-play. Students explained in various ways which figures were alike and different.

Some of our discussions during and after sorting activities supported students think about geometric properties and encouraged reflection about geometric properties,  for example we asked questions:
• “What is your sorting rule?”
• “How are all the figures in this group the same?”
• “Why did you not include this figure in this group?”
• “Is there another way to sort the figures into groups?”


Many of our students participated in sorting activities independently during play-based centres as well as 3D write the room activities (pictured below). It was beautiful to observe the year 2 two students assist the year 1 students, many working together and eager to finish finding all the 3D figures around the classroom.

Our Morning Messages, included children signing-in considering various questions about the characteristics of 3D figures. We had many questions throughout the whole inquiry this was just one picture that was taken. 


Fun 3D Figures Game: How Are They The Same?
– containers of 6 to 10 three-dimensional figures (commercially produced or found
objects) (1 container per pair of students)

Provide each pair of students with a container of three-dimensional figures. Have
students take turns selecting two figures from the container and placing them side by
side. Ask students to explain how the two figures are the same (e.g., both figures roll,
both figures have squares on them, both figures have circles on them).

3D Museum in the Classroom

Encouraging children to manipulate three-dimensional figures, they make connections between what they are touching and the characteristics of the figures (e.g., flat faces, curved surfaces, corners). By matching three-dimensional figures to pictures, students begin to understand the relationships between three-dimensional figures and their two-dimensional faces.

Parent Letter Sent Home: 


Our Remind App Message for Parents: 


Prior to children presenting we modelled describing various 3D figures in the classroom. During “Show and Present Your Figure” in the class students had the opportunity to share their figure, afterwards we worked with children to write the name of their figure or write about the figure.




Some of Our Pattern Wonderings in Grade 1 and 2

1. WHAT is a pattern? How do you know it’s a pattern?    Students shared – things that repeat themselves, grow or change in a special way, they must repeat three times.

2. HOW do patterns work?    Students shared – they repeat themselves, they grow longer and longer (or get smaller); a shape or a color or an object that repeats or grows up, sometimes it can even shrink.

3. What patterns do you know in REAL LIFE? Students shared– animals, clothes, music, language (rhyming words-we loved reading various stories by Rose Bonne’s for example: The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly), weather, art, furniture etc. *They also pointed to their own clothes, furniture in the room, our rugs (with line patterns) etc.

4. WHY is it important to understand patterns? Students shared– lots of answers (e.g. animals- to camouflage, music – to make songs etc.)


Students used patterns blocks, coloured tiles, popsicle sticks and gems to demonstrate their prior knowledge and understanding of patterns.

Digging deeper as we Inquire about Patterns:

  • How many pattern blocks in all were needed for your pattern?
  • Can you show me a pattern with your body? What would you do first? Second
  • What happens over and over again with these blocks?
  • How would you read this pattern?
  • What would happen to the pattern if I changed ______?
  • What can you tell me about the arrangement of your blocks?
  • Can a friend extend your pattern?
  • What attributes have you used?
  • Can you name another way to show your pattern?
  • How many different kinds of gems did you use?
  • Can you point to the smallest part of your pattern? Can you tell what it’s called?


We took a walk around the school and neighbouring community to notice patterns around us, students were also invited to wonder about patterns they may see at home, and describe them with the class during morning circle.

Students represented a pattern fence, in a collaborative patterning activity in class. Students communicated their ideas, planned what type of pattern they wanted to design to represent a fence for their home, many students also incorporated other patterns elements into their designs (I.e, flowers, windows, rainbow, etc.)

Patterns designs continued…

Students worked in partners to create a sound pattern, we called this “Pattern Theatre” students had 7 minutes to create an action (jump, jump, clap; jump, jump, clap) or sound pattern and share it with the class, whereby we named the pattern (AB, ABAB, ABC, etc) and extended the pattern together. Students were very creative, and used some of their inspiration from FortNite. It was very enjoyable!

Pattern Theatre grew from our discussions of the patterns that are all around us: Children tuned into repeating patterns of sounds (loud, loud, soft; loud, loud, soft) – like the sound of windshield wipers or other sequential rhythms and simply noticing patterns in songs, for example, “Baby Shark.”

Working in Partners to Show what You Know:

Students used pattern blocks to create a pattern, extend the pattern, name the attributes, identify the core and represent it in two other ways.

Another adventure begins tomorrow…

Circles of Life Poem


-Poetry by Suzy Kassem

Patterns and Loose Parts

Pattern: When items are in a repeated sequence, they form a pattern.


Children will recognize and create patterns.

For example, when coloring they may shade a shirt in a “blue-red-blue-red” pattern. As they mature, the patterns will become more complex. When playing with blocks they may be able to put them in a “triangle-circle-square-triangle-circle-square” sequence.

Working on pattern recognition is an important area to practice with children in childcare. The ability to recognize, follow and predict patterns is an important early math skill. Understanding patterns helps children to understand and deal with the chaotic environment around them, as they learn to do things in the correct order.


The ECE’s role involves posing questions that alert children to patterns which occur naturally in the sequence of the day, such as in the songs sung, the books read, and the games played in outdoors and indoors. This is an ongoing and natural process. Activities should highlight patterns that are visual, kinesthetic, and auditory.

Tip: Experiences with sorting and classifying may help with the learning of patterns. The ability to work with patterns is strengthened by the recognition and identification of attributes such as colour, size, and shape.


Patterns are everywhere in math!

I have discovered the art of setting out materials in the classroom to be so inviting, and encourages children to explore with all their senses.

Math Language: Repeating pattern, position words (after, between, beside, before, next), attribute vocabulary (colour, size and shape).

Loose Parts = More Complex Play

Architect Simon Nicholson used the term “loose parts” to describe materials with varied properties that can be moved and manipulated in many ways. He theorized that the richness of an environment depends on the opportunity it allows for people to interact with it and make connections.


The term loose parts relates to any object which was can moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up and taken apart and put back together. Playing with loose parts is a popular activity in preschools and upwards to help children develop their skills in creativity, flexibility and independence.


Love the open ended nature of these activities. The children can be as creative as they want and all approach it in their own way. Very inviting and so gorgeously place loose parts.

When children are encouraged to use loose parts and try their own ideas, they are driven to learn. They are driven to not only ask their own questions, but also discover their own answers and create new possibilities. A child’s play with loose parts even begins to match their developing skill level (Daly and Beloglovsky, 2015), providing opportunities for divergent and creative problem solving.


Daly, L., & Beloglovsky, M. (2015) Loose parts: Inspiring play in young children. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press

Thank you to all the Early Childhood Educators and Elementary Teachers who have worked so hard to create activities for children. –credits to the photographs


OMG Reading Aloud!

Reading children’s storybooks is one of my [OMG!!] absolutely personal favorite activities, so it’s only fitting that I dedicate this blog to the BEST ACTIVITY–READING ALOUD!

Before I get into some of what I’ve learned about reading children storybooks I would like to share how this passion for reading stories developed.

While I was in the Early Childhood Education Program at Sheridan College one of my professors Cathy Coulthard said “Anytime is a great time for a story!”, this resonated with me ever since, it was such a powerful statement one that at the moment didn’t mean much to me but has become one the truest parts of who I am as a mother, educator and instructor.

Around the age of 3 months I started reading aloud to my daughter Sophia (now 7 years old). I can confidently say that for the past 6 years of Sophia’s life she has had a book read each night (give or take a couple late nights). I think that for any parent who wants to cultivate a love of reading it has to become a “lifestyle choice.”


How it all started…

I started off by buying a low shelve for her to easily access books independently, I researched best titles for babies, toddlers and preschoolers (the librarians can help with this if your not sure where to begin). I placed all the books so she could see the covers. Use a front-facing book rack or stand some books up on a table or shelf. Setting out many books for children to choose from can be overwhelming for young children, so limit the number of books, surprise children with books by placing them around the house or incorporate them into different areas of the classroom or your home (I would bring some along for car rides.)



Plan a book area that is cozy and inviting, away from distractions and busy traffic flow at home. Place soft items, so children can feel a sense of security and so they can lean and sit on — pillows, blankets, or cushions — and a bean bag chair, love seat, small mattress, and/ or rocking chair. Make the area cozy!

I also made it a point to read to her during down times, or anytime (getting ready for naps, sitting around at the doctors office, at home, riding in the car)–I literally started off taking books everywhere. As she grew the interests in different stories also changed, the stories and how she understood them began to evolve. –Reading was simply for pleasure. After years of reading stories she now independently looks for books to read.


Tips for Reading Aloud

“The Read-Aloud Handbook” by Jim Trelease, I have the pleasure of sharing chapter 4 with you which is titled “The Do’s and Don’ts of Read-Alouds”


  • Begin reading to children as soon as possible. The younger you start them, the easier it is.
  • Choose books for infants and toddlers that include rhymes, songs, and repetition to stimulate language and listening.
  • Read as often as you and the child have time for.
  • Start with pictures books with only a few words on the page then gradually move on to books with more and more text and fewer pictures.
  • Before you begin to read, always say the name of the book and introduce the author and illustrator, no matter how many times you have read the book.
  • The first time you read the book, discuss the illustrations on the cover of the book and ask the child(ren) what they think the book will be about.
  • Occasionally, read above children’s intellectual levels and challenge their minds.
  • Allow your listeners a few minutes to settle down and adjust their minds and bodies to the story.
  • Mood is an important factor in listening. The authoritative, “Now stop that and settle down! Sit up straight! Pay attention!” doesn’t create a receptive atmosphere.
  • When reading a picture book, make sure the children can easily see the pictures.
  • Remember, reading aloud comes naturally to very few people. To do it successfully and with ease, you must practice.
  • The most common mistake in reading aloud is reading too fast. Read slowly enough for the child to build mental pictures of what he just heard you read.
  • Slow down enough for the children to see the pictures without feeling hurried. Reading quickly allows no time for the reader to use vocal expression.
  • Preview the book before reading it aloud to your children. This will allow you to know ahead of time if there is any part of the book you want to shorten, eliminate, or elaborate on.


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)


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.


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.



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?”


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)



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.


  • 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!

Conversations in Block Play

Teachers can encourage children to think deeply about their experiences with blocks and materials. The way in which a teacher responds can help children make connections and create meaning during their block play.

The first step is to observe children with intent.

These observations provide next steps in planning by revealing to us an insight of how to expand the children’s learning and how to nudge them forward through the asking of open-ended questions and /or the arrangement of materials. (Harriet K. Cuffaro, Block Building: Opportunities for Learning)

Beautiful Inspiring Spaces:





To unlock the benefits of block play, the children need social interaction from adults as well as peers. (Block Play Constructs a Math Mind,

By giving children lots to talk about by asking questions, making I wonder or I notice comments, or directing their attention to specific content or skills, the block center can be an exciting environment in which to gain deeper understandings of their world. (The Block Center. The Institute for Childhood Education.)

Examples of open-ended questions to ask during block play:

  • I noticed…
  • What would happen if …
  • Tell me about…
  • How would you…
  • How is _____ and __________ the same? Different?
  • How can you use _______ differently?
  • How did you…?
  • What else could you try…
  • What else is another way to…
  • How could you change…
  • What might explain…

Possible [specific] questions to ask about block play:

Concepts of Ramps:


  • Which container moves down the ramp fastest/slowest?
  • What is same/different?


  • How can you compare…?
  • How is this ramp the same/different as…?


  • What doesn’t move and why?
  • How can you change the ______ to have it move faster?
  • What can you add to the ramp to slow down the movement?
  • What angle of the ramp makes it go faster/slower?

Concept of Balance:


  • How did you place the can on top?
  • What would happen if we put something on top?
  • How can we use these blocks to make something really tall that doesn’t fall down?


  • Why doesn’t your tower fall down?
  • How can we use these blocks to make something that is really long?
  • How can you make a bridge that goes over part of the structure?
  • If both buildings have the same number of blocks, what makes this one taller?

Concepts of Structures:


  • How can you make sure _______ (animal etc) doesn’t escape?
  • What will happen when the animals want to go outside and they get thirsty?


  • What will the people do in your building?
  • What happens when it rains on your house/castle/hotel etc.?
  • What can you do to help the people inside stay dry?
  • What do the people need inside of the _________, outside of the ___________? How can you build those items?

Space has to be a sort of aquarium that mirrors the ideas, values, attitudes, and culture of the people who live within it.
– Loris Malaguzzi

Sensory Ice Play with Children

Ice Play is so beautiful… the possibilities are endless.



Sensory play contributes in crucial ways to brain development. Think of it as “food for the brain.” Stimulating the senses sends signals to children’s brains that help to strengthen neural pathways important for all types of learning.



As children explore sensory materials, they develop their sense of touch, which lays the foundation for learning other skills, such as identifying objects by touch, and using fine-motor muscles.

The materials children work with at the sand and water table have many sensory attributes — they may be warm or cool, wet or dry, rough or smooth, hard or soft, textured or slimy. Discovering and differentiating these characteristics is a first step in classification, or sorting — an important part of preschoolers’ science learning and discovery



Sensory play promotes many learning experiences:

  • Sensory play encourages children to manipulate and mold materials, building up their fine motor skills and coordination.
  • Sensory play uses all 5 senses, but the sense of touch is often the most frequent. Toddlers and children process information through their senses.  They learn through exploring these.
  • Sensory play is unstructured, open-ended, not product-oriented; it is the purest sense of exploratory learning
  • Self-esteem: sensory play offers children the opportunity for self-expression because there is no right answer and children feel safe to change or experiment with what they are doing.
  • Language development- experimenting with language and descriptive words.
  • Develop social skills: practicing negotiation skills, turn taking and sharing. Provides opportunities for working out problems and experimenting with solutions.
  • Encourages Imagination and creative play.