RE: [xmca] Observation Tools?

From: Peg Griffin (
Date: Fri Jan 06 2006 - 13:11:12 PST

I like the Bodrova and Leong along with "talking development" along with
"planned participant observation." I think I have to do a lot, regardless
of the text or video I use because I am worried about undergrads reading the
pages instead of the text and/or waiting for the bluebird of meaning to land
on their shoulder rather than working at meaning making.

I am currently enamored of the tangram as a central part of the planned
participant observation that might get people to think/use aspects of
Vygotsky's understanding of development.
A tangram has 7 geometric shapes -- 5 are triangles that differ only in size
(2 big 2 little and 1 medium) and 2 are quadrilaterals that differ not only
in size but in other attributes (1 is a rectangle and 1 is a rhombus). The
tans can fit together (with some rotating or flipping) to make a square,
but, and other shapes (say, a fox) that can be used in storytelling.

RICH RICH RICH cultural artifact with wonderful mathematics and vocabulary
and suitable for a gazillion different social situations with lots of follow
and lead roles and ways to "see" change over time/experiences. Plus, I
think you can do things with undergraduates to show the difference between
"hints" and "scaffold to a known outcome" and "zone of proximal development"
(the latter distinguished because Vygotsky's metaphor suggests seeing where
the child goes with a little help rather than how much/what kind of help to
get to a known end).

I start with a book that is about the custom of a grandfather telling a
tangram story to a child: Grandfather Tang's Story by A. Tompert. (There's
a ppt made by Sarah Fleeman, a middle school teacher in Mississipi that uses
the story and animates the tangrams. Click on ppt icon toward screen bottom
=129#handout8 )
And with the web site where people
can play an electronic version of a shape construction activity by matching
on a pattern and talk about what that site means by "hints" and by "easy"
vs. "hard," about what other hints are possible/needed, and about the
mathematics involved.
And with a template to cut out several tangrams from several different
colored construction paper sheets or if you have the skill and materials,
styrofoam or wood or something).
And with some discussion for ideas of variants students/teachers might try
- of the materials (same colors for all tans or different colors for each or
for shape categories, etc.)
-of the task (recognize a shape, construct a shape in story frame or just
out of the blue, shape representing known entity or no constraints, or match
someone else's shape with target present or not, target represented in a
sketch or a label or a template same or different size as the expected
product, with internal boundary lines or not)
- and of the social configuration (free contributions or taking turns at the
level of each tan or each tangram, or by assigned role (e.g., the shape
picker, the size picker, the rotater, the flipper, the placer) cooperative
or competitive summaries, reciprocal teaching, think alouds, etc.)

You can pick among the variations possible so that threes and fours get
vocabulary, concepts, friends and fun right before your eyes. Now with all
this stuff going on -- what an amazing chance for students to do sets of
planned participant observation and bring in tapes that let people talk
about Vygotsky, kids, mathematics, teaching, learning, and development in
elaborate and sophisticated ways! Their preparation and action make the
students themselves the "observation tools" par excellence as they re-admire
with their peers at what they did with some kids.

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of bb
Sent: Friday, January 06, 2006 11:07 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Observation Tools?

I actually prefer to use video tape of children in non-scripted situations
to engage students with vygotsky's language, talking about what we see. Of
course I offer what I see, and this injects vygotsky into the conversation.
I guess it's a sort of "talking development" thing which was inspired by
the book "talking science".


 -------------- Original message ----------------------
From: Esteban Diaz <>
> Wendy,
> Like Mike I was going to suggest the Bodrova and Leong book and the
> video tape that they have produced. Students might get good ideas about
> observation from it.
> I have a question: What do you mean when you say "The texts I use are
> quite weak for my community of college students...."?
> Esteban
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Mike Cole <>
> Date: Friday, January 6, 2006 10:29 am
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Observation Tools?
> > Wendy--
> >
> > Bodrova and Leong's book, Tools of the Mind: The Vygotskian
> > Approach to
> > Early Education, is an excellent text which has been used to good
> > effectwith CC students.
> >
> > However, I the issue of an observation tool is a very tricky one. The
> > phrase "Vygotsky's theory in action" covers a whole lot of territory.
> > Do you want to focus students on the appearance of egocentric
> > speech in
> > different kind of interactions? Compare the sophistication of their
> > performance in pretend play or a formal lesson? etc? Remember, in
> > all such
> > cases you are observing complex, dynamic interactions which are not
> > easilyreduced to a scoring scheme.
> >
> > That said, I will be very interested in what suggestions folks have to
> > offer.
> > mike
> >
> > On 1/6/06, <> wrote:
> > >
> > > Does anyone have an excellent observation tool of children, any
> > ages from
> > > infant, toddler, or preschooler to observe Vygotsky's "theory in
> > action?"> The texts I use are quite weak for my community college
> > students but I
> > > would really, really like to help them get a great "theory in
> > practice"> experience.
> > > Of course, I will credit you.....
> > > Thanks in advance for any help you might offer!
> > > Wendy Sanders
> > > College of the Desert, Palm Desert, CA, USA
> > > _______________________________________________
> > > xmca mailing list
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > _______________________________________________
> > xmca mailing list
> >
> >
> >
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Wed Feb 01 2006 - 01:00:09 PST