by Anke Cadoni
In this last practical assignment (of the IHVO certificate course) I am to carry out a project in a small group that ties in with Jonas‘ interests and playing and learning needs and offers him real challenges.
Since I’m going to change to another kindergarten after the summer holidays, I think it is very important for Jonas and myself to finish our joint work really well and to give Jonas one more extraordinary challenge.
Read more about Jonas:
Since Jonas is a huge soccer fan and there is a World Cup coming up (in South Africa) this summer, it is relatively easy for me to find a corresponding project topic.
First of all, I observe Jonas thoroughly again to determine exactly what his interests and desires are.
I have known Jonas to be a soccer fan ever since I met him. He has also been playing soccer with the Bambini team (= kickers under 6 years) for over a year. After the weekend Jonas proudly tells me about a game or tournament they have successfully mastered. Sometimes he even brings a certificate, a medal or a trophy to the kindergarten.
Jonas often chooses me to play soccer with him. Sometimes he comes back to the kindergarten in the afternoons to play soccer with me outdoors, in the gym or on the nearby soccer field. Because Jonas knows I have more time for him in the afternoon.
…in a nutshell…
The particularly talented Jonas (5;5) likes to work on cognitively ambitious projects. The author uses the upcoming Soccer World Cup and Jonas‘ enthusiasm for soccer as well as his interest in writing to start a soccer newspaper project.
This project is well embedded in the entire group and benefits many children. Jonas can have important experiences working with other highly motivated children, which is important for his social development.
This is where demanding cognitive and social advancement overlap.
While Jonas was interested in soccer and liked playing it v ery early on, there were hardly any other children who shared this passion. Only about half a year ago, other children also began to take an interest in soccer. Jonas now plays soccer more often with Mick and Paul in the corridor.
Unfortunately, this often doesn’t go well for long, because the other children are not used to playing by real soccer rules as is Jonas. Disputes often arise and the game is quickly over.
Shortly before the World Cup, soccer is becoming an increasingly important topic in our kindergarten. Many children collect the supermarket soccer cards and trade them in kindergarten. Meanwhile Paul also plays in the Bambini team and so Paul and Jonas now regularly go to training together. This means that the two play together better and more perseveringly even in kindergarten.
Shortly before the World Cup, a real soccer fever breaks out in the kindergarten. I think there is hardly a child in our group who is not interested in soccer, each in their own way.
Together with the children we dust off the tabletop soccer, we were given a few years ago, and make it ready to play again.
Immediately all children rush to the tabletop soccer, Jonas of course right in the middle of them. That’s not how it works, of course. Everybody is screaming and no real game comes off.
We sit in a circle and hold a children’s conference. The children work out rules and consider how best to solve the „situation tabletop soccer“. Jonas suggests using an hourglass to show the children when to change players.
We also decide that the tabletop soccer should not remain outdoors but in our group adjoining room and that all children, including the children of the other group, may use it. All children agree with this.
The very next day I notice how dynamic issue soccer is developing. Our adjoining room is gradually becoming a soccer fan room. It’s nice to see how well the children interact socially. At no time are there children crowding around the tabletop soccer, the children work things out it really well among themselves.
The topic of soccer also creates a new group constellation that did not exist before: Many children of the other group are now visiting our soccer room and are very interested.
Jonas begins – already during the test matches – to draw great soccer pictures. He draws in great detail. Soon Mick joins him. Wonderful pictures are being created.
One of the pictures is our calendar title page for the months June/July. These two months are truly World Cup months. Jonas‘ soccer pictures are getting more and more complex and he wants to know from me how to write the names of the soccer players.
The project idea
Since more and more children are joining Jonas‘ artistic ideas and I have collected many great works in the meantime, I have the idea to present these works in a newspaper. In one quiet minute I tell Jonas about my idea.
I explain it to him as follows: „Jonas, I have recently observed how much you are interested in soccer and that you already know a great deal about it. In the last few days, really great works have been created by you and your friends. I’d hate for them to just disappear back into your drawers. How about we make a soccer newspaper that would have a place for these great pictures and more?“
Jonas really likes this idea, because now – that’s my impression – he enjoys working with me on projects.
But now I have to make it clear to Jonas that this time not only the two of us will be working on the newspaper. This is how I explain it to him: „You probably know a daily newspaper or a soccer magazine and how many pages such a newspaper has. Before a newspaper as you know it can go to print, many people have researched (gathered information), written texts, taken photos and much more. This means that a newspaper is a joint effort and only in this way an elaborate newspaper can be produced!“
To my astonishment he immediately realizes it and says: „Mick has quite a lot of ideas and draws great pictures, he could help me.“ I agree immediately, of course. Then I tell Jonas about another boy Jonas knows: Corvin from the other group.
Corvin has often caught my attention, and even more so now during the present observation period on the subject of soccer. Like Jonas, he also has a great deal of knowledge, especially on the subject of soccer. At the breakfast table he once told me about a soccer match. I was amazed at what he knew and how great he could express himself.
In addition, his teacher, Ms. F., told me what he had recently said at a children’s conference. It was about the preparatory work for a project. Ms. F. asked who knew what a project is. Corvin reported: „A project is the development of a specific topic. For example the subject of soccer. In a project you do all kinds of things with this topic, such as going to a stadium, playing soccer on a soccer field, making your own jerseys, organising a tournament, celebrating a soccer festival, borrowing books on soccer in the library, etc.“.
You could tell how much Corvin wanted a soccer project.
Jonas also agrees with Corvin’s work on the project, I am happy about that, but at the same time I know that it will not always be easy.
Comment by the course instructor:
It’s interesting that Jonas promptly approves of both children; presumably it’s because he thinks they are qualified enough.
Jonas takes it upon himself to ask Mick and Corvin whether they would like to create a soccer newspaper together with him.
Both of them are thrilled and say yes immediately. Jil is standing nearby when Jonas asks Mick. Now, of course, she wants to join in and asks Jonas if this would be okay. Since Jonas is very socially minded, he can’t say no here; and he also knows that Mick and Jil are doing a lot together at the moment.
So now we start the project with four children, which actually seems a little much to me, judging from the previous experience with Jonas. I’ll just have to see how it goes.
Jonas is now 5;5 years old. Soccer has meant a great deal to him for some time. He enjoys playing soccer himself and is a fan of FC Bayern Munich. He already undersands the rules of soccer very well and that’s why he wants to play according to these rules, but only very few children can do this in kindergarten, that’s why Jonas prefers to play soccer with me most of the time.
Now that there are a lot of soccer-loving children just before the World Cup, I keep suggesting to Jonas that he should play with the other children, he could also explain some important rules to them. He tries this again and again, but unfortunately it usually ends in a quarrel.
Since Jonas‘ interest in soccer does not only pertain to the educational field of physical development, but also extends into other areas of education, I have considered designing a soccer project with Jonas. Especially in the areas of visual design, language and writing he shows great works again, a lot of perseverance and great focus.
Jonas has shown great interest in letters and his own writing in recent months. He wants to know how soccer related expressions and names are written.
Therefore, the soccer newspaper project is to be part of the soccer project, which is currently taking place for the entire group.
I deliberately leave the selection of children for this activity to Jonas. From experience I now know that Jonas knows quite well with whom he can work intensively. Besides, the group work still isn’t quite as easy for him, so he still prefers to work with me alone. But in this last acivity with him it is very important for me to work in a team, because he should also gain positive experiences in this area.
Educational goals for Jonas
- He unfolds his creative personality freely.
- He tries out new things, gains experience.
- He experiences a satisfying exchange with other children.
- He learns to communicate better with others, and also has an open ear for the ideas and contributions of others.
- He can experience in the small group work that there are children with similar needs, talents and interests. He learns to use this as a good opportunity for himself.
- Like all other participating children – he is to have his due part in influencing the course and result of the project.
- He helps to record the results of the World Cup in the form of a newspaper suitable for children and to deepen and internalise individual topics relating to the World Cup in accordance with his expectations.
Here we go! We collect ideas.
Shortly before the start of the World Cup we meet for the first time in our World Cup Fan Room (this is the room next to the group’s classroom).
This is where the tabletop soccer stands, the room decorated with German flags. Several soccer books, which I have borrowed in the library, are ready to be browsed.
Now Jil (6;4), Mick (5;11), Corvin (6;3) and (being the youngest one) Jonas (5;5) are sitting together at a table. I have brought them a few different children’s soccer magazines and a daily newspaper to give them a better idea.
First of all, they have the opportunity to take their time and take a look at these magazines. Everybody thinks it’s great. They recognize soccer players and tell their names. Corvin recognizes the notes of the national anthem and proudly tells us that he knows the national anthem by heart.
I ask him spontaneously if he would like to sing it to us. He does it right away. The other children are quiet immediately. They really like Corvin’s singing and want Corvin to sing the hymn again so they can learn it. Jonas, in particular, is very keen on learning it. I think he’s a little envious of Corvin.
Comment by the course instructor:
Maybe he was just a little bewildered by the fact that he could learn something so great from another child?
After this performance we discuss what a real World Cup soccer magazine has to contain. Corvin says the national anthem should not be missing. Jonas says that the World Cup, meaning the very trophy itself, must be shown. Jil mentions the German mascot „Paule“, which they all know from the supermarket collection cards. It’s important for Mick to put the schedule in the paper so everyone knows which game is when and who’s playing against whom.
The children are just bubbling over with even more ideas, for example:
- Pictures and photos from the World Cup,
- the soccer players,
- information about the World Cup’s host South Africa.
Apart from the newspaper, they want to do this:
- play soccer themselves,
- make their own medals,
- have a tournament,
- make German flags,
- make red and yellow cards and get a pipe.
Jonas still has the wish to hang up a soccer plan in the fan room, where he can always enter the game results.
With all these great ideas in our pockets, we end the first meeting. I praise the children for having been very attentive for almost an hour, for having collected great ideas and for having understood each other well. We make an appointment for the next day, same time same place.
The next day, many other children have already „smelled the rat“ and now want to work on the newspaper too.
Now we have the exact situation that usually leads toproblems with Jonas:
When there are too many children, Jonas closes himself off and no longer enjoys his work,
because he gets too little attention and the pace of work and learning becomes too slow for him.
So I explain to the children that not so many children can work on a newspaper in one room at the same time, but I will try to plan further meetings, so that these children also get their chance.
Since Mick is not here today, I allow Jan to participate; he has been asking for it all morning.
Comment by the course instructor:
How would you have decided if the time frame had been much tighter? Would you have managed to explain to the kids that this time it’s not their turn, but then some other time?
This, I think, demonstrates the need to change structures:
Much more small group work, so that all children can enjoy (!) and thus also learn to accept current rejection calmly.
Since you yourself write at the end that it was a very nice time, I assume that you also developed this idea yourself.
I am of the opinion (as you have indicated yourself) that projects that are to support highly gifted children should not be watered down by too many additional participants.
And this is how the second meeting goes:
Jonas cuts out his game plan from a newspaper, sticks it on solid cardboard and hangs it up in the fan room so that he can enter all the results there from Friday, June 11th.
Then we start gluing all German national players into the newspaper. I ask the group: „Do any of you know how many German players came to the World Cup?“
„With Jogi Löw 24!“
I myself don’t know exactly and have to count them, but Corvin is actually right. I notice that Jonas is a little angry and now he finally wants to tell something great and interesting. Jonas: „And seven players are from FC Bayern Munich and only one from 1st FC Cologne!“
Comment by the course instructor:
Perhaps he is not so much angry, but perhaps he feels challenged and motivated. Are you sure it was an unpleasant, negative emotion for him?
Among boys this is a „normal“ event: wanting to outdo each other – Jonas finally has the opportunity – while us women quickly find it unpleasant. Of course, my remarks are only guesses…
„Do you know the names of the players?“ „Yeah, sure!“ And he begins telling the names. But Corvin cannot stay silent and shouts some names too. That’s when Jonas gets pretty angry, and the first small arguments between Jonas and Corvin begin.
I intervene, let Jonas continue saying the names and afterwards have Corvin name the remaining players together with the other children.
At this point I notice that Jonas can hardly stand it if someone else knows a little more. I have observed this before, that’s why I think it’s so important that Jonas works in a group now, because he has to learn to cope with situations like this.
Comment by the course instructor:
In other words, only if he can experience this more often and often enough, he will learn how to deal with it.
After the first game of the German team we meet again.
Jonas was even allowed to watch this game on TV at home, even though it showed in the evening. He can report exactly who scored the goals, who got a red or a yellow card and how the goals were shot.
Corvin told me that he was not allowed to watch the game at the time of its broadvast, but his father recorded it for him.
Jonas always wants to write or draw pictures to go with the results. He doesn’t enjoy cutting and gluing so much, but unfortunately this is also part of our newspaper work.
As the demand for participation in the making of the newspaper is growing, I have organize a second group. The other children also agree, because they quickly realize that such a newspaper is quite a lot of work and that a little support is not bad at all.
Tim (5;10) and Jan (6;4) are happy about this, from now on they participate very regularly in the meetings of the second group. The other two seats are always occupied by varying children, depending on their mood and the day’s form.
It is also nice to observe the free play development of the participating children. Corvin, Mick, Jonas, Jan and other children play soccer outside every day. They always ask me to draw the outlines of a real soccer field on the ground with chalk. One soccer goal was donated to us and the other one was assembled from wood by the children themselves. Jil, Tim and other children build a grandstand and a snack bar for each game, where you can buy drinks and small dishes.
In our group we have already made German flags, with which some children can cheer the boys on. Before the game begins, the four always stand arm in arm in line and sing the national anthem together. Meanwhile all four of them have learned the lyrics perfectly.
Unfortunately, Corvin and Jonas often have conflicts during the game. Most of the time one of the two claims something and the other is of a completely different opinion. It usually starts with a verbal argument, then it gets louder and louder until in the end they sometimes turn violent and the game has to be ended.
This is also one of the reasons why I later put the two working groups together differently, because after such a show down the cooperation in a group is hardly possible. I then replaced Corvin with Tim. Tim is also highly committed. He later even brought newspapers from home or important articles he has already cut out at home.
Now we meet twice a week. After a game with the German team we talk about it and enter all results of the last games in the newspaper. The tasks are distributed fairly so that everyone can write, cut, glue or paint.
At the beginning of the meetings I ask who has something to report and who would like to do which task. Often the children agree quite well with each other.
When the results of the games are recorded, we work on general information about the World Cup. Jonas, for example, wants to draw the trophy and Jil the soccer players as they are singing the national anthem. Mick draws scenes from the game, such as a player scoring a goal.
At one meeting we talk about the country South Africa. At this point I deem it important to work with the original group, which means that Corvin and Jonas meet again. After all they are not avoiding each other in everyday life, on the contrary, they are always looking for each other to play soccer.
So today it is okay for both of them to work together. On the subject of South Africa it is also unproblematic, because neither of them knows much about it.
Actually, all children say that South Africa is a poor country, many children are starving there and elephants and lions live there. I explain to the children that this is a side of South Africa that will be concealed by a lot of positive things during the World Cup. But it is good to know both.
I tell them that even penguins live in South Africa, I didn’t know that before my own research. The children are amazed. Then I ask them about the „Big Five“. „Which animals could be the „five greats“?“
Jonas said, „The elephant, the lion and the giraffe!“ Elephant and lion are right, but then there is the leopard, the rhino and the buffalo. They can also be seen on South African banknotes.
Jonas: „But the giraffe is much bigger!“ „That’s true, but I think the Big Five are all stronger than the giraffe, so it’s not one of them.“
Tim likes the South African flag very much, he draws it again and again.
This meeting with the topic South Africa is very pleasant, nobody feels an urge to show off. They all are learners and go on a journey of discovery together. I think this is very interesting and informative for everyone involved.
A very special topic is the vuvuzela. Of course, all children now know that this is an African wind instrument, which sounds like a swarm of bees coming after you. I bring a vuvuzela to the kindergarten and the children can try to find out if they can get a sound out of it. Jonas is very proud, because he gets a louder tone than I do.
The more often the German team wins, the more exciting it gets. All the children now hope that we will also become world champions. The newspaper is getting fuller, more interesting and more beautiful.
„Who actually gets the paper,
when it’s done?“
I thought about it and had an idea. I want to deal with it in the way of a challenge cup, Jonas knows all about it, because he has won one on several occasions.
„Each of you may then take the newspaper home for a week and show it to your parents, siblings and friends, and eventually the newspaper will stay in the kindergarten. Is that okay with you?“ They all agree with that.
At this point, however, I am not quite aware that our newspaper is yet to take up a lot of time. On the one hand, the children are so enthusiastic about their work. They bring more and more information material from home. Jil, for example, brings an entire soccer newspaper that her father has bought and given to her after reading it.
On the other hand, my farewell from kindergarten, the pre-school children’s sleep festival and the summer holidays are approaching with great strides – and of course there are still many things to be done and organized.
In addition, I had promised Jonas one more thing very firmly, namely to hold a tabletop soccer tournament. Jonas has already reminded me of this several times, so I absolutely have to get this done.
I will organize it in the last week before the holidays. A friend gave me three soccer cups of different sizes. When I showed them to the children, they were thrilled. Jonas: „Look, we can win them, like in a real tournament. The biggest cup is for the first winner, the middle one for the second winner and the smallest one for the third winner.“
I always have two play against two. Jonas chooses Mick as a partner.
Running the tournament isn’t that easy. A lot of children want to participate, which stretches the tournament a great deal. Some children won’t be so patient afterwards. But in retrospect I’m glad I did it because I realized how good it did Jonas. He had to play together with a partner the whole time, and on top of this, before a quite large audience. He had to learn to accept his partner’s mistakes and also to cope with conceding goals. He has also had positive communal experiences. He came in second with his partner and is proud and satisfied. He was even able to grant the first-place winner a good win.
Comment by the course instructor:
Many gifted children are able to grant others more with an increasing number of positive (learning) experiences, which you can see here again.
Our newspaper is finished at the last moment, exactly one day before my farewell party. It is clear that the newspaper can no longer go round like a challenge cup. Jonas realized that by himself. Jonas: „Ms Cadoni, the holidays will start next week, so we won’t be able to take the newspaper home at all. But I’d love to show it to Mom!“
„You’re right, Jonas, that’s really too bad, but I’ve already thought about it and I had the idea to present the newspaper in the corridor tomorrow for my farewell. Many parents will come to say goodbye and then there will be enough space and time for the newspaper presentation, I will make sure of that, because this is still very, very important to me after all“.
On the day of my farewell I prepare the newsstand with the children who come in first early in the morning. We put a large table in the corridor, decorate it with flags of Germany and other flags we made ourselves, to direct attention to the newspaper.
During the newspaper’s development and the whole project I took some photos. Now we stick them on a big column and put them next to the newspaper table. In this way, parents can see what their children have achieved in the last few weeks in the kindergarten.
Already during the early morning arrival period the table gets visited by many parents with their children. Tim and Corvin proudly show their parents the newspaper and explain what they have designed themselves.
Later, during my farewell speech, I mention the newspaper on display and invite parents to take time to look at a page or two designed by their child. The parents start applauding loudly! I just say, „Kids, that’s your applause, you’ve done a great job with this paper!“
At the end of the farewell, Jonas‘ mother comes to me again and thanks me for my commitment and dedication to Jonas: „You have put Jonas and many other children on a good path!“
Jonas‘ mother was always a little reserved and sometimes sceptical throughout the time I I have been working with Jonas, I suspected. Now I’m sure that she appreciates my work with Jonas.
I only hope that my successor will not loose sight of Jonas and his concerns – otherwise it would be a great pity. I recommended Jonas to her, that’s all I can do for now. I will definitely keep in touch with the children’s parents.
In any case, all the children involved had a good insight into the media work and were able to experience for themselves how much work the production of a newspaper is.
Jonas really enjoyed writing the letters, words, sentences and numbers, he would have loved to do this exclusively. But here he could experience that he cannot always choose the most beautiful and interesting things for himself, but that he also has to do things that he doesn’t enjoy so much. That’s the facts of life!
Jonas was able to gather many experiences in working together, positive as well as negative. It was clear to me from the beginning that working with Corvin will not be so easy, but nevertheless the experience was very important for Jonas. Because he had almost never before experienced it in our kindergarten that someone could hold a candle to him. But Corvin, like Jonas, has a very broad knowledge, a good memory and can express himself really well.
In situations in which they became violent against each other, I also had the feeling a few times that the „newspaper“ project was over. But the interest and commitment of each individual have kept it alive.
Comment by the course instructor:
All in all, the fascination was always much greater than the frustration, which is decisive.
There was no child at any time
thinking about giving up, I think.
It was good that I could put the groups together differently because of the great interest of the children. So I could vary the cast of participants according to the interests of the children and the level of difficulty.
In some situations I could also go deeper. This reminds me of a situation during the project I have not yet described, but which I consider important:
At one meeting we talked about the fact that there are different soccer balls and always a very special World Cup ball. Jonas wanted to know how a ball like this is made. I could only vaguely explain to him that the balls used to be sewn together from hexagonal pieces of leather. However, I was not sure how the modern balls are produced.
Spontaneously we went to the computer and surfed the Internet. In fact, we found a really great video clip about the production of the World Cup ball. We got the interested children together and ran through the film a few times. All the children were fascinated and I, too, learned a lot.
I also thought it was really good that Jonas and Corvin, despite their rivalry, kept looking for each other to play with and try playing together on a new one.
There were situations afterwards when I had the feeling they could do neither with nor without each other. Sometimes the friendship between Mick and Jonas suffered. Jonas must have noticed that – he is actually always very careful that all children and especially his friends are well. I think that’s why Jonas chose Mick as a partner in the tabletop soccer tournament.
If I had worked with Jonas alone, I would probably have gone into more depth in terms of content. But with this project the social experience of togetherness was more in the foreground for me and I think I succeeded in doing this quite well.
Comment by the course instructor:
I think a gifted child ideally needs both, sometimes this, sometimes that.
I always tried to include Jonas‘ and Corvin’s special demands in the project somehow. These included, for example, the tabletop soccer tournament or the installation of the soccer field on the outdoor area. Of course I could not always fulfil their wishes entirely, but when can you do that? Here, too, the children must learn that there are limits: in terms of time, material and financial resources. For example, we were unfortunately unable to go to a large stadium.
Comment by the course instructor:
Here too, gifted children can show a great deal of understanding as long as their basic mood is in order (and thus there is no permanent frustration).
All in all, I think the children were very happy with the programme and the offers. I have always tried to adapt to the children and their interests, and I think the children have felt that too. There was not once a situation in which a child refused to cooperate. On the contrary, many began to collect texts and pictures at home.
Jonas always followed the games very closely, sometimes he was missing the day after the game to catch up on his sleep. But he always had all the goals and red or yellow cards memorized. He could tell us exactly who scored which goal, sometimes he also knew how a particular goal had come about. Here I could again determine very well, how good Jonas‘ memory is and how well and intelligibly he can recall what he has memorized. In any case, these two areas have been advanced once more.
In addition, there are initial attempts to acquire written language. He enjoys putting letters on paper. He was also able to make use of and apply this for himself during newspaper production.
I had relatively much time and space available for my project, and of course the children also benefited.
The children could always decide for themselves how long they wanted to participate in an activity and what task they wanted to do.
Most children showed a lot of stamina and good concentration. At the end of a unit we often played tabletop soccer, which always gave the children a lot of pleasure and often also served as a motivational boost. There were also activities, where in the end only Jonas sat next to me. Often he was still busy writing or had a question that interested him very much.
Overall, this project had a big impact on the group, which was of course reinforced by the current World Cup. Suddenly everyone became interested in soccer and wanted to make their contribution in some way. The girls also thought about how they could participate, for example, a halftime snack stand was set up or flags were made for cheering, and much more. There were also more and more children who wanted to take part in the soccer newspaper project, which I tried to facilitate.
It was a really nice time. It was also noticeable that the children were much more social and helpful with each other. This had rarely ever worked as well across the whole group as it did in this project.
Date of publication in German: January 2017
Translation: Arno Zucknick
Cpyright © Hanna Vock, see Imprint