Seeking Inventive Ways to Capture Change and Growth (page 5)
A good way to begin engaging children in capturing their observations is through language and communication. Having conversations with children about what they see, feel, smell, hear, and taste is a good starting point. Using descriptive language helps children to express their developing conceptualizations of their observations with words and gestures. A common scene comes to mind when a baby, with outstretched arms, tells everyone that she is “Soooo big!” The language of comparison helps children to attach words to the phenomena and the sequences of change that they observe.
As children use words such as big, bigger, and biggest or tall, taller, and tallest, they are learning how to organize their conceptualizations of comparison, gradation, and seriation. Later, these captured descriptors can lead to creative and meaningful graphing and charting.
An inventive way to keep track of observed changes and growth is through photography. Taking photographs of real things, as children see and observe them change and grow, is a very powerful way to have children think about and reflect on these interesting processes in their world. We can assist young children in taking pictures of pets or plants or themselves, over time, so that they can examine the photographs and talk about how to order them in sequence. For example, when viewing pictures of the growth of a puppy to an adult dog, children may explain that a certain picture is first because the puppy in it is smaller. They can say that another picture is next because the puppy grew. When taking these types of pictures, be sure to keep the camera at the same distance from the animal so that the comparisons are not confounded by distance and perspective. It is also recommended to have a child in the photograph so that there is a basis for comparison.
This kind of reflection and analysis leads to children being able to suggest generalizations, build theories, and make predictions about what happens in their world. The availability of economical digital cameras permits the instant printing of children’s photographs and eliminates the costs of processing film. In addition, these photographic sequences can be included in classroom Web pages.
Also, photographs of many serial events can be accessed on the Internet. Many live Web cams show nature sites. For example, a live camera of a bald eagle nest (http://www.wa.gov/wdfw/wildwatch/eaglecam) shows the changes that take place in the growth of an eaglet. These photographs can be downloaded and printed for use in your classroom.
Change is constant in the lives of small children. They observe changes daily as the sun appears to move through the sky. They observe changes as a rain shower develops or snow falls. They observe leaves falling from trees or a bird carrying dried grass to build a nest.
They observe changes over longer periods of time as they watch their seeds germinate into flowers, witness tadpoles transform into frogs, see caterpillars blossom into butterflies, and experience the changes in temperature as the months progress across the seasons.
Taking pictures or drawing pictures of a sequence of events is helpful for children to experience change. For example, children can take pictures of planting beans. Then every third day or so take another picture until the bean sprouts and becomes a plant. Examining these pictures helps children to re-create the growth that they witnessed. Keeping track of the number of sprouts adds quantification to this exploration.
Cooking with children can also help with sequencing and is an activity children enjoy. Use recipe cards that show the various steps for making play-doh, muffins, or fruit salad. Teachers may want to access children’s cookbooks to support these activities.
Another good activity is to gather three to six cartoons depicting change and have the children put them in order. Cartoons like Peanuts with several squares depicting a sequence of events such as building a snowman can be glued to cardboard and cut out so that the children can put the squares in the correct order. Such an activity can be enhanced by having the children tell the story of change or growth. Prompting children with questions such as “How do you know?” “What would do you think comes next?” “What would the next picture show?” “Why did the picture change?” can help children organize their thinking and enhance their ability to reason and predict. Captions or text can be added to the seriated sequence of photographs. Appropriate language of description, comparison, ordination, gradation, and seriation should be emphasized.
A good example of a gradation would be to put in order shades of a color, say, green, from the lightest to the darkest shade. Have the children carefully drop green food coloring into clear plastic, water-filled bottles. Put one drop of green food coloring in the first bottle, two drops in the second bottle, three drops in the third bottle, and so forth, up to five or six bottles. Cap the bottles for extended use. Then, mix up the order of the bottles. After the bottles are mixed up, the children can put them in order from the lightest or least dense shade of color to the darkest or most dense shade of the color. Paint chips from your local hardware store can also become a good classroom resource for comparisons of brightness. Again, asking children questions about what they see and what they predict helps them to develop logical thinking and reasoning skills.
Another activity for children to experience that demonstrates gradation would be volume of sound. Children could begin a hand-clapping or tapping sequence. First, they would clap only their pointer fingers together or tap them on the edge of a table or desk. They would then add their middle fingers, then their ring fingers, their little fingers, and finally their thumbs. As a whole class does this experiment, they can hear the increase of sound. Reversing this sequence allows the children to hear the gradation of sound reverse from loudest to softest. When using this experience with children, you might relate the sounds to the sequence of a rain shower. Other contexts for gradation besides shades of color and volumes of sound include textures of softness, speed of the wind, bounciness of balls, and brightness of light.
Keeping track of, recording, and measuring change can also be done in informal, inventive ways. For example, when children are observing seeds and bulbs grow into plants, they can be assisted in measuring the growth of the plant with a variety of tools, such as strips of paper or yarn or a tall stick. The tall strip of paper or stick can be placed next to the plant at dirt level and marked off and labeled with the height of the plant at that time. These markings can be labeled with the date and attached to a chart. Another way this can be done is by measuring the height of the plant with individual strips of paper, or yarn, cut to the height of the plant. In a week’s interval, the plant can be measured with a different strip of paper or piece of yarn. Cut to match the plant’s current height. Then place the new strip next to the first strip along the same baseline. This process can continue so that the seriated sequence of growth is recorded with strips of paper or yarn, forming a visual representation of the growth of the plant. This representation makes a pleasant visual display. To enhance this activity, photos can be taken to support the graphic display of growth.
Children can use a variety of familiar, nonstandard materials such as blocks or counters, crayons or markers, stickers or ink stampers to keep track of growth or to capture how big something is. It is the process of measuring with nonstandard tools that lays the foundation for using standardized units of measure to capture the “how much-ness” of things. As they become more experienced with using manipulatives for nonstandard measuring, they will begin to see the importance of lining up the units end to end and of becoming more precise in their measuring.
A similar measurement process can be constructed by using stickers or ink-pad images to capture the height of the growth, thus generating a visual, iconic display of growth. As with manipulative nonstandard units of measurement, using stickers and water-soluble ink-pad stampers also allows the children to count actual units, that is, the stickers or stamped images, to tell how many stickers or stamped images tall the plant is. Attaching numbers to this type of process helps children to understand, at a rational and logical level, that the markings on standardized rulers refer to how many units of length something is rather than just focusing on the end points or lines on the ruler.
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