Monday, October 29, 2012

Provocations for Learning

What is a Learning Provocation?
I think that a Learning Provocation is .... a technique used by teachers to stimulate children's thinking, to inspire them artistically, to empower them to take control over their learning, to open their minds, to create an environment for reflection, to challenge children, to encourage creativity.

In Kindergarten, I feel as though learning provocations are a very powerful way to engage students, especially when the provocation comes from student interest/inquiry.

I have been thinking a lot about provocations lately in our classroom. Do I have inviting provocations out in all areas of the classroom? Where are they needed the most? Do all children engage in provocations? How can I make them more inviting?

A beautiful thing happened a few weeks ago. One of our former students (now in Grade 1) came down to our classroom with a bunch of beautiful yellow flowers that she brought from her garden at home. She explained that she missed us and wanted to bring us some flowers. I got a jar and filled it with water. She asked if I could place them at paint just like we did last year. She said "I think some of the kids will like to look at them and make their own picture".

I was thrilled that she herself wanted to create a provocation for children in our room. I thought it was a true testament to how powerful learning provocations can be. Of course we placed the flowers at art. Last year, I would have put only yellow and green paint out. This year, I asked myself - do I want to limit what the children are painting here? what is the value of putting out only those colours? I wasn't sure what the "right" thing to do and I could see value in both ways (green/yellow or all avaliable colours).

So...I left out the paint pallette. The children were immediately drawn to the staged flowers and interpreted them different in all of their art. Some children used yellow and green to recreate their beauty. One child painted their home and added yellow and green flowers in the garden in front. Another child carefully studied the flowers and painted hers red but used the flowers to think about details.

In the end, I was glad that I didn't choose the colours that were set out. But I do wonder what might have happened if I did? I think I will try the next time to see.

After the flowers were out the children were drawn to painting pictures of natural things. One student who went to the pumpkin patch with her family brought in corn that she found in the corn maze. Another student brought in a gourd that they had on their table at home. Eventually we brought in Indian Corn to compare with the corn from the corn maze. The children were so engaged while interacting with the materials that it was exciting for us to see THEM want to create provocations for learning for themselves and their peers.


  1. What a great post. A thought provoking question you ask with regard to the choice of paint colours. In the past I would have only put out the colours of the flowers but the more I read, I come to appreciate how important small decisions like this are.

  2. love all the great ideas.

  3. Thanks! Those were last fall and came up through discussions and children. I love when they bring materials and provocations into the classroom, sure makes our job easier!

    This year there is a fascination beginning very quickly with many insects outdoors - we will see how it goes. We will bring bug catches, magnifying glasses and other materials out next week to see what comes up!