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full day kindergarten

documenting-the-learning

There are some great webcast found on CSC ”Kindergarten Matters- Intentional Play-Based learning ” about Inquiry and documenting the learning.  There are 5 videos in total.  http://resources.curriculum.org/secretariat/kindergarten/

Within the webcasts they discuss moving away from themes because it is not current with the curriculum expectation, and does not promote the high order thinking.  As educators, our role is to provoke the learning by placing out new materials, asking open-ended questions and extending the learning.  Each webcast has samples of ‘inquiry ideas, how to extend the learning, and how a teacher begins the inquiry process.  Webcast #2 called Types of Inquiry and #4 The Teacher’s Role in play-based discussed the Inquiry Process; Explore, Investigate, Communicate.   In one of the webcasts they show an example of a classroom wall which displays this information. 

I have a bulletin board that displays these headings and under each I have pictures, documented learning (the oral conversations typed), and of course the student work to show their thought process and new learning.  It is a great discussion piece for parents and the students are deeply involved in what they are learning.

Since we are in the fall season some things that may be of interest to students are; pumpkins (shapes, types, and how they rot!), outdoor changes-animals, leaves, weather, and growth and change.

planning-idea

In the beginning of the school year my ECE partner and I worked together to review the curriculum document and decided on how to best meet the needs of our students in the first 6 weeks.  For most, this was an entirely new setting for them and we wanted to make them feel as comfortable as possible. 

Our first idea was to start with them and their experiences.  We got them to design special “Me” bags at home.  Children places special items and picture to discuss in large group.  This year, we decided to purchase picture frames from the dollar store and have the children bring in a photo of their family or a picture of them doing something fun. These remain around the classroom and it creates great discussions.

Next, we started discussing their natural surrounds-we discussed family, our neighbourhoods which lead to discussions about nature, buildings, shapes, signs etc.  We planned a community walk field trip early October to travel around the neighbourhood to view some of these things.  During the walk we stopped and talked about what we saw–I took the camera to take pictures. 

From the photographs we created large posters with the children telling us what they saw and adding the language below the pictures.  We make books and started to change our centres according to our neighbourhood. 

Examples are; Our house centre became the bake shop, another centre become the clinic, the building centre become a construction zone with a fire station, and our math area focused on shapes–naming and sorting.  The children made signs, added in their own writing, they wore different clothing, and this lead to discussions about careers. 

This is how our long range plans began to evolve–their ideas drove the learning, and we reviewed and matched curriculum expectations for each centre.   We used a web format for our planning.  The Big Idea or overall learning was the focus –each centre developed around the idea (each had a purpose and focus) so we would write down questions that we would ask the children as we entered each centre to extend their learning.

classroom-environment

When thinking about your classroom organization for the students attending in the next few weeks, the Thinking it Through document -Learning Centres booklet starting on p.9 makes some great points to ponder when reflecting on your classroom set-up. http://earlylearningcentral.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/TIT-aug-8.pdf

  •  The classroom should be warm and inviting to students, and the Reggio Emilia approach is to have the classroom serve as a “third teacher”. 
  • the environment reflects our values as teachers, and informs and shapes the kind of learning that will happen
  • consider positioning of centres (loud vs quiet), flow
  • include natural materials as much as possible-in my science centre I have pine cones, rocks, twigs, leaves just a few to start off and then the children will be responsible to help build this centre
  • think about large and small groupings-tables in my classroom  are incorporated into centres as well as for snack.  This way they have a multi-purpose and it reduces the amount of large furniture.  I also have no desk, but I have 2 filing cabinets one for my daybook and supplies and the other for files.
  • p. 15-17 poses some reflective questions to consider in classroom set-up
  • starting on p.32 some recommended learning centres are listed discussing there purpose, observation pts, material lists, furniture, and a suggestion for location.

In our classroom, my ECE partner and myself think about making it a “home like” environment where the walls have little commercial bought products, but picture frames handing where we will eventually display children’s art work.  I purchased a few plants, we are going to add some lamps to create a cozy feeling in our reading corner, and last year we had some birch branches cemented into flower pots and strung with white Christmas lights to add that outdoor feel to our science centre.  In the first few weeks we have just enough materials out, so that we can observe, establish routines in the classroom, get to know the children and their strengths, and to see what they need to develop their learning.  Some centres are permanent like building, but the items within it will change.

home-communication

Making the personal connection before school even begins may relieve some anxiety for those little ones entering a formal school setting for the first time.  Sending a hello note or a phone call to introduce yourself is a great way to break the ice. 

Myself and my ECE partner work together to create a JK handbook that informs parents about things like lunch/snack, clothing, communicating with notes, bookbag routines etc.  When they come for their first half day we discuss with parents all this information and answer any questions they may have.  Our board gives every new student a bookbag when they start JK. In this bag we place notes and reading books (started after Christmas) to ensure safe, dry delivery to home.  In the past I used very large ziplock bags with the child’s name on the cover or you can also purchase nylon bags from the dollar store that are more durable.

Regular communication is important for parents and students.  The later part of this school year I changed how I prepared and presented my newsletters.  Firstly, have always sent my letters home in the form of a book  to encourage reading.  The material in the letters no longer tell what we will be doing in the classroom over the month or so, but what we have done in our inquiry projects with authentic pictures and kid writing.  I do however leave a very small space to inform parents of anything like fieldtrips, an important upcoming event, but the newsletter now reflects the students and what they find to be important learning in our classroom.  It is more work, but the students just love it and it gives me an opportunity to sit with children and ask them what they want to include.  It is a good time for me to reflect as an educator on what the children have enjoyed and remembered doing.

gradual-entry-plan

Different boards have different plans on how to introduce the new JK students into the classroom setting. Some have individual meetings with the child and parent(s) scheduledwithin the first 2 weeks and then they begin as a large group by the 3rd week of September.  Last year I had a straight JK class so we had groups of children of about 3-5 come to school with their parents on a scheduled morning.  As the children played, we discussed with parents our classroom routines, bookbags, notes and newsletters, snack/lunch, indoor shoes, busing, starting and ending times, pick-up policy etc.  Basically, everything we included in our JK handbook was reviewed with parents. Parents also appreciated this time because they were able to ask questions, hear others ideas/concerns/questions and meet other parents in a small, intimate setting and children met a few friends before they arrived on the very first day.

We had a school tour, we assigned them their locker space, walked through where buses drop off and how/where they would enter into our classroom etc.

This year with a JK/SK split our plan so far is to have the SKs come the first weeks with no JKs present so that we can reacquaintthem with rules, routines and get them comfortable.  Then start having the JK students coming the following week in small groups of (3-5) for an hour with their parents. SKs will be in centres as we discuss/talk to parents.

classroom-environment

Thinking it Through and Primarily Play have some great ideas on how to prepare your learning environment for this September.  As I prepared for my students last September in a newly renovated space, it was difficult to picture how the room should look.  Not only did I need to select suitable furniture that was purposeful, but create spaces where students could gather and engage in various centres.  What I also needed to consider was that my students eat snack and lunch in my classroom so I needed to have enough furniture for that as well.  The furniture had multiple purposes!

Over several days and several discussion with my ECE partner, we moved furniture and carpets into different work areas.  As centres do change throughout the year, for the beginning we had set-up the House centre, a Block centre, a Science centre, the main carpet area with a shelf of various toys like Lego, small foam and wooden blocks, cars and ramps etc., an Art centre, Music centre, Math centre and a reading shelf (which we later changed and are continuing to change!).  We kept the materials to a minimal for the first few weeks of school so we could practice with our students rules and routines, and slowly add as we learning more about them.  Items within the centres had purpose and were organized to engage the students in their new environment.

Next we worked on clutter!  Whatever we did not need we found a storage place elsewhere in the building and we talked both to the principal and janitor to find the space.  Between the two Kindergarten classrooms we worked together on sharing equipment and toys.  Keep in mind this is not an easy task to complete in one day and you for sure will make changes as you see fit throughout the school year.

how-many

The children in our full day kindergarten class have really been enjoying the “How Many?” question charts we have been doing.  So, to build on their current interest, we added another “How Many?” chart this week.

In our sandbox, we had plastic measuring cups.  I took those out and added red scoops and green sand pails.  Right beside our sandtable, I posted a “How Many” question.

As a large group, we did a quick demonstration of what the question was asking, as well as reminded the students how to fill our the chart.  Some of the children wanted to fill out the “I think” column right away!  They can continue to do this activity all week, and on Friday, we can have a large group discussion to review what we learned, and to see if anyone was close in their estimation and what surprised us about the actual number of scoops it takes.

how-tall-am-i

We have been continuing to talk about non-standard measurement in our full day kindergarten class.  One easy, yet fun activity for the children was to measure how tall they are. 

We decided to cut out circles and tape them to a wall.  We also numbered the circles from the bottom up.  This allowed us to reinforce the shape, as well as to reinforce number recognition.  We created a chart for the students where they could print their name, and guess how many circles tall they are.  We taped the chart to a shelf a few feet away from the circles.  Once a child wrote their name and recorded their guess, they walked to the circles and discovered the number of circles tall they actually were.  The children then came back to the chart and recorded their answers beside their guess.