By Maura Selenak
Kindergarten Teacher, Harborview School
It’s January and I’m sitting at the carpet with a group of kindergartners. “Why do you think the character in the story said that? What was she thinking?” Hands shoot into the air- “I’ve built a snowman before!” “My mom read this book to me before.” “Can I go to the bathroom?” They are eager to share their experiences and what they know to be true. However, urging a group of five and six year olds to perspective take-- whether we’re reading a book, or I’m asking a child to think about his friend’s point of view when they’re having a disagreement-- can be hard. Perspective taking is the ability to take the perspectives of others and apply it to your interactions with them. It is something that we work on over the course of the entire year in kindergarten.
When my Art Lab group chose to experiment with the Step Inside Artful Thinking Routine, I was intimidated. Choose a person, object or element in a piece of artwork, and step inside that point of view. Consider: what can the person/object perceive or feel? What might the person/thing know about or believe? What might the person/thing care about?
I worried that this thinking routine would be too abstract for my kindergartners, or that they wouldn’t be interested. Boy was I wrong. This routine was so successful on the first try that I came back to it again and again for the remainder of the year. Each time I was blown away by the students’ insights, responses, and eagerness to share.
What did this thinking routine look like in the classroom?
Snapshot 1: Our Day-Old Chick
For this thinking routine, we used an image of a chick that had just hatched in our classroom. Some of the students’ thinking was recorded on a poster during the thinking routine:
Snapshot 2: Friendship
This thinking routine happened toward the end of a read aloud of Timothy Goes to School by Rosemary Wells. In the story, Timothy is excited to go to school but when he gets there, Claude tells him he is wearing the wrong thing day after day. We paused at an image of Timothy and I asked students to “Step Inside” and pretend that they were Timothy. Some of the students’ thinking was recorded on a poster during the thinking routine.
by Elisabeth Hauser,
Harborview Elementary, Kindergarten
Introducing kindergartners to sea week may be one of the best reasons to be a kindergarten teacher. There’s something that amounts to pure joy in uncovering a huge group of sea urchins under a rock, or the slippery curvy movements of a prickle back with children for the first time.
Our time at the beach was amazing! We made so many discoveries and were able to use important property words to describe their physical characteristics. We used our observational skills to notice animal movement and interaction with their environment (and ourselves). In coming back into the classroom, I wanted to see what my children had learned and how they could represent this new knowledge to each other. And so I gave them a challenge:
We’ve practiced our acting skills throughout the year with guest actors and individual “tableau” to help us represent characters in some of the books we’ve read. We’ve used the phrase “actor’s neutral” to control our bodies before acting. We’re familiar with the concept and role of an audience. So we’ve had some preparation already.
For this tableau experience, our goal was three fold:
Before giving children their group assignments or photo, I modeled a performance with a parent helper in the classroom. My emphasis was on teamwork and kindness during practices, as this was certainly a piece I was worried about as a kindergarten teacher.
I placed children into small groups of 2 or 3 children with an animal assignment (which included a familiar photo of the tide pool animal), giving groups 10 minutes to practice and rehearse their role. Then, it was time to perform.
Each group’s performance began in the “actor’s neutral” stance. This gave them an opportunity to check their bodies and also gave the audience an indication that they were ready to begin (and, truly, we kind of need to have “audience neutral” at times in kindergarten!).
Students were in control, had a plan, and really thought through the movement (or lack of movement).
What I loved most was the response of the audience. Students were enraptured because the act was also a game for them – their job was to try and guess what the tide pool animal was. I encouraged children from the audience to explain what clues brought them to their conclusion. It demanded that children look for details in the performance – like the squirt from a clam or the small spikes on top of a still sea urchin.
OK, fine, I loved a lot about this experience. So I’ll just mention the other really important piece – the children were elated. They loved working with each other! Learning should be a joyous experience, no matter the age (but goodness it is so important for young children). They should be working together, creating together, and learning together. This year of focused arts integration has been such an important reminder to me of what young children are capable of if they are given the right amount of guidance, modeling, and opportunities (for mistakes and successes!). And, that it’s ok for me, as the teacher, to take risks and make few mistakes along the way to find those joyous and meaningful successes.
by Davin Savikko
Riverbend Elementary, Kindergarten
I will share the story of how I used the SEE/THINK/WONDER routine when I brought 6 salmon into my kindergarten class.
I love this routine for its simplicity: What do you see? What do you think you know (in this case about salmon)? And what does this make you wonder?
This routine is a great way to get my students more engaged with a piece of art – or in this case – a topic (salmon).
I started out by laying a number of salmon (both Pink and King) around the room on tables. Actually, I started by giving my kids a direct order: “You can’t say ‘Ew!’ – you have to say, ‘Cool’– or something like that." (Unfortunately, that order was not as successful as the use of the SEE/THINK/WONDER routine…but it was pretty funny to hear the kids continually saying ‘Ew!’ and then have 20 other kids yell at them not to say that). Kids were then encouraged to move throughout the room to touch, draw and talk about what they see/notice about the salmon.
We then regrouped at the front of the room and I posed the question “What do you think you know about salmon?”. I recorded the kids thinking on butcher paper.
The kid’s thoughts ranged in complexity – from simple thoughts and details:
“I think tails help fish swim” and “If they don’t live in water they will die”
To more in depth details:
“The fin right here (points to gills) helps the salmon breathe” and “I think they (salmon) have slime on them so if they go in a seal’s mouth they can slip right out”.
That is another thing I really like about using this thinking routine – it allows for multiple entry points for kids depending on their observational skills and/or prior knowledge.
Some of the ‘thinking’ was very literal about what they saw from the salmon in the room:
“King salmon have dots on their bodies” and other ‘thinking’ obviously came from prior knowledge the student had come in with “You can only keep a King Salmon if it’s size is big enough”.
The student’s comments would often build off the comments of their peers. Sometimes it would directly contradict what a classmate had just stated – for instance, right after the claim about the gills helping a fish breathe, another student made the claim:
“I think that that fin (points to rear fin) goes under their body and helps it breathe”.
All thoughts were recorded by me, word for word, with no corrections or judgements.
I then took a different piece of butcher paper and posed the question, “What do you wonder about salmon?” Like the “I think I know” process, some of the wonderings were related to what the students actually observed from the salmon in the room, while others were from prior knowledge or wonderings in general.
“I wonder what that little fin on top does?”
“I wonder how salmon can breathe under water?”
“I wonder how old fish are?”
After all the ‘Wonderings’ were recorded I grouped the students around me for the dissection of a few salmon.
It was only at this time did I reveal/deliver any of information about salmon – a good 30 minutes into the lesson. All previous talk had been strictly kid generated. Every student in my class was engaged. How often can I say that?
The dissected salmon were then put back on tables and students were encouraged to engage in the same process we used to start the routine – touching, talking and drawing what they saw.
by Maura Selenak
Harborview Elementary, Kindergarten
I learned a routine called Pass the Portrait at a recent inservice with Melanie Rick, an instructor from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. To play Pass the Portrait, students are seated in a circle, facing a partner. Before beginning, students must show the place between them where they will be placing the piece of art (this is an important step because it helps avoid conflicts). In the game, students are taught how to “read” a portrait by discussing things like facial expression, gesture, and focal point. The teacher places a printed portrait in the predesignated spot between each pair of students. The students have one minute to discuss the picture before the teacher starts counting down aloud- “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, pass….the….portrait….!” The expectation is that students will wrap up their discussion by the time the teacher gets to 1, then will pass the portrait to the next pair by the time she finishes saying “pass the portrait”. The teacher moves amongst the students during the discussions, pulling out ideas and writing them on the board to reference later. This routine quickly gets students engaged- there is art in their hands!- and discussing with one another.
I used Pass the Portrait to teach my kindergartners the routine and expectations for the game- they are seated, they are talking in quiet voices, they are expected to work with anyone in the class, they finish their conversation by the time I get to 1, and they pass the portrait clockwise. After teaching them this routine, I realized the sky was the limit!
For example, we used the routine at the beginning of the Ray Troll art kit. I printed out 15 images of Ray Troll Fish. We began the lesson by looking at one piece of exemplar art on the board and identified colors, lines, patterns, and shapes. We were then ready to play “Pass the Artwork”. We used the exact same routine as Pass the Portrait, except students were looking at Ray Troll images, and they were picking out colors, lines, patterns, and shapes. The discussions were rich, and when it came time for students to create their own artwork, they were inspired and had concrete ideas of what kinds of lines, shapes, colors, and patterns they could use.
In another instance, I used the Pass the Portrait routine at the beginning of the Rainbow Flower Garden Art Kit. The kit comes with many colorful artificial flowers. We used used exemplar art to identify flower parts before students played “Pass the Flower” with the artificial flowers. The objective for their discussions during Pass the Flower was to identify flower parts (stem, leaves, flower) and describe the flower (it has 5 petals, it is colorful, it has one long green leaf, etc.)
A collection of JSD teachers' arts integration classroom experiences