Thursday, January 17, 2008
Re-Presenting : Drawing the Child Back to the Work
After the holidays, I make it a point to re-present several materials throughout the classroom. I generally start in Practical Life and select a material that has several steps. The head of my school brought in flowers yesterday, so my first repeat presentation was with flower arranging. I rang the bell and asked the children to put their name tags on their work and to join me on the rug. I explained that I was going to give a lesson on flower arranging. Right away, one of the children said, "Miss Dyer, I forgot how to use that work and I was hoping that you would show us again. " I was grateful for her affirmation. I put on my apron and the room grew completely quiet. Even my youngest children followed my every move. As I completed the work, I reminded them that the lesson/work is never complete until all of the materials are returned to the shelves. After my lesson, the flower arranging work never stayed long on the shelf for the remainder of the day.
Often, when children lose interest in Practical Life we are quick to change the materials, removing the old and replacing with the new. I do this too. But if it is done too often, it is like changing the channel on the television. "Oh, are you bored? Let me find something new for you to do." Instead of just changing the beans in the spooning bowls or adding a seasonal or new work to the shelf, re-present the classics: table washing, hand washing, flower arranging, polishing, etc. Through re-presentation we draw the child back to the details of the work and allow them to make discoveries in regards to texture, taste, similarities/contrasts. etc. They master materials by re-using them over and over again. A few years ago, a child who had done table washing many, many times over a two year period came to me (having just completed it again) and said, "I thought I knew how to do the work, but I really didn't Ms. Dyer." Then they just looked at me and smiled. I caught a happy buzz off that child's wonderful grin.
Next, I am planning on re-presenting hand washing. I need to remember to get a new little bar of soap. Caring for the materials and making them beautiful is such an important part of what my role is in the classroom. Don't expect a child to be drawn back to work that has been neglected by the adults in the classroom. A decade ago, when I was doing my observation hours during my training, I was sitting in a chair next to the Practical Life area in a certain classroom. The carrot on the tray for peeling and cutting was unmistakably wilted. When I later ask the lead teacher about the absence of children using the Practical Life materials, she responded that she herself hadn't been able to figure that out. I didn't point out the carrot as I was a guest in her house. A child responds to beautiful materials. I am penning on a post-it note right now - new bar of hotel-sized soap.