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Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

The year I taught a combined grade 1 and 2 was so rewarding for me as I documented the progress and learning of the class and in particular a few students who were struggling. There were doubts when colleagues saw the room set up with centres such as blocks, reading, art studio and a doll house (for grade 2’s!). Then there were questioning parents at the end of September asking, “When is my child going to learn?” The month of September was just community building and learning the independence of centres in the afternoon after a morning of literacy and math. Of course there were times for direct teaching and group lessons around Science and Social Studies, but they were brief. Appropriate for the age group. Then the students were able to apply their learning and questioning during centre time. They were accountable by having a plan of what they wanted to work on – such as building bridges in the block centre or depicting the energy of the sun in the art studio. At the end of the day we would gather on the carpet and students had time to share what they created or discovered. I would record their findings on large paper – the “knowledge building” session – and we would decide to add resources to our Inquiry Board for other students to learn from.

I put the findings from the documentation together in an article – it was published last year in The Canadian Association for Young Children journal (Fall 2013). I am attaching the PDF version as I think it provides a good example of the process from September to June. It is also demonstrates how centres in a Primary classroom allow for differentiated learning and the Hundred Languages. Board_CCFall2013

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September has been a month filled with community building in our Grade 5/6 classroom. We have slowed down the back to the books rush with activities that are building relationships.

Coming from a Kindergarten class last year, I immediately noticed that the students seemed to have lost their sense of wonder. Many were looking at me for instructions, ready to respond appropriately – but not to ask questions and be curious. Our inquiry question for the next two months is “How do we balance our needs with others?” This will incorporate our learning in Language, Social Studies, Art, Media Literacy and some Math and Science. In addition to this project, I am starting another Literacy/Art inquiry project that is based on the book, “I Know Here” by Laurel Croza.

I Know Here by Laurel Croza

I want to encourage the students to wonder about their own community, then interpret it and present it in their own unique way (hundred languages). We read the book together. The next day I took them outside to the front of the school to record what they could see, hear, smell, feel and taste. It was amazing to see how their response were more guarded and limited than what some younger children would offer in the same setting. We then made showing statements rather than telling statements, similar to the author’s style of “I Know Here”.

The next day we discussed possible representations that the students could do. They came up with a variety of ways that they could show what they know. We recorded them on the whiteboard.

Image

Our next step is to ask ourselves questions about our community/neighbourhood and hopefully access that sense of wonder…

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This photo shows the corner I have just created in my new grade 5/6 classroom. The room is a work in progress, as the painted walls are chipped and there are remnants of glue and tape that are visible from all the previous teachers and students that inhabited the space. The ceilings are high and there are large areas of empty space that are too high to display children’s work. I envision these areas as a possible display of some collaborative artworks. For now, I have hung fabric above the library corner, only to soften the space and cover the peeling paint. A natural branch frames the fabric and a neutral rug provides an area to sit in front of the shelves. I will be adding a bean chair and some cushions for comfort.

My goal is to bring my Reggio Emilia approach of teaching Early Years to a Junior level classroom. I believe that the principles of collaboration, environment as third teacher, relationships, respect and reciprocity are fitting to the older children and will support them to become more engaged with their own learning.

So, I have started with the environment. Unlike setting up a classroom for Kindergarten or even grade 1, there are limited options and materials. I would have loved to use round tables for the students to work at. Instead, I have made 5 groupings with 6 desks each.  The desks seem to take over the classroom when there are 30 students in a class. I had hoped to use tables to create “centres” around the classroom but the space is limited. By removing my teacher desk, I was able to make room for a round table that I can be multifunctional as a planning space or for small group lessons. In the opposite corner of the room there is a sink and counter. I am using some adjacent shelves to make an art studio or at least provide a space dedicated to art materials for student use. In many junior classrooms the art supplies are locked away and only brought out at scheduled art periods.

I am looking forward to sharing this new space with the children. Discussions regarding the use and maintenance of the space will be needed as we work on building our community in the first weeks of September. Plans for our four inquiry questions will be presented and discussed, along with ideas about extended and integrated periods used for independent work and collaborating in small groups. Culminating assignments will allow the students to show their understanding in many ways, similarly to the one hundred languages of children.

Join us on our journey of experiencing a Reggio Emilia approach in a junior classroom!

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The environment is the third teacher when it provides children the opportunity to slow down and take note. One of the questions I often ask is, “What do you notice?” This encourages reflection, conversation, and knowledge-building among the students. For some students, observations take time. They answer without really thinking or noticing – by rushing to give an expected answer rather than a response that is unexpected.

The use of light and projection in the classroom has provided students with new perspectives. They may be looking at a familiar subject, yet they see it in a new way. When they are introduced to the act of tracing an image, they are fascinated with the simple task and it slows down their consideration of the subject.

From our neighbourhood walks, we had observed a variety of trees. The children compared coniferous and deciduous and talked about the differences that made each identifiable. However, when drawing deciduous trees, their observations from the walks were not evident. The trees still looked like trunks with a circle of green set on top. So we revisited the trees and took photos.

neighbourhood tree

 

 

When an image of one of the local trees was projected to a table in the classroom, the children were intrigued with the task of tracing its many limbs. I noticed how this task slowed down their movements and also their consideration of the tree. After this opportunity, the children’s drawings were more realistic in that long limbs were included and the proportions changed.

 

Tracing and noticing

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The Hundred Languages

No way. The hundred is there.

The child
is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.

A hundred always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.

The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.

They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.

-Loris Malaguzzi (translated by Lella Gandini) 

Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach

 

I think of all the results of play that the children want to share with me each day. I take photos to celebrate their works.

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What do you see?  I see the “Hundred Languages” and use these languages to see the child.

 

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In Kindergarten, my favourite integration of subjects is probably language, science, and art. The children are always fascinated with nature and our surroundings. We have looked at trees, squirrels, clouds, plants, and birds as topics of study. The tangible subjects provide the best science subjects – as the children can observe and predict first hand.

A few months ago, one of the books we were reading introduced hibernation. This was a concept that we explored further. Then we found we were comparing hibernation with migration. I was amazed at how much the children understood in our group discussions. I wanted to provide an opportunity for those with other strengths to also demonstrate their understanding of these concepts, so I thought about a class mural. This would provide an open invitation for those children to contribute and it also allowed them the opportunity to collaborate and discuss their ideas and understandings.

Setting out Kraft brown paper as the backdrop and providing the children with a variety of materials, they were invited to add signs of hibernation or migration.

Hibernation and Migration Mural

 

I noticed that some children were more interested in contributing their ideas as visual representations, while others were more interested in providing oral comments and discussing the work of their peers. They wanted to add clouds, snow on the ground, and a sun. Once the mural was complete, I asked the children, “How do you know whether the animals are hibernating or migrating?” Here are a few responses:

  • “The bear is hibernating because he is sleeping in the cave.”
  • “The frog is hibernating in the pond.”
  • “I know the birds are migrating because they are up in the sky flying to where it is warm.”
  • “I see a butterfly that migrates.”
  • “The bunny has a path to get out and in of his tunnel.”

Completed Collaborative Mural

 

Not only does this make their thinking more visible, it also demonstrates how well the children are learning in relationship with one another. All year they have been working side by side showing their ability to not only share materials but work on shared representations – representations that demonstrate their ability to collaborate.

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As I mentioned previously, this is a newly acquired space for Kindergarten. Unfortunately,the environment has to evolve and develop while resources and time becomes available. There are many details and layers to add as I work with the children, but the following photos document the most basic changes to an area as it has changed in the last two months.

The building blocks are an integral part of the Full-Day Kindergarten program. In September, I was provided with a large library book bin to hold blocks. When the big blocks arrived I placed them in the bin, and the children used the carpet to build on.

 

The box lasted about two weeks. The taller children were able to reach inside and access the blocks, but some of them were dangling from the sides and I envisioned them falling head first as they were independently attempting to use the blocks. So, I moved the bin out of the classroom and rethought the space. There are built in shelves under the window that I could use to hold the blocks. So this was the second major change for the building area.

 

This new area was beside the math centre. There was no clear divider, so I would need to find a unit to define the areas. The blocks were now visible to the children and at their level to see and access easily. I observed the children as they used the area and I noticed that their space was smaller, but they were working more collaboratively with the same number of students. To anchor the space and make it more inviting, I searched for a carpet that would fit the space.

After asking friends (which they are used to) for a carpet they were no longer in need of, my friend provided me with a great carpet. It fit the space, and the colours of black, green, and beige were neutral to fit with the materials. I then moved a small bookcase to use as a shelving unit for the math centre, and the back of the unit defines the space for the building area. There is a basket of clipboards that will be introduced soon to encourage drawings of plans and finished products. There are also baskets for recycled materials (paper towel tubes and boxes) that can be incorporated into the builds. The children also often use manipulatives such as cubes and counters to integrate with their structures. The biggest change I noticed after adding the carpet was that girls were selecting the building centre more than previously. The carpet provided comfort to an inviting space.

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I am in a new school and in a classroom that was not designed for early years. These are the challenges that many educators face, especially as full-day Kindergarten is being rolled out quickly across the Ontario with acquisitions of regular classrooms and stock furniture orders! Here is my new space:

 

The coat hooks along the back wall were removed and the children have space in the hallway outside the classroom for their outdoor wear. This has at least allowed for the back wall to be used for learning centre spaces. I wasn’t able to get the dividers and shelving that I was hoping for, but my new space is still in transition and it continues to evolve. One of the first centres that I worked on was a Reading Centre. I had a carpet from home, but no small furniture. The students looked lost sitting on the carpet leaning up against the wall. So within the first week of school I was sourcing used chairs that I could buy to make a more comfortable meeting place. By chance, a friend of mine was cleaning out her shed and offered some weathered wooden furniture that her child had outgrown. It would need painting she said. I jumped at the offer, painted the furniture in a neutral taupe and hauled it to my classroom. That same weekend I bought a green leaf canopy from IKEA to frame the space.

The children were elated to see the new reading area made just for them. There is never a day that the area is not occupied with independent readers or children sharing a story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(I have since then acquired an open front facing book case to replace the metal book rack that was provided with the room set-up stock order.)

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In a grade one and two classroom you usually see desks and bookshelves, with possibly a cozy reading area. I think moving from Kindergarten to Grade 1 must be such a shock for the youngsters. They had freedom to move around their classroom and explore so many materials with their hands-on learning. By setting up some additional “areas” or centres in this Grade 1 and 2 class, I am hoping to provide the children with an environment that keeps them comfortable and engaged, allowing for movement and exploration. One of the first centres I added, was an atelier. Amazing to see the children flock there when they are given some free time to explore. Right now the boys are using ribbon and doilies to make kites. Through observation, I have noticed them returning to this idea for the past week. It will tie in well with the curriculum for Grade 2 Science – air/wind. Another centre that is quite popular is the math centre. There are two chairs set across from one another to encourage conversation. The children have worked together to create patterns using two abacuses. They also use the shapes to create patterns and pictures. There is a listening centre in the reading corner, but I have noticed that the children prefer social groupings at active centres when they are given the choice.

 

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Here I am with a new challenge. Adapting to a new space (a smaller room), a new age group (6 to 8 year olds), and a content-driven curriculum, while attempting a Reggio approach. My first step, of course, was to set up the environment and make changes to the layout. I painted where there was an array of bright colours and made centres for collaboration around the room with grouped tables or desks in the centre of the room. Smaller carpets, tables, and shelves make inviting spaces and create areas for research and exploration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Older Posts »

let the children play

reggio inspirations in my classroom

reggio inspirations in my classroom

reggio inspirations in my classroom

leaf and twig

where observation and imagination meet nature in poetry

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