Fine Motor Skills

Power of the line

"I want no visitors in my fairy house. I need another piece of paper."
The children are asked to draw their plans for their dens/forts/treehouses/fairy houses before building them. Taking the time to draw and think about their structures before they build provides a platform for contemplation...What will I use? If they are asked to draw after a building session, it gives them an opportunity for reflection...What did I accomplish?

The children sketch plans for the structures they want to build.

If you look at this child's drawing (below) you will see a drawing that is very much an expression of her ideas for building a house with a sign, "No." She later asked me for a piece of paper. She wrote "NO" on it and placed it in the doorway of her house. She said, "This is my welcome mat."

Plans for a fairy house including a welcome mat.

The welcome mat pictured in the plans is now placed in the entryway of the fairy house.

Other children had to make signs as well. Children, surrounded by a labeled world, feel compelled to make their own labels. This is an important component of learning to write.
We have paper and drawing materials in every space including outside in the playground. We carry drawing materials with us on field trips. If the children want to document their constructions, things they have seen or are thinking, make signs, or send messages, they can find and bring piece of paper and pencil to where they are playing. Draw. Label. Document. It builds the BIG IDEA of reading and writing.
Below are the results of the contemplation. The children used the objects in the classroom in a new and different way. One child used the chairs for a fairy soldier house. Another child paused before entering the fairy house under the table, clearly marked as it was with its, "NO" sign. The last photo shows a rite of passage--being able to open Mrs. Prohaska's suitcase by yourself. Big moments in fine motor development related to expressing and accessing ideas.

A building takes shape according to the plan.

A fine house. A perfect house.

Every house needs at least one good window.

The finest of fine motors are needed to open Mrs. Prohaska's suitcase.


I can write that!

After the older children build something they feel is especially wonderful at our cooperative school, they ask for a photo to be taken. They want their work documented. In most cases, they don’t position themselves in the camera’s frame—their presence in the photo is not as important to them as it would be with an adult perhaps. The result of their play is more important to them. They also know that the photographs are for sharing. They know that their parents will be able to access it through our flikr account, on the school’s facebook page, or in the Week in Review (our teachers’ class online journals for parents only). They also know that some of these photos will land in their portfolios. By the time our children are 4 and 5, they know about the portfolios and understand that they do not disappear, but are added to over the course of their enrollment at school. Last year, the photo documentation was so important to the children that co-oping parents had to also keep their cell phones at the ready, there were so many, many things that had to be photographed it took all of the adults to keep up.

In the end though, I lost track of other very important methods of documentation – child-sourced written documentation. So this next year, we are focusing our attention back to written documentation -- every time the children ask for us to take a photo or when we see something interesting happen, we will help the children document it.

We have cleaned out and restocked the drawing bin outside and set out the drawing trays again inside, so that no one will have to look for them. We use index cards folded in half for labeling constructions and regular paper for documentation drawings.

Here are three featured moments for documentation and/or labeling...

In the photo above, children are nesting dinosaurs. This is crying out for a label, although perhaps another child would definitely tell you a map is more important. Children know that nests should be approached carefully, should there be a sign posted to let us know to be quiet or perhaps to watch out for the t-rex mother?

Here, a group of children create a castle at the art show. Mixed ages will tumble out into a more complex documentation opportunity. Even with our Tracks, documenting and listing the items needed to make a sandpit castle are easily listed by children. More importantly, there was a problem that could have been solved here – other children kept walking through the castle construction site. Signs/labels were needed to instruct others to “walk around.”

A flight of children up and across with a child positioned at an observation post. She is monitoring the race. This racetrack maze can be mapped and labeled with arrows and symbols for stop and start. What is the symbol for “really fast.” I don’t know, but the children do! All they need is a piece of paper!