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!