Archives for the month of: July, 2018

Some Thoughts On Children And Materials By Tony Kallet

While visiting an infant classroom recently, I spent a few minutes watching and working with six-year-old Karl.  He was building a pyramid out of colored X Blocks, which as their name suggests, are X-shaped blocks that inter-lock with one another in interesting ways.  Karl’s pyramid grew to be about seven or eight blocks wide at the base and perhaps six blocks high with the apex placed symmetrically at the top.

After we had both admired it for awhile, I asked Karl whether he had ever tried making the same structure and then taking a few blocks out to leave some X-shaped holes.  He didn’t understand my question, so I asked him to help me remove one of the blocks.  The result left him wide-eyed with excitement, and he ran off to bring over the teacher to see the hole.  After one near-disaster, his intuition became excellent and he was able to remove blocks that did not serve a vital structural function.

It may be useful to think of a dialogue between a child and materials, accompanied by a second dialogue, or monologue, which the child carries on in his mind.

In order to join such a child-material conversation, you must obviously know what a conversation is about — not just the specific conversation at hand but conversation in general.

My analogy suggests that to join a child-material dialogue, one must know what it feels like to work with materials.

A person who is not used to handling materials in a free way, who is not used to listening to them, is not likely to be sensitive to the two-way communication between the child and the materials.  He may readily enough see what the child is doing with the materials, but he is less likely to consider what the materials are suggesting to the child and what it feels like to engage in this kind of interaction.

Tony Kallet
Outlook Mountain View Center For Environmental Education
6: Autumn 1972

Children are less in need of answers than of paths for exploration, and above all, models of explorers to copy.

No matter what we do in the classroom, no matter how we provide the models and suggest some of the paths, much is gained if we are human, alive, a little bold and daring.

Tony Kallet

Few Adults Crawl: Thoughts On Young Children Learning

North Dakota Study Group 1995

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What It Means To Teach

There is a portraiture involving the child’s style – strengths, weaknesses, skills fears, and the like.  I single out one aspect of this complex, the way a child comes to grips with some subject matter, matter originally provided because it matches the general level of interest and ability of a still individually unknown group – building blocks, clay, paint, batteries and bulbs.  If this subject matter represents something which the teacher has valued and learned from, and seen others learn from, then the teacher has a background for reading the behavior of that child.

In a film from Cornell University, a series of kindergarteners come spontaneously to a table to play with an equal-arm balance and a large number of washers and other weights.  In watching the film, the observer begins to recognize in himself – if he is personally familiar with the large variety of balance situations which are possible here, and with some of the underlying ideas – the ability to read the levels and the specializations of interest represented in these children, no two alike.

What he finds himself doing (but only if he is acquainted with this kind of balance phenomenon and others related to it) is beginning to build what I would call a map of each child’s mind and of the trajectory of his life.  It is fragmentary, fallible, but it is subject always to correction. and next the observer thinks to himself, what could I do to steady, extend and deepen this engagement I have glimpsed?

The important thing is that, as in all self-instruction, the participant DOES something.

What It Means To Teach
David Hawkins
Mountain View Center For Environmental Education
12: Summer: 1974

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