“I love it when a plan comes together.”
The first time my husband quoted this phrase to me, I stared at him blankly. You’d think with four brothers, I would have watched my fair share of episodes of The A Team, but somehow I managed to miss this television show. I was reminded of this phrase (and others) today while teaching my fifth session of Kat Cam. I got my teaching groove on. Today was my jam. I floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee. Ok, maybe not all of these phrases work. But if you’re picking up what I’m putting down, today was a great day to teach!
This week’s lesson was on movement, and it is the lesson I have been waiting for. I got to pull out my whole bag of tricks. We made salad spinner paintings. We concocted slime. We played inside a giant bubble. We crafted lava lamps. Yes, it is as fun as it sounds.
As the kids arrived, I put on some music so we could explore movement by dancing. I am not one of those snooty gen-x’ers who insists my kids listen to “cool” music. (Check out this clip from Portlandia).
If my kids want to sing along with Sid the Science Kid, I’m perfectly alright with that. But I let them pick records from our collection and play them on their Fisher Price record player. This week, Kellen picked out Food for Thought by the JB’s, and I could barely contain my excitement. To my delight, he and his brother went crazy for it. I put the record on today, and before it even started playing, Liam was bouncing up and down chanting “pass the peas,” waiting to share the song with his friends. My heart practically exploded with pride.
After giving them time to dance and get a bit of energy out, we began talking about movement. To get their attention, I incorporated a trick of having them hold their hands to their ears and look at me, so I would know they were listening. I showed them a painting by Jackson Pollock, and talked about how he made it by dripping, flinging and smooshing paint. This led into our creating our own version of painting through movement by using a salad spinner. I had originally based all my lessons around famous works of art, and then reconsidered that approach because I thought it might be too much for preschoolers. Now I wonder if that was a mistake. I’m sure none of the children will remember the name Jackson Pollock, but I think they will connect that an artist made paintings using a method similar to the one they used. Either way, they seemed to enjoy looking at the painting, and creating their own versions.
I’m sure all teachers learn from their students, but today, I got several lessons. During our slime-making activity, one of the kids made comment on how the slime felt slippery. Another boy said “how something feels is texture.” Ta-da! He remembered texture from our first lesson! Oh my god, if you could have seen me, I’m sure I was beaming. That sentence let me know that sometimes, even if I don’t think they are absorbing what I say, they are. It might take awhile for them to connect it, or to vocalize it, but the knowledge is there. If I can build on that knowledge week after week, I can make a lasting impression.
We moved on to today’s main event- playing in the plastic bubble. Again, I used a famous example. I showed pictures and described Andy Warhol’s “Silver Clouds” installation.
Hearing the mention of a room full of silver balloons, the kids were instantly intrigued. We talked a little about how you can use your body’s movements to create art, such as during a dance performance. A child asked “what does performance mean?” I began to define the word, and internally thought about how this is what teaching is- not a lecture but a conversation. As I described how we were going to play in our own version of a bubble and fill it with balloons, their eyes widened with anticipation. I laid out the bubble and turned on the fan to inflate it.
I was very curious as to how the kids would react to it. Some kids practically wanted to live in the bubble. They spent thirty minutes inside of it, and would have spent more had their mothers not come to pick them up. Others would play in it for a few minutes, then come out to engage in another activity, then go back inside. One girl was intimidated by the bubble. She would not go in at first. I encouraged her to try it and see if she found it to be fun, letting her know I would go in with her. She went in, popped right back out and exclaimed “I did it!” She went in one or two more times, but was just not interested in what the bubble had to offer.
I planned my lesson so I had another activity in case kids did not like the bubble. I broke out my light table, and began making homemade lava lamps with three of the kids.
In my studies, we have had a lot of discussion about how different children learn in different ways. By providing different activities, I felt like I was giving each child a chance to explore and learn in the way that felt most comfortable to them. I also hope that the different activities illustrated how movement can be small or big, can be made with your own body or with the help of additional items. I came away feeling like I did a good job today, like I reached everyone. Oh yeah, and it was a blast.
Liam no longer takes a nap. Instead, he has a quiet play time before he is allowed to watch a show of his choosing. After his quiet time today, he came to show me the different movements of each of his toys. He’d spin the wheel of a car and exclaim “see that- that’s movement!” As I gave myself an imaginary pat on the back, he said something that made me even happier.
“I like you, Mom.”