One Sunflower

the providence of purple

on February 2, 2011

“Concept Development” …”encourages students to focus on process of learning, rather than concentrating solely on rote instruction and recall of facts.  High quality concept development provides students with opportunities to use analysis and reasoning in their approach to problems, to think about the how and why of learning, and to explore their world through experimentation and brainstorming.  ….also encompasses an intentional approach by the teacher to tie together concepts across activities and bring concepts to life by apply them to student’s everyday worlds.” (from a document about the CLASS observation tool)

So this is an area I decided to work on – and an opportunity fell into my lap this week.


It is time for a batch of new play dough in our classroom so, as usual, I included an activity for tallying student requests for color choice of the dough.  For this round of voting I made a chart with everyone’s first initial on it and asked the students to find their initial and color it in their choice. We tallied the results at circle time: 5 for purple, 4 red, 3 orange, 2 yellow, 1 blue.  So then I asked the question, “how do you make purple?”

Paint is always an option for free choice but we’ve really only had a few formal color mixing experiences.   We mixed paint for our silk banners and we made our green play dough by mixing batches of yellow and blue together.  It is a good time of year for more experimentation.  The students have learned how to set up and clean up after themselves, how to access paints and brushes, soap, water and towels.  “Ah,” said Maestra, when the students didn’t know how to answer my question, “time for an experiment!”


I watered down yellow, blue, and red tempera and re-introduced eye droppers.  I demonstrated how to drip colors on a paper plate and experiment with mixing colors.  Then I told them they were going to have to wait until after PE and journal writing because I wanted to be sure there would be two adults on hand to support their experimentation.

I didn’t know that the two adults supporting this messy work would be me and my principal!  Mr. D showed up while I was outside with some kids, ( – looking for sprouts – but that’s another story.)   When I returned to the classroom, he was on the floor supporting some jumbo puzzle piecing.  I started pulling our supplies for the experiment and soon the table was bursting with eager scientists. . Mr. D wanted to know what could be happening that was so exciting.  He just had to stick around and find out.

There was a lot of dripping and disposing of paper plates full of green and brown water, and no one was managing to create purple.  Mr. D and I, and another inquisitive Ed assistant, began to make some heavy hints about how we might get purple.  Finally I had two students figure it out – whether they could repeat it tomorrow is another question!

But that’s the plan…we’ll keep messing around with messing around.  And maybe next week  we’ll get our purple play dough made – probably by mixing red and blue dough just to reinforce whatever learning we tried to do!

And I’m going to concentrate on all the other aspects of “concept development” listed on the paper I quoted – focusing on understanding concepts, encouraging analysis and reasoning, promoting exploration, linking and applying concepts – so I can learn as much as my students.


2 responses to “the providence of purple

  1. kloppenmum says:

    That’s a much better way to learn, in my opinion. Children discovering for themselves. Love it.

  2. This is so great! You make teaching sound like fun 🙂 And I love the title of your post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s