Jan-Hendrik will ein Römer-Lexikon schreiben

von Martina Lange-Blank

 

Bevor Jan-Hendrik dreieinhalb wurde, kam bei ihm schon die Idee auf, Geschichten zu schreiben: „Wie kann man schreiben lernen? Wenn ich immer Striche und Linien und halbe Kreise und Schlangen und Punkte male, dann kann ich auch Geschichtenschreiber werden. Schön malen kann dann mein Freund Jan, da sieht man, was wir meinen.“

Er kann sich mit mehreren Themen gleichzeitig und sehr gründlich befassen (zum Beispiel Ritter, Dinosaurier und Römer). Er kann sich dann über mehrere Stunden konzentrieren.

 

 

… kurz gefasst …

Jan-Hendrik ist ein sehr wissbegieriges Kind. In der Autorin (freigestellte Kita-Leiterin) findet er eine Mentorin, die ihn über einen längeren Zeitraum engagiert bei seinen frühen Studien begleitet.
Ein Teilprojekt aus dieser Förderarbeit wird hier beschrieben: die Erstellung eines Lexikons über die alten Römer mit einem Jungen, der gerade 5 Jahre alt geworden ist.

In unserer Kita gibt es zwei weitere Jungen etwa in Jan-Hendriks Alter, die ähnlich weit entwickelt und wissbegierig sind: Jan (4;2) und Benjamin (4;0). Jan-Hendrik ist inzwischen 5;0.
Diese drei Jungen haben sich bei gruppenübergreifenden Aktionen bereits gegenseitig „entdeckt“, sie sind oft zusammen anzutreffen und verstehen sich sehr gut.

Jan-Hendriks Antworten im Interessenfragebogen

Aus dem Interessenfragebogen seien hier einige Antworten von Jan-Hendrik wieder gegeben. Er war damals 3;6 Jahre alt:

Frage: Hast du eine ganz besondere gute Freundin oder einen ganz besonderen guten Freund?
Jan-Hendrik: „Matthias. Er kann schon lesen und schreiben.“ (Schulkind 2. Klasse)

Frage: Was kannst du besonders gut?
Jan-Hendrik: „Fahrrad fahren, Dinos malen, Geschichten erzählen und malen.“

Frage: Was tust du denn am allerliebsten im Kindergarten?
Jan-Hendrik: „Draußen im Gebüsch spielen. Streiche machen.“

Frage: Was gefällt dir im Kindergarten gar nicht?
Jan-Hendrik: „Wenn ein Kind das Gebaute zerstört. Wenn mich einer ärgert.“

Frage: Was möchtest du hier im Kindergarten als nächstes gerne lernen?
Jan-Hendrik: „Schreiben. Lesen können. Gitarre lernen. Geschichtenerzähler werden.“

Frage: Welchen Beruf findest du toll, was möchtest du einmal werden?
Jan-Hendrik: „Paläontologe oder Wissenschaftler für die Erde.“

Frage: Stell dir vor, du triffst einen Menschen, der alles über die Welt und das Leben weiß. Was würdest du diesen Menschen fragen wollen?
Jan-Hendrik: „Wie das Leben in der Ritterzeit war, wie man sich da benehmen muss.“

Und so malte Jan-Hendrik mit 3;6 einen Dinosaurier:

Um dem außergewöhnlichen Wissenshunger der drei Jungen, vor allem Jan-Hendrik, gerecht zu werden, habe ich mich entschlossen, begrifflich an Jan-Hendriks „Universitätsbuch“, das er vom ersten Tage mit in die Kita gebracht hat, anzuknüpfen.

Zu Jan-Hendrik und seinem Universitätsbuch siehe auch: Beispiele aus Kitas zu Kindern unter 3 Jahren.

In Absprache mit den drei Kindern gründete ich die „Warum-Kinder-Universität“.

Wir befassten uns längere Zeit damit, wie man an eine Universität kommt und wer dort arbeitet. Der gerade 4 Jahre alt gewordene Christof verkündete daraufhin, dass er der Assistent von Jan-Hendrik sein möchte.

Wir sprachen darüber, dass man als Forscher – Entdecker – Wissenschaftler Fragen hat, die einen sehr beschäftigen. Jan-Hendrik brachte die Beispiele:

Warum sind die Dinosaurier ausgestorben? oder: Warum kann man mit einem Anspitzer die Stifte spitz kriegen?

Die drei Jungen entschieden, dass ihre „Universität“ erst einmal klein sein sollte. Ihre Argumente waren:
Jan-Hendrik: „Es gibt große Menschen und kleine Menschen / große Schulen und kleine Schulen; und in einer kleinen Schule können auch nur wenige Menschen lernen.“
Jan: „Es wäre doch schön, wenn wir die gesamte Gruppe zu einer Universität umräumen könnten.“
Dagegen meinte Benjamin: „Es ist doch unsere Universität; wenn wir viel wissen, dann können auch die anderen Kinder zu unserer Universität kommen. Jan-Hendrik ist doch der Erfinder und auch unser Experte.“ (So wird Jan-Hendrik von beiden Jungen genannt, ihnen ist klar, dass er am meisten weiß.)

In dieser Phase trafen wir uns täglich für etwa eine Stunde, um über unsere Universität zu sprechen und ihren Aufbau in Angriff zu nehmen.

Unter anderem einigten wir uns auf eine Koffer-Universität, in der viel themenbezogenes Material zu verstauen war. Viele kleine Schätze und Schachteln fanden darin Platz.

Über längere Zeiträume beschäftigten wir uns mit den Wissens- und Forschungsgebieten:

    • Ozeanografie (Wale und Delfine),
    • Mineralogie (Steine),
    • Paläontologie (Dinosaurier),
    • Entwicklung der Erde

Für Jan-Hendrik, der sich (als einziger) sehr für Buchstaben und Schriften interessierte, legte ich außerdem noch eine umfangreiche Materialsammlung zu Buchstaben an, mit der er sich intensiv beschäftigte.

Fragen, die er mir stellte:

Weißt du, wer die Schrift erfunden hat?
Weißt du, wer die Buchstaben erfunden hat?
Weißt du, was Grapheme sind?

Diese Fragen waren für mich recht herausfordernd und wir begaben uns gemeinsam auf geistige Erkundungsreisen.

So kamen wir auch zu den Hieroglyphen, und bei Jan-Hendrik entwickelte sich ein tiefschürfendes Interesse für die alten Ägypter. Er wollte viel über die Kultur der Ägypter, die Hieroglyphen, die Pharaonen und die Pyramiden wissen.

Hier nur ein Beispiel dafür, wie er sich mit dem Thema auseinander setzte. Ich gab nur das Dreieck vor, er füllte es mit seinem neuen Wissen, die Begriffe sagte er mir, damit ich sie daneben schreiben konnte. Er war zu diesem Zeitpunkt 4;6 Jahre alt. Ein Stück weit zog er hier noch seine beiden Freunde mit, aber er war doch mit Abstand der Beharrlichste und Wissbegierigste.

Vorher hatte er zahlreiche Zeichnungen angefertigt, sozusagen Vorarbeiten. Hier ist eine davon:

 

Und nun die Römer…

Vom alten Ägypten wechselte sein Interesse nach längerer Zeit zu den alten Römern. Diesen Teil seiner Lernarbeit, der sich über die nächsten Monate erstreckte, möchte ich näher beschreiben.

Jan-Hendrik war jetzt 5;0 Jahre alt. Für die Koffer-Universität erstellten Jan-Hendrik und ich zusammen einen neuen, aktuellen „Forscher-Steckbrief“:

*****

Ich heiße: Jan-Hendrik
Ich bin: 5 Jahre alt
Ich arbeite als: Archäologe und Paläontologe

Ich mag gerne:

    • Steine, Fossilien, Muscheln sammeln
    • Lupen und Ferngläser
    • Geschichten, aber echte (echte sind Bücher … Sachbücher)
    • Bilder und Fotos von Pyramiden
    • Ausgrabungsmuseen (Ich war auch schon mal im Pergamon Museum in Berlin)
    • alles von Tutanchamun und den alten Ägyptern
    • alles über Wikinger, Ritter, die alten Römer, die alten Ägypter
    • Buchstaben und andere Schriften
    • Hieroglyphen
    • in Lexika lesen

Ich sammle alles, was mich interessiert, was ich gut kenne und wo ich gut bin, alles was mir viel Spaß macht.

Jetzt interessiere ich mich für die alten Römer, aber darüber gibt es kein eigenes Lexikon – das braucht man aber, wenn man über die alten Römer erzählen möchte.

*****

Er kannte schon die CD „Was ist was? Das alte Rom“. Nun besorgte ich einschlägige Bücher, Jan-Hendrik sah sie sich gründlich an (er konnte noch nicht lesen, hatte sich aber im Rahmen des Projekts alle Buchstaben angeeignet), fragte mich das eine oder andere.

Mit meiner Hilfe arbeitete Jan-Hendrik einen „Experten-Plan“ aus (wobei er und ich die Experten waren):

1. Gladiatorenarena und Gladiatoren aus Modelliermasse herstellen.

2. Ich möchte ein Rätsel für meine Gruppe und mein Buch über die Römer machen.

3. Warum-Fragen für mein Buch aufschreiben.

4. Lateinische Worte lernen.

5. Italienische Worte lernen.

6. Ich brauche dringend ein Römer-Lexikon. Ein Römer-Lexikon schreiben, Bilder einkleben, Bilder malen und mal sehen, ob wir es auch schaffen!

Auf die Frage, wann wir das alles bearbeiten wollen, antwortete Jan-Hendrik:

„Wir arbeiten, wenn wir Lust haben, nicht jeden Tag. Manchmal bringe ich auch Dinge von zu Hause mit, Fotos oder etwas aus dem Internet, wenn meine Eltern mir das suchen.
Wir sammeln jetzt erst mal viele Sachen für das Lexikon. Zu Hause habe ich jetzt auch ein Video über die Römer, das leihe ich dir aus, damit du dann auch darüber Bescheid weißt.“

Ein Gespräch

Als wir nun mit dem Lexikon loslegen wollten, führte ich das folgende Gespräch mit ihm:

„Warum möchtest du ein Lexikon schreiben oder herstellen?“
Jan-Hendrik: „Weil ich nur mit dem Lexikon Dinge lesen kann und es dann auch den anderen Kindern zeigen und auch erklären kann.“

„Weißt du denn schon, wie wir das Lexikon erstellen sollen?“
Jan-Hendrik: „Wir sammeln erst mal die Buchstaben, wie in meinem Tierlexikon.“

„Wenn wir alle Buchstaben aufgeschrieben haben, was machen wir dann?“
Jan-Hendrik: „Dann suchen wir aus unseren Römer-Büchern zu jedem Buchstaben ein Wort und erklären es dann, du schreibst es auf und ich sage dir, was du schreiben sollst.“

„Soll ich alles alleine schreiben? Was machst du dann?“
Jan-Hendrik: „Ich denke nach, wenn du schreibst.“

„Soll ich alles, was du mir zum Aufschreiben sagst, mit dem Computer schreiben?“
Jan-Hendrik: „Du kannst es ja versuchen, ich sage dir dann, wie das aussehen soll. Meine Mama hat auch einen Computer, ich mag ihn aber nicht. Aber es sieht immer schön aus.“

„Was sieht schön aus?“
Jan-Hendrik: „Die Bilder und das bunte Schreiben. Du kannst ja alle Buchstaben anders schreiben, ein Lexikon ist immer bunt.“

„O.K. Ich schreibe etwas für dich auf dem Computer und du sagst, ob wir es so für dein Lexikon gebrauchen können.“
Jan-Hendrik: „Ja, bring morgen mal ein Computerschreiben mit.“

„Was sollen wir denn dann heute für dein Lexikon machen?“
Jan-Hendrik: „Wir sammeln Forscherfragen für das Lexikon.“

„Soll ich die Forscherfragen aufschreiben?“
Jan-Hendrik: „O.K., das machen wir heute.“

Und dies waren die Forscherfragen:

1. Lebten alle Römer in Rom?

2. Wer war der Chef in Rom?

3. Was arbeiten die Römer?

4. Gab es auch Soldaten?

5. Welche Götter waren in Rom?

6. Wie sahen die Häuser aus?

7. Wie bekamen die Römer etwas zu essen?

8. Hatten die Römer eine Universität?

9. Welche Sprache haben die Römer gesprochen?

10. Wie haben die Gladiatoren gekämpft?

11. Was ist eine Arena?

12. Welche Schrift haben die Römer geschrieben?

13. Waren die Römer auch so wie die Ägypter?

Mit diesen Fragen waren wir erst einmal eine lange Zeit beschäftigt und brauchten weitere Bücher.

Was sich Jan-Hendrik über das Leben der alten Römer neu erarbeitet hat, verglich er immer wieder mit seinen Kenntnissen über die alten Ägypter, zum Beispiel ihre Schriftzeichen, ihre Kämpfe, die Schifffahrt, die Handelsgüter.

Wie die Kinder in diesen alten Zeiten gelernt haben, interessierte ihn sehr, zum Beispiel warf er die Frage auf: „Warum waren die Mädchen und Jungen nicht in einer Schule?“

Er stellte auch Vergleiche zwischen den Göttern her und fragte u.a.: „Warum heißen die römischen Götter wie unsere Planeten?“

Schließlich überlegten wir:

Wie erstellt man ein Lexikon?

Das Ergebnis unserer Überlegungen war:

Materialsuche:

    • Viele Bücher ansehen
    • Texte im Internet suchen
    • Fotos aus GEO und GEO National Graphic kopieren
    • Bilder aus dem Internet ausdrucken

Schriftarten und Text:

    • Schriften aus dem Internet ausprobieren
    • Schriften in Zeitschriften betrachten
    • Handschrift ausprobieren
    • Erklärungen für die verwendeten Bilder ausdenken und aufschreiben
    • Schwierige Worte erklären
    • Vergleiche anführen: Damals und Heute

O-Ton Jan-Hendrik: „Frau Blank und ich besorgen uns immer viele Sachen, die uns interessieren – dann kann man auch ein Buch machen.“

„Ich will das schwierige Buch für mich und meine Freunde machen, damit die auch etwas über die Römer wissen. Und ich habe immer Spaß, viele Sachen zu machen, die ein Wissenschaftler oder ein Archäologe macht oder ein Schriftsteller.“

Nicht nur Jan-Hendrik, auch ich habe viel in diesem Projekt neu dazu gelernt, und es hat mir riesigen Spaß gemacht. Der Aufwand zahlt sich jetzt auch für die Arbeit mit anderen wissbegierigen Kindern aus.

Und so ist das Römer-Lexikon am Ende geworden:

(Eine Korrektur ist nötig: Jan-Hendrik und ich wissen inzwischen, dass man Latein früher brauchte, um Wissenschaftler zu werden, dass Latein aber heutzutage nur noch für einige Wissenschaften Voraussetzung ist.)

Zum Vergrößern das Bild bitte anklicken.

Datum der Veröffentlichung: Februar 2014
Copyright © Hanna Vock, siehe Impressum

 

How Do Gifted Children Learn?

Lecture at the 5th IHVO-Symposium on the 22nd of September 2012
by Hanna Vock

 

Gifted children learn many things

    •   earlier,
    •   more intensely,
    •   in more detail.

Many things come easily to them.

 

… in a nutshell …
In her lecture the author exemplifies 8 requirements to be fulfilled for the gifted child to learn.
Since many gifted children can hardly be motivated extrinsically (by external incentive) they are extraordinarily dependent on the fulfilment of these preconditions for learning if they are to develop their full potential.

Why is this so?
This results from (1) their high intelligence and (2) their extraordinarily great motivation to learn.
As to the high intelligence of these children:

    • Their readiness of mind consists in their ability to assimilate large amounts of information, which they then process very quickly. They are also very proficient in integrating new information in already existing networks of cross-linked contents.
    • From of a vast amount of information their excellent memory reliably distinguishes the important data that are vital for their current learning process. These essential data are reliably stored, and retrieved easily when needed.
    • These children are especially good at recognising patterns and principles within an abundance of information.
    • Their vivid imagination lets them produce a steady stream of ideas. The questions they come up with are to be looked at as ideas too. Their inventiveness is often paired with an early ability to evaluate and criticise their own ideas and those of others. They do not only have many ideas, they have many good ideas.
    • They are good at relating separate pieces of information to each other and making the right connections.

These statements are based on the Berlin Model of Intelligence Structure (BIS) which is widely accepted as the most advanced concept of its kind.
See: What is Intelligence?

Aside from intelligence I had mentioned the extraordinary learning motivation, which characterises these children.
Once you know one of these children well enough, you can easily recognise several simultaneous learning processes at any given time. These occupy them steadily, even though nobody told them they had to learn just that right now.
As long as their learning motivation is not destroyed they will constantly be involved in learning projects – some of which may go completely unnoticed sometimes.
However, we do also know some gifted children who have become so-called underachievers. These are children who have lost the desire to learn or who cannot get themselves to learn what they are expected to learn at the time. Underachievers, young and old, are sad individuals, oftentimes rebellious on the outside and desperate inside.
It therefore pays to investigate with some scrutiny what exactly it is that sustains or destroys gifted children’s desire to learn.

A general rule is:
The desire to learn is preserved if the learning environment is right for the learning individual.

– A child who is constantly challenged too much looses the desire to learn.
– A child who is constantly underchallenged looses the desire to learn.
– A gifted child, who learns in its own creative ways, looses the desire to learn if it is forced into an inadequate, inflexible and unimaginative system.
If we succeed in preserving the child’s desire to learn and support the child adequately, it will inevitably show great performance. This performance may not show exactly when it is supposed to nor will it necessarily be pertaining to the given subject matter – yet, over time the child will acquire vast knowledge and great skills.

It is important to have this confidence in the gifted child and to keep it up!

What does it take for children to remain “learners out of desire”?

Mankind’s knowledge about the conditions that are conducive to successful learning has been expanded greatly in the recent past. I will try to compile the essentials in 8 points:
It has been shown scientifically that learning processes will be successful …

    • (1) if they take place in an cheerful and concentrated atmosphere and without fear,
    • (2) if there is delightful interest or at least an inner readiness to deal with the given subject matter,
    • (3) if the contents build on already acquired knowledge and relate to present abilities which can be put to use in the current learning process,
    • (4) if it is comprehensible for the learner what this particular knowledge or this particular skill is useful for,
    • (5) if learning is part of a project whose success means something to the learner,
    • (6) if the result of a particular learning process leads to social recognition,
    • (7) if there is satisfying, possibly even inspiring, exchange of thoughts while dealing with the subject matter,
    • (8) if another person supports the learning process by virtue of his or her own personal and professional authority and – even better – by showing his or her personal enthusiasm for the subject matter.

 

These 8 points circumscribe – in general – good preconditions for learning.
Needless to say, they apply to gifted children just the same.

 

Startlingly even, gifted children – as opposed to other children – need all of these preconditions to be fulfilled, because they can hardly be motivated extrinsically. Other children can be motivated to some extent by pressure or incentives (even though this does not render the same success as if all preconditions were fulfilled) – but gifted children will fall way behind their potential if as little as one of these requirements is not met. They do not necessarily all become underachievers then, but they will not even get close to their possible achievement levels, which is frustrating – while with all requirements met, they will effortlessly perform at the highest level.

I will now shed some more light on the individual points. And while I do so, the reader may ask himself: When and how are these requirements for good learning met in kindergarten and in primary school?

About 1:
Learning processes will be successful if they take place in an cheerful and concentrated atmosphere and without fear.

What could learning children be afraid of during the first ten years of their lives, that could partially or almost entirely incapacitate them?
They could be afraid of failure, punishment or embarrassment.

Let us look at the fear of failure first. It can be tormenting.
Failure means not to succeed in completing a given task (possibly under time pressure). Every person has to learn how to deal with the fear of failure. For all our lives we will never be beyond the possibility of failure.

Gifted children oftentimes set problems for themselves; sometimes they do not meet their own expectations, which makes them feel like failures while the kindergarten teacher finds the performance OK or even good. There was, for instance, a 4 years old girl in my group, artistically very talented, who almost daily drew wonderful pictures, yet tore them to pieces almost every time, because she thought they were “crap”.

Whether or not the child has failed in a given situation is in the eye of the beholder. There are those who evaluate a performance from outside and there is the child itself, feeling like a failure. As demonstrated by the above mentioned example a gifted child’s assessment of its own failure often diverges from that of the external evaluation. By the same token there is the opposite case where a child focuses on the core aspect of a task while neglecting secondary aspects like “neatness” and additional features. Then the child may be quite fond of its performance and yet experiences that contrary to its own expectations the work is not appreciated, because the beholder applies different criteria (which the child may find irrelevant or unimportant).

Whether or not a child regularly fails to fulfil the given task is, that is whether it fails regularly, is of course also dependent on the kinds of tasks it is given.

Whether or not a child experiences the fear of failure regularly, depends on its own expectations as well as on the demands made on the child by others. This is one more reason that it is important to always be well aware of the general and current potential of the child.

If, for instance, a child who is not gifted, were mistakenly considered gifted, its environment would cause plenty fear of failure with their inadequately high expectations, thereby incapacitating the child.

Fear of Punishment… should have become obsolete in our society – but not so. Every single bad mark at school is a penalty imposed by the system “school”. And many bad marks (where some will consider a “C” a bad mark) will be followed by further penalties (mostly introduced by misguided parents, and often by the misguided school system too: it imposes: repeating the school year, remedial lessons, private tutoring). All this is meant to help, but it also spells the unspoken message “you didn’t cut it”.

Fear of embarrassment is a widely underestimated fear (with regard to children). “I blew it (again), and everybody saw it.” (For example when trying to jump across the box.) Or: “I’m so ashamed. Again I couldn’t give the right answer.” None of the sweet talk and encouragement will do gifted children any good if they are their own fiercest critics, even when they are still very young.

Children who are not very successful in the system “school” defy this fear of embarrassment by devaluating the relevance of success at school. This is understandable and serves their psychological self-protection. Sometimes this is a collective phenomenon seizing a whole class. Those gifted children who have an easy time learning at school are simultaneously down-graded as “nerds”.

Even at kindergarten we have to be ready to deal with the fear of embarrassment. Gifted children do at an early stage in their lives begin to compare themselves with the other children and even with adults. By the same token (because of the early development of certain intellectual capacities) they are early judges of their actions, comparing the results with their high expectations.

Some people say: “I work best when I’m under pressure.” (For example when a presentation is to be prepared.) Preparing a presentation is a big and laborious learning process with an uncertain outcome. Yet, it must be turned in at a given time. Unpleasant feelings may lead to repeated procrastination – or interruptions once one has started. And then one does get it done at the last minute. So, is it not true that one can work best under pressure?

No, it is not. One would certainly have learned a lot more in the process if the work had been started early and carried out joyfully and continuously, investing more time.

Shortly before the deadline is up and pressure rises, most people – certainly not all – do manage to suppress the unpleasant feelings enough to get the work done.
What are these unpleasant feelings which slow us down so much? It is the fear of failure, paired with the fear that the effort might in the end be in vain (haven’t finished, didn’t get to present it, was evaluated negatively or unfairly). Or maybe we have the feeling that we are doing something pointless that does not have anything to do with our own life or interests and will end up in some folder and will eventually be thrown away without ever having had any impact on our life.

With regard to kindergarten this seems to imply to me …

    • that any kind of laughing at a child (for failing) must be prevented and termed a downright meanness for all children to know;
    • that the informal presentation of ideas and results should be a regular part of everyday life in kindergarten;
    • that as a precautionary measure we should talk about the fear of failure and embarrassment with the children who are ahead in their intellectual development.

 

About 2:
Learning processes will be the more successful the more there is delightful interest or at least an inner readiness to apply oneself to the given subject matter.

Delight and learning are two things which to most adults seem not to go together well. Yet, when watching 1 year old children, their delight in doing things and in learning is most obvious to see and to hear. They are laughing and squeaking for joy. Even when extremely immersed in an activity they still appear joyful. For us adults the term “flow” had to be coined for describing the blissful state which many – if unfortunately not all – people sometimes experience.
The English word “flow” has become a technical term in psychology and it is to express that “everything just seems to flow easily and all by itself.”
“Flow” in this sense is a state of great and delightful focus on an interesting activity. This state of mind occurs in direct connection with rapid learning. While experiencing this “flow” – young or old – one is learning new things.

If intensive learning processes are to be initiated, flow must be brought about.
How to do so?
We have to offer something exciting, inspiring which will electrify the children. One might call it inquisitive learning, experiential or adventure pedagogics. Playing and learning with joy, addressing all our senses.

When exactly do most people lose their enthusiasm about learning?

    • If they are kept in unnecessarily regulated, poorly organised, uninspiring surroundings populated by uninspired, permanently bored or unhappy contemporaries.
      This can be their own family, the neighbourhood, the kindergarten or school. Unlucky children will find themselves in such surroundings from their first day of life. They will learn little if anything, certainly much less than they could.
    • The enthusiasm for learning will also be lost if children are to fulfil tasks taken from an anaemic curriculum that is far from all matters of real life.

What is laziness?

This question pertains to the point of enthusiasm for learning. It is often heard: “He is really quite smart, but just too lazy for learning and accomplishing anything.”
So then, what is laziness?
For the individual so termed it is the lack of motivation and the inability or unwillingness to overcome this and get busy anyway.

If bad comes to worse the lazy one will readily take the blame and the disadvantages for not having done something, for instance for not keeping something tidy.
The others take a different angle:
Laziness is the unwillingness to simply do what is expected, even though it is (in the eyes of everybody else) a necessity. We criticise the lazy person for not pushing himself.
The lazy person indulges in a freedom we do not grant ourselves: he resists. That, too, makes us angry.
But it pays to take a closer look and see the differences.
These are five rather different cases:

1.
A father who is unreliable in his job, who keeps getting up too late and jeopardises his employment. = This is considered unacceptable, regardless of what possibly tragic developmental background there is to it.

2.
A man, who has never in his life cleaned a window. = This is socially accepted as long as someone else takes care of the cleaning. There are many men and rich women who have never cleaned a window – in the case of not so rich women this is a different story. This shows how social acceptance is granted unequally.

3.
A woman who has never in her life laid out nor tended to a vegetable patch because she just absolutely does not feel like it. = socially this is perfectly acceptable in our day, it would not occur to anybody to scold this woman for being lazy. In former times, when most women were working on farms, they would have been criticised heavily. Whether or not a certain kind of refusal is accepted is therefore strongly dependent on the respective culture.

4.
A child whose hand writing is illegible and who refuses to practise writing legibly, even when being told that writing only makes sense if the written words can be deciphered. = The child will not submit to the argument. It will not show insight. That means: It will have to face the consequences: namely having a bad handwriting and getting bad marks at school. Should the child be allowed to make that choice? Or should it be forced? I am strongly opposed to forcing anybody to learn. Enforcement violates human rights, and besides, it is unproductive and destroys creativity. After all good reasoning and arguing I will have to accept the child making its choice. Unfortunately this is hard to do, primarily for many mothers. They raise the pressure and continue the lament, which, of course, kills everybody’s nerves.
“The truly lazy person indulges in laziness without falling prey to it”, says Jack Chaboud in his “Petit Livre de la paresse” (Little Book of Laziness).

Many gifted individuals have a good sense of just how much laziness they can get away with when it comes to learning processes that do not interest them. Others will fall prey to their fears and inhibitions, failing to attain important degrees and thereby missing out on the chance to live a life which is in accordance with their giftedness.

5.
And finally we have a child attending the first form who is unwilling to perform the preliminary exercises for writing. = The child will not submit. Does it have the right to disobey? Does it have a sense that it can learn to write legibly without these tedious preliminary exercises? It should be encouraged to try these exercises.

Imagine a gifted child who has drawn many imaginative pictures because it has so far lived a happy life with many wonderful playing experiences and who has had the leisure to lay down these experiences in imaginative pictures. A child that may even have sung a lot of songs because that is what it grew up with. This child has developed fine motor skills and a good feel for rhythm, it does not need preliminary exercises for writing – neither before nor at school. They would be utterly pointless for this child, entirely unproductive.

 

A wise sentence by Laozi goes: “Doing nothing is better than going to great lengths and accomplishing nothing.”
Yet, even an extraordinarily talented child who has not spent so much time drawing will learn how to write letters best by writing texts which it finds important. In such a somewhat casual learning process it will improve the legibility of its writing if the addressees of the texts hint at illegible letters in a friendly tone. But for this the respective tutor (be it the mother, the kindergarten teacher, the school teacher or whoever) will have to take the time and repeatedly communicate with the child in writing – and that person must be able to accept the initially crooked characters with great equanimity.

What is more fun?
“Come on, let’s write another letter.” Or: “Practise a couple lines of B’s.”
The American writer Thornton Wilder quotes another Chinese aphorism:
“The serene make better use of their chances than do the driven.”

 

About 3:
Learning processes will be most successful if they build on what is already known and if they tie in with already existing abilities, which can then be utilised in the learning process.

The better I know a child, the more I have done together with the child, the better of an assessment I will have of the child’s abilities, so that I can take it from there.
In order to get to know the child I have to do things together with the child. I see little of the individual child’s abilities if it “vanishes” in a group of 15, 20 or even 30 children.

I make observations while we do things together. If, for instance, I take two children aside to bake a cake with them while I let the rest of the group play freely. I will afterwards know which of the two children is able to crack an egg. I also notice which of the children has an idea of the process as a whole and which one only sees separate parts of the process. Another thing I see is to what degree the children understand numbers and amounts and whether they can distinguish between flour, salt, sugar by appearance and taste.
I also see to what extend the children have been able to develop the ability to collaborate.

If I am not sparing with words I will find out whether the children know where flour comes from and what organic eggs are.
Such shared activities will bring forth ideas for further activities, learning areas and projects.
What I have seen during such a shared activity with two children I can memorise short term and make notes of it later on.

If, on the contrary, I bake a cake with 10 children I will be busy keeping up a certain degree of order, deciding who gets to crack the four eggs … And I have to keep the frustrated children involved when they do not get to do things themselves and who are trying to enter a peaceful intellectual exchange with each other and with me.
In that case I can proudly say that I have offered an activity for 10 children, yet there has been less progress for each one of them than there would have been in a small group of 2 or 3 children.

What’s more, I will not be able to say much more about the children than: P. likes to push to the front, L. keeps low key and F. horses around. I do not gather any substantial impression of the children, instead I make random observations, which may not serve for much more than reinforce prejudices and which I will probably forget pretty soon anyway, because I cannot dig any deeper in the given situation.

Which mode of work is more satisfying for the individual kindergarten teacher? Everybody will have to decide for himself. This is not to say that satisfying and fulfilling learning experiences in bigger groups are not possible.

Entirely ineffective for learning are school classes. There I have more than 20 children, but no assistant to take care of part of the group while I am working with the other part. Sometimes I wish pupils had little traffic lights on their foreheads: green for a child listening with interest, yellow for children barely paying attention and red for children who are not following at all. I am afraid in many classes there would be nothing but yellow and red lights for extended periods of time.

If on dark winter days the head lights at the ceiling only went on whenever the teacher himself is experiencing joy and flow at work, many classes would mostly sit in darkness.
With the organisational structures at school currently in effect it will take very long until a subject teacher, tending to 130 children in 5 different classes, knows his pupils, their abilities and interests well. Often this fails altogether, and the name of the pupil is pretty much all that comes to mind. No wonder individualised teaching hardly ever happens.
But not only subject teachers have this problem – even the form teacher at primary school does not really come to know very much about all children. At best she can come up with an assessment of the child with regard to current learning matters, but how much does she know of the child’s intellectual life?

So: Intensive activity with few children makes for more effective learning than do activities for the whole group.

Can this be conducted in kindergarten? And how frequently will I be able to work in this mode?

Working in small groups is something that everybody has to push for and implement himself. I personally, during my active time in day care, soon could no more do without working in small groups on a daily basis. Of course, the groups would change all the time. One day I would sing kindergarten songs with the 4-year-olds and discuss the lyrics so they would soon be able to sing them by heart (that would take no more than 15 minutes on a few days), another time it was scientific experiments for the brighter children, which could easily take the entire morning until noon. My colleague had the same right to offer small group activities and oftentimes I noticed her (a childcare worker) having deeply philosophical discussions with two children while playing a difficult game with them.

And then these small group activities were also integrated into and played an important part in the larger projects that addressed the whole group and covered greater periods of time.

I cannot imagine advancement of the gifted in kindergarten without small group activities. Integrative Focus Kindergartens are by virtue best tailored for the advancement of the gifted since these kindergartens have more gifted children than statistically expected.
(Remember: About 2 – 3 per cent of all children are gifted. With 80 children at one kindergarten that would with all probability mean one lonely gifted child.)

The older the gifted children are, the more they should have other gifted children around them to learn together with them.

About 4:
Learning processes will be most successful if the learner understands the reason for learning the given subject matter and what that knowledge or ability is going to be good for, i.e. how it is going to be useful.

 

Why are we going to visit the fire brigade? Why do I have to learn the rule of three in mathematics? Why should I practise writing numbers? Why am I supposed to practise tying my shoes? (My shoes have Velcro strips!)

Let’s stick with the fire brigade example. What is the children’s knowledge and skill before and after? How is the topic tied into everyday life in kindergarten? It does not make sense to visit the fire brigade before the children know what fire really is, how beautiful it is, but also how hot and dangerous it can be, what a fire hazard may do and how a child should handle fire.
If you will not even let a child light a candle you might as well skip the trip to the fire brigade too.

Kindergartens are expected to take the children to the fire brigades, but it would not occur to the parents of these same children to make a camp fire with them. This is how the children’s knowledge remains superficial and disconnected from their own experience. No wonder their interest and focus is rather flat. And then the gifted children among them are often left frustrated because with 15 or 20 children jumping about two fire fighters they hardly get a chance to get into a prolonged dialogue of questions and answers (as they naturally would).

 

About 5:
Learning processes are most successful when learning happens in the course of a project whose successful completion is meaningful to the learner.

A 5 years old boy taught himself how to write on the computer using MS Word, because he wanted to make a picture book – a real one. For him it was time to learn the use of a word processing software right now in kindergarten (something that otherwise occurs in secondary school), because he was convinced that he needed it now. He quickly understood many options of the tool and learned how to use them.

It felt entirely natural to him, it was part of his project and cognitively he was able to handle it too.
Not much unlike when my colleague had the idea to teach the children how to tie knots. It was boring for the children as long as they did not need this for their playing activities. But one day they started building little huts with rods and blankets, which they needed for their game, and they realised that knots might be quite useful.

Most of the children were content with simple or double knots. The three gifted children and two of their friends, however, really got into it, and learned sailor’s knots just from drawings. The difficulty was challenging them and the cool knots were the best of it all. Even if in the end only two of the three gifted children stuck with it all the way to the really heavy duty super complicated knots.

So: Let’s initiate and support interesting exciting projects, that’s how children learn.

 

About 6:
Learning processes are most successful if their results lead to social recognition.

    • The performance of a stage play being appreciated by the parents’ applause.
    • An art project whose results are presented in an exhibition and then sold.
    • Potatoes brought back from a farm visit and cooked for lunch at kindergarten.
    • Flowers and herbs having been grown and sold for Thanksgiving (the returns being spent at the ice cream parlour).
    • Songs practised and then performed at an old people’s home to the pleasure of the elderly.
    • Scientific insights being presented to an impressed audience, – or acrobatics or magic tricks.
    • A game that has been crafted by the children themselves (possibly even invented by them) which then serves generations of kindergarten children to come.
    • A hut made from sticks and branches in which the children can play the whole summer long,
    • and so forth.

The possibilities are plentiful. Let us make sure that the children receive plenty of recognition in and outside of kindergarten. A “D” at school does not yield any social recognition, and even an “A” only appreciates the individual’s accomplishment while possibly hurting somebody else.

 

About 7:
Learning processes are most successful if there is a satisfying, possibly even inspiring, exchange of thoughts on the subject matter.

Even young gifted children are visibly perked up when they find adequate playing mates with whom they can have meaningful conversations. They need them from early on. There should be peers in age too, because the ability and desire to collaborate depends on early experiences:
Does it make sense to work together with the others or is it just one continuous frustration?
A good project can lead children of different talent and developmental status to mutual and satisfying success. The special Playing and Learning Needs of gifted children have to be observed though.

If you want to understand what it means if great differences in intellectual aptitude have to be “bridged” at all times, picture this: an adult with an IQ of 110 who, at his job, has to get along and carry on satisfying conversations with people who would score 30 points less in an IQ test.
If that is too abstract, imagine this: a 6 years old child never has other playing and learning mates than 4 years old children. What would that feel like? That is what a gifted child feels like if it does not have another gifted child in the group.
In the case of no playing mates of the same age we would not hesitate to act out of pedagogic considerations. Yet, we take the isolation of a gifted child as normal and inevitable.
At school the problem of inspiring conversations and sophisticated cooperation gets even worse. The gifted child will have such encounters even less often.
How thrilled were my daughters many years ago when they were enrolled at the CJD School in Brunswick and for the first time in their lives experienced that exciting discussions were carried out of the classroom into the school yard and continued there until the break was over. In many schools this never happens.

 

About 8:
Learning processes are most successful if another person supports the process with his professional as well as his personal authority and at best even with his own enthusiasm for a given subject matter.

This person could be the mother, the father, the grand-mother, the grand-father, the sister, the brother, a friend, a playing mate, a kindergarten teacher, a school teacher, a coach, a mentor.
I should like to call any of them a mentor. A gifted child needs one – or even better – several mentors.
In kindergarten we are at an advantage. We are not restricted by a fixed curriculum, but instead we are free to pick any interesting subject matter and introduce interesting activities and topics which we ourselves are interested in, which means we can make pedagogic use of our own enthusiasm.
What do I have to contribute to be a good mentor for a gifted child?
1.
I am still (or again) thrilled by my own learning processes.

2.
I have genuine pedagogic talent, which means, I still – even after 20 years – love exploring things with the children. I am not bored or bothered, but instead the children’s liveliness and desire to learn still inspires me. And the children like me, most of them anyway, and they want to emulate me.
The problem is this:
All kindergarten and school teachers, all mothers and fathers have gone through our school system and have acquired a more or less disturbed and troubled attitude towards learning. Some look at learning as if it were a punishment, new things are experienced as a menace and the challenge of intellectual effort is a nuisance.
That means, they have to get rid of some of such bad feelings before they can be good teachers for children.
In spite of all the difficult working conditions, the much too large groups and the shortages in personnel prevailing at kindergartens, I think it important that every committed kindergarten teacher allow himself to go with the flow of working closely along the lines of the children’s own pursuits.
To me this boils down to feeling entitled and taking it as a professional calling to regularly work in small groups. We should defend the right for intensive activities with the children with all we have.

A person is suited to be a teacher and mentor of gifted children if he/she plays, learns and teaches with enthusiasm and talent.

 

Do also read: Mrs Becker Stages an Opera
Do also read: Cognitive Advancement in Kindergarten. Gaining Knowledge, Practising the Act of Thinking – To be translated

Do also read: How Does Learning and Research Happen?

 

Date of Publication in German: 2012, September
Translation: Arno Zucknick
Copyright © Hanna Vock, siehe Impressum

 

The translation of this article
was made possible by
Dr. Dr. Gert Mittring, Bonn, Germany.

Bastian erklärt sein Traumauto

von einer IHVO-Absolventin (Erzieherin)

 

Bastian (6;1) erklärt sein Traumauto im Rahmen unseres Projektes „Was fliegt, fährt und schwimmt?“.

Die am Projekt interessierten Kinder habe ich in zwei Gruppen aufgeteilt; Bastian ist in einer Gruppe von 8 Kindern.

Wir haben uns im Projekt schon das „Innenleben“ eines Autos näher betrachtet, vor allem die Funktionsweise eines Benzin-Viertaktmotors, und haben uns auch durch Bücher, Experimente und Software mit der technischen Seite des Autos befasst.

Nun treffen wir uns wieder und ich sage:
„Also, wenn ich mir ein Auto selbst bauen könnte, wenn ich der Autobauer wäre, dann würde mein Auto anders aussehen. Ich würde mein Traumauto bauen.
Habt ihr Lust, euer eigenes Traumauto zu malen?“

Die Kinder haben Lust dazu, sie fangen alle sofort an. Ich weise sie noch kurz auf die bereitgestellten Materialien hin (Stifte, Federn, Textilien, Kronkorken…) und kann dann im Hintergrund beobachten.

Während des Malens sprechen die Kinder nicht viel – ich hatte angekündigt, dass sie ihre Werke später vorstellen können. Ausnahmslos alle Kinder, vor allem aber Bastian, gehen konzentriert und mit viel Freude ans Werk. In diesem Zusammenhang möchte ich auf ein Zitat Mihaly Csikzentmihalyis verweisen: „Die vielleicht wichtigste Eigenschaft, die sich bei fast allen kreativen Personen findet, ist die Fähigkeit, den Schaffensprozess um seiner selbst willen zu genießen. (…) Die Freude ist ein elementarer Bestandteil der Kreativität.“ (Csikzentmihalyi, Kreativität, 1996, S. 113; siehe Literaturverzeichnis.)

Im Unterschied zu den anderen teilnehmenden Kindern rollt Bastian sein fertiges Bild ein und bindet eine Schleife um die Rolle. Ich frage nach dem Grund; er erwidert: „Das ist mein geheimer Plan von dem Auto, das darf doch niemand sehen.“

Da ich Bastians Entschlossenheit kenne, befürchte ich, sein Traumauto wird tatsächlich geheim bleiben und niemand wird es zu Gesicht bekommen. Mir ist bewusst, dass ich das zu akzeptieren hätte.

Wir setzen uns in einen Kreis.

Emma beschreibt ihr Auto so: „In meinem Auto gibt es einen Aufzug. Dann können die Leute da rauf und runter fahren.“ Auf meine Frage, was sie denn in schwarz gezeichnet hätte, meint sie: „Das ist der Esstisch und das sind Stühle.“ Weil ihr Auto so schwer sei, erklärt sie, brauche es viele Räder; diese hat sie grün eingezeichnet.

Nicola, Bastians bester Freund, hat in sein Auto hinein viele Außerirdische gemalt. „Die können alle aus den Fenstern schauen – und die vorne, die lenken das Auto.“ Eines der Kinder will wissen, ob die Außerirdischen das Auto selbst gebaut oder gekauft haben. Nicola antwortet: „Das Auto haben die selbst gebaut, das kann man auf der Erde nicht kaufen.“
Ich frage ihn, was die Außerirdischen denn noch so alles in oder an das Auto gebaut hätten. „Ganz vorne“, meint er, „gibt es eine dicke Stange. Wenn die Außerirdischen gegen ‚was fahren, dann geht das Auto trotzdem nicht kaputt.“

Bastian zeigt sich während dieser und den nachfolgenden Beschreibungen sehr interessiert und meldet sich schließlich, um sein Bild doch vorzustellen.

Sein Auto sei ein sehr schnelles Auto, meint er. „Das hat hundert Zylinder, hier vorne (kolbenartige Gegenstände in der unteren Bildhälfte) kann man welche sehen.“

 

Bastian zeigt den anderen Kinder seine eingezeichneten Zylinder. „Das Auto ist auch sehr stark“, betont er stolz, „das kann sogar durch Stein fahren!“ Ich frage ihn, wie es das denn schaffe. „Ist doch ganz einfach, es hat spitze Schrauben, mit denen bohrt es sich leicht durch Stein“, antwortet er und zeigt die spitzen Schrauben. (Sie sind rechts oben am Bildrand zu sehen.) „Die müssen aber aktiviert werden“, fügt er noch hinzu.

An dieser Stelle weise ich die Kinder auf eine unserer Gesprächsregeln hin: „Ihr wisst ja, dass ihr jederzeit Fragen stellen könnt, wenn ihr etwas noch genauer wissen wollt.“ Einer der Jungen möchte wissen, was „aktivieren“ bedeutet. Bastian erklärt den Begriff folgendermaßen: „Wenn das Auto auf Stein trifft, kommen die Bohrer raus und zerbohren die Steine.“

Mich interessiert noch, ob das Auto viel Benzin braucht. „Nee, das ist windbetrieben. Das braucht nur Benzin, wenn kein Wind da ist“, antwortet Bastian. Ich frage die anderen Kinder, ob sie wissen, was „windbetrieben“ bedeutet; die meisten Kinder schütteln den Kopf und Bastian erklärt: „Wenn Wind da ist, kann das Auto wie ein Segelschiff fahren. Es hat ganz viele Segel.“ Er zeigt die Segel und erklärt, dass das Auto außerdem eine Schiffsschraube habe. Es könne auch unter Wasser fahren.

„Fährt es jetzt gerade unter Wasser?“ fragt ein Kind. Bastian antwortet: „Ja, das kann man doch gut seh’n!“ und weist auf das in blau Gezeichnete hin.

Ich will wissen, was das in der rechten unteren Bildecke Gezeichnete ist. Bastian: „Das ist ein Zahnrad, das sich bei starker Wasserströmung in den Sand gräbt.“ „Warum macht es das?“ hake ich nach. Er erklärt: „Wenn die Wasserströmung so stark ist, dann treibt das Schiff ab. Wenn das Zahnrad sich in den Sand gräbt, passiert das nicht!“

„Du hast ja an vieles gedacht, Bastian!“, meine ich und frage, wer denn das Traumauto fährt. „Da leben wie beim Nicola Außerirdische drin; da oben sind die Schlafzimmerfenster. So kann man auch, wenn man im Bett liegt, ‚rausschauen.“

Nach dieser Bemerkung rollt Bastian sein Bild wieder zusammen, die Vorstellung seines Werkes ist damit beendet. Er zeigt sich aber sehr interessiert an den Traumautos der Kinder, die nach ihm ihre Werke vorstellen.

Siehe auch: Bastian (6;1) taut auf.

 

Datum der Veröffentlichung: Februar 2014
Copyright © Hanna Vock, siehe Impressum

Examples on Children under the Age of 3

 

 

Observations about a Baby / Toddler

von Hanna Vock

 

A mother provided me with her notes for publication which I sorted and edited. I was also allowed to comment on them. With my best thanks.
Comments by Hanna Vock.
The little boy Pete showed the following behaviour:

0 Years, 3 Months, 11 Days:

Over a period of 24 hours he focused his eyes on toys hung over his little bed or over the blanket he was lying on (kicking his legs lightly, sometimes fervidly, highly concentrated, joyful) for extended periods of time:
from 03:10 to 04:07 (57 minutes),
from 09:12 to 09:38 (26 minutes),
from 15:06 to 16:21 (75 minutes),
from 21:33 to 22:18 (45 minutes).
This adds up to a total of 3 hours and 23 minutes of self-imposed “working time” – not counting the working time spent “drinking”.

During these times, when he practised looking, he almost continuously focused on the toy, only to be interrupted by short concentrated looks around by turning his head. The hands repeatedly twitched in the direction of the toy as if trying to reach it.
The observer was under the impression that these moves were intentional attempts for something that his motor skills didn’t allow for yet.

Comment:
And all the while the new nerve tracts necessary to finally enable the child to reach out and touch the toy were probably being grown rather speedily in the brain.

 

The next day targeted grabbing (with one hand) could be observed for the first time. When successful (initially on only few tries) the baby smiled visibly. These “grabbing exercises”, too, were performed with great perseverance and repeated over extended periods of time. When the baby was picked up and thereby disturbed in its present occupation it would react with great disgruntlement and even anger.

Comment:
This shows a remarkable intrinsic motivation (in comparison to other babies of the same age) and a great endurance with regard to activities that are at the limits of present capabilities and represent considerable intellectual challenge.
The great perseverance leads to serious practising and results in quick success.

 

According to our definition an extraordinarily high degree of intrinsic motivation is an essential part of giftedness.

 

Observations on Music

1st Observation, 11 Months, 20 Days:

I am sitting on the floor together with Pete, he is picking rattles from a basket of toys. These are empty containers for lotions with shiny red lids, they all look the same. Each one of them contains different materials: coins, dry peas, stones, 1 large wooden button, 7 little buttons.
Pete shakes the containers, sometimes one in each hand, and he listens with great interest and concentration to the slightly different noises they make when he shakes them. The shakes them because that is what he presently likes to do with things he gets his hands on, and he pays attention to the effects this has.
He seems to really like the rhythmic rattling noises.

 

2nd Observation, 1 Year, 2 Months, 9 Days:

Pete rediscovers the rattling containers in a toy box. He tries them out one by one, listening closely. Each new rattling sound causes him to squeak in joy. After having tried them all out he picks up his favourites and listens once more, he is thrilled.

Comment:
He can now build on his knowledge from his earlier experience with the containers, which also means: he actively remembers the containers and knows that he can get those rattling sounds out of them.
He now shakes the containers intentionally to create the sounds. He acts intentionally and his approach is systematic.
Two months ago it was still his newly acquired motor skills which were at the centre of his learning endeavours: shaking everything he laid his hands on – expanding his experience and knowledge.
Now this learning strategy has become second nature and he makes intentional use of it: on the one hand he acquires new knowledge with this, on the other hand he deepens and fine-tunes his knowledge about things he already knows.
This strategy will stay with him for life and he will be able to make use of it whenever he finds it useful, but he will do so less frequently because his repertoire of strategies will expand immensely.

 

3rd Observation, 1 Year, 1 Month, 0 Days:

Pete has been showing interest in the metal wind chimes for the past few weeks. He listens to the manifold sounds they create when I touch them.
The first time I showed them to him he touched them himself and was thrilled by the sounds. Which tubes he struck and how strongly he did so was still quite at random. But he observed the different effects ever more closely.
He kept gravitating towards the wind chimes and the word “Klingklong”, which was used to name the chimes, also gave him great pleasure.
Today it finally occurred to me to hang the chimes low enough for him to be able to reach them easily while kneeling.
He was right on it and I was able to make the following observation. For 14 minutes he was absorbed in playing with them and trying them out: first he struck them strongly a few times, then he touched the tubes lightly and listened to the mellow tones, finally, for about 9 minutes, he varied the intensity when striking the entire instrument, touched one or several tubes at a time, struck them with a wooden stick …

 

4th Observation, 1 Year, 2 Months, 12 Days:

Playing together and taking turns with the rattling containers:
He waits until I stop, then rattles himself, stops after just about the same length of time, looks at me with expectation and wears a contented expression when I rattle, observes and waits, comes in right when I stop. We do this some 7 or 8 times in a row.

 

5th Observation, 1 Year, 2 Months, 12 Days:

Pete has been in the paddling pool and in the lake, it is summer, it is the evening now and he is running around in the flat happily, dressed only in his diapers (the parents and grand-parents are there and are playing with him).

He and I are making music: I am knocking on a cookie jar, he rattles his containers. He keeps the time. He rattles all he can. He gets ecstatic and starts dancing, swaying, turning and running while never forgetting the rhythmic rattling.
For more than half an hour he twirls around through the flat, rattling, dancing and laughing, sometimes out of our sight and then reappearing. Every time I join his rhythm with wooden sticks or by drumming my fingers on the cookie jar it gives him great joy and he intensifies his movements and gets louder.

 

Observation on Early Sense of Humour: Shoe on a Lamp?

11 Months, 30 Days

Many times Pete has slept under the lamps on the wall which have little shoes and boots hanging from them, they used to belong to his mother and his uncle when they were infants. They are hanging there for reminiscence. He has looked at them many times, however more absorbed by the light of the lamps.

Today I walk into the room carrying him on my arm. He sees the boots and as always wants to touch them, but this time he breaks into loud laughter. He looks across to the other lamp and laughs out loudly again.
Quite obviously he suddenly finds it funny that shoes should be hanging from a lamp.

 

Comment:
Before, the unusual and absurd of this arrangement with the shoes hanging from the lamp had never struck him. He took it for what it was, along with the many other inexplicable things in his surroundings.
Now, he has acquired concepts and experiences which he can compare his present impressions with. He has a concept of “lamp”. You can turn it on and off, accordingly it will be dark or shine with light. But what do shoes have to do with it?
He has also understood what a shoe is. And he knows where shoes usually are: on feet, on the floor or on a shelf.
Now he sees: there is something different here from what one would expect. How funny!

 

Playing with the Matroyshka

11 Months, 27 Days

Pete is playing with the Matroyshka for the first time.
This is a set of 7 Russian figures made of wood which all fit into one another. Each one, except the smallest one, is hollow and can be taken apart into two pieces. When you do so the next smaller figure appears inside.
Pete and I are sitting on the floor. I take the set apart once in front of him and put it together again.
Pete throws the figure on the floor and the outermost figure comes apart. He puts the parts of the biggest figure aside, grabs the second figure, which contains the other smaller ones (the smallest two had been removed, so that he would not accidentally swallow them).
He shakes figure #2, laughs and tries to separate the two parts of it. Thanks to his strong hands he succeeds. He is thrilled when figure #3 appears.
Continuing in this fashion he takes apart the entire ensemble.
He looks at the different size parts scattered about, picks them up and tries to put them together but fails to do so. Randomly he tries to put parts together and after several unsuccessful attempts he turns to other toys.

1 Year, 3 Months

I am sitting on the floor together with Pete. He has rediscovered the Matroyshka and plays with it for 38 minutes, highly concentrated. He tries to open the biggest Matroyshka but fails, the parts are hard to separate. He hands it to me with an expectant look.

Now the following sequence repeats until the very smallest of the seven figures appears: he is thrilled every time the next smaller figure appears and then hands it to me so that I open it.
When finally all the parts are scattered across the floor he picks the two fitting parts and hands them to me. He is satisfied when I put them back together. Picking the right pieces that go together he makes only one mistake, but notices it right away when he sees the pieces close to each other and corrects his mistake.
After all the figures have been reassembled I take two of them and fit them into one another in a step by step procedure. Pete watches and is fascinated. The remaining 20 minutes he works trying to find out how all the figures disappear in the biggest one. He shakes the figure to find out whether there is one inside or not. However, he still cannot master the task he has set for himself.
Nevertheless he is having great fun with this activity and keeps taking figures apart and putting them back together. Whenever he has got a smaller one in his hand he opens the bigger one and tries to stick the smaller one into it. Oftentimes he tries to put an upper part together with a lower part. He notices that it does not fit but cannot find the right one, which seems to confuse him and he turns to the other figures.
This repeats several times. At times he just rolls the figures across the floor or tries to build towers with them, unfortunately neglecting the lower parts in favour of the upper parts which do not have a plane surface so that his attempts fail.

 

Early Concept of Sets / Amounts

1 Year, 3 Months , 12 Days

Pete is playing with a little wooden pot with a lid and 3 little stones and 3 little semi-precious stones.
He keeps taking the pieces out and back in again. The semi-precious stones are egg-shaped and keep rolling away. Sometimes he accidentally sits on one of them. But he will not stop before he has all 6 pieces back in the pot, he always gets the whole set together. Only then will he start taking them out again.

 

Methodical Operations, Memory

1 Year, 7 Months , 13 Days

About 4 months ago, in our holiday flat, I had put the children’s stool in front of the sink to see if he would be able to wash his hands without my help. The stool there looked quite different from the one at our house. But the faucet and the jet of water were too far away for him and so there were no further attempts and the stool was not used again.
Now we are at the same holiday flat again. It is time to brush teeth, he runs to the bathroom and comes back with two magazines in his hands, which he shows me. They had been lying on the stool almost completely covering it. I take them from him, he runs back to the bathroom and pushes the stool in front of the sink as if it were the most natural routine for him. He climbs up on the stool, has his teeth brushed, puts the stool back, comes running to the living room and looks at me expectantly (making a gesture of opening and closing his hand). I give him the magazines and he takes them to lay them back on the stool.

1 Year, 7 Months , 13 Days

At the supermarket he is sitting in the children’s seat of the trolley. I hand him every item that is to be bought. He looks at it, weighs it in his hand and, after having been shown once, carefully puts it down into the trolley (with some effort), even the carton box with the eggs. The day after the next we are back at the supermarket and he insists on the same procedure.

1 Year, 7 Months , 13 Days

When cleaning off the breakfast table he takes things that belong in the refrigerator to the refrigerator. I keep having to open the door again, he puts the things inside and closes the door. Used dishes he carries to the dishwasher. I open the flap and he puts the dishes in. Cheese rind and apricot cores he takes into his hand and looks around the kitchen. I show him the rubbish bin and he says “bah” (= can’t eat this, must throw away).
Then he looks around to see if there is anything else that needs to be put away and points to the part of the dishwasher where the cleaning tab is to be placed. I shake my head telling him that the dishwasher is not full yet, he checks it, shakes his head, points to an empty space, says “emmy” (= empty) and closes the flap. He feels an impulse to press the start button but lets go of it because I am shaking my head saying “wait”, upon which he turns away and looks for something else to play with.

 

“Host”

1 Year, 9 Months

The parents are going out and the grand-parents are there to baby sit. Pete still expresses himself primarily by body language, he expands his active vocabulary daily but his articulation is still rather blurry.
First attempts to build sentences:
Looking at a picture book: “Meow, nam-nam” (The cat is eating). Or: “Granpa it air” (Grandpa is to sit on the chair). For him phonetic language does not seem to have been very appealing so far (compared to other infants he hardly made any utterances). Now he is discovering it as a useful method of communication, yet he is still somewhat handicapped by his poor articulation.

Comment:
Children without an especially early language development are rarely recognised if they are gifted. Yet, Pete shows his intellectual aptitude even without early speaking.
Nevertheless, he has been able to express what he wanted from early on.

Today he seems to feel that he is the host; for the first time he is experiencing the situation, that his grand-parents are in his parents’ flat.
He sees grandma to a little drawing desk and taps his hand on the chair next to his own (like: grandma take a seat). Grandma and Pete are drawing, grandpa enters the room and sits down on the armchair. Pete looks at him, gets up, goes to the shelf and gives grandpa a toy, saying: “there” (you have something to play with, too). Then he sits down at the desk again and continues to draw with grandma.

A little later grandma mentions the word “bed” (“Well, you’re going to bed pretty soon”). Pete gets up, gives grandma a friendly look, takes her by the hand and walks her to the bedroom. There he taps his hand on his mother’s bed and says “grandma” (you can sleep here). Grandpa enters the bedroom, Pete sees him and taps his hand on his father’s bed and says “Grandpa”.

 

Baby Doll

1 Year, 9 Months, 3 Days

Pete is given a baby doll as a present. I hold it before him so that he can look at it and approach it if he wants to.
He smiles and says “baby, baby”.
Then he says “ap”, takes the cap off the baby’s head and looks at the (bald) head. Then he says ”acket” (jacket) and tries to take the jacket off the doll.
He wants the doll to walk and holds it accordingly. I tell him that the baby cannot walk yet. He smiles at me and says “Baby tap tap no”. Then he looks at the doll and says “Pat” und smiles. A few weeks ago he was on holiday for a few days together with his cousin Patrick, who cannot walk yet, either. Since then the doll has been named Pat.
As I am trying to lay the doll to bed he protests strongly. Possible explanation: He wants to play with the doll so it cannot go to bed yet. He probably knows this from kindergarten: someone who has gone to bed is not at disposal as a playing mate.
He sets the doll on a little chair by the drawing desk. The doll sits too low, the head hardly looks over the edge of the table. I say: “The doll is too small”, and I put a folded blanket underneath it. Pete takes a pen and starts drawing. He makes gestures as if to tell me to give the doll a pen too. I say (thoughtlessly): “The doll can’t draw yet, it’s still too small.”
Pete looks over to the doll, gets up and hands me another blanket. His look tells me he wants me to put another blanket under the doll.
Then he wants the doll to play xylophone too. Pete is not satisfied until I take the doll and act as if it were playing.
He is playing gee-gees with the doll, comforts and strokes it after having dropped it.

 

Colours

1 Year, 9 Months, 1 Day

Pete is drawing with yellow chalk on a piece of cardboard. With large strokes from left to right he scribbles a picture, looks at it and says enthusiastically “nana” (banana).
1 Year, 9 Months, 12 Days

Pete knows the difference between the following colours and he can name them:
“ed” (red)
“geen” (green)
“lue” (blue)
“nana” or “ello” (yellow)
“bau” (brown)
After I point it out to him he adds “onge” (orange) to his active vocabulary.
He also makes a difference between “ite” and “dak” (bright and dark) inside as well as outdoors.
He also differentiates spontaneously between “igg” and “moa” (big and small), but he still has to figure out the relativity of these terms. He is quite confused if the same toy block is presented to him as being small (compared to a bigger one) and big (compared to a smaller one).

1 Year, 11 Months

Pete differentiates and names white, grey, black, purple and pink.

Yes and No

1 Year, 9 Months, 12 Days

Pete has been using “no” for a while now, for instance:
“Are you finished eating?” – „No, no.“ (And he always means it exactly that way.)
Now he has begun using “yes” (And he does mean exactly that, too.)
He also answers correctly when asked where something is. And he knows quite well where everything is. But the following scene shows that he is insecure about “where”-questions:
We are looking at a photograph of his playing mate on a swing. The picture was taken in our garden.

Pete says: “Silli wing.” (Silvio is on the swing.)

I ask: “Where is this?” Pete points at the picture and says: “Dere”. I say: “Is this at grandma and grandpa’s?” “No”. “Is it here in kindergarten?” “No.” “Then where is it?” “Dere”. So, is this in the garden?” “Ya.”
Online verbessern:
Ich frage: „Wo schaukelt er denn?“ Pete zeigt auf das Foto und sagt: „Da.“ Ich: „Ist das denn bei Oma und Opa?“ „Nein.“ „Ist das denn in der Kita?“ „Nein.“ „Wo ist das denn?“ „Da.“ „Ist das denn im Garten?“ “Ja.“
Comment:
He does know where Silvio is swinging, but in answering the “where”-question he cannot quite differentiate between the image and the actual location.

At the age of 2;4 Pete begins asking “why”-questions.

 

Date of publication in German: 18.5.10
Translation: Arno Zucknick
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