The Atelier – The Language of Clay

The Language of CLAY

“Children have an innate need to inquire into the world around them, to try to make sense of it and learn about it. Often this important inquiry takes place in children’s play.” Almon and Miller, 2011

Nothing lights up the brain like PLAY. The children were invited to ‘play’ with this wonderful material that works so gracefully in the hands of the creator. These experiences help the children develop a predictable cognitive sequence they can apply when they encounter anything new: to observe, question, explore, reflect and repeat, to develop understandings about materials and their possibilities.

First, the children got their aprons on. They helped each other with the challenging velcro strips and moved over to choose their clay.

Then, the children prepared their spaces for research. They chose table top potters wheels, a number of clay tools, wet sponges and rolling pins. The child sized potions of damp clay were wrapped in wet cloths and kept in a plastic tub to maintain the texture.

Time is of great value. The children were given plenty of time to explore the clay. They used their fingers and tools to dig, pat, poke, roll, crumble and mould the clay.

Children need to have time to be confident with the materials so that they have time to formulate hypotheses and then test their hypotheses. 

After an extended period of play, the children were invited to use the tools and materials at their fingertips to create clay portraits. They had previously used card and black-line markers to create self-portraits. They looked carefully at their sketches and were excited to use a different medium to create their own clay models.  


When it was time to clean up, the children worked together to wash the tools and clear away the resources and materials they had used. Maker-centered learning experiences give children agency and empower them to take responsibility over their own learning. 

We will continue to explore the possibilities of this wonderful, creative and versatile material. 

Through these experiences, the children had opportunities to:

  • engage with, and enjoy a variety of visual arts experiences
  • select tools, materials and processes for specific purposes
  • use their imagination and experiences to inform their art making

The Atelier – Watercolour

The Language of Watercolour

The children hurriedly entered the Atelier eager to explore tools and materials, excited to create and learn more about this design studio. The Atelier is a place that exemplifies the creative processes not just with art.

The creative processes are part of every language. The culture of the Atelier invites and encourages the different languages of expression. These 100 languages of expression demonstrate a high degree of learning with equal importance and value placed on play, the product and the process of learning for children and adults. Learning is always interdisciplinary, crossing boundaries between many different subjects. It is a place for active, independent and collaborative learning.  

Children develop a range of skills and knowledge through their research with materials, tools and the environment. They test their theories and develop understandings about concepts such as artistic form, change, connection, creativity, appreciation, form, process, light, image, colour and technique.


The children transform into storytellers and explorers through the language of watercolour🎨. 

Design Challenge – Obstacles and Prototypes

If you could design any structure in the world, what would it be?

The students began to create their design plans, labelling and providing important information about the ‘purpose’ of their structure.

Challenges and Obstacles:

The students shared their first plans with a learning buddy. They interviewed each other, asking challenging and thought-provoking questions about the design, materials and its purpose.

Then, they were encouraged to think about the ‘challenges’ or obstacles they foresee in their own design. They identified this using a red sticker. The students presented their challenges to the class.

Their next step would be to create a prototype of their design. They would need to apply the knowledge they have about materials, and use the skills they have gained through the different design challenges they have experienced during the unit, to complete the task.

Conceptual Understandings:

– we solve problems during the creative process by thinking critically and imaginatively

– designs grow out of natural curiosity 

Shapes in our Environment

We have been exploring geometric shapes and using associated vocabulary to help us represent and describe objects in real-world situations. We have been wondering how shapes can be transformed in different ways.

The students were invited to go on a shape scavenger hunt. During the task they have been identifying, naming, drawing and documenting the shapes in our environment. 

TASK: Shape Scavenger Hunt

They created a table to record the number of edges, vertices and faces of 3D shapes.

Students determined a line of symmetry and rotational symmetry of a 2D shape by folding and rotating paper shapes.

  • Line of symmetry – A line that divides a 2D into halves that match when folded.
  • Rotational Symmetry – When a shape can fit on itself exactly when turned.

The students showed a desire to create their own 3D shapes. The students were presented with the next task which invited them to manipulate, shape and explore a variety of materials to create their own 3D shapes. 

During the task the students were encouraged to investigate:

  • if changing the position of a shape alters its properties
  • how specific vocabulary can be used to describe an object’s position in space

TASK: Creating 3D Shapes

Next, we wondered how we might find the right angles in shapes and objects. How might we create angles with our bodies? A demonstration was recorded pictorially. The students made their own ‘right angle finder’ by tracing, cutting and folding a circle. 

TASK: A Right Angle Scavenger Hunt! 

We continued to add to our vocabulary wall as the students used additional Mathematical vocabulary.

The Newspaper Challenge

The students worked in groups to create a structure with newspaper. They first planned and tested the materials and then reviewed their plan before building the structure. They had to built the newspaper structure within 30 minutes. 

  • Let’s make a triangle. (Sky)
  • It’s tilting. (Carlotta)
  • Let’s stick this together. (Sky)
  • Everybody working so good so fast. (Carlotta)
  • Don’t stick here because…(Hannah)
  • This is so hard. We can do this! Come on team! (Reggie)
  • If we don’t do win this, it’s ok. At least we do this. (Elena)
  • The small one or big one? (Kavel)
  • We can make a hole then put more stick in. (Sky)
  • This is smart! (*responding to Sky’s idea) (Reggie)
  • I know why it’s always falling. Let’s tape this first. (Carlotta)
  • That’s good. (Elena)
  • We need to cut this smaller. (Carlotta)
  • I got 16 tape out. (Stella)
  • We are not ready. It’s still tilting! (Carlotta)
  • It keeps on falling. (Elena)
  • No more cylinder! (Kavel)
  • Can someone hold this area? (Reggie)
  • Good job! You make more to have stable bottom. (Carlotta)
  • More stand under here.
  • We are changing ideas. (Reggie)

The next day, the students were tasked with discussing and documenting their learning during the activity.

They needed to: –

  • introduce the team
  • share what was done (process)
  • reflect on the problems and solutions
  • explain what was learned
  • develop plans for next time

We wonder what we might do next…

The Circus Exhibition

  • How might we manipulate and use different materials to design and create?
  • How might we use tools for a purpose?
  • How might we stay safe while we design and create?

The students began to put their plans into action, by exploring materials to create their designs for the exhibition.

Design Plans

They had to tap into their prior knowledge and use what they know about the world around them create these different sculptures/objects (How are walls constructed? Why does the base of an object need to be wider?).

They discussed the dimensions, shape and space of objects, using what they have learned about measurement and geometry as they looked for solutions and solved problems.

The students manipulated tools for a purpose, persevered, and supported each other as they worked on their individual projects. 

Planning, creating, questioning, exploring, thinking and problem-solving for a purpose.

Finally, the students took time to reflect on their creations.

What were some of the Approaches to Learning they developed through their experience? 

Balancing Stones

Online Learning

Focus: Self-management Skills, Thinking Skills

How high can you go?

Here is a challenge that encourages balance, focus and coordination. Gather a collection of stones and stack them as high as you can. How high is your stack of stones? 

Approaches to Learning (ATL’s)

  • develop fine-motor skills and eye-hand coordination 
  • demonstrate persistence in tasks
  • use strategies to problem-solve


Online Learning

Focus: Thinking Skills, Research Skills, Self-management Skills

How heavy is the 🍎 apple?

  • How can we find out?
  • Can we use other materials and objects to weight the apple?  

Let’s read the story ‘BALANCING ACT’ by Ellen Stoll Walsh to explore weight and balance.

In this story, two mice 🐁🐁 make a teeter-totter. They play on their teeter-totter, balancing each other out until their friends come along to join their play. They think of different ways to include their friends, which leads to solving problems with weight and balance.

How might we make our own balancing scale?

Here is one way to create your own balancing scale. You might have other ideas to create your own scale! Follow the instructions in the video to make a balancing scale. 

Materials Needed:

  • 2 cups/small containers
  • 1 clothes hanger
  • A sharp object (to make the holes)
  • 4 pieces of twine about 60cms in length 


  1. You may need an adults help to use a sharp object, or a hole punch to make holes in 2 small containers as shown in the instructional video. 
  2. Cut 4 pieces of twine about 60cms in length. The twine needs to be thick and strong enough to make the balance scale more durable.
  3. Tie the ends of the twine through the holes in the containers to the ends of the clothes hanger as shown in the instructional video.
  • What weighs the same?
  • How heavy or light are different objects or substances?
  • How might we weigh different materials and substances such as liquids and solids? 

Light and Heavy What things are light? What things are heavy? Let’s explore the concept of weight through this non-fiction picture book. In Light and Heavy, a girl investigates what she can and cannot lift.

Through this invitation, the children can investigate how objects have attributes which can be measured using non-standard units, which can then be used to sort and compare. 


Online Learning

Focus: Thinking Skills, Self-management Skills, Research Skills

What can we create with shapes?

tangram is a puzzle made up of seven shapes that can be arranged to form many different designs. Follow the instructions in the video to create 7 geometric shapes: five triangles, one square, and one parallelogram. Move the shapes around like a puzzle to create new designs.  

I wonder what your designs would resemble…

Here are a few designs to get you started!

Approaches to Learning (ATL’s)

  • understand that shapes have characteristics that can be described and compared
  • observe carefully
  • follow the directions
  • demonstrate persistence in tasks
  • use strategies to problem-solve


Online Learning

Focus: Communication Skills, Research Skills, Thinking Skills

“Trees have developed an intelligent way of living that means even though they always stand still they can feed, reproduce, communicate with each other, defend themselves, and even play together.” – Reggio Children

The weather in Nanjing has changed over time. How do these changes affect the trees?

I saw these trees during a nature walk. 

  • 🌳 What do you notice?
  • 🌳 How would you describe the trees?
  • 🌳 Do trees look the same all year round? Why or why not? Does it change? When do they change? Why or why not?

Let’s read the picture book ‘Tap the Magic Tree’ by Christie Matheson to explore change and growth.

I wonder what you notice about the trees around your neighbourhood. You might want to go on a nature walk to learn more about the trees.

While at school, we have learned that observing like a scientist and drawing what we see can support our knowledge. It also helps us share our understandings. Drawing can encourage us to observe carefully to notice patterns and connections, while developing curiosity and an appreciation for the world around us. 

Inquiry Invitation #1:

  • 🌳 choose a tree and observe it (this can be a tree in your own neighbourhood or in a picture book). Notice the different parts of the tree, the textures, the fragrance
  • 🌳 choose a tree or trees to draw
  • 🌳 take a picture of your favourite tree (you might want to tell us why that is your favourite tree)
  • 🌳 use paint to share your observations about trees
  • 🌳 share your drawing, painted picture or favourite photograph with us!

Felix and his family went on a bike ride to ‘Skyways’. They saw two trees that looked pretty strange! One even had a number 🤔. 

Click HERE to read the book.

Click HERE to read the book.

Inquiry Invitation #2:

  • 🌳 choose a tree and observe it (this can be a tree in your own neighbourhood or in a picture book). Notice the different parts of the tree (bark, branches, leaves, fruits, flowers) the textures (rough, smooth, prickly)
  • 🌳 re-create a tree using any loose parts you have around you (leaves, twigs, stones, seeds, shells, Lego, fabric)
  • 🌳 take a picture of your creation and share it with us!

🌳 EXTEND: How many different loose parts did you use? How many of each item did you use to make your tree? 

Inquiry Invitation by Ms. Anna Mila (Atelier) #3:

Do you remember this artist? 

Piet Mondrian

His name is Piet Mondrian and he was an artist that painted thousands of paintings. One of the things he painted again and again was trees. Sometimes artists become very interested in one idea. They paint the same thing again and again, experimenting with different colours and techniques. This is called a series. Mondrian also painted a series of trees over many years. 

Images from Wikiart

Inquiry Invitation by Ms. Anna Mila (Atelier) #4:

This first tree is painted by Wassily Kandinsky.

Artists give their paintings names. This painting is called “Tree of Life”. It is by an Austrian artist called Gustav Klimt. Why do you think Gustav Klimt gave this painting this name?

This tree painting is also by Klimt. In this painting, Klimt paints from a different view or “perspective”. He also decided to paint it in a more realistic style. In this painting, Klimt decided to focus on the trunks of the trees. Artists think carefully about perspective. They think carefully about what their painting will show and if it will include everything or only some things. This painting is called “Birch Forest” and it is from a perspective that makes you feel as if you were right in the middle of a forest.

This painting is by a famous French artist called Claude Monet. It is called “An Orchard in Spring”. Notice the perspective he decided to use. In this painting he stood further away than Klimt did in the previous painting. Why do you think he made that choice?

Artists are often inspired by the seasons. This painting was also painted in spring. It is by a famous Dutch painter called Vincent van Gough. It is called “The Pink Peach Tree”. He also stood further away and made sure to paint the entire tree. That was the perspective he wanted to use. We have been talking about how artists use colours. Notice the colours in this painting. How do you feel when you look at it?

This painting is by a Chinese artist by the name of Qi Baishi. He called this painting, Bird and Magnolia. Notice the lines in his painting. Notice how he used colours.

Images from Wikiart

When I first moved to Nanjing, I noticed the beautiful trees. We arrived in the spring and this was one of the first trees that made me smile. This tree is a Magnolia tree and it inspired the previous artist’s painting. Take a look at the picture and compare it. Do you think it looks the same or different from the photograph? Notice the perspective I used when I took the picture.

🌳 I wonder what tree will inspire you.

Approaches to Learning (ATL’s)

Research Skills

  • data gathering and documenting (drawing, photographing)
  • gather information from a variety of sources (people, places, materials, literature).
  • use all senses to observe and notice details
  • record observations—drawing, using emergent writing skills, when possible, annotate images
  • evaluating and communicating
  • notice relationships and patterns
  • exploring quantities, comparing size and shapes

Rosie’s Walk

Online Learning

Focus: Communication Skills, Thinking Skills

Rosie lives in a farmyard. Each morning, Rosie sets off on a walk across the farm. She is unaware that a sly fox is following her.  

Let’s Read ‘Rosie’s Walk’ by Pat Hutchins

Notice how the pictures are illustrated. There are lines, patterns and shapes on the different characters and the environment.

Inquiry Invitation #1

  • You might want to act out the story using your own animals or props. You can even use boxes, cushions and blankets and any other suitable props to create a farmyard to go on your own walk. You can go across, around, over, past, through, and under. Your own story can be in a different place such as a forest, an island or even a city. You might want to act out your story in the park or on the playground!  

Inquiry Invitation #2

Rosie loves to go for a walk across the farmyard. Here is a map to help her on her way.

If you were to create your own maps, what would you include?

We would love to hear about your adventures, see your maps and creations!

Approaches to Learning (ATL’s)

  • record observations and ideas through drawings and maps
  • use mark-marking to convey meaning
  • use words and sentences to express ideas
  • take on pretend roles and situations
  • use imagination and original ideas to explore familiar roles, themes and stories musically and dramatically
  • engage with, and enjoy a variety of visual arts experiences
  • use their imagination and experiences to inform their art making
  • use everyday language to describe position, direction and movement of self and objects in relation to others


Mo Willems and Peter Brown are two of our favourite authors at NIS. They use lines, shapes and patterns to create the illustrations (or pictures) for their picture books.

Last year, we interviewed Ms. Grace. She was a Grade 2 teacher at NIS. Just like Mo Willems and Peter Brown, Ms. Grace loves to draw and create her own pictures.

Ms. Grace taught us how to create our own Zentangle pictures or doodles using lines, shapes and patterns. Let’s use our imagination and what we know about lines, shapes and patterns to create our own doodles.

Felix wanted to create his own doodle. He used lines, shapes and patterns to create a doodle of a ‘huge ice-cream”!


This invitation encourages children to:

  • express themselves creatively
  • enjoy a variety of visual arts experiences
  • select tools, materials and processes for specific purposes
  • use imagination and experiences to inform their art making
  • create artwork in response to a range of stimuli

The Lego Bridge

Online Learning

Focus: Research Skills, Thinking Skills 

Peter Brown is another of our favourite authors. One of the stories we read often is ‘You WILL Be My Friend!‘. In this story, Lucy is searching for a friend in the forest. She approaches a pond, she needs to cross it. Can you help Lucy?

Here is a Lego Brick challenge for you!

Create a Lego Brick Bridge that Lucy can use to cross the pond.

How will you test your bridge?

Share a picture of your Lego Brick Bridge.

NOTE: This learning invitation will help children explore the concepts:

  • materials
  • weight
  • engineering and design

Approaches to Learning (ATL’s)

  • think critically
  • plan an experiment
  • observe carefully
  • test ideas
  • gather information through experimentation
  • demonstrate persistence in tasks
  • use strategies to problem-solve

You WILL Be My Friend!

Online Learning

Focus: Communication Skills

Peter Brown is an author and illustrator. He enjoys creating stories by drawing whimsical characters and scenes from his imagination. A few years ago, Peter Brown visited NIS. He read stories and showed the children how important drawing and creativity is to an author and illustrator. Peter Brown has earned many awards for his work. His wonderful picture books are some of our favourites at NIS.

The following stories, read by the teacher are available on Seesaw. Please refer as needed.  

Here are two of our favourite stories! 

‘Mr. Tiger Goes Wild’ by Peter Brown.

Mr. Tiger was bored with being so proper. Do you get bored of being proper, always doing the right thing?

Mr Tiger knows exactly how you feel. In this story, Mr. Tiger decides to go wild, but does he go too far? There is a time and place for everything…even going wild! 

  • Why is it important to have friends? 
  • How do we make new friends?
  • How might we show our friends we care about them?

You can also share your thinking through your drawings, just like Peter Brown does!

Approaches to Learning (ATL’s)

Communication Skills


  • Express oneself using words and sentences.


  • Interpret visual, audio and oral communication: recognizing and creating signs, interpreting and using symbols and sounds.
  • Understand the ways in which images and language interact to convey ideas.

Reading, writing and mathematics

  • Understand symbols.
  • Understand that mark-making carries meaning.
  • Use mark-marking to convey meaning.
  • Document information and observations in a variety of ways.

Lines in Picture Books

Online Learning

Focus: Communication Skills 

Mo Willems is one of our favourite authors. We have read his books over and over again. Some of our favourite stories are: 

‘Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the BUS!’


‘Should I Share My Ice-cream?” 

How do authors and illustrators use lines, shapes and patterns in their picture books? Notice how Mo Willems  uses lines and shapes to create his drawing.

You might want to try drawing Piggie with Mo Willems.

You might want to try drawing Pigeon.

You might want to try drawing Elephant Gerald.

We can explore drawing, creating and designing through our exploration of lines, patterns and shapes. Invite the children to make their own drawings or create stories using familiar characters or their own imaginative characters. The children may want to add their own details, speech bubbles and thinking clouds to add dialogue and thought.

Lego Boat

Online Learning

Focus: Thinking Skills, Research Skills

Following on from our experiments with Sinking and Floating

Challenge: LEGO Brick Boat

  • Make a LEGO brick boat. 
  • Put your LEGO boat to the test in a tub of water.
  • Add 1 RMB coins , a few at a time to see how many your boat can hold.
  • Post a picture of your LEGO brick boat!
  • How many coins could your LEGO brick boat carry safely?

NOTE: This learning invitation will help children think about weight, engineering and design. You can give your child a certain number of Lego bricks for an added challenge.

Felix the Engineer:

Felix LOVES Lego and was very excited to try the Lego boat challenge. He took parts of a space shuttle and modified it for his boat. After that Simon and Felix tried a lego boat. It worked great! They had a lot of fun, especially with the water 🤭. Look carefully to see how many coins his space shuttle could hold safely.

Leming worked like a scientist, planning, designing and creating a boat that could stay afloat while carrying lots of coins. Leming then tested his boat to see if it works. 

Approaches to Learning (ATL’s)

  • think critically
  • plan an experiment
  • observe carefully
  • test ideas
  • gather information through experimentation
  • demonstrate persistence in tasks
  • use strategies to problem-solve

Paper Helicopter

Online Learning

Focus: Self-management Skills, Communication Skills

Task: Make a Paper Helicopter

Follow the instructions in the video to make a paper helicopter.

This task will encourage your child to:
observe carefully
follow instructions in sequence to complete a task
develop small muscles in the hand
be patient
They will need to measure, draw lines, cut on a line and fold paper.

– Make a target on the floor using chalk, paper, or tape.
– Decide how many points each area of your target is worth.
– Play with a partner, take turns to see who scores the most points!

Lines and Shapes

Online Learning

Focus: Communication Skills, Research Skills

Leming drew a picture of a ‘snail shell‘ on his salt tray. Can you see the swirls in the salt? Do you notice how they get bigger as they they move outwards? Leming knows that he can draw his own pictures using lines and shapes.

Notice the swirls as on Leming’s picture!

The teachers went off on a shell hunt. Ms. Shemo only found 1 shell. Can you see the lines and patterns on the shell?

Ms. Karen’s first shell. Can you see the swirls?

Ms. Karen found shells in her classroom! I wonder if you can make that pattern on your salt tray!

Ms. Karen found snails in the fish tank!

Where do you see lines, shapes and patterns? Let’s go to the park to see if we can find any lines, shapes and patterns.

  • I wonder how YOU might use lines, patterns and shapes to draw your pictures…
  • I wonder where YOU might find lines, patterns and shapes in YOUR environment…

Felix and Simone have also been drawing pictures with chalk on their back wall! Can you see the beautiful colours they are using in their pictures? Can you see the different lines and shapes they have used. Do you see the snail? 

Bruce used his magnetic board to draw a one-eyed monster that has many legs, a space ship that helps you see the stars and a banana tree. 

Approaches to Learning (ATL’s)

Communication Skills


  • Interpret visual, audio and oral communication: recognizing and creating signs, interpreting and using symbols and sounds.
  • Understand the ways in which images and language interact to convey ideas.

Reading, writing and mathematics

  • Understand symbols.
  • Understand that mark-making carries meaning.
  • Use mark-marking to convey meaning.
  • Document information and observations in a variety of ways.

Salt Writing Tray

Online Learning

Focus: Communication Skills (Writing)

Salt Tray Writing
Sensory writing is a fun way for children to experience writing. The tips of your fingers are extremely sensitive. Therefore, writing in salt, sand, and rice can help children remember the shapes of letters, numbers, words and the strokes in different characters.

It is important to encourage children to be conscious of food waste. You can use regular kitchen salt or expired rice. The salt can be reused. Only a small amount is needed, and these sensory materials that can be saved for long periods of time if kept clean and dry. Please remember to wash your hands before and after using the salt writing tray.

Here are some resources you can use to explore writing.


Through these sensory writing experiences the children develop with following skills:

  • draw simple shapes
  • use correct top-to-bottom left-to-right directionality for letters, numbers and other symbols
  • establish handedness for writing

  • develop mature grip for crayon/pencil

  • experiment with various ways to move and produce marks

  • sit with good posture (furniture must fit child)

  • start letters at the top

  • trace capitals correctly, step by step

  • enjoy writing in play and activities

Exploring Number

Online Learning

Focus: Mathematics (Number) 

Go on a number hunt around your house.

I found these numbers in my house! 

  • What numbers can you find?
  • What are the numbers used for?
  • Did you find numbers outside as well? What were they? 

You can draw pictures of the places you find numbers. Record the numbers you see. 

Here is a number line to help you. 

Here is a video story on how to write numerals. You can follow along to read the book or refer to it if you are unsure of how to write numerals 1 to 10. 

You can use a sand or salt tray to practice writing numerals!

Don’t forget to share your learning!

We are learning that:

  • numbers are a naming system
  • numbers can be used in many ways for different purposes in the real world
  • numbers are connected to each other through a variety of relationships
  • making connections between our experiences with number can help us to  develop number sense

Paper Art

Online Learning

Focus: Self-management Skills, Thinking Skills (Mathematics – Shape and Space)  

Jiwon and Michelle used scissors and paper to explore their creativity. They folded paper carefully and then used scissors to cut out different shapes. Jiwon created flowers and Michelle created monster masks.

Jiwon – Flowers

Here is one way to create art with paper:

You can create your own paper art!

You might want to cut out different shapes on your paper, or even different patterns! 

Pay close attention to the way you hold a pair of scissors. 

  • While cutting with scissors, the open and close motion allows children to build up the little muscles in their hands. These muscles are important because they aid in writing, drawing and painting.
  • Cutting develops eye-hand coordination as it requires children to use their eyes and hands in unison to accomplish the task of cutting. Eye-hand coordination is important for catching/throwing balls, eating with a spoon, and zipping a coat.
  • Cutting encourages your child to use both sides of the body at the same time while each hand is performing its own task (bilateral coordination). When cutting a shape, a child must hold the paper with one hand while the other hand is opening and closing the scissors and moving forward to cut.
  • Cutting improves focus and attention. These skills build a child’s capacity to pay attention to detail, not only in the classroom but in everyday life. These skills are essential to being able to read books, listen to instruction and complete tasks.

Colour Zoo – Shape and Space

Online Leaning

Focus: Communication Skills (Mathematics – Shape and Space) 

Listen to the video story ‘Colour Zoo‘ by Lois Ehlert.

This wonderful story explores shapes and colours, with illustrations of shapes on die-cut pages that form animal faces when placed on top of one another.

  • How might you explore your creativity through shape and colour?
  • What animals or objects could you create using shape and colour?

Share your shape pictures with your friends.

Note: Encourage the children to describe the shape by number of sides and corners. Compare shapes by asking what similarities and differences they see. Describing shapes helps children learn about the properties of shapes which eventually leads to a deeper understanding about shape and space.

Approaches to Learning (ATL’s) 

  • observe carefully
  • notice relationships
  • record observations using drawing or emergent writing
  • draw expressively, experimenting with various ways to move and produce marks
  • draw recognizable shapes, person and simple pictures
  • add personal elements to shapes of pictures

A Bridge

Online Learning

Skills: Thinking Skills, Research Skills

Challenge: The Coin Bride

You will need:


a chopstick


Gather some coins and use them to build a bridge. The chopstick should be able to pass under your bridge without touching the coins! How tall, wide and strong can you make your bridge?

Take a photo or a video of your bridge, reflect on (and share):

  • How many coins did you use to make your bridge?
  • What helped you create your bridge?
  • What other materials can you use to create different types of bridges?

Here are a few different bridges around the world. Feel free to share some examples of the different bridges you create!

Sophie has created a bridge using her toys!

The Bridge Test:

Leming and his brother Leyang were wondering which material would be the most suitable to create a bridge.

They wanted to learn through ‘trial and error’, this is the work of a ‘researcher’. 

They have gathered some materials to test their theories. They have paper, plastic and wood.

The Paper Bridge.

The Wooden Bridge.

Their Conclusion:

  • “1-wood 2- paper with more strength 3- plastic 4- paper with less strength”

You might want to try your own experiments to see which materials are best suited when creating bridges!

Approaches to Learning (ATL’s)

Thinking Skills

Analysing: Observe carefully.

Generating novel ideas: Make unexpected or unusual connections between objects and/or ideas.

Considering new perspectives: Ask “what if” questions, Identify strengths and areas for improvement.

Research Skills

Formulating and planning: Ask or express through play questions that can be researched.

Data gathering and documenting (audio recording, drawing, photographing): Use all senses to observe and notice details.

Play Dough

Online Learning

Focus: Self-management Skills, Research Skills

Make play dough with your family. Post a picture of something you created with your play dough!



  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup table salt
  • 2 tbsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • Food colouring


  1. Combine the flour, salt and cream or tart. Mix well.
  2. Add the oil
  3. Mix a few drops of food colouring into the boiling water and add to the bowl.
  4. Mix everything very well and massage with your hand until it is no longer sticky.

💡Storage: Wait for the play dough to cool completely. Wrap in plastic and place in an airtight container. Store at room temperature for up to 6 months.


Felix and his family decided to make play dough. Here are the ingredients and equipment they needed. They didn’t use cream of tartar. Instead, they used citric acid.

Felix and his brother had a lot of fun!

They decided to make yellow, green, blue and pink play dough! They used tools to cut and mould their dough. 

You might want to use a pair of gloves as you add the colour 🤭!!

A pond, ducks, trees, balls and a bridge! 

The Story of Paper

The children gathered around Ms. Ai to create boats using paper from the recycled box. They were curious and wanted to see how pieces of paper can be turned into something new and exciting.

Some children created musical instruments using different types of paper.

A Piano

They made maps, iPhones, games and money using paper and card.

A computer with lots of buttons.

Learning Outcomes:

  • engage with, and enjoy a variety of visual arts experiences.
  • use their imagination and experiences to inform their art making.
  • create artwork in response to a range of stimuli.

Noticing the children’s interest in paper, Ms. Tina decided to share some examples of paper art . The children then sorted out different paper to use in their creations. 

Ms. Anna Mila used a video to show the children the process of how paper is made. The children asked to watch the video repeatedly, asking insightful questions about the trees. They made great observations about the paper making process.

After we watched the video and read some books about how paper is made/recycled, we went into the atelier to make paper.

First, the children needed to rip up scraps of previously used paper.

Then, they needed to add lots of water.  

Then, they needed to blend the paper into a pulp.

Next, it was poured into a bin with water that had a screen in it. The children needed to pour the pulp into all corners, covering the whole screen as evenly as possible.  

This part of the work took great concentration and strength.

Sometimes the children noticed that they needed to add more paper scraps.

After the paper was poured, the screen needed to be lifted up carefully and then placed on a drying rack so that the pulp can dry, creating paper.

When the paper pulp on the mesh had dried, the children carefully lifted it off the drying racks. They were excited to see their own paper!

They sat around the tables with their own sheet of recycled paper and paints, excited to the create yet a new piece of art.

We wonder, what other materials and objects can we recycle?

Concepts: change, purpose, responsibility, creativity, connection, conservation, causation, changes of state, production.  

Learning Outcomes:

  • select tools, materials and processes for specific purposes.
  • understand the impact of simple actions on their immediate environment
  • understand that resources are necessary to meet the needs of living things
  • develop enthusiasm and respect for nature and Earth
  • develop care and concern for Earth and its environment

Approaches to Learning (ATL’s)

  • listen actively and respectfully to others’ ideas and listen to information.
  • ask for clarifications.
  • interpret visual, audio and oral communication: recognizing and creating signs, interpreting and using symbols and sounds.
  • express oneself using words and sentences.
  • participate in conversations.
  • be aware of own and others’ impact as a member of a learning group.
  • follow the directions of others.
  • demonstrate persistence in tasks.

Expressing our Creativity!

Paper as a Tool to Express Creativity

The children have continued to gather at the writing table. They enjoy creating with paper, making computers, ID cards and packages. While working at this space, the children talk to each other about their ideas. They negotiate and share the materials, taking turns to use the resources with purpose.

Clay as a Tool to Express Creativity

Some of the children have been using clay to make models of their own carnivorous plants. They looked carefully at the details as they painted with care and purpose. They cleared and washed up all the materials they had used at the end of their activity. Taking care of the materials and tools we use is an important part of learning.

Approaches to Learning (ATL’s)

  • express oneself using words and sentences.
  • participate in conversations.
  • use mark-marking to convey meaning.
  • be respectful to others.
  • be aware of own and others’ impact as a member of a learning group.
  • choose and complete tasks independently.
  • share responsibility for decision-making.
  • demonstrate persistence in tasks.
  • use strategies to problem-solve.
  • engage with, and enjoy a variety of visual arts experiences.
  • select tools, materials and processes for specific purposes.
  • use their imagination and experiences to inform their art making.


The children have been using many different types of lines in their drawings, messages and paintings. Some of the lines develop into different pictures of objects, and others become letters and numbers.

Lines in maps…

Lines in messages…

Lines in letters…

We read the story ‘The Line’ by Paula Bossio. Upon seeing the cover page, Felix shouted “Ms. Tina!” He was referring to the litter ‘T’ in the title of the story.

The children began to call out and identify the different letters in the title, ‘THE LINE’ that were also in their names.

H is in Charlotte

E is in Michelle and Charlotte

L is in Leming

I is in Michelle

They circled the different letters they recognised.

Next, we read the story and made a note of all the different lines that were in the book. In this simple wordless picture book, a little girl finds a long black line. She wiggles the line, slides and spins inside circles that the line has created.

Later in the story, the line transforms into bubbles, a jungle vine to swing from, a tightrope to balance on and a big, hungry monster! We notice how the author and illustrator expressed the different emotions of the little girl in the story.

We observed the lines Felix and Yoochan have created using the ramps. They have made a road that goes to the beach.

We can draw many pictures using different lines. Here are a few different types of lines.

The children created pop-stick puppets using different lines.

@F uses lightening lines and other shapes to create pop-stick puppets. He then decides to create a puppet show using the different pop-stick characters and objects.

Approaches to Learning (ATL’s)

Communication Skills


  • Express oneself using words and sentences.


  • Interpret visual, audio and oral communication: recognizing and creating signs, interpreting and using symbols and sounds.
  • Understand the ways in which images and language interact to convey ideas.

Reading, writing and mathematics

  • Understand symbols.
  • Understand that mark-making carries meaning.
  • Use mark-marking to convey meaning.
  • Document information and observations in a variety of ways.


The journey began with a discussion.

“What do you know about chopsticks?”

Students shared their own knowledge and experiences about chopsticks.

  • Jasmine “可以吃饭,可以夹玩具。筷子小孩不能用,大人能用。我和姐姐有用筷子一起吃饭。需要拿碗。” [You can eat and play. Kids can’t use chopsticks, adults can. My sister and I use chopsticks to eat.]
  • Felix “I keep chopsticks in my home and they are easy peasy. The kids have something up. They are together.” 9Referring to the training chopsticks)
  • Jiwoo “I use it to eat rice, chicken. I pick up and eat. The chopsticks we need hold like this and take something and eat it.”
  • Ethan “夹东西,我可以用,有些可以夹,有些不可以。” [You can pick things. I can use chopsticks. Some things I can pick them by chopsticks, but some things I can’t.]
  • Nicolas “When I go to a restaurant, I see chopsticks. My mum can use but I also use a spoon or fork. I have never used the chopsticks.”
  • Charlotte “我爸爸经常用筷子,哥哥用勺子吃饭,我用勺子吃鱼。” [My dad uses chopsticks often, my brother uses a spoon to eat, I use chopsticks to eat fish.]
  • Amber “我家里有小筷子,KaiKai和我用。” [I have small chopsticks at home, KaiKai and me use them.]

After the discussion, students played a relay game of picking pompom balls and placing them inside a tray using chopsticks. They were all eager to try and had a lot of fun!

When the students came back to the classroom, they were so excited to share their thoughts about the game, and they had further questions about chopsticks. Ms. Tina noted them down on chart paper.

  • Jasmine “我们在家一般都用筷子。我们用小孩筷子,大人用大人筷子。我在家玩筷子游戏,和学校一样。” [At home, we always use chopsticks. Adults use adult chopsticks, kids use kids chopsticks. I play the chopsticks game at home too, just like at school.]
  • Seungbin “Easy.”
  • Felix “That’s also my first time to do that. It’s easy because when you give me this one, it’s how you use it.”
  • Lawrence “因为第一个我夹的时候我觉得很难,但是我一直努力。” [I felt that the first one was very difficult, but I kept trying.]
  • Ethan “我觉得很难,我在家用筷子吃饭。” [I felt it was really hard. I use chopsticks at home.]

  • Charlotte “第一次玩游戏, 我觉得很简单,而且我一直在努力, 用筷子夹起来放在盘子里。我夹的粉色的球,很喜欢。” [This is the first time I played this game, I think it’s easy. And I keep trying. I use the chopsticks to pick up and put it in the tray. I picked a pink ball, I like it very much.]
  • Amber “我想和爸爸妈妈玩筷子的游戏。” [I want to play the chopsticks game with my daddy and mummy.]
  • Ms. Shemo “Are these Chinese chopsticks?” Do people in other countries also use chopsticks?
  • Alejandra “Japanese, Spanish, Taiwan chopsticks.”

We wonder how these chopsticks might be the same or different…


Communication Skills


  • Listen to information.
  • Listen actively and respectfully to others’ ideas.

Self-management Skills


  • Demonstrate persistence in tasks.
  • Use strategies to problem-solve.


  • The important traditions and practices of their own family and community
  • Positive acceptance of diversity
  • open mindedness

Zentangle Pictures

A group of students shared that they express themselves through their drawings. We wondered if anyone else expressed themselves through their drawings.

We decided to speak to Ms. Grace Kang. She taught Grade 2 @nischina last year and now lives and works in Korea.

She enjoys expressing herself through her drawings and creates her own postcards and greeting cards! 

Ms. Grace explained that she likes drawing and ‘doodling’. She used different repeated patterns to create art. She uses squiggles, shapes, symbols and patterns to fill in shapes. Her feelings can inspire her creations. 

We began with some waves, zigzags, swirls and heart shapes. The students drew their own pictures and filled in the spaces using repeated patterns.

One student pointed to the ‘Zones of Regulation’ posters displayed in the classroom and suggested that we look for ideas about feelings here.

Here are a few of our creations…

How do YOU express yourself?


  • draw simple drawings to express what they see/study
  • engage with, and enjoy a variety of visual arts experiences
  • select tools, materials and processes for specific purposes
  • use their imagination and experiences to inform their art making
  • create artwork in response to a range of stimuli

Mat Man

Ms. Kelli came in to tell us all about Mat Man! He is part of the programme Handwriting Without Tears

We developed our body awareness, by talking about the different parts of Mat Man‘s body and why they are important.

As Ms. Kelli built Mat Man, we talked about how Mat Man has:

  • 1 head, it is a circle, made up with two big curves. He needs a head to hold his brain, which helps him to think.
  • 2 ears, made up of two little curves. His ears help him to listen.
  • 1 nose for smelling and breathing.
  • 1 mouth, made with one little curve. He needs a mouth to smile, eat, sing, talk and frown.
  • 1 body, to hold in his heart, tummy and lungs. It is a blue rectangle.
  • 2 arms, made with two big lines. He needs them so that he can reach and climb.
  • 2 hands to touch, clap, hold and eat.
  • 2 legs, made with two big lines. He needs them to help him stand and run.
  • 2 feet, made with two little lines. He uses them to walk, run, jump, skip and hop.

Next, the students helped Ms. Kelli build Mat Man

Then, we drew pictures of ourselves using the different shapes we used to create Mat Man.

Ms. Kelli read us a story about ‘Mat Man‘. We talked about the different shapes he can use. We wonder how we can use these shapes when we create our own drawings.

Approaches to Learning (ATL’s)

Communication Skills


• Listen to information.

• Listen actively and respectfully to others’ ideas.

• Ask for clarifications.


• Express oneself using words and sentences.

• Participate in conversations.

• Negotiate ideas and knowledge with peers and teachers.

Reading, writing and mathematics

• Understand symbols.

• Understand that mark-making carries meaning.

• Use mark-marking to convey meaning.

Handwriting Without Tears

We used the ‘Alphabet Mat‘ to look for the letters in our name. We first found the letters in Ms. Shemo’s name. Students who had the letters S-H-E-M-O in their names looked for letters on the alphabet mat. 

The students were introduced to manipulatives used with the programme ‘Handwriting Without Tears‘. 

The students use special wood pieces to create the letters. These are placed in a particular order which help students learn to print them correctly. The students used the wood pieces to make the first letter of their name. 


The programme introduces students to the capital letters first. All capitals start at the top and strokes are made in correct sequence. 


  • write letters of the alphabet
  • use a variety of implements to practise and develop handwriting and presentation skills


Ms. Angie had some new equipment brought in. Over a few days the students played with the unopened box, using it as a computer in their ‘play’. They were not sure what was in the box. It was time to unpack it.

  • Cornelis “What is it? It looks like a guitar.”
  • Reggie “It’s a xylophone.”
  • Cornelis “Maybe it’s a net, a giant net.”
  • Cornelis “If I go here it looks like a house. What is it really?”
  • Teacher “What do you think it is?”
  • Cornelis “Definitely a giant net.”
  • Amber {In Chinese} “It goes up, like the front of a wall.”

The students helped Ms. Angie unpack the item. They helped her assemble it.

It was a weaving loom!

“It’s Beautiful!”

Next the students worked on creating their own individual weaving projects using smaller looms.


While weaving students:

  • develop better strength between the thumb and forefinger (stronger pincer grip for writing)
  • develop hand-eye coordination because it encourages them to use the visual information to coordinate the movement of the hands
  • develop concentration and perseverance
  • learn how to help and support others


A Grade 2 class at NIS had posted the following pictures on Twitter.

We were curious.

  • Reggie “It kind of looks like a house or hotels.”
  • Franz “Can we go and see them?”
  • Cornelis “The house has a crocodile and snail!”
  • Reggie “And there are lights.”
  • Franz “I see the Dinosaur.”
  • Ruby “I see food up there.”

We set off to see what we could learn about the city.

The students were eager to touch the city. Franz was very concerned that the city will break. He continued to inform the students that they need to stop touching it as “..if we touch it, when the babies see we are touching the house, then the small baby will do it and they can break the house!” 

  • Abby “There are tiny doors.”
  • Mia “No, they are the windows, look they are rectangles.”
  • Abby “Is this a dinosaur house?”
  • Franz “This IS a dinosaur house.”
  • Abby “Why is there a tissue box here?”
  • Franz “The house is like this, moving, so you can’t touch it anymore now. If everyone touches it then it will break.”
  • Reggie “Look! there is a tiny door!”
  • Lawrence “Look at the door. The police station.” [in Chinese] He touched the building.
  • Cornelis “Stop! Be careful!”
  • Franz “Ms. Shemo, I see the lines.”
  • Mia “I see the house.”

Amber stood next to the highest building and said “Look!, I’m taller than the houses!” [in Chinese]

  • Reggie “They look like jail bars.”

Franz kept reminding the other students not to touch the city as it will break. He understood how delicate the structures were.

  • Abby “These are curtains.”

Reggie found a yellow box. It had numbers on the side. The box travelled up and down the side of one building, like a lift.

  • Hannah “How did they make them?” [in Chinese] [Referring to the city]
  • Lawrence and Amber “What is it? [in Chinese] [Referring to the city]

Some students noticed artwork done by yet another Grade 2 class. They were amazed at the detailed drawings of the different structures.

The students want to know more. They decided to ask the Grade 2 class:

  • Abby “How did you make it?”
  • Mia “Why did you make it?”
  • Franz “Why is this yellow box going up and down?” 

When the students came back to the classroom they were invited to create their own structures.

Yusei built “A house.

Reggie “I built 2 houses. Houses are built with bricks so they don’t break. Some people who are poor build the houses only with wood.” [The houses were hollow in the middle and had walls all around. The bricks for the roof were carefully placed on the side walls.]

Hannah explained in Chinese “I built line 1 and 2 of the city walls. These are the city gates where people can enter. By the time you reach the last gate you will get to the fun park. I built some part of the wall taller because if I only built short walls, then bad people will come in.”

Out in the playground, the students continued to work on different structures. The K2 students who were learning about different ‘houses’, were building an igloo with snow and ice. Another group of students were using bamboo. The students in PreK/K1 joined in to help their friends. They all worked as a team to construct the walls of the igloo.

What do cities look like? We wonder…

Loose Parts – 2

What do we learn? How do we learn?

Over the last few weeks, the students have been exploring with ‘loose parts‘. They were invited to play with these materials during choice time. The term ‘loose‘ allows us to use the materials to explore a variety of concepts. They provide students with opportunities to be creative, persistent, courageous, committed, confident, curious and independent.

The Nature Corner

A group of students went on a nature walk to collect materials for the classroom. The students chatted about the colours, plants and environment as they gathered leaves, sticks, branches and other interesting items.

We hung up the large branch we found near the garden plots.

Another group of students created and painted a tree made out of recycled materials.

The students were then invited to create their own pots, leaves and decorations. They were encouraged to think about what we learned about patterns. We were inspired by pattern artwork done by the Grade 2 class. It helped the students think about creative patterns they can use with their projects.  

Students will begin to use the space to create their own art projects. We hope that they will be inspired by the different materials on offer. We look forward to observing how they can express themselves through art.


  • explore patterns in the environment
  • describe what they notice about an artwork
  • engage with, and enjoy a variety of visual arts experiences
  • select tools, materials and processes for specific purposes
  • use their imagination and experiences to inform their art making
  • create artwork in response to a range of stimuli

The Enormous Turnip – Part 2

The students have been listening to the story ‘The Enormous Turnip‘ over a period of weeks. They have retold, dramatised and sung the story in Chinese.

Next, they created their own story of the ‘Enormous Turnip’. They first coloured, cut and glued the story in sequence. They were invited to include more characters in their story. The students shared their story with their peers.

A Worm!

Students were encouraged to…

  • sequence and retell a story
  • communicate information using pictures
  • develop fine-motor skills
  • develop listening skills
  • use their own creative ideas to extend stories

Freight Train

The students listened to the story ‘Freight Train‘ by Donald Crews. In this book the artwork takes the centre stage. The students were encouraged to notice how the author and illustrator used pictures to make the story more interesting. They noticed and shared how the author used details to show the speed of the train as it travels.

Kai “It looks like the colours are melting.”

Franz “It looks like where I live. I have big buildings like that.”

Students were invited to create their own books at the writing corner. They created books about trains, journeys and their families. 

The next day they listened to the story again, and were then invited to colour, cut and create their own book about the ‘Freight Train’. The students were encouraged to put the pages in order depending on the colours of the different carriages.

“What colour comes next?”


  • participate and respond actively to read aloud situations; make predictions, anticipate possible outcomes
  • make connections to their own experience when listening to or reading texts
  • listen and respond to picture books, showing pleasure, and demonstrating their understanding through gestures, expression and/or words
  • tell their own stories using illustrations and words
  • focus on a speaker and maintain eye contact
  • observe, discuss and comment on the information being conveyed in illustrations

Handwriting Without Tears

The students were introduced to manipulatives used with the programme ‘Handwriting Without Tears‘. The programme introduces students to the capital letters first. All capitals start at the top and strokes are made in correct sequence. These wood pieces are placed in a particular order which help students learn to print them correctly. The students used the wood pieces to make the first letter of their name. 


  • write letters of the alphabet
  • use a variety of implements to practise and develop handwriting and presentation skills

The Knobless Cylinders

The students have been exploring four sets of wooden cylinders. The different sets vary in colour and encourage the exploration of height and diameter. Students can grade by size, develop their co-ordination of movement, observe differences in dimensions and recognize difference and similarities (when using more than one set).


  • Identify, compare and describe attributes of real objects

Writers Workshop

A group of students gathered to look at a range of books written by some of their favourite authors. There was a discussion about how writers create books. While browsing through the books they noticed that:

  • there were pictures on the cover
  • the pages had pictures and words

Cornelis “The person who draws the pictures is the illustrator.”

Teacher “Can we become authors too?”

The students began to brainstorm ideas for their books. They drew inspiration from some of their favourite characters and interests.

  • princesses
  • fast cars
  • Star Wars
  • Frozen Lego
  • car races

They began to put their ideas down on paper to retell their own stories. Some were scary and others entertaining.


  • draw sequenced story maps and label illustrations
  • plan/write/draw stories based on experiences
  • use illustrations to tell a story
  • communicate in different ways

All About ME!

The students used photographs of themselves to observe details and draw pictures using card and black marker.

Reggie “We drew a picture of us.”

Abby “I am lying down on the carpet and putting my legs over.”

Reggie “I felt good because I was comfortable.”

Mia “I was standing outside. I said ARG!”

Abby “I drew Abby. I have two legs and shoes.”

We had to decide how to display our pictures.

Shapes (Exploration)

The students have been exploring 3 Dimensional shapes in the classroom. When using chopsticks to pick up cubes and create a tall tower, the students strengthen their eye-hand coordination. The learn about shapes, space, precision, balance, teamwork and cooperation.

When students use geo shapes to create or cover the surface of a shape, they learn how to sort and describe shapes. They use their knowledge of number and measurement. They estimate and challenge their assumptions.

SLO: Describe and sort 3D objects in a variety of ways. Describe the relationship of 2D shapes to 3D objects.

When creating 3D shapes with sticks and clay, they explore the different characteristics of shapes in their environment.

Observing like a Scientist


The students observed a plant and recorded what they noticed.img_3752

They chose the colours they will need to use and discussed their pictures with others while they worked.


  • Daniel: The green thing, circles, the leaves are growing each time.
  • Vera: I see the plant has borne little pieces.
  • Oliver: It is in water and getting new ones.
  • Amy: I see white flowers.
  • Hally: I see the plant, some in the water and some outside the water.
  • Gabby: I can see some green stuff inside the skin.
  • Isabella: I see roots.
  • Lele: I see some lines.
  • Harris: I see a flower. A leaf is in the middle.
  • Salva: I see the roots are brown.
  • Minseong: I see something yellow.
  • Emily: I see small leaves. Some are a little bit orange.
  • Carolyn: I see some hard pointy pieces. It feels like something is broken.


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