A place to share ideas about play in a Prep classroom

Posts tagged ‘thinking’

Storm in a Saucer

Active Learning Processes is one of the five Learning Areas in our Early Years curriculum and over the last few weeks, we have been very involved in investigating colour. These investigations to date, have included the light box, lots of experimentation with materials and of course paint. In Small Groups this week the children’s thinking was challenged as they were invited to experiment with milk, food dye and detergent. When presented with these ingredients the children discussed what they thought they could do  and predict what might happen. Naturally, after all the colour mixing they have done, the children suggested they could drip the food dyes into the  milk and make new colours by mixing them together but if that was the case, why did they have green paint? Green is not a primary colour! It took some investigation to discover that the “green paint”  was in fact detergent. It was thicker and had a smell! It was harder to suck up into the pippette.  







The children began to drip the 3 primary colours into the milk expecting them to make new colours just like with the paint but they quickly discovered that the food colours did not mix together in the milk.































WOW! Look what is happening.

















The children found it interesting to observe the speed of the reaction and the way the food dye moved and “swirled” to make the new colours.








After their initial experiment the children documented the reactions using crayons.















After this the children continued to experiment and hypothesise about why the ingredients reacted the way they did. They found the process fascinating and fun.











“It’s like a tornedo in the milk.”      “Look at it moving”     “It’s still going.”

The children repeated the process over and over again until the milk was lots of strange and interesting colours.












The children still haven’t quite worked out the reason why the ingredients react the way they do but they are certainly enjoying the active discovery process. I’m sure they’ll get there in the end perhaps with a little help and some strategic questioning to scaffold some higher order thinking but for now it’s the wonder in the process.








Domino Fall Down

After watching some Youtube videos of the domino effect in our Virtual Classroom, we were inspired to try it for ourselves.

We started by lining our dominoes up in a single line.







Next we tried doubling up some of the dominoes in the line.















It requires a lot of mathematical understandings, fine motor coordination, thinking and problem solving skills to place the dominoes in “just the right spot.” Success was always short but sweet.







What I really liked about this whole experience was how self motivating and engaging it was. With each success the children set themselves a more difficult challenge. They experimented with using different shapes and lines.















They explored their creations from all kinds of perspectives.





Their persistence was amazing. When something didn’t work, they discussed and problem solved solutions………



















tested their theories……….











until successful, and whilst the success was sweet, the process was better.

D is for Dragonfly

 As the year has progressed I have been introducing  Observational Art activities to the children. During these sessions we have looked at real objects and discussed how they could be drawn. The purpose being to give the children opportunities to look at objects and visually dissect them. We observe the shapes of not just the whole but different parts of the object, their position and size, colour and patterns. Based on these observations the children draw the object. Today, instead of an object, we looked at   Dragonfly by Harry Hart, who is the grandson of the iconic Pro Hart. This painting is an interpretation of one with the same title, painted by his grandfather.

I began the session by putting an image of Dragonfly up on the Interactive Whiteboard.  The children sat in front of the IWB and had brown paper and, at this stage, just a pencil to draw with. We looked at the position, size and patterning of the eyes and the shape of the dragonfly’s body. When they were ready, the children began to draw.


 Next we looked at the wings and realised that the artist has only painted 2 wings instead of 4. We decided that as this was an observational drawing of the painting we would draw only 2 wings as well. We observed and drew the almost leaf like patterning on the wings. We then looked at the position and shape of the legs and antenna, counted and drew them.


With the main image now complete, we observed the other details of the painting, including the ants in the background and where the artist signed his work. We used a fine point black ink pen to draw the ants.

We observed that the ants had 3 body parts, 6 legs and antennae. We didn’t count how many ants there were. The children drew a minimum of 10 and many children drew more.


Once they were happy with their drawing, the outline of the dragonfly and their signature were drawn over in ink. Oil pastels were then used to colour their drawing, using their observation skills freely. The children were very engaged in the whole process and proud of their final result. Here are some examples.






Learning Statements-

Fine Motor Skills


Oral Language

Early Maths Understandings

The Great Drink Bottle Investigation – a teachable moment with magnets

In our classroom we embrace and value the opportunities that teachable moments present to us. These moments provide rich and valid opportunities for learning and require a flexible learning environment. Here is an example of one such opportunity.

We had been investigating magnets and sorting objects according to their magnetic properties.


After lunch one day, as the children were putting their lunch boxes and drink bottles away, one of the children wondered if their metal drink bottle would be attracted to a magnet. Another child with a metal drink bottle also wondered the same thing.






The first child tried his drink bottle and discoved the magnet would stick to it. He put it in the basket of other magnetic objects.









The second child tested his metallic drink bottle and discovered the magnet would not stick to it. Hmmmmmmm this was interesting,  and so began ………. The Great Drink Bottle Investigation, with all the children deciding to test their drink bottles and make predictions about their magnetic properties.







All the children got out their drink bottles and choosing the small magnets from our collection, individually tested their drink bottles.

They made predictions and hypothesis and tested out their thoughts.

The drink bottles were sorted into groups according to their magnetic properties.


Lots of counting and mathematical language, such as more and less, was used during the investigation.







We discovered that the magnets were attracted to 4 of the drink bottles and not to 18 of them. The interesting  thing we discovered was that some of the 18 bottles were made of metal. This posed a new question – Why do some metals attract magnets and other don’t?

We did some further research and discovered………………

This slide is from the web site Communication4all.

This led us into finding and sorting lots of metal objects to see if they were made from iron.

Learning Statements –


Investigating Natural Phenomena

Early Maths Understandings

Oral Language

Investigating Technology

Mystery Objects – developing oral language

The children were very interested in riddles. They enjoyed making them up and listening to the clues to guess the answer. To enhance this interest and their oral language we began a whole group session called Mystery Objects. Every night 3 children were given a calico  bag and after the child had chosen an object, parents were asked to discuss it with their child and help them to consider answers to possible questions using the guide below.










The first mystery object was a zip lock bag and no one guessed what it was, even with some really useful clues. 

  • It is made of plastic.
  • You can use it for holding things.
  • You can keep them in the kitchen.






I found it interesting that after being unable to guess what the first mystery object was, the children even further engaged in the guessing process and celebrated how clever they were when they did guess and, how clever the child with the mystery object was, when they couldn’t guess it. The children who brought an object that no one could guess really looooooved tricking us! Here is an example of what the children brought in as Mystery Objects –

A torch.



An Egg Whisk










I decided to record these sessions  and whilst listening to the play back, the children were very excitied to hear (or in some cases not hear) themselves speaking. They were able to discuss voice tone and volume and it was amazing how they, in later sessions, were very careful to use a “confident” voice so they could be heard. The recordings also provoked curiosity from those children who rarely participate, ( without direct questioning) in class discussions. They were curious to hear themselves speak and quickly became active participants to hear themselves again. The children also liked to guess who was speaking and overall their listening skills as well as their speaking skills were enhanced.

A wide variety of mystery objects were brought in and the children very quickly became aware of the kind of questions that were more useful for guessing the mystery object. They realised that asking “What colour is it?” was not as helpful as “What can you do with it?” and the children became quite creative about the questions asked. This was a great opportunity to observe who was using higher order thinking to ask and answer questions.

We decided to make a book about our mystery objects using a photo and the clues given to describe it. I kept the recordings as portfolio samples and they provid rich insights into the childrens use of oral language and their thinking.

Learning Statements –

Oral Language


Imagining and Responding

Personal Learning

Let your Imagination run Wild! Recycling + Open Ended Experience = Rollercoaster FUN!!!

Here is a way to recycle corn starch beads, enhance fine motor skills, encourage thinking and simply let your imagination run wild!

The children started constructing in this open ended experience and all of a sudden there were…………. rollercoasters!!!!!!

These wonderous beads just need to be dampened with a wet sponge to stick together.


Under Construction!


"There is still room for some secret passages." says Harry


"You get to the end and then go backwards to the start." by Conor

"It goes round and up and down." by Alex


"This is like the one I had a ride on at the fete." by TJ

Rollercoasters + Recycling= FUN!

Prep Learning Statements covered-

  • Imagining and Responding
  • Thinking
  • Understanding Environments
  • Fine Motor Skills