Sometimes Jack has grand plans, designs in his head that he has difficulty expressing in words. Sometimes frustration levels boil over as he tries and tries to get a microphone made from an old CD and a pipe-cleaner to stick to his drums, or to build a moveable arm for a forklift from Lego and it just won’t work.
Sometimes he is so frustrated from trying that all I can get from Jack is a series of broken words between angry sobs.
Enter the clipboard and a pen.
‘I’m not quite sure what you are trying to build Jack, would you like to draw your idea here? That might help me to understand.’
‘What is your plan, Jack? What would you like to happen?’
A clipboard, some clean white paper and an Artline marker have given Jack a means to make his intentions visible. He can draw his ideas and show them to me. And even though his sketches and designs may not be distinguishable out of context, in the moment, while he draws he talks. He talks about what he wants to happen, what he wants to build. His frustrations quickly change to excitement when he sees the clipboard.
When Jack talks, I often get little insights into his understanding; he understands that the pipe-cleaner can be bent but doesn’t understand concepts of weight enough to know that the pipe-cleaner isn’t strong enough to hold the CD upright.
He understands the concept of symmetry when making his Lego forklift but doesn’t understand the concept of balance; when you build a long arm on the forklift it will cause the backend to tip, therefore you need to balance the weight by adding more blocks. All this comes out as he sketches.
I like having these sketches as reference. I can help Jack work through his problem by talking about what he sketched. I think this encourages him to adopt a more active approach to problems he might have; rather than sitting back while I offer suggestions or fix things for him.
By sketching his ideas, Jack is able to articulate questions he might have. We can then use those questions to investigate together, heading into deeper investigations. Jack offers suggestions, many of them don’t work like adding tape the pipe-cleaner to hold the CD upright, but then we talk about this again, refer to his drawings and try something else.
In these photos, Jack wanted to make a snail with beads on the OHP but couldn’t quite visualise the spiral shape.
“Would you like to draw your idea first and then build it on the OHP?”
With the clipboard and pen, he was able to draw his design. After 3 or 4 drafts, he was happy with his design and set about creating it on the OHP.
These types of activities can’t be planned, they happen moment-by-moment. It’s nice to have the clipboard and pen on hand for Jack to be able to work through his thinking, with just a little help from Mama.