Saturday, May 22, 2010

An Oasis Of Concentration



One of the most common compliments we receive from the parents of children who have moved on to public school kindergarten is something along the lines of, "(My child) was well prepared for a big, noisy class."

Our public schools, like most across the country, tend to have kindergarten class sizes in the 24-30 range, typically all under the auspices of a single teacher, or perhaps a teacher and assistant. As much as I share the desire for a better student-teacher ratio, it's not changing anytime soon, so it's incumbent upon Woodland Park to help kids develop the necessary skills to thrive in that kind of environment.

One of those necessaries is an ability to concentrate in the midst of hubbub. Being able to stick with a puzzle, for instance, while the kid beside you is in the throes of conflict over a toy, or not losing track of your beading pattern when friends break into a favorite song, are essential survival talents. And the honest truth is that for most of us, our adult worlds are increasingly full of distractions seemingly designed to seduce us away from the task at hand. This is, in fact, a life skill, and while some of us are more temperamentally suited to it than others, it's one that can be honed through practice.

Last week we put our concentration skills to the test with a variation of a project involving suction cup soap pads I learned about over at My Montessori Journey. The idea is to start by using an eye-dropper to carefully deposit a single drop of liquid water color into each of the 3 dozen tiny suction cups. I have a very steady hand and even I found it challenging when I tested the concept before class, so I was prepared for a certain level of frustration, especially from the younger kids.




My concerns were entirely unfounded. Not all tried it, but the ones who did were universally able to block out the usual classroom buzz, including a large motor activity taking place a few feet away and a more active than usual sensory table a few feet away in another direction. I was impressed with their ability to find an oasis of concentration within themselves. I had wondered if kids would get bored with the apparently tedious process of filling all the tiny cups, but most of them, once settled in, didn't stop until they were each charged up with a drop of paint. In fact, some kids got so involved that they then proceeded to place single drops between each of the cups.

The next step of this project is to place a damp paper towel on top of your paint-drop pattern to create a kind of tie-dye effect by virtue of capillary action. 



We used dry paper towels, creating smaller, but more intense color bursts.






These pictures have a sort of unreal look about them because I snapped the pictures while holding them up against the window, but you get the idea. I would have had a lot more photos to show you, but the kids raided the drying racks at the end of class, claiming their own to take home even before they were entirely dry.

This project is a keeper. I'm now thinking about how we can use those soap pads with tweezers and small florist marbles . . .


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11 comments:

Jason, as himself said...

"One of those necessaries is an ability to concentrate in the midst of hubbub. Being able to stick with a puzzle, for instance, while the kid beside you is in the throes of conflict over a toy, or not losing track of your beading pattern when friends break into a favorite song, are essential survival talents."

You said it! Everything Teacher Tom says is wise. But this phrase really stands out to me today.

Life with Kaishon said...

Oh! I love this. What a great project to do.

So great that you are giving these children skills that will help them function in kindergarten and ultimately, in life : )

SquiggleMum said...

I think we often underestimate children's fine motor skills in the early years. Although some children are still developing in this area, often others are very advanced! Fab activity.

Deborah (Teach Preschool) said...

Wow - they did a great job with that! I am not so sure I have that kind of patience:)

Danny said...

this is simple, easy prepared for kids. But the great way to practice their fine motoric skills

Liz said...

Wow Tom this is really cool! Can you guess what I'm thinking?
Donna :) :)

Monkey's Mama said...

I bet these would be cool with coffee filters too - we've got a bunch laying around from the butterfly explosion. Where did you find those soap pads?

Teacher Tom said...

@MM . . . I got them at Bartell's. They were really inexpensive too.

@Donna . . . ?

Scott said...

So many important skills are needed for kindergarten - and few of them are "academics" that some prize so highly.

I really like this idea. I see a trip to the store for soap pads....

Sherry and Donna said...

I saw this too ... and loved the idea. Yours look beautiful as well. Popping them on the window is the obvious way to display them, they look great!
Donna :) :)

Denise said...

At our parent-teacher conference this week I was told that my child has difficulty focusing and maintaining sustained attention on a task - something I found surprising because at home she is extremely focused. It appears she has difficulty tuning out the ruckus of 25 kids and all kinds of activities. I hadn’t really thought of this as a life skill that could and should be ‘honed through practice.’ I’ll be looking for more inspiration from your blog.

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