Showing posts from January, 2011

On Being an Atelierista: 100 Languages, inquiry, poetic thinking, media and materials

Part of what I've been trying to do with this blog is define for myself what this job of Atelierista is, and what it can be. Lately I've been working on a document that defines the role of the studio in children's inquiry all over the school.  I'm trying to hone in on the particular media and materials that come out of the studio, the ways of making all kinds of thinking visible, the poetic as well as the more concrete. From there, I want to be able to say what media children will have time with in each classroom, and when, from pre-school through 8th grade. It's a big job!
I started writing about 2-d and 3-d representation, and media like ink, clay and watercolor, which are pretty traditional forms of showing what you think. 

As I worked, I kept running into exceptions to the 2 and 3d designations, such as the use of clay or wire as a drawing tool, which changes the way we think about these media (from 2-d to 3-d).

Within the traditional category of 3-d media, childr…

A nice wish



Without fail, and for every age from 3 years old through
                                       2nd graders, teachers to 5th graders,
                                       a huge grin spreads over everyone's face when they
                                       first hear sound through this device, which comes from
                                       the garden room to the studio, and is made out of a
                                       garden hose and some funnels.

Look, Anna! It's a fairy wearing roller skates!


The Joy of Discovery

tubes, funnels and sound

5 year old thoughts about heroes

"Me and Mom were talking about heroes when we were eating breakfast this morning. Not like Captain Underpants, but heroes like Martin Luther King."
"I read a book about Martin Luther King. 
I don't think it's very nice that brown people and black people had to sit at different tables, and go to different school.  You know, they couldn't paint at the same table, they couldn't sew at the same table, they couldn't make things at the same table!"

Cross modal representation and co-construction: what is the learning?

Two 5th graders came to the studio to work on a real-life representation of a technique they use during math time -the ladder method. I've been thinking about reasons for older children to engage in inquiry in the studio, and it seems to me that there are 2 main ones, one more obvious than the other.

Showing Comprehension
When children represent ideas across modes (in more than one medium), they show their understanding of that idea. For instance, in the 3rd and 4th grade classrooms, students have been composing music to illustrate scenes in the books they are reading. These compositions serve to make the students' learning visible (and hearable), by letting other people see the students complex understandings and thoughts about the reading.

Co-construction of Understanding
Possibly an even more subtle and important reason for students to engage in this type of project comes from co-construction. While building the real-life math/ladder, the students have to reach a common unde…

Plans and notes

The notes I talked about in the last post serve as a reminder to children of the reasons we read and write, but they also help grown ups in the school understand the children's intentions. The classroom teacher needs to ask questions to understand where the student wants to go and why, and then help the child communicate that in the note. Then, the child may show the note to a parent volunteer in the hall to get help in finding their way to the studio.
When a child comes to the studio, they may have been talking or playing about an idea in their classroom for a long time, but I don't hear that (unless a teacher keeps in touch). These notes, then, are a way that I begin to listen to the child, to know what it is they need my help with, and to begin to build a shared understanding of what they want to to in the studio.

When Jasper and Yates came to the studio with these notes, I remembered that they have shown a strong interest in combines and big farm equipment. This was one of t…

Notes to the Studio

We have a tradition of note writing in the preschool. This constant practice shows children a very authentic reason for reading and writing. The Children go to their classrooms first thing, but if they want to visit another room, they can write a note and go. I receive the notes in the studio, read them, and then the children leave them in my clementine 'note box'. I noticed this week that my note box was overflowing with notes from children from every pre-school class. Up until this point in the year, the teachers are doing the bulk of the writing. Usually around now our emergent writers begin to write more and more of their own words. My 2 favorite notes of past years said "Dear Anna, We need a brain." and "Anna, I love you. But I love Sara F. more".

Happy New Year

I've been stymied for what to write about lately...working with so many teachers has me questioning what is mine to discuss Jenny over at Let the Children Play said, I've lost my blogging mojo.

I've also been deep in the trenches writing a curriculum document about the atelier, what it could be and how it can serve the school, what languages we hope to give children time and exposure to, and why. Part of this has to be a list of media and materials that we will introduce to each student, and when. The more I work on it the tougher it is to see any difference in the when (what age should you start learning to use good paint brushes, saws, and hot glue?), but I am narrowing in on the what.

In my section on Space (3-d) studio materials, I wanted to talk about building, machines and what people are talking about these days when they refer to tinkering, and I found this list (from, of good tools for kids. Now I just have to get the ones I don't…