Tag Archives: literacy

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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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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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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A Worm Inquiry (Part 1)

Introduction & Pre-Inquiry

The worm inquiry developed from smaller inquiries surrounding the topics of farm life, dirt/soil and mud. It grew into something we had never expected, integrating so much of the curriculum and developing, within our students, a tolerance and respect for other living things, an understanding of the careful balance of systems within our environment and for some, the courage to step outside of their comfort zone and open their minds and hearts to these tiny (but important) creatures. This post will set the stage for how it all unfolded. 

As we moved into the spring this year, I read the story “Stuck in the Mud” by Jane Clarke as directed by the Early Literacy Intervention Program (ELIP) that my school’s Kindergarten team was taking part in. The program and the books utilized are geared towards improving language development for Kindergarten-age children.

Both of my classes of students really enjoyed the book but seemed to be most interested about the subject matter – the farm, farm animals and farming in general.

We found an old farm toy in storage and brought it out along with some farm animals to see what the children would do with it. They absolutely loved these toys and said that we should build the rest of the farm like in the pictures from Stuck in the Mud (the fields, landscape, etc.). We asked how this could be done and some children suggested putting the farm toys in the sandbox.

That evening my teaching partner and I emptied the white sand from the sandbox and filled it with real potting soil to make it more like a real farm. We also thought it may be interesting to add soil to our water table and let the kids mix in some water to discover what would happen.

The children were ecstatic over the more ‘realistic’ farm landscape and brought other materials over from around the room as they saw fit (e.g., tree/wood pieces, rocks, etc.). They set up the farm in various designs over the days. They were also over the moon about adding water to the soil at the water table. They easily predicted it would become mud and played for days at this table, mushing it between their fingers, using different mixing/measuring tools and molding shapes with it. I also read them a book about mud and after, we made a word web of words that describe mud. They began to use many of these words at the ‘Mud Table’ while playing. A DECE from another Board visited our classroom to learn more about inquiry and took careful notes about what the children were saying/doing. She concluded that surprisingly, many of the children had admitted to never actually playing with mud before and told her how interesting and fun it was for them.

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Top Left & Bottom Left: Our water table/sensory bin filled with mud. Top Right & Bottom Right: Our sandbox filled with soil and farm toys

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