Sunday, 26 June 2016

Welcome Days!

Having received some inquiries about what our Welcome Days entail, I thought it might be nice to dedicate a blog post to this topic.

Last year my teaching partner (Kathryn) and I decided to incorporate what we call "Welcome Days" into our classroom environment. We were looking for a way to give families a glimpse into an aspect of their child's learning through play while also trying to encourage families to engage and learn alongside their child with an active hands-on approach. 

We wanted to give as much time as possible for the children to get to know each other, feel comfortable with one another and the classroom environment, and allow for as much time as possible for building community, therefore we decided that starting Welcome Days at the beginning of April and running them until the end of June would work out well. Welcome Days visits happen once per week and last for one hour during Exploration Time. 

As our classroom is quite small we have found that having a total of four adults per visit works out really well. We are fortunate to have some wonderful parent volunteers and they greatly supported us by creating an online sign up through VolunteerSighup ( where families could view the dates that work best for them and sign up. The site also shows when spots are full so that families can select other dates that are available. 

We discuss Welcome Days with the children in advance and use this opportunity to go over "My Best Work" expectations (e.g., think of an idea, add detail, explain your work) and growing our learning criteria! 

All children self select where they would like to work and have the opportunity to share their creations alongside their family to their peers at the end of Exploration Time. The sharing piece is very valuable as it gives families another insight into just how much knowledge and learning can be gained from the many questions and comments asked by their peers. Every time we have families visit it's so nice to observe their interactions with their child. The children are equally proud and love to showcase their knowledge to their family.

Below are some photos of Welcome Days from last year and the current year. 

Last Year

Current Year

Some testimonials from families:

"I loved it! It was so nice to see P and his friends in action. We built a town based on a book and got to show it off to the class. Unfortunately P (father) couldn't attend that day as he was shooting but luckily he goes in for reading and pizza days so he gets to experience the wonders of 109 often." L

"Recently I had the rare opportunity to spend an hour with my daughter L, participating in her regular school day, and learning as she does. I got to build a structure with her, measure it, and share strategies and learnings with her classmates. It was such an enriching experience to see how she and the other children in her class interact and develop through various activities. Thank you Ms. Ralph for giving us the chance to see the amazing things our children do each and every day while away from us in your class." G

"Love it! Great fun and invaluable insights into the learning process in room 109." J

"I love the Welcome Days! My son A was so happy that mommy can attend his class and let him showcase what he did. I learned so much about my son in about a few hours on how he interacts with other kids and how he performs at school. It's a personal and valuable experience and I definitely highly recommend it to other parents." J

"It's always a treat when your child's teacher opens their classroom up to you for a visit. This is especially relevant here, where I was able to have a guided tour through exploration time with my daughter. It's wonderful to be able to see the focus and love of learning so much. I truly feel that Welcome Days are one of the best ways for me to see and experience first-hand the life of a JK student in Mrs. Ralph's class." S

"Thank you so much for having T and I in the class room yesterday. It was so lovely to have a window into M's world. Seeing her present to the class was making my heart explode with pride. And it's so great to see the things she's doing in class come home with her - like surveys! We are doing surveys all the time - calling grandparents and taking their votes too. And bees! How exciting! She's about to teach us about pollen right now. :)
It was honestly such a wonderful experience! I also really liked how the parents were just incorporated into the daily routine - it wasn't a special event/concert/show and tell type thing, which was actually great." K

"I am a fan.
It helped me see how Mrs Ralph runs her classroom and understand why she has it running so smoothly.
It was good to see the kids in action, see their exploration stations and be a part of it.  It was interesting to see the kids interact with one another and watch their thought process.  I enjoyed 'presenting' to the kids along with my light table partners D and C and having them ask clarifying questions and give us their feedback.

I am hopeful the Welcome Days will be part of next year's classroom participation for parents as well." T

"I loved it.    The Welcome day allowed me to see the teaching style in action.  It’s one thing to hear about how the class works but to actually see/participate first hand just re-enforced how much I believe in what Mrs. Ralph and Mrs. Powell are doing.  There is a real structure, process and results.  C is very happy and looks forward to school and I could see first hand why.  He knows what is expected of him, there is a process (i.e.: getting the clipboard, doing the picture/explanation/activity) and positive re-enforcement.  They are excited to share their results with the class (honing their presentation skills) and the feedback from their peers was so positive, it left the kids feeling so proud.  I really appreciated the opportunity to actually participate in the class rather than just watching.  It was such a positive experience, I was a little disappointed that we only got to do it once.  Also, I took away ideas used in the class concerning how to work with my child at home.  You don’t have to have the latest toys, you take what is there and use your imagination.  Also, just using everyday occurrences as teaching experiences." L

"We wanted to thank you for us being able to come visit the class for Welcome Days today. What a great opportunity to experience the classroom through the eyes of M. He loved it, as did we. Thanks" P & B

Thank you to everyone for making Welcome Days so special for all of us! ~Anamaria Ralph