Sunday, June 15, 2014

The End is Near!

Terribly sorry for my absence. Things have been so very crazy around here for the past month or so.

We've had a provincial election and while that's always important, this was particularly nerve racking because one of the leading candidates vowed to eliminate Early Childhood Educators in Full Day Kindergarten. (He was also going to cut support staff and raise class sizes.) All of this meant that had his party won, I'd be on the bread lines by September.

Thankfully though, because of his faulty math (among other things) he didn't win and so my job is safe.

I've also been very busy with my class blog. I have a blog for the kid's parents to keep up with what their little darlings are doing in school and while I've really slacked over here, I've been very diligent about keeping up with that one. My goal for the coming school year is to be active on both blogs. They will in essence be the same; the only difference being this blog will not show pictures of my students.

The school year is nearly over for us - two more weeks. It's been a great year. The thing I love about Full Day Kindergarten and the Inquiry based model is that each year is so very different from the last.

Let's talk inquiry for a minute shall we.

The line our school board is really towing is that each kindergarten class should be inquiry based. Students (of any age) learn best when they take ownership of their learning. I agree wholeheartedly. Most teachers though, are not up to speed in how to deliver this type of program. They are co-learners with their students.

But something has started to happen. Because the opportunities for professional learning offered in the area of inquiry based learning is so scarce within the school boards many educators are left on their own to glean from the  thousands of articles, blogs, books etc available online in the library what it means and how it fits into a kindergarten class in the public school system....a place where the report cards they are completing have not caught up to the new curriculum expectations.

So then there are extremes.....teachers who are under no circumstances going to embrace this new 'way'. They will continue with worksheets, teacher directed activity, explicit instruction on everything.  Or teachers who go the other way; misinterpreting what the inquiry model means and throwing out all the old ways. Everything in the class is neutral, wicker and natural. I'll be honest, that kind of looks bland to me.

My partner and I have decided on a different approach. We both agree, inquiry is important but we also acknowledge that it is not the only approach to teaching our youngest learners. There is a place for it in the class, yes, but there is also a place for explicit instruction, some guided activity, We've toned down some of the space so it's not over stimulating (I remember my first year working in Kindergarten feeling over stimulated by all that was on the walls) but it's not all blacks and browns either. And yes, there are some teacher created materials, though there are no mass produced ones (ie borders and bulletin board displays)

With two weeks left in the school year and our students in school right up until the last day we've slowly begun to strip the walls of this year's things and prepare for next year.

I saw something on Pinterest (a teacher's best friend!) and I knew I just had to do it with  my class for our math board.

When we're teaching young children about math, in particular number sense, we often tell them, "Use your fingers." Or we'll hold up a set number of fingers and ask, "How many?"
Now what if we used that same technique as an anchor chart?

So we did just that. I took photographs of the children's hands using their fingers as numbers. We then worked together to print the numeral and write the number word to go with it. We've got it hanging on the math wall now. Next year's class will begin by adding pictures to it that they create (ie 1 bead, 2 stickers, 3 popsicle sticks.)  And at the end of next year they will be asked to co-create their own number board for the following year's class.

I can't tell you how much I love this board. When the children arrived the first morning it was up, they all abandoned their tasks and went right for the board to take a look. Over the next few days I had some of our younger students coming to me with their fingers up telling me what number they were showing me so it's already proving it's worth. 

In the first picture you can see our alphabet. It's just canvas that I painted the alphabet on. I love it but it's so high up the children can't utilize it the way I'd like, as is our 'popcorn' word wall. 

We've got some great plans to correct this problem too - but I'm going to save that post for when I have pictures of it to show you.

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