Monday, January 21, 2008

Preparing and Presenting New Cutting Work for the Classroom

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I spent most of it re-evaluating in my mind what I wanted to introduce to the classroom and how to find all the items I would need. This required hours of visualizing those items and how they would be placed on trays. I recently changed the items in the Cards and Counters. I had been using identical buttons since September. I have now replaced those with the correct number of small, colorful fish.

The type of numbers that I use are wooden and are red. They are not painted on individual, wooden cards. They are simply the shape of a number 1-10. There was a wonderful discussion about this at the San Francisco refresher course last February. The wooden cards limit the possible directions that a child might place the number on the rug - up or down. Where as the wooden outline of the number - looking very similar to the letters in the moveable alphabet - allow many more choices for placement. The adults may then observe whether the child has learned how to place each number correctly - again, the similarity with the moveable alphabet in that a child may place an s or any other letter incorrectly. Once we have observed incorrect placement, we can plan lessons to assist the child in mastering this act.

In regards to selecting the counters and making sure that they are not used as toys, I included in my lesson specific attention to the positioning, in this case, of the fish. The fish are to be placed with their heads up. This provides a point of interest which enhances the child's attention to detail. The children received the replacement of the buttons with the fish as one receives a gift. They appreciated and were careful with them.

The work I prepared for today was a cutting work I read about. It required the following materials:
  1. A large canister with an open and close lid
  2. Contact paper (or other such materials) to cover canister
  3. A handful of small stones or other materials sealed in a plastic container to provide weight.
  4. A ball of yarn/ribbon/string
  5. A pair of child sized scissors
  6. A narrow card/guide/ruler identifying how long the yarn/ribbon/string should be cut.
  7. A basket to hold cut lengths of yarn/ribbon/string
  8. An attractive tray to hold the above materials

Preparing the work: Cover the canister and, if has labeling on it, the lid with contact paper. Make a small X shaped opening in the center of the container's plastic lid using a small knife or scissor tip. The X shaped opening will provide some resistance for the ribbon. Place the bagged stones inside and on the bottom of the canister. On top of the stones, place a ball or skein of ribbon. Take the end of the ribbon and poke it through the X in the removed lid. Secure the lid and pull a small length of ribbon through the opening. Place this canister, the ruler, scissors and the basket for cut ribbons on a tray. Place on shelf.

The work on the shelf. *Note: I added a laminated number 4 and replaced the paper ruler I initially had chosen with a green ruler.

Returning to the math area after placing the materials for ribbon cutting on the table during my large group presentation so as to demonstrate / re-present to some the technique of folding a small number rod over in the case that the numbers in the equation are the same ex. 5+5= . This is the same skill needed to fold the ruler back over itself to measure two times the length of the ruler.

Doing the work: This one person work is done at a table. The child removes all of the materials from the tray and places them on its designated place mat at their chosen work area. They return the tray to the Practical Life shelf (I put mine next to my sewing materials). The child first examines the ruler studying the desired length to cut the yarn. The child carefully pulls at the end of the ribbon. Determining the correct length by measuring it with the ruler. This requires the child to measure the length of the ruler once and then to fold it back over itself so as to measure the identical length a second time. This is the length needed for the potpourri sachets in the botany area. The child then cuts the ribbon and places it in the awaiting basket.

This type of estimation of length is consistent with the flower arranging materials. The child may repeat this work a maximum of four times, which is why the number four is included in the materials. This will be removed from the work when it has lost its initial popularity and provides the opportunity for each of the children to do the work rather then one child cutting all of the ribbon into dozens of short pieces. When he has completed the work, he retrieves the tray, places all of the materials back on it. First he puts the place mat on the empty space on the shelf and then returns the filled tray placing it on top of the place mat. He then takes the cut ribbon in its basket to the various areas in the room that require its use such as the potpourri sachets tray. He places a few pieces of ribbon on such trays and next returns the basket with the remaining yarn pieces to the ribbon cutting tray. The materials that the child has made have a purpose and allow the child to feel connected to the environment through the act of replenishing /refilling / caring for the environment. If the work has no logical purpose, the child see it as only a game. This is the whole concept of "purposeful work" reduced to this one tray.

The child pulls the ribbon through the cut X opening. This is a point of interest as the ribbon makes a specific and noticeable sound as it is pulled carefully through the opening. Next, the child carefully folds the ruler back over itself as I demonstrated with both the small number rods and with this ruler. It provides continuity and reinforcement of acquired skills. Simultaneously, it repeats the left to right movement.

The child cuts the work and places it in the provided tray.


shelle said...

Thank you for the thorough directions for the cutting work. Great informative blog. peace :)

Harmoni Wallace said...

Thank you so much for sharing that you have them replenish areas of the classroom with these ribbons. It makes so much sense! I recently taught one of my oldest students to sew, and as her skills progressed I asked her to sew a torn bag for us. She was so thrilled that she had HELPED the classroom and felt so proud of herself. She felt such a sense of ownership and helpfulness that I've been looking for ways to replicate that experience for her and all my students. I will try to think of more ways for the children to do meaningful work and help the classroom. Thanks!