Monday, February 15, 2010

Tie-Dye Sky

Tomorrow is Pamela's fourth watercolor class. We did more homework this week than we did last week, so I am dedicating a separate post to our homework. Yes, OUR homework. I find room for improvement in every video I watch: ways in which I can be a better guide to Pamela and discoveries she can make as an apprentice. Homework provides a chance to make-up projects Pamela did not do during class, review things we both could be doing better, and preview new ideas to come. Last week, we painted a barn to prepare for a landscape with a barn that her teacher was considering teaching. Since Pamela processes new things more slowly, she will feel more competent tomorrow with one barn already under her belt.

Painting this apple accomplished several things. Pamela was too tired for a second project last week, so I painted an apple in class and she did hers as homework. I noticed that I had gotten away from making declarative comments and, in my efforts to help Pamela keep pace, was acting like Little Miss Socrates. While Pamela practiced watching for my starts and stops, I cut out the questions and fell back on spotlighting starts and stops through my non-verbal communication.

Today, we previewed a critical idea for Pamela. Last week, Pamela struggled to keep up for a couple of reasons. She watched her teacher very carefully and only started after her teacher did. Sometimes, Carrie would get a supply or assist a student and, if she had only given verbal instructions, Pamela would wait until she saw Carrie take the next step. Since Pamela was not sitting right next to anyone, she had nobody to reference. To rectify the situation and to give Pamela opportunities to practice referencing a classmate, her big brother helped us out.

I set up the table very deliberately. I put David between us, so that, when I be-bopped off to do the dishes, David was right next to her. I made sure that they had matching palettes, and that mine was the odd one out. Since Carrie gives new students extra verbal instruction to make up for what they missed, I did the same with David to simulate that scenario.

I timed my actions carefully. At first, I made sure Pamela was in the zone for following my lead. When I saw that she was comfortable with that, I shifted from working simultaneously to me taking an action (dabbing paint on my palette) to David copying me and finally Pamela copying him. Their identical palettes communicated their sameness non-verbally.

Not only did the pictures look great (Pamela's tie-dye look is above; mine is below on the right; David, below, left), but my plan also unfolded beautifully. After Pamela got in her groove, I got them going by getting a band of color started and running off to do the dishes. David handled his role as guide in absentia really well. Then, I gave him verbal instructions and Pamela followed his lead then too. My absolute favorite moment was when I was catching up from one of my stints doing the dishes. I was painting away when David decided to empty out his bowl to get clean water. Pamela watched him head to the sink. She looked at her dirty water and decided to do the same!


poohder said...

That WAS cool how Pamela decided to get new water after she carefully watched David do it. NICE!

walking said...

Poohder, we saw the dividends of the preview in class. Pamela did really well at knowing who to imitate and when to imitate and when not to imitate. Almost miraculous!

Unknown said...

I'm trying to learn about RDI, got directed to your blog...but it just looks like a lot of miming. Is it mostly based on non-verbal communication?

walking said...

Great question, Crystal!

RDI attempts to get the child back on a typical developmental path by helping parets restore their guided participation relationship (how most parents worldwide raise and teach children). The first thing infants master is the nonverbal communication, give and take, between parents. They spent the first 18 months of their lives learning that. Pamela has spent the past three years learning it. Sometimes people forget how important this is for we see people reading each other nonverbally all the time as I describe in my People Watching at the Post Office Post.

We do have conversation and talk (like I described in the Holy Helicopters post) and she can now have a short meaningful conversation that is not all driven by her verbal stims!

In the watercolors posts, I am making sure she can succeed in a small group. The teacher has about five students and does not have the time to be always telling Pamela what to do. So, we are making sure that she is watch what people do, process, and think about what she does.

It is not pure mimicry. In my Another Amazing Day post, the teacher was drawing a cube and the girl next to her was drawing a cube (which was the block she had selected from a bag of blocks). Pamela did not draw a cube. She waited patiently for the teacher to draw a cylinder. Then, Pamela carefully drew her cylinder, peeked at the girl's drawing of a rectangular solid--which Pamela also needed to draw, and then copied.

Not only that, in this post, she had to make a choice between mimicking me (her primary guide) and mimicking her brother. She chose to follow her brother because he was painting and I was doing the dishes.