Sunday, 19 February 2017

Part 6: The Four Frames: Problem Solving and Innovating

The Kindergarten Program 2016: Unpacking the Front Matter - A Six Part Series

Part 6: The Four Frames: Problem Solving and Innovating

Welcome to Part 6 of my six part series, Unpacking the Front Matter of The Kindergarten Program 2016.
If you missed any of the other posts, you can read them here!
Part 6: The Four Frames: Problem Solving and Innovating

Can you believe it?? We have made it! This is the last post in the six part series. This has been such a daunting task for me. There is a lot of information and it is dense sometimes, but trust me... it was worth every long long long week and month to get here.

We will all be front matter experts now! Not really though. No one is an expert in Kindergarten, but we will sure know our program inside and out!

So let’s grab our Kindergarten Program 2016 (HERE) and get started on this last post of the series! 

The Frame: Problem Solving and Innovating


TKP 2016, p. 87

This frame is a deceptively large frame. There are expectations from The Arts, Science and Technology, Mathematics, Language Arts, Personal and Social Development, Health and Physical Activity... literally all of the learning areas from the old draft version of the program. 

This makes it a little difficult to understand this frame because you wouldn't necessarily think that expectations about healthy eating, reading behaviours, identifying what makes you happy/unhappy, sorting based on attributes, building 3D structures and expressing yourself through drama/music/art would all be in a frame about Problem Solving.

So let's figure this out together, because at first glance it doesn't really make much sense.

What is Problem Solving?

TKP 2016, p. 87

Problem solving in this frame refers to the traditional view of problem solving that we have... think inquiry and the design process (prediction, observation etc.). But it doesn't just stop with technological problem solving, there can be problem solving in the arts, in social interactions... everywhere. 

The good news with problem solving is that we are already naturally providing opportunities for authentic problem solving just by running a play based program. That means that word problems on a worksheet don't count. See page 72 and 84 of the document for the official stance on worksheets.

Anyway, "through the exploration and inquiry that are part of play, young children develop these skills [confidence, curiosity and the willingness to take risks and to see mistakes as opportunities for learning]. For example, every time children ask 'why' questions, look for a tool that will help them with their task, ask questions about how something works, or create a game and explain how to play it to a friend, they are showing an essentially creative approach to the world around them." (TKP 2016, p 87-88)

Basically, play is a natural "first hand exploration" (TKP 2016, p. 88) where children wonder and ask questions... then work to find the answer! 

Even though children naturally engage in this type of thinking, as educators we still need to be active play partners where we "provide opportunities, explicitly and intentionally, for children to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes they will need for solving a wide variety of problems." (TKP 2016, p. 87) 

We can do this by listening to the children in our programs and setting up invitations and provocations that challenge them to solve problems. 

What is Innovating?

TKP 2016, p. 88

This next section is one that I find to be very interesting and very exciting. 

The idea of innovating... creating something new or improving something... has so many different possibilities and directions. It is here where children's ideas and working theories come to life. It is here, where we see why maker spaces are important in our programs. 

TKP 2016, p. 89

So what does innovating look like? How do you know when your children are engaged in the process of innovation... especially when it isn't in the traditional realm of science or building?

(TKP 2016, p. 88-89)
As I mentioned, "play is the vehicle for learning and lies at the core of innovation and creativity... During play, they test initial ideas, ask more questions, and retest their new thinking. Their theories are validated or challenged all through this process. The educators observe and wonder along with the children, and ask further questions to help the children clarify and test their theories." (TKP 2016, p. 91)

So what do we do while the children are playing, problem solving and innovating?

"When educators take a purposefully curious approach to new experiences and ideas rather than acting as the experts, children are more likely to engage in creative problem solving and more complex play and inquiry." (TKP 2016, p. 90)

TKP 2016, p. 90-91

 While children are exploring and playing, we should also be documenting. Problem solving and innovating can create some really robust documentation of children's thinking. It is through this documentation that we can also listen and watch for possible projects and inquiries that could be explored more deeply. 

TKP 2016, p. 92


Questions vs. Interrogations

One other thing we can do to support problem solving and innovation in our programs is to ask open-ended questions that challenge and extend children's thinking. While this is a fantastic way for educators to engage in an 'inquiry stance' with children, we need to be very careful that we are not interrogating children or making them feel uncomfortable because we are asking too many questions.

It is all about finding a balance.

TKP 2016, p. 91

That being said, the document does provide some very useful questions that educators can use. It isn't an exhaustive list and it doesn't cover  every learning area, but it focuses on the areas that you are most likely to see problem solving and innovating in an obvious way: the blocks area, dramatic play area and visual arts area. 
Don't forget the role that outdoor learning environments play as well! Playing outside (in a forest or a fenced in asphalt hard top area) can lend itself perfectly to problem solving and innovating as well. 

TKP 2016, p. 93

So here are some of the sample questions provided in the document:

TKP 2016, p. 91-93

Can we all just take a moment to notice the last question... "If you could have a conversation with a tree, what would you like to ask it?"

This is the simple beauty and magic of The Kindergarten Program 2016.

The Overall Expectations


TKP 2016, p. 255
The overall expectations, conceptual understandings (kind of like the big ideas) and the specific expectations can be found on pages 255-305.

These pages are structured the same way as in the old draft version with:
1. Overall Expectation
2. Conceptual Understanding (big idea)
3. Specific Expectations 
Children: Saying, Doing, Representing
Educators: Responding, Challenging, Extending

Going Forward 

I urge you to read the front matter in its entirety. We have come together to sort through this massive 331 page document, but we have only scratched the surface. It isn't until you read the document yourself that you will gain true understanding and insight. 

As I continue to read the document and continue to adapt to the changes in the program I am constantly brought back to two main ideas that are changing the way I teach and the way I listen to children:
  • Why this learning, for this child, at this time?
  •  Rethink, Remove, Repeat
What are your biggest take aways from the document? What do you continue to have questions about? What parts have you found to be helpful? What parts affirmed your understanding?

I hope that this has been helpful as a jumping off point for you. I hope that this has opened up professional conversations between you, your team and other educators.

Let's talk,


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