Tag Archives: Art

Polar Learning Flourishes!

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Einstein understood that the ability to imagine is what opens our minds up to possibilities we never considered before. When we imagine the so-called impossible and seek to discover or uncover new truths, we create new knowledge that leads us to more questions. The reality is that we, as a human race, are never finished knowing and understanding all that there ever was, is or will be. We need to keep that fire to search alive by continuing to ask questions. This habit of mind, I believe, is best developed young so that our children – our future – can grow and develop into thinkers, explorers and innovators and go beyond the acceptance of every day facts at face value. This sense of imagination and disposition for questioning is something I aim to instill in my students as young learners. Even if all I do is plant a seed…

Learning About the Inuit Peoples & Culture

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As our Polar Inquiry continued to deepen and as we looked at more and more books that contained pictures or stories about the people who live in the Arctic, the children became fascinated and we became knee deep in new questions that neither I nor Madison could answer.

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The Creation of our Rocket Ship

The Importance of Thinking Imaginatively

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Einstein said it beautifully – an imagination can lead to an endless supply of possibilities. While it’s important that young children learn the basics and acquire skills in numeracy and literacy, I believe that the ability to think creatively and imaginatively, is the key to success in the technology-rich, ever-changing 21st Century world. For an interesting article on the Kindergarten approach to learning (the spiraling process of imagine, create, play, share, reflect) and how it’s so crucial that it needs to extend to learners of higher grades as well to continue the process, check out: “All I Really Need to Know (About Creative Thinking) I Learned (By Studying How Children Learn) In Kindergarten” by Mitchell Resnick (2007). For now, read about how our imaginations worked together to create our very own classroom rocket ship.

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Christmas, Hanukkah and Much More!

“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.” – Maya Angelou

To celebrate the holiday season in Room 209, we did our very best to be as inclusive as possible and to expose the children to new and different cultural celebrations including: Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid and Kwanzaa. The month flew by and I admit, with all of the excitement and projects, I got a little behind on my photo taking. Read this post to see what I did manage to collect and to get a taste for how our holiday season celebrations and learning played out.

Starting Off the Month…

Elf on the Shelf: Requesting an Elf from Santa

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After telling the children that I had once heard if you requested an elf from Santa, he might send one, they were excited to give it a try! I did an interactive writing lesson with both classes in which we wrote a letter to Santa, asking him for an elf. We used our sound board to remember letter sounds as we went along. After both letters were complete, I put them both in the mail addressed to Santa.

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Blasting Off Into Inquiry!

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I may have gone a little overboard there but you get the idea: Our Space & Gravity Inquiry has not only taken off but has become a richly engaging learning opportunity with limitless possibilities for our SKs. I must say, this inquiry has been one of my favourites to facilitate. I can shamelessly admit with a sense of pride and honour that I have been learning alongside my students every step of the way and it has been utterly rewarding.

As a child I did not have much exposure to this topic area and I’m not sure scientific concepts were ever explained to me in ways that captured my interest and motivated me to explore more. As an adult I’ve come to understand how much of that was partially a result of the kind of education I received. Back in the early 90s when I began my schooling, inquiry-based learning was definitely not “on trend” nor understood by Ontario’s education system. I learned primarily from textbooks or chalkboard lessons and rarely participated in interactive activities. The topics covered were the same ones that were covered the last 10-20 years and were delivered in mostly the same way. To me – and probably many of my classmates – school was where you went to listen to and then remember information being presented by your teacher. I was marked on how well I retained that information and was expected to demonstrate it and “prove” my understanding at the end of each unit in some form of a test or big assignment.

Now, coming from a family of artists, I loved art. I loved drawing, colouring, painting, crafting, experimenting with line and texture and form. My teachers often took notice of my talent and that began to define me, as a person and as a student. As much as I loved art, when I reflect back on my childhood, I question whether or not my abilities outside of art were ever noticed and nurtured to their fullest potentials. In fact, I would argue that they simply were not. I was that kid who made the eye-catching art displayed in the hallways. As I grew older and entered University, I started to feel that my art was not all I wanted to be and began exploring what else I was capable of by pursuing a degree in Sociology – completely shocking my friends and family who assumed I would’ve went into the Arts. I learned so much about myself in those years but what was most life-changing was my realization that: I was, and could do, more than one thing; I could use my mind in other wonderful ways. I found out that I got so much personal fulfillment from learning about the world, researching, reading, analyzing, teaching and creating through my writing as opposed to exclusively through my art.

All of this to say that – what I want for my own students is something more than what my childhood school experience offered me. I don’t want my students to go through school being pigeon-holed into one area of strength in their abilities – or worse, being labeled based on their weaknesses. I don’t want them sitting and listening to my voice all day long. I don’t want them being forced to learn things that are completely irrelevant or uninteresting to them. I don’t want them to be afraid to ask questions and to question even their own teacher when they’re unsure. I don’t want them being assessed only at the ‘end’ of a unit or inquiry and in only one way.

What I want is for them to be thrilled about going to school to learn new things. I want them to be inspired to share their own ideas, thoughts and opinions and to allow these to evolve. I want them to realize that they have a ton of knowledge, understandings and potential within themselves and to offer the world. I want them to ask questions – lots of them. I want their understandings of curriculum content and larger concepts to be assessed using authentic strategies that recognize the many ways and opportunities people can demonstrate their learning. I want them to learn to think about their own thinking and to push their thinking further. I want this to happen while they are still young enough for it to all make a difference and shape their future. This is what I want.

So now, as we begin to unravel and witness the magic and wonderment that has been made possible by this Gravity & Space Inquiry, I encourage you to consider how all of us – in each of our different roles – can contribute to the educational experience I’ve described above. Educators, administrators, families, community members – we can all teach children to love learning. How can you help to shape a child’s vision of herself as a strong, capable and courageous learner?

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Halloweek in SK

Halloween + Week = Halloweek 

Halloweek in Room 209 was busy but also filled with a ton of excitement. Although I try to stay away from themes, it was the first time that all of my students celebrated Halloween. For that reason, I didn’t see the harm in integrating some Halloween festivities into our program. Each activity was still open-ended, play-based and inquiry-focused and thus there was no departure from our regular curriculum. Have a look at what we were up to…

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On Monday, we surprised the children by decorating our door to look like a mummy. Madison led the children in creating blow paint monsters. They used straws to blow air onto wet paint to create the splash effect. After they dried, they added details like eyes, mouths and horns. Each one was unique and was added to our classroom mummy door.

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Learning About ‘The City’, Learning About Life

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend everyone!

Something to Contemplate…

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Carlina Rinaldi is the President of Reggio Children – the International Center for the Defense and Promotion of the Rights and Potentials of All Children – and has worked closely with Loris Malaguzzi, pioneer of the Reggio Emilia Approach to teaching and learning (the approach that inspires my own work). You can learn more about the Center and this approach by visiting www.reggiochildren.it

Essentially, this quote captures nicely, how adults – parents and educators alike – need to slow down and simply listen and observe children. Rather than demand responses from children, we need to give them the time they need to process, ponder and ask questions, themselves. Likewise, rather than immediately provide answers to children’s questions, we need to give them the time and space necessary for them to come up with an array of possible solutions and to consider where and how they can search for answers that make the most sense to them. Giving children these opportunities sets them up for a future of lifelong learning and teaches them how to function in a 21st Century world where so much information is available. By doing so, they learn to consider multiple perspectives and solutions, to sift through those possibilities and to choose which ones speak to them. Like my website’s slogan states, it is our duty as those that watch and guide our future generation, to find ways to ignite the spark for learning within children. This approach empowers children in becoming courageous learners – learners open to taking risks and appreciating the various pathways to seeking answers. You can read more about this within my post, A Little Bit of Courage

Now, keeping all of that in mind, onto this week’s learning…

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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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Inquiry of a Castle (Part 1)

After the worm inquiry, my SKs explored castles and Medieval Times. The journey we went on together was magical and filled with wonder and awe. Along the way, I kept digital documentation of how it all came to be and what unfolded. To give you a sense of my documentation style, I will insert clips from my “castle file” for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

The Provocation:

Since the release of the Disney film, Frozen on DVD, I observed my students routine engagement in role-playing games involving princesses, knights and Medieval Times castles. One day, I put on a video clip of the movie’s theme song, “Let it Go” and watched in awe as all of my students sang along word for word, drinking in the colourful images of magic and castles found within the scenes. My students’ interest in this subject matter did not diminish and it was days later that they were still fully inspired by the movie, singing the theme song and integrating ideas of princesses, knights and castles into their dramatic play, drawings and construction (some of the boys were even constructing shields and swords with building materials). I finally asked them the question that sparked our journey, “How can we make our “princess” and “knight” play more ‘real’?” The children almost unanimously replied,  “Let’s build a giant castle!”. 

Making a Plan & Engaging Families:

After presenting the question, I asked the class how we were going to go about building this giant castle. We made a list of things we might need and decided to send this list to our families to ask for donations. Items on the list included: large boxes, paint, fabric, costumes and books that could help us with developing a better understanding of castles. I sent the letter out to all of the families in an email that night and the response was overwhelming. It seemed almost everyone wanted to contribute or be a part of our giant castle. Throughout the weeks, parents volunteered their time to come in and assist with our inquiry in various ways (helping to construct, reading to the children, helping children with their designs, etc.). One parent donated a book that was precious to her and her family called, “The Story of Castles”. She explained how wonderful the book was and even wanted to read a chapter to us one day.

Donations poured in over the next couple of days after the letter was sent out. While we waited, I asked the children who were interested to begin drawing ideas for our castle. These were pinned up on a collage-style board in the middle of our room.

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Left: Children filtered in and out of the drawing station at will to create elaborate pictures of castles and plans for our giant classroom castle. Right: This child sat drawing her castle for an impressive 40 minutes! She was so careful and precise in her design and utilized books for accuracy.

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This is a shot of our collage-style, “work-in-progress” Castle Board after the first couple of days into preparing/planning for our giant castle. It was interesting to see each child’s initial idea of castles before much teaching had been done. I didn’t see this as my inquiry board, rather just something we threw up there as children were completing drawings quickly. I wanted to show how excited the prospect of this inquiry made the children. The actual documentation board that highlighted the focus of our journey began a few days after this was put up.

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