Monthly Archives: September 2014

An Inquiry Emerges… and Much More!

Welcome back to another update on the happenings in Room 209! The past week has been quite busy and exciting. In my own life, I have begun my additional qualifications course, Kindergarten Part III, which will allow me to acquire my Kindergarten Specialist. As much as I’m enjoying it, it is definitely an extra work load. That being said, my blog posts may be shorter on some weeks and it is also possible that I may skip a week here or there. Rest assured that you will be caught up sooner than later so be sure to check back frequently.

Now, on to the learning…

I’d like to start this post off with a quote from everyone’s favourite neighbour – Fred Rogers.

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Fred Rogers – everyone’s favourite neighbour – had an amazing outlook on the magic of childhood and the wonders of learning.

This has been the week that I’ve noticed some real friendships blossoming in the classroom. It has been such a pleasure to witness and has really added to the quality of learning going on. Collaborating, working together and connecting with others allows children to form their own personal identity as well and to see themselves within the scope of a larger, social group. As toddlers, children generally have not yet grasped the concept of ‘others’ and can only comprehend a world in which they are the center. Establishing social and self-awareness leads children to deeper exploring and better understandings.

And so begins our journey…

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Learning to Build, Building to Learn

Building a Classroom Culture of “Process Art”

This week we had Meet the Teacher night and we worked hard to get our self-portraits up on display. Last week the children learned to look closely at themselves in the mirror and to notice all of the things that are special about their faces and identity. We coached the children through the process to teach them the art of concentrating and really seeing. The results were something to be extremely proud of. I truly believe in honouring children’s hard work by displaying them in professional ways that match their strong efforts. Doing so, demonstrates to the children that their teachers value their their work and creativity. Have a look at how beautiful our room and hallway bulletin board looks with the children’s artwork! The title was created by one of our students, M (from class A) who chose “Our Art-ish Portraits” as a shout-out to the book, “Ish” that inspired the art inquiry.

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The results are stunning and have led us to receive many compliments from children, teachers and parents! Madison and I couldn’t be more proud of our little ones.

Also note the documentation board we created on our closet doors that outlines the intentions behind the activity, the process that took place and the reasoning behind any decisions that were made by teachers and students. The process itself, was definitely the main focus of this art activity (and will continue to be in future activities). Communicating this through our actions, sends the message to the children that their teachers see them as capable learners who have faith in what they can do. We will rarely ever expect them to produce cookie-cutter crafts that limit their creativity and demand a specific, “correct” end result. This has been a dilemma in the early learning education field because often parents enjoy receiving crafty pieces of art that their children made at school. “Process art” isn’t always “cute” or “pretty” like crafts can be. The important thing to remember is to spread the word to teachers, parents and the students themselves, that the most beautiful pieces of art are the ones that allowed the children to gain knowledge and confidence by freely exploring, discovering and playing with art materials. I think this exercise did exactly that.

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Learning to Look Closely

Well, we made it to a second week of school. This week was busier and even more exciting than the first. We’ve finally started getting into the swing of things and the children are remembering most of the routines and basic expectations on their own. Now that most of the children were comfortable with the room and the familiar toys, Madison and I decided it was time to start introducing some new activities and provocations into the mix.

New Provocations

At one table we set up a provocation consisting of a mixture of buttons, clothes pins and ice cube trays. We challenged the children not to use their hands to pick up the buttons in order to promote some good fine motor practice and training (which we know is a precursor to writing/printing). The amount of learning and exploring was amazing! Children chose to spend a long time here, attempting to use the clothes pins as tongs to pick up the buttons. This was no easy task. Some children decided it wasn’t for them and simply sorted buttons into the ice cube trays. This was also just fine. We snapped photos of the children during the learning and then showed the children the photos later on to discuss what was happening in the images. This exercise gets children to think more carefully about their actions and to put words to the thoughts that run through their minds when reasoning or figuring something out. Being able to describe one’s thinking is a higher-order ability that sets the stage for other problem-solving and critical-thinking.

Take a look at G’s fascinating experience with the buttons…

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Learning using buttons and clothes-pins

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Routines and New Learning Experiences!

Adjustments

Being that my students have to get used to two classrooms and two sets of teaching teams (English AND French) as well as full-day Kindergarten, the first week of school was all about adjusting to the routines. I really feel for some of these kids who have more difficulty with transitions but my experience reminds me how malleable children are and how quickly they can adapt and learn at this age. I think a lot of adults underestimate these little ones. They assume that they are all going to take a very long time getting used to being at school all day (and are going to require “nap time” because otherwise they just won’t be able to function) and to remembering rules, routines, expectations, etc. when in reality, this isn’t necessarily the case. There are always exceptions and every child is unique coming to us with different needs and backgrounds. However, most children usually adapt quite quickly. All I mean from this is – don’t be surprised that the children are doing better than you thought so early on in the program.

Learning About School

Nevertheless, in the first week the children needed to learn a lot of the basics of being at school. They learned: the expectations of a student, how to treat the room and materials, where to find what they needed in the room, how to transition from one activity to the next, how to eat lunch at school, how to sit and behave at the carpet during class meetings, where to go at dismissal time, how to play during thinking and learning time and how to meet and keep friends as well as how to play with others and share (this being an ongoing learning experience throughout the year). Madison and I spent a lot of time teaching, modeling and reminding students of these things all week and will continue doing so until we feel confident that our students understand. Patience and a soft approach eases students in at the beginning of the year and we try to add in humour as much as we can.

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Above you can see the children (1) learning to play outside in the Kinder yard, (2) finding their indoor shoes to change into after coming in from outside and (3) placing the rock with their name on it in the “Welcome” basket for attendance. In the second row, children are (1) lining up to wash their hands before they eat, (2) sitting quietly and reading books first thing in the morning or after they eat before going outside and (3) listening and participating during my whole-group lesson or class meeting (carpet time). In the final row, children are (1) eating during nutrition break (putting their lunch bags under their chairs and laying out the food they will eat), (2) putting away their backpacks in the cubby room and (3) packing up at the end of the day, being sure to take home their note totes/mailbags even if they’re empty. Madison and I have been very pleased overall with how smoothly the first week went and how quickly the children have been remembering everything.

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A New School, A New Year!

A big welcome to any new readers of my blog this school year! As some of you may know, I have began a new school year of teaching Senior Kindergarten EFI (English portion) at a new school in another long-term occasional position (i.e., a maternity leave). It has been beyond exciting so far! It’s a large school in a wonderful area and everyone has been so warm and welcoming. My new ECE, Madison is also truly amazing and such a blessing! We have a lot in common in terms of interests but also in terms of our approaches to early learning and running a classroom. The blend of our two similar, but still unique personalities and teaching styles, are promising and are sure to have a wonderful effect on our students this year. After all, a happy team means a happy classroom environment.

Since I was hired only a few days before the first day of school, the rush to complete our classroom was intense! Many hours of work, however, paid off and I was very much pleased with the outcome. Below you can see some shots of our room before the children arrived. Although my preference would be to completely do away with plastic bins and toys altogether, financially-speaking, I had to be reasonable and make do with what I had this year. [But…you bet that when my contract is finally permanent ,natural materials and baskets will fill my room and I will finally be able to have the classroom I’ve always dreamed about!]. Nevertheless, I think we did a pretty good job still maintaining a soft and natural environment.

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From Top Left: Dramatic Play Area, Reading/Writing with Felt, Sand/Sensory & Water Tables, Cubbies & Welcome Area, Teacher/ECE desk and Lesson Area, Book Nook, Math Manipulatives Area, Overall view showing Whole-Group Area, Creative Area

We currently have two classes with 24 children in each. Groups alternate days so that Group B is in English with me on Mondays, Wednesdays and every other Friday and Group A comes on Tuesday, Thursdays and every other Fridays. When a group is not with me, they are in my French partner’s room for the day. In this way, my French partner and I share two groups of children 50/50 and have 48 students in total.

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