I am a sucker for the middle aisle of Aldi. They had unicycles last month – doesn’t everyone know someone who needs a unicycle? Anyway … I didn’t buy a unicycle, but I did buy another load of books. They are hard to go past; great titles, great prices. A couple of weeks ago I picked up a book called “It’s not just a blanket” by Annalise Stoney. I love books that help guide children’s imaginations. Other books we have used in the past, include “It’s not a box”, and “It’s not a stick” by Antoinette Portis.
Teaching imagination is a tricky thing. How do you share an imagination? It requires language to explain and understand. However, this in turn, requires us to visualise what is being said. The ability to imagine or ‘make a picture’ in your head is not easy for everyone.
The ‘… not a …’ books are great. They provide a visual, a link if you will, from the item to its new form. The visual presentation shows the item in a new context. This supports children to link the two.
This is a great start, but for some children, we need to support them further.
We know that play is incredibly important for children. By the time they start their preschool education it is assumed that they have learnt the skills and concepts that enable them to work in groups. However, this is not always the case. Play is complex, requiring many skills to come together to enable children to be successful in play and interaction with their peers.
When teaching about pretending or imagining we first need to explain what those terms mean.
Social thinking Workshop
A couple of weeks ago I attended Michelle Garcia Winner’s master class in Melbourne. A highlight of my year! She is so easy to listen to and she shares so many relatable experiences.
One of the discussions was about how to share an imagination. During the session, they spoke of how they scaffold activity to support children’s imaginations. We have used the tunnel of change (thanks Ikea tunnel) for a while. Our children go in one end and come out the other end as an animal. For our older children, we use a similar action to mark the change from one thing to another. Our older children spin on the spot as they turn into something else. Throughout these activities, we have used visuals, actions and discussion to support students.
The most impactful moment was when we were reminded about the power of language in supporting the development of imaginations. To support children’s imaginations you can ask questions such as what do they wear, what do they do, or what do they say? However, for younger children, prompting them with the answers proved incredible. As they crawl through the tunnel to ‘become’ a monkey, the clinician prompted with ‘you are growing fur’ and ‘your arms are getting long’. Depending on how children go you can change these comments to questions. The language provided by the clinician helps to structure, organise and support the imagination.
It is always good having more tools in the tool bag and I love having excellent resources to work with. Michelle Garcia Winner and her team have published the “We Thinkers” books for Preschool and Young Primary students. Within the pack is a great book called “Sharing an Imagination”.