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A Problem

October 2, 2009


As previously discussed, we obviously have some white walls that need to be decorated.  I observed that there were three students who continually went back to the art studio and easel to work on paintings and drawings.  I brought these three students together, explaining to them that an outside wall needed some decoration, “What could we do to make it more beautiful,” I asked.  As we were leaving the classroom, several other curious cats came up, wanting to be a part of it.  All in all, it was a group of six children (a little large for a small group activity, but they were interested and I didn’t want to turn them away).

Staring at the blank wall, again I asked, “What can we do to make this wall more beautiful?”

Talia: We can make a beautiful picture!

Nadia: Yea, a picture.

Me: What will be in the picture?

Talia: Well, you know – hearts, butterflies, stars.  Stuff like that.

Me: What does everyone think of that?


Wael: Maybe we should draw a dinosaur to scare off bad guys.

Yasmina: Or a scarecrow.



So we sat there for a few minutes.  Several kids were pretty spaced out, and not part of the conversation – I think the group was too large, and definitely for this point in the school year.  We all went upstairs to cut a large piece of white butcher paper from the bolt, and walked downstairs, where they sat around the perimeter of the paper.  I gave the six students the four small, black markers we have.  This is when it got interesting.

The four markers were passed around the six students, and everyone dealt with this situation differently.

“I don’t have one,” said Anas, “I don’t have one either,” echoed Talia.  I replied, “Well, you’ll have to find a solution for the problem.”  Talia mentioned sharing, and after waiting a few minutes, asked Yasmina for the marker.  Yasmina then asked Wael for his, he hesitated, and she said, “I’m going to take your jeans if you don’t give it to me.”

“I’m not ready to give up my marker,” said Wael.

Yasmina walked away, asking another student.

Anas came to me a second time, “I don’t have one.”  My reply was the same, “Well, you’ll have to find a solution for the problem.”

Some clear approaches for negotiating surfaced:

  • One student used threats and rewards to obtain a marker (“You can’t come to my house then,” when she didn’t get a marker, or “OK, you can have some gum when you come to my house!” when she did get a marker)
  • One student spoke very firmly and looked angry, scaring others into give him the marker.
  • One student commented on the beauty of others’ work, freely giving markers to those when they needed one.
  • Several students just sat there, frustrated and silent, when they didn’t have markers.


Although I intended for this project to be an activity in group cooperation, I think they lacked the “togetherness” to feel like they were a part of a group – they still worked as individuals.  However, I did learn valuable information about how each student negotiates in these situations.  As is often with young children, when they are the ones choosing the direction of their learning, things like this rarely turn out like I think they might.  Although there was little “group collaboration” in this activity, it was a valuable lesson in problem solving for these six students.

Although a beautiful picture for our wall, you can see in this picture that most of the drawings are independent of one another, and there was little cooperation in making one, unified picture.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 8, 2009 6:24 am

    What beautiful observations. Isn’t it interesting how individual personalities shine through? It would be lovely to revisit this same experience with the same group of children at the end of the school year to see how much they have changed.

    • laurenmeyer permalink*
      October 8, 2009 12:26 pm

      I wonder if, at the middle and end of the year, the individual negotiating techniques will change completely or just grow. I certainly don’t want for the student who uses threats and rewards to hone that technique, but rather to find another one.

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