Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Exploring Materials: Foil

Last week I pulled out some foil and set it down on the rug in our classroom, already cut into squares.  I had never used foil with the children before, so I was curious to see how they would engage with it.

Everyone was instantly excited to see what had become available.  Despite their excitement, they moved slowly around the foil, each finding space to sit down and take a moment to look at the pieces. They each picked up a square, almost in unison.

LT felt her square for a moment and then tried tearing the piece.  It tore easily, and she looked at me right away: "You pulled on the foil, and it tore!  You have two pieces in your hands now."  She responded with, "Uh-oh!" and enjoyed saying this every time she made a new tear.  She eventually started scrunching up her pieces, making them into tiny balls.  She felt the resulting texture carefully, running her fingers over the pieces again and again.

LC held her piece of foil up high and then laid it carefully on the ground, stroking it gently from time to time.  She did this several times before noticing LT's method of scrunching up the foil, which prompted her to do the same.  After she made her piece into a ball, she slowly brought her arm back as if to throw it but stopped right before she was going to let go and looked at me:  "You are wondering if you can throw the foil.  Yes, it works!  The foil is very light, so it is a safe choice for throwing."  She nodded, saying "yeah," and released her foil ball.  Everyone watched as it sailed across the room -- LT and AJ giggled appreciatively.

CS almost immediately combined his pieces of foil with a few small, wooden blocks lying nearby.  First he arranged the foil on top of the blocks and then he inverted the materials so that the blocks rested on top of the foil.  He had been clutching a small train for most of the afternoon, which he had placed nearby.  Soon, he was eagerly repeating, "Make train? Make train! Make train!"  I acknowledged the work he was doing, and he said "Yeah!"

AJ was very gentle with her foil, crinkling it softly.  She seemed to enjoy watching the ripples and creases form slowly across the surface as she bent it back and forth.  Eventually, she began ripping hers more forcefully, and crinkling it into balls like LC and LT.  She brought one of the balls to her mouth while looking at me: "Oh!  The foil is not for your mouth.  You can try smelling it!"  I smelled a piece and smiled.  She smelled hers too, and everyone stopped what they were doing to try it out for themselves.  There were a lot of very dramatic sniffing sounds.  I asked everyone if they thought it smelled like anything.  Very enthusiastic "Yeah's" from LC and CS.

Eventually the foil pieces became smaller and smaller after repeated tearing and crinkling, and we worked together to collect them in a basket.  I put them high up on a shelf, and the children moved on to other activities around the room.

I love sharing in these sensory experiences with Cohort 7.  It is especially exciting for us right now as everyone is entering into (or right in the middle of) an extremely rich developmental period linguistically.  Each time a child made eye contact with me, I narrated what was happening:  "It makes a noise when you squish it."  "When you squeeze it, it gets bumpy."  "It feels smooth on your cheek."  Though the children might not understand some of these specific words quite yet, I noticed them taking a moment to appreciate the information I had given them and linking it back to their sensory experiences.  It is exciting to watch these simple activities transform into such powerful learning experiences as everyone explores cause and effect and applies what they already know about similar materials to an unfamiliar manipulative.

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