Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What kind of classroom do you have?

Hey hey there folks. So today I went and observed another kindergarten classroom which got me thinking.... I love that observing another classroom got be thinking because I know my learning is never ending and that there is always room for improvement. I try to observe at least one classroom a year or more if possible. I observed many great things today and I have LOTS of photos to share with you. Like I have over 50 so I can't even share them all. So back to this observation having me thinking... I thought hmmm... "How do I bring more of a want for learning in my classroom?", "How can I include more scientific inquiry into my classroom?", and "Am I wrong for being more academically goal driven in my classroom?". Honestly I had so many things going through my mind that I can't even organize all of my thoughts.
 
Let me start with this. The kindergarten classroom and school that I observed believes in the Reggio Emilia approach. If you aren't sure what that is you can read more about it here. The moment I walked into the school I loved the warmth and environment of the staff, hallways & classrooms. As I walked into the kinder class the first thing I noticed was that the room was low lit with 4-5 lamps & white Christmas lights. I also noticed that there wasn't any loud and bright colours or posters screaming at me for attention. Everything was nature-based with bulletin boards covered in textured browns and branches hanging from designated areas. Not to mention this classroom has an amazing 2 story loft that anyone would love to have. How could I not notice such an amazing piece that any teacher would die to have.


 
The children were spread out around the room in groups of 3-4 where they were picking out items from a large basket and sorting the items of their choice. The children were talking with each other while problem solving the second they walked through their classroom door. After spending many minutes sorting I suddenly heard this noise. It was a low but pleasant noise. It was a clean up song that the teacher (Mrs. D) was playing which led the children to automatically start cleaning up. Some of the children sang quietly along. I just enjoyed how non-annoying the song was. lol.

 
After having a story read to them the children then got to choose what they wanted to do. Some chose to start their morning with a snack since they were hungry, some children went to work on creating a Valentine's Day card, some children went to build sand castles at the sand table, some children playing with zoo animals, some children played at the math table, and some children read a book to themselves.







 
Here are some photos of other areas the children have the choice to explore.







 
 
I asked Mrs. D why they were learning about the ocean in February and she simply said because a student asked a question about a sea shell. Mrs. D then brought the question to the class' attention by asking them if they knew where sea shells came from. That then lead to the children asking questions about the ocean. Mrs. D asked the class where they can find information, so they read books and searched on their ipads. Mrs. D brought in things from the ocean for the children. She said that the children are in complete control of what they want to learn about and she adds literacy and math into whatever it is they show curiosity in. I loved this idea!


 
Just last night I was laying in bed and feeling guilty for not having booked another field trip yet and trying to decide in my brain if our march unit should focus on planets or weather. Today it was like BAAAH-ZINGA! Why push learning of the planets or weather when the children may not want to learn about that. Well I know a few of my boys love trains and race cars, a few boys like dinosaurs (which we already covered), one of my boys is all about firefighting right now and I know for certain that one of my little girls is in love with horses. I brought this to Mrs. D's attention and asked her "Like can I really teach the children all about trains and race cars? I've never taught about those before?" Before you think anything. Yes, I realize how stupid I was sounding by thinking we couldn't learn about something because it wasn't something I've taught before or because it wasn't on my future plans. I know. I know. I am going to let go and let them lead our exploration in the classroom. Based on my children's interests I can then book field trips that go along with what peaks their interest. I just loved the way the Reggio Emilia inspired classroom felt and looked like.
 
While part of me is ready to turn my classroom completely into a magical natural wonderland like the one I visited today, I know that there are things I am NOT willing to let go of. Does that make me a bad teacher? After some thought... I don't think so. I hope not anyways. Like my push on academics, handwriting, writing and reading. I think if I find the right balance I can mix these in. Okay I said I observed SO many amazing things in the classroom today but when I noticed a few students grip their pencil the wrong way, write their name in all capital letters & not be able to identify letter sounds a large part of my body cringed. I cannot lie. Those are things I just cannot let slide. Sorry. Does that make me crazy?! BUT... those are all things I can still encourage but while working one on one with the children little by little while they choose which activities they want to participate in. I know this can happen because I was able to do it today while observing. :)
 
My classroom before was academic based mixed with play based learning I would say. Now I would like to pull more of that student led learning through their interests and curiosity. I blame my need for that academic push on the American in me. Bah ha ha. It's true! Any Canadian teacher I talk to tells me that my students do not have to read or write by the end of kindergarten. I know this is true, but I have had MANY grade one teachers appreciate my love and passion for teaching young children to read and write. Well we will see how this goes. Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Getting grade 1 ready

I wrote this blog post about "Getting grade 1 ready" on my class blog for my parents and thought I would share it on my personal blog as well in case anyone found any helpful Pinterest posts. :)

I know. I know. It seems all too early to start thinking about your little heading to grade 1 next year. While I do want to share with you the skills I like my kinders to have mastered by the end of kindergarten to be ready for grade 1, these skills are not required to head to grade 1. I also wanted to share with you what skills we have already taught & are re-teaching since the beginning of the school year.
Social & Life Skills
Yes, social and play skills are very important for our littles. Our kinders are working daily on being problem solvers and independent. For the most part, they can get dressed & undressed for recess in their winter gear. We highly encourage them to zip, unzip, button, unbutton, etc. etc. all by themselves. If you find that your child is often leaving their lunch kit or clothing at school it is probably because we are doing our best to remind them less to pack up their belongings when they leave for the day. These little guys and gals are even recording their home reader in their agenda every day. We are so proud of them!
We encourage play and exploration inside and outside of the classroom. At the beginning of the year our kitchen play area would look like this... 4 kids playing in the kitchen area, creating wonderful dishes & playing with the baby dolls, but they would do all of this playing without even communicating or actually "playing" with each other. We have set up role playing cards, a café menu, café order form, etc. so now if you check out our kinders playing in the kitchen area you might see a waiter or waitress taking an order from a customer to hand over to the chef. They are talking, communicating and PLAYING with each other. Being able to play, communicate and be respectful is very important for our kindergarteners.
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As I have explained before, we are taking part in the Zones of Regulation which is pretty much a fancy saying for "learning how to regulate our emotions". We have been working on identifying the Zones (blue-sad, tired, bored; green- happy, calm; yellow- excited, worried; red- angry, mad) since October. Boy oh boy, are these littles ever pros at identifying an emotion and then telling me what zone that emotion is. Proud teacher moments! We are working hard on identifying their own emotions when they are not in the green zone & what helps them get back into the green zone. We did this by creating tool boxes. The children chose strategies that help them calm down when they are mad & glued them into their toolbox. This week the children chose strategies that help them become happy when they are sad.
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Language Arts
These are the letters & sounds that we have learned so far- Ll, Tt, Hh, Ff, Pp, Dd, Oo, Mm, Ss, Aa, Bb, Ww, Uu.
These are the letters & sounds that the kinders will learn in February- Gg, Vv, Xx, Ee.
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Every morning we review letters & sounds. I point to the letters A, E, I , O, U that I have written on the board and ask the class what these letters are called. They are able to tell me that these are vowels & that they are in every word. Many of them then state which vowels are in their name. We talk about how these letters are special because they also make 2 sounds and we review the sounds.
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Reading & rhyming- Each morning I choose 1 word family to focus on... I write a word on the white board, we sound out the CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) word using our fingers, then we read the word. I then show them the picture for the word and we add it to our word cabinet. For example- cat, rat, sat, hat. The children then tell me which letters are the same in all the words. (Ex: -at) I underline the letters & we talk about if the words rhyme. Rhyming is a skill that some of them are having trouble with so it is definitely something you can work on at home. Along with reading CVC words, the children are working on recognizing and reading sight words. You have all seen the sight word readers they bring home each week. Here are the sight words we have learned so far- a, the, I, see, can, run, it, is.
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Writing- We have worked very very hard on the children being able to write their names independently with the first letter capitalized and the remaining letters in lower case. All of the children are working on writing in their hand printing books and/or journals daily. We focus on writing from top to bottom, as well as left to right. When writing sentences we are focusing on beginning our sentences with a capital letter, putting spaces between our words and ending our sentences with a punctuation mark. After we write our journal sentence, we read it and then have to determine if our sentence needs a period or question mark.
Math
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We are working hard on identifying and writing numbers 0-10. We are moving on to identifying and writing numbers 11-20. If your child still needs to work on numbers 0-10 we are doing so in the classroom but you can also provide extra support at home. Each morning we count to 30, backwards from 10, by 2's to 10 and by 10's to 100. We will eventually learn to count by 5's to 100 as well.
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We have introduced addition these past few weeks. We will continue working on adding up to 10.
Sorting by colour, shape and size is something we worked on in October-November but we still review this skill.
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We work on identifying and extending patterns daily.
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If you are in need of ideas for your children to help them learn you can find a variety of ideas on Pinterest. It's one of my favourite references. :) I hope this helps you understand some of the things we have been learning in the classroom.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Dead Ants

Dead Ants is the name of the game.
Two kids are IT. They are to "tag" (pretend spray pesticide) the other kids (aka "ants"). Once an ant is sprayed they are to lay on their back with arms and legs in the air. To save a fellow ant, 4 ants must drag the dead ant to the ant hill. All 4 ants are "safe" if they are touching a dead ant. Once a dead ant is brought to the ant hill they can join the game again. Kids who are IT are not allowed on/in the ant hill.





Sunday, January 10, 2016

1 Full Week of Going Table-less

This past week we had our first full week of no more sitting at tables and in chairs. I was a bit nervous about how the kiddos would take this transition coming back fresh from Christmas break, but what's the worse that could happen. I figured if anything & it's a complete bust then we could just go back to our old routine.

This week the children worked on a /Ss/, /Aa/ sound sort during center activities.
For math they worked on completing patterns and addition up to 10.
Yes, those are light bulb patterns cards and I know Christmas is so over but hey we didn't get to this activity before we went on break so why not. I love this ladybug addition game from Lakeshore Learning and so do the kids.

For art we created a bear cave and made snow using a mixture of shaving cream and liquid glue.


Our sight word reader focused on the sight word "can" and reviewed letters/sounds that we previously learned.

In our guided reading groups we are beginning to work on blending. We have been working on blending for a few months now but as a whole group. Since I didn't start working with my kinder class until a month after school had already started I feel like we are a bit behind. Now me and my kinders are really getting down to the nitty gritty with our blending, reading and writing. Ahhh! It gets me SO excited! I just love it when my kinders are ready to get the ball rolling and show that they are ready to start reading. Like for real reading. :)


Speaking of reading. I know that rhyming is a key component when learning to read. Boy oh boy. I did not realize that my friends have no or hardly any previous knowledge of rhyming. I have always had my kinders have some sort of background with rhyming. It looks like we will be working on rhyming hard core until that have it down pat.
The kiddos worked on a rhyming activity at listening center. This rhyming activity comes from Lakeshore's phonemic awareness activity program.
The children also worked on rhyming using picture puzzles with one of our EAs.

Going table-less wasn't the only new thing that we started since returning from Christmas break. We have began word work activities. The kiddos are LOVING the chance to have a choice. They can choose any activity from the shelves with red tape.

We have pom poms & jewels to build words.
We have bingo dabbers, letter beads or fish to string together to build words.
We have play-doh and magnetic boards to create words.

And of course, we have white boards and chalk boards to create words on.







Oh, yeah. We started home reading too! :)
I was super excited about this too.
Each day the kiddos get to pick a new home reader when they return theirs.


Alrighty... let's see how week 2 of no tables, word work and home reading goes.


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