Learn the when, why, and how of modeling inspiration in preschool

A well designed Invitation to Play (paint, cook, draw, etc…) will help the teacher capture a child’s attention. Whether the process involves cutting, building, writing, sorting, or painting – we can set the stage and make the process look inviting so the child will want to give it a try. We use the invitation to capture attention. However, capturing attention and keeping a child engaged or inspired in the process is totally different. Keep reading and I will tell you more…

We have been talking about the invitation to play which you can learn more about in my free workshop here!

What is Modeling Inspiration

The term “Modeling Inspiration” is a term I use to describe the teachers role in helping children think beyond the obvious without being instructional, controlling, or too influential on the process.

Why to Model Inspiration

Quite simply, to model inspiration is to join students in a process where you see they need support. We model inspiration to help our students take the process and their thinking during the process to a higher level, to spend more time with the process, to build interest and engagement.

How to Model Inspiration

As I model an idea – I like to talk out loud so the children hear my thinking process. I invite them into the conversation and have them help me make decisions. I want to not only model the process but the thinking and decisions that motivates the choices that I am making through asking strategic questions and initiating thoughtful conversations.

Modeling process AND thinking

As you can see, we are having a conversation while still working on the process in our own way on our own paper. The conversation went something like this…

T – “Hmmm – I think I will use the small circle to make a row of circles.”

C – “I used big and little circles”

T – “My circles are starting to remind me of a caterpillar. I think I will draw some caterpillar legs.”

C – “He needs eyes and mouth too.”

T – “Oh, good idea so he can be a happy caterpillar!”

Child laughs

C – “Look – I made a triangle with my three circles!”

T- “Yes – you have three corners!”

Child decides to use the marker to connect his three circles.

As you can see in the photo, my inspiration helped the child think past just printing with circles but look for the possibilities. He constructed a triangle – now we have mathematical thinking and creative processes going on. We also have mixed media, drawing, and painting being used. Isn’t that super cool!

What happens next?

I will often sit for a few minutes and then put my paper in the drying rack (modeling from beginning to end of a process) then get out of the way. I don’t want to take over the table but I want to start a trend in thinking. The students who joined us picked up on what we doing quickly so no need for me to keep modeling – instead I now make myself available to listen to their ideas or give them space to work on their own.

See how I have influenced the process for our older students while still encouraging our young students to enjoy the process in their own way? The type of inspiration I model will vary depending on the age and readiness of the students. For my younger students – they enjoyed exploring the process of printing with lids. It was enough for them.

Where my older students found the process more engaging when they realized the process could also tell a story. It went beyond just making circles to building on an idea or telling a story.

There you have it – the what, why, and how I model inspiration! And hey! Don’t forget that I will have my Free Workshop on the Invitation to Play up and running for about one more week and then, just like my students do, I will put it away and move on to something else:) Click on my photo below to learn more!

By |2017-01-31T20:18:44+00:00January 29th, 2017|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Susan January 30, 2017 at 10:54 am - Reply

    I love all of your blog posts. Thank you so much for your inspiration. My concern with modeling is the child wanting his/her product to look just like the model- in this case, the teacher’s. How can this be avoided?

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. January 30, 2017 at 11:02 pm - Reply

      It can’t always be avoided but that is why the “thinking out loud” is important. I always say, “Does your picture need to look like mine?” or “I can wait to see your ideas”. And then I think out loud too and ask the children questions to guide me in the process. For sure, some children will copy you and as long as you have plenty of times where you don’t model, a copy here and there along with modeling the thought process is more than reasonable in my mind.

  2. Marilize Nelson February 18, 2017 at 7:45 am - Reply

    Love this perspective!!!

  3. […] To discover the when, why, how, and where to model inspiration, click here. […]

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