Sunday, March 2, 2008

Puzzle Pursuits in a Primary Classroom

1.Child traces outline of puzzle pieces on heavy paper and then watercolors the traced segments

2. Child traces the puzzle pieces on to colored construction paper, cuts out shapes and re-assembles them onto an additional piece of paper.

I wrote a post early last month regarding the use of the botany puzzles. Several children traced the individual pieces and then used watercolors to duplicate the colors of the puzzle pieces. The completed puzzle served as the control of error (I frequently observed children doing this work resolve color choice decisions by referring to the puzzle). The results were beautiful. The children expressed great pride in their carefully completed work.

Last week, one of the oldest children in my classroom asked if he could trace the puzzle pieces onto colored construction paper, which he would then cut out and assemble on a separate piece of similar paper. I gave my approval. My assistant Jill made available all of the materials that he requested. A silence card was placed on his table, as he also asked not to have observers or drop by conversationalists at his table. He quietly began creating what would ultimately be a display of his mastery over so many tools: scissors, glue, paper, assemblage skills. When he was looking at his almost finished work, he decided he needed to add a leafy limb for the bird that he had made to perch on. Below are a few of the photographs I took documenting his work:

I wrote another post shortly after the one about botany puzzles and painting which had for its topic the magnetism of a focused child. After the first student created the eagle with construction paper, other five years made the well know outburst, "I want to do that work, too!" I limit watercolor sets in the classroom to two and I did the same with the construction paper/puzzle work. Too quickly, children will abandon work when they see another child doing work they have never done before and one that is getting noticed by the adults. This work was always available, it just took a child creatively inspire to figure out how to go about doing it.

Also, the adult does not have to be the originator of all of the work in the environment. Like us, children conceive extensions and should be given the freedom to explore their mathematical, linguistic and aesthetic ideas. Remember what our trainers told us - "The adult does not see the child as an empty vase to fill, but a vase filled with the child's endless potential." We are guides in a child centered environment.

A second child began to trace another puzzle on to colored construction paper. After several pieces were cut she told me that she wanted to make a nest; she did that. Next, she said "Well, what about the eggs?" I find such delight in watching children being tickled by their own mental powers. This is what children do when they are not sitting for endless hours in front of the television or a computer monitor (although. I am not advocating that they not spend some time doing that) : they imagine, wonder, contemplate universal questions, they create.

While the second child worked on her bird puzzle, the first child, having finished his eagle, started using the grasshopper puzzle in the same way. I looked over to the opposite side of the room and saw two children painting a botany puzzle. The purposeful work buzz was humming. I loved it. My assistant Jill loved it. Most importantly, the children glowed with the joy one feels at accomplishing great work.

Below are the pictures of the bird (notice that she wrote "Chirp" in the upper left hand corner) and the grasshopper.
Bird Puzzle:


2. Grasshopper puzzle


Meredith said...

This is wonderful thank you for sharing!!

Myra said...

I love this idea. I, too, am a Montessori Children's House guide and would like to try introducing this activity, especially the water color work for starters. I have heard of and tried doing this with the maps but found that there were just too many pieces and the child needed so much adult help that we couldn't continue having this work available. Have you written about how to introduce the use of water colors? I would be interested.
Myra Arnold

Susan Dyer said...

I will put introducing water colors on my list of topics to write about.

Susan Dyer
The Moveable Alphabet