Saturday, 19 September 2015

A wonderful start to our journey of learning!

I would like to share some learning moments that have taken place over the the past couple of weeks. To say that I am amazed and proud of the children is an understatement. I'm not sure if any of you remember what it was like being a child of this age range and dealing with so many new things! Below are a few examples of the many new skills the children are learning and practicing:

  • learning to identify our belongings
  • changing our shoes (outdoor/indoor)
  • signing-in using the portraits we drew of ourselves so we know "How many children are here today?"
  • lining up and walking quietly in the school to other classes (e.g. gym, music, health, library)
  • being gentle and careful with the materials in our classroom and treating them with care while we play
  • following our co-created Classroom Agreement: sharing, being nice, being safe, being helpful, being respectful, and being patient
  • learning to take turns at different exploration areas in the classroom and at our self-regulated snack area
  • listening to our bodies when we are hungry or need to go to the bathroom, by taking the time to eat our snack or use the washroom
  • learning about feelings and how to identify how we feel
  • solving disagreements by talking things out with our peers or asking a teacher for help if upset/frustrated
  • cleaning up after ourselves if we want to explore another area
  • following instructions and transitions (e.g. outdoor exploration time, sharing time, lunch time, fire drill procedures)
  • being attentive, listening to stories, and responding to questions or comments
  • investigating different types of writing during exploration time (e.g. draw a picture, add words, My Story template, make a card, write a book etc.)
  • getting to know each other better (creating community and fostering relationships) by sharing our nature treasures and playing fun name games
  • making choices of where we want to play and doing our best work by thinking of an idea before creating

Some beautiful moments from our time together...

An SK friend supporting his new JK friend with using materials purposefully to create at the light table. 

Counting the numbers of cubes used in their creations! 

Building a castle together using natural materials and loose parts. 

C. D. used the jewels and tiles to create the letter C and D which are her initials! Why are they creating on mirrors? It allows objects to be viewed from another dimension.  

  Sorting the name tags into piles by the number of letters in each name.

 Co-creating our classroom agreement. The children suggested each item. They have the opportunity to sign the agreement showing that they are willing to follow their rules.

New friends creating a restaurant at the light table. 

A group of children decided to attach all the cubes together and see how long they could build it. Then they took the tape measure and stretched it out to try and find out how long it was. Placing real life materials in the classroom gives children the opportunity to explore, and be motivated to understand and learn their usage.  

Listening to their friends share their creation! At the end of the sharing questions and comments are asked. Each presenter takes turns picking from the audience!    

Creating a number line together! 

This melted my heart! One of our new JK friends was having a sad day missing his family. Our SK friend held his hand all day and decided to make this picture for him to feel better.

These two friends are quite interested in the rocks that one of their peers brought in as their nature treasure. I love the discussion they were having about what they noticed!

This new JK friend independently self selected the materials she wanted to use for her art creation. Taking direction very well, she used both hands to carry each container from the Art Studio shelf to her working area. As you can see in the photo, some materials are stored in glass jars. Children are very competent and capable. Respecting and learning how to treat materials is very important in creation relationships with the classroom environment.

I was wowed by the collaboration between these three friends! They came up with an idea and together build the city of Toronto! It includes a house with a family and kids, a garbage dump complete with a ramp and cylinders that take the garbage, and a tunnel leading to a restaurant that is on the island! Look at the detail in their work! The spool is the house with windows on the outside! They even have a boat with a driver to get to the restaurant! The restaurant has two chefs and the round lids are the tables! in this picture they are sharing their creation with their friends. Such rich oral language was used to tell the story!

The children worked hard drawing their little self portraits so they can fit on the ten frame grid. This will be a daily sign-in both in the morning and after lunch. It's a great authentic activity to get to know each other's names, as well as encompassing a whole lot of purposeful math!

The first sketching and oil pastel experience of the year! For some friends, this was their first exposure to using such art materials and sketching still-life. I am proud of their work, but more importantly, I am proud that they all attempted! 
*Not all pictures fit in the camera frame. All children chose to sketch.

These two friends are taking their time and placing jewels over the letters they chose to explore. 

Z. G. creating his birthday banner using a plastic sewing needle, string, and beads.

F. D. is creating her birthday banner! Children really seemed to enjoy this activity. It allowed them to slow down, focus, and use their fine motor skills! 

Many of our friends posed with their nature treasure! The stories about their treasures are amazing and allows us all to think and wonder about the different finds! 

Our wonder window allows children to use a binocular and observe the changes that may be happening in our school yard (e.g. the leaves changing colour, birds flying by, and weather changes)

Going to the Rock Garden for our first Outdoor Exploration! Children were fascinated with the sparkly rocks and the white bark on one of the trees! Other children enjoyed riding a "pony" on a big rock, planting a garden, and playing rock tag together!

I heard these two friends singing the alphabet song together as they supported each other with writing letters they knew! 

I also heard these three friends singing the alphabet song while following along in their Lego Alphabet book!

These two new friends decided to both work at the sand table. They thought of an idea and created this amazing castle! Crouching down with their My Story template, they are attempting to draw what they see!

After playing a name game with the name cards, these children decided to try and put the names from the "biggest" to the "smallest" name! Counting and comparing was required! Their reasoning with each other was quite interesting. It was nice to see such collaboration. 

These three friends decided to create a house with people sleeping on their beds on the top level! They are using a My Story template. We have been talking about what a story is and I hope that using this template will allow for more role playing and imagination.

Starting to explore patterns using open ended materials and the following guiding questions: What is a pattern? Where do we see patterns in real life? What different patterns can you make? This was M. K.'s first attempt with some support from myself! I should mention that provocations such as this, are open for selection by children. If I see that some children have yet to visit a provocation, I will invite them and engage with them in their exploration. If they do not want to participate, I may ask if they can come in the afternoon or the next day. I usually have a good response. We want to allow children as much choice as possible so that they maintain a positive outlook on learning without forcing when they are not ready to engage.

In My Heart is a wonderful story about feelings expressed by your heart. We hope children are able to self select a feeling rock based on how they feel and perhaps may even want to draw their feeling using the writing materials! Learning to be empathetic and treating others with kindness starts with learning about feelings and being able to recognize them.  

The birthday banners are complete! Children gained so many skills from this experience! Focusing, slowing down, using fine motor, and above all, unleashing their creativity!

I hope you are all proud of the children as much as Mrs. Powell and I are! 
We will continue to practice and extend our learning! 

I will leave you with a great poster about using specific questions/dialogue to encourage!


Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Travelling Tuesday: The Curious Kindergarten

Welcome to Travelling Tuesday!

This week I am so excited to be featuring Alexis McDonell, a Kindergarten teacher in Toronto Ontario and the author of the blog:

 I have gained so much inspiration from reading this blog. It is full of ideas, reflective thoughts, and wonderful documentation of the children's learning and thinking. Travel below to some of the learning that has been captured by Alexis!

 The importance of being reflective and observing the students engagement with materials. Read further about this 3D shape challenge and how it changed based on the students engagement!

What is love? What are the things that you love the most? If we could see inside your heart, what would we find there? Visit the blog to read more about the Map of My Heart project. 

 The Amaryllis Inquiry Amaryllis inquiry touched on learning expectations in literacy, mathematics, science and technology, and art. For more information on how this inquiry stared view the post titled: The Amaryllis Inquiry...a reflection on clustering expectations. 

Extending learning by offering the children a new experience to use clay with this provocation about sculpting a nest and making sure it could safely hold at least one egg!

New materials at the water table! Read more about the classroom set-up on her latest blog post!

The Math Centre. Students will enjoy having a raised surface on which to explore some of the materials laid out. Read more about the classroom set-up on her latest blog post!

What is a tower? How do we build a tower? Why do we build towers? Offering resources to support their questions about towers! 

The Butterfly Inquiry: Our literacy connection for the start of this inquiry was The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Here a child records a shadow-puppet retelling of the story on the iPad.

For further information on specific activities and inquiries, please visit Alexis' blog!

Please share an insight...

"I have been teaching kindergarten for the past 10 years, and in that time, my program has changed and evolved. Actually, it continues to change and evolve each year as I connect with other educators, read professional resources, and collaborate with my students and their families. Without a doubt, the most important change I made to my classroom schedule when I embarked on a Reggio-inspired approach was adding in a time to reflect daily with my students. Reflection time occurs at the end of our extended discovery block. During reflection time students are chosen to share their learning with the class. Some children are chosen because they have done something at a centre that I would like to encourage/highlight (e.g., when a student makes a plan for their learning or documents something they have done with the iPad). Sometimes a child is chosen to share because they have made an important discovery. And sometimes a student is chosen to share because they have encountered a problem they would like the class to help them solve. Whatever the reason, the discussion that occurs during reflection time is what drives our classroom discoveries. Much of my planning for next steps is derived from our reflection conversations and the children are often involved in suggesting new materials or centres that would help them with their inquiries. What I like about reflection time is that it is collaborative. While I sometimes help the children with their sharing (especially at the beginning of the year), reflection time is a part of the day that the children begin to take real ownership over.  Listening to them talk about what they've done, how they got their ideas, and what inspires them, I am constantly reminded of all the curiosity, knowledge, and determination each student possesses. "

Do you have a classroom that encompasses the same philosophies and beliefs about emergent curriculum as we do?

We would love to feature your blog/website for an upcoming Travelling Tuesday!

Please leave a comment below with a link to your site.

Thanks for travelling with us this week!

Friday, 4 September 2015

A New Year and A New Environment of Wonder!

We were faced with a bit of a challenge this year when setting up our classroom environment. Being in a small space with a set-up that worked so well last year left us a bit puzzled as to how we would create a refreshing and enticing new space for our returning students as well as our new students. Below are a few photographs explaining our new exploration areas accompanied by our rationale.  

If you've been following our Instagram account, you may have seen that my husband and I decided to plant Russian Mammoth Sunflowers this summer. They grew amazingly tall and I am so happy I decided to capture the stages of growth for the students to see once we were all back at school. I plan to bring in a few of my sunflowers for them to explore and to sketch. I hope that sharing my experience of the sunflowers with them will give them a better sense of of my appreciation for nature and may even lead to a few wonders. 

Last year I feel we started with too many materials at the light table. Students need time to explore open ended materials and learn to respect them therefore we decided to place a few simple items out as a starting point.  

With a small space we do not have a dramatic area in our classroom in the traditional sense. With that said, we realized that a perfect solution was to add some colourful silk and sheer fabrics to the Construction Area. We also added a basket with a few wooden bowls and cooking utensils. We realized that dramatic play is happening in all areas of the classroom. It does not necessarily need to be contained in one place. We encourage students to move materials to other areas of the room if it enhances their play. 

The other side of our Construction Area contains large blocks and industrial cardboard packaging cylinders. This year we added peg people, grass, tree stumps, magnetic juice and jar lids, and clear plastic cylinders for building. I'm excited to see what the students create!

Another simple provocation we set up allows new and returning students to create at their own level of comfort using open ended materials such as shells, pebbles, and glass gems. I though about using kinetic sand for this provocation, but luckily we have the opportunity to use red sand from the beach in PEI! Thanks Kathryn (RECE) for lugging this back for us to experience! We really believe in sharing items that have a personal connection to us with the children. This allows us to tell stories and and demonstrate an appreciation for nature.

Activities using our names for exploring and reviewing letters, as well as for getting to know each other makes for great authentic learning experience. I hope the students enjoy this provocation. It's open ended so that some children learn the letters and number of letters in their name. Other children may want to explore the names of other students in their class and compare the number of letters in their name with their peers. Writing material is also placed as another medium of expressing or extending their thinking.

Last year we had two units that made up the Arts Studio. One shelf contained drawing materials and glue, and the other shelf contained materials in bins for students to create with. We noticed that not only were the shelves not visually pleasing to the eye, but students had a bit of difficulty accessing the items in the bins. This year, we decided to rearrange some furniture and place items in baskets which are more accessible and more enticing for the students to use. The materials on top of the shelf are also more visually appealing and accessible. Colours, materials, and aesthetics, enhances creativity.

Last year we started the year with empty glass paint containers. Once the students started asking to paint we got out primary paint colours as well as black and white paint and set up a provocation to explore colour mixing. The students enjoyed it and loved naming their new created colours. We hope to continue this exploration this year. 

Inspired by the amazing resource Natural Curiosity, this summer I sent out a letter (found below) to the student's families explaining our Nature Treasure activity. I am hoping that the students create our Discovery Area together by bringing in a nature artifact or as we are calling it Nature Treasure that they connect with. Hearing each others stories and observing each others treasure will support relationship and community building. I can't wait to see what treasures are brought! 

A few existing nature items to explore from myself, Kathryn, and past students. 

The sand table contains shells, stones from the beach, logs, tree cookies, and a few glass gems for creating in the white sand.

Last year the children became really interested in math games. So we decided to create a games cart to place at the math area for children to play when they wanted. We also placed items such as calculators, measuring tapes, a scale, rulers, and an estimation jar full of wooden beads for students to guess how many.

The math shelves contain various items to explore and investigate numeracy, patterning, sorting, adding, and subtracting. 

The Book Area is located in the corner of the room where less activities happen and allows for a bit less noise. We found that the children loved reading and laying down with the stuffed animals, therefore we placed a few more at this area. We also added a few plants for a home like atmosphere, and some star IKEA lights that I fell in love with! This space also acts as our calming place for self-regulation and rest.

The Writing Area consists of a shelf that used to be a wooden dry rack with the slots removed. Once again, with little space, a large shelf would not fit this space. This little unit worked well last year, therefore we decided to keep it as it held the perfect items for a writing area. 

These small spools are so handy. They are great to use for displaying the children's work during the year. Since it's a new start it also makes a handy book shelf as well as a great central place to house a few clipboards and crayons to make writing accessible in all areas of the room!

I'm excited to observe how the children will interact and form relationships with each other as well as with the materials and their environment!