Shadow Search

Delivery Method: 

On a bright and sunny afternoon five children and a teacher embark upon a search for shadows on the school playground. Throughout the experience the teacher works to structure the children’s shadow exploration in various ways.

Sharing the Plan
The teacher increases the children’s excitement and energizes them to participate by framing the shadow search activity like a game. She invites the children to join by giving each child a photograph depicting a particular shadow. The teacher encourages the children to use the photograph as a clue to guide his or her search. She explains by saying, “So, what we’re going to do is we’re going to go outside and you’re going to look for the shadow in your picture (points to the shadow in Richard’s photograph). Okay? And when you find it, come tell Jen. Okay?” Notice that as the children hold their photographs some are orientated horizontally (lengthwise side-to-side) while others are positioned vertically (lengthwise top-to-bottom). It is not clear if the children orient their photographs differently because they believe one edge of the photograph is the top and the other is the bottom. Also notice that the teacher assumes the children are able to differentiate the shadow from the other objects or surfaces depicted within each photograph. When the teacher asks them if they are ready, the children cheer and eagerly head outside.

Photograph as Search Tool
Once outside, the teacher encourages the children to examine the shadow photographs more carefully. She holds up a photograph and says, “Santi, or Richard, or Noah, what does this look like on the playground?” Richard says, “water”, and Lucas agrees. As there is no water on the playground, the teacher may suspect that the image of the shadow depicted in the photograph is too difficult for the children to recognize. She invites the children to look at a second photograph by saying, “And let’s look at Santi’s. So with Santi’s, does this look familiar? What’s this part right here (points)? Lucas says, “Dirt.” Notice that this time, the teacher does not orient the children to the shadow but rather, to a surface or material that is depicted nearby the shadow. She models how the photograph can be used as a kind of map that contains clues to guide their search for the shadow. She suggests that the children treat the dirt like a type of landmark by saying, “So, Santi’s shadow is next to the dirt. Should we go look for the dirt?” Her question may also help the children to better understand that the photographs include representations of things that are located on the actual playground.

Search Underway
The teacher further supports the children’s ability to think about the spatial relations of the playground by saying, “Where else is there dirt on the playground?” Santi points as he says, “Over there!” and the group moves their search to a new location. After arriving, notice that Santi tosses his shadow photograph to the ground twice (01:44, 01:50). Why? Santi might assume that he can literally put the shadow on the ground. Alternately, his action may suggest that Santi understands the photograph as something that can be “read” for information. Observe that Santi stands over his photograph and looks down as if to examine it from a new perspective. Santi may know that the dirt or shadow they are searching can be found on the ground. By placing the photograph on the ground, he may be trying to construct a relationship between the actual features of the playground and the cropped images that are represented on a much smaller scale within the photograph.

Shadow Discovery
Lynnea notices a shadow on the ground. She demonstrates her understanding of the relationship between her own body and the shadow when she pauses to share her discovery by saying, “I found my shadow.” Notice that Lynnea studies her shadow for a bit longer and then modifies her initial description. As if to verify, Lynnea gazes at the shadow, then at the photograph in her hands, and again, at the shadow on the ground as she says, “And my shadow picture.” (02:22). She has a sense of what her body form should look like and recognizes that her shadow appears to include something additional. Noah (brown plaid shirt) also wants to share with the teacher that he has found a shadow so he holds his photograph up and points to the shadow depicted within it (02:26).

Relating Representation to Reality
The teacher notices that some children are searching near the actual location of a shadow depicted in one of the photographs. She uses this opportunity to help the children notice a feature depicted in the photograph that she believes the children will also be able to locate on the playground. The teacher points to the photograph and says, “Did you guys notice what’s this part right here?” Lucas observes the shadow depicted in the photograph, a large funnel shape resembling a showerhead, and says, “Water.” Next, the teacher works to better focus the children’s attention by sliding her hand up and down along a section of dirt that is depicted at the edge of the photograph while asking, “Where do we see this on our playground?” The teacher also words her question in a manner that more strongly encourages the children to make a connection between the images depicted in the photograph and the actual features of the playground. Her efforts are successful as Lucas walks toward the fence, points to dirt below, and says, “That’s this part.” The teacher hopes that Lucas’ discovery will help constrain the children’s search and support their ability to find the nearby shadow as she says, “So maybe this shadow is somewhere along right here.”

Similar Clues
Lucas touches the green pipe along the fence, pats it with his hand and says, “Yeah.” He then reaches up to grasp the attached blue funnel, turns his head toward the off camera teacher and says, “That is this one.” (03:17). The teacher hears him say, “The big one”. As if to confirm his initial conclusion, Lucas inspects the funnel more carefully by shifting his body to look at the wide mouth. He then repeats his message by saying, “That is that one.” (03:21). Lucas believes that he has found the image depicted in the photograph. Recall just moments earlier, the teacher asked the children to look at the dirt depicted in the photograph and to then identify where the dirt was located on the playground. She did not ask the children to search for the dirt’s shadow. Reasonably, Lucas may believe that the rule of the game is to relate objects depicted in the photograph to objects in the real world (located on the playground). Also consider that the photographic representation may be a confusing source of information for Lucas to interpret. In both the photograph and on the actual playground, the large funnel appears to protrude from a tall, even surface (see time code 03:18 to compare wall created by surface of fence to shadow cast on ground by smooth edge at top of fence).

Shadow Knowledge
After noting Lucas’ confusion, the teacher works to help the children gain a better understanding about shadows. As they are about to renew their search, the teacher pauses and says, “Wait, first of all, where do we find shadows? Are they up high?” Lucas looks up as if he is thinking about the question. Santi says, “Right on the ground”. Together, they agree to resume their search by looking for shadows on the ground.

Length of stand-alone master video clip: 3 minutes 55 seconds

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Keywords: Twos, Shadows, Children-Teacher, Teaching, Directions, Spatial Relations