Archive for the ‘classroom management’ Category

I have been reviewing photos from Kindergarten classes from a few years ago. When I took the photos, I may have been capturing a writing activity in action to post for parental viewing on the class website. Now, as I reflect on some of the photos, I notice how the photos demonstrate the pedagogy of a student-centered, inquiry-based program that allows the child to be and feel capable at any entry point in the activity.

Look at the two photos below. They show an activity that emerged after I read the book, The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster. Students were interested in discussing the family and their own, so they were encouraged to bring in a photo or make a drawing of their own family. We spread out large banners of paper and the children found a space to paste their picture. Then they labelled their picture. This was one of the first collaborative writing activities of the year in September to October. Some students were already avid writers, using the writing centre daily. But this activity evolved from the shared experience of reading, and even the reluctant writers were interested in writing about a topic they were confident about – their family.

Some of the students added details and names, while others used only initials for representation (M for mom, S for sister). The writing was open for students to access at their level – they were not given names to copy or told how to spell the names. The result was a collaborative piece that framed our classroom, providing an assessment as and for learning that we could refer to over the following few weeks.

Looking at the photos, I also notice how this emergent literacy activity connected with other areas such as drama and art. Students would be playing family in the drama centre, then go to confer about their own family roles. Even the opportunity it provided for students to discuss a topic that they felt confident about, while noticing the similarities and differences they shared with peers, supported oral language development.

Although it can be challenging with students doing different things at different times, allowing the time and space for emerging literacy is necessary for today’s learners. I doubt you will see the same degree of initiative, conferring, and engagement when students are sitting in more controlled environments working at tables on individual fill-in-the-blank family trees. By giving them the opportunity, children learn from one another and feel capable to represent their knowing in a variety of ways and at different entry points.

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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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I understand the third teacher to be the environment. This can be the physical space such as the layout or it can be the materials that are thoughtfully placed at various centres. When I first started teaching kindergarten I planned my lessons thinking of the resources in the classroom as support to the information that I taught or disseminated. I also used “centres” as a variety of places to visit where the children could play on a rotational and timed schedule. All of this was a lot of management on my part – and children were moved on to the next centre regardless of their level of engagement. Now, I see my role as a support to the learning that occurs when the students interact with the materials. The learning takes place while they are exploring, playing, and interacting with and in the various centres. I no longer watch the clock or rotate groups. The children select their learning environment and stay as long as they are engaged.

The challenge for me now is in the selection of the materials, when to add to them, and when to change them. The materials should be intelligent in that they invite questions and experimentation. I also try to use the most natural of materials – such as wooden compared to plastic blocks. Then, if the materials are aesthetically arranged they are often more inviting. This may mean editing a container of a large but meaningless amount of counters to just twenty in a clear plastic tray or a small basket. Twenty  counters becomes an amount that can be challenging for those children who can count to ten, but not overwhelming. It can build confidence in those that already count to twenty and provide an opportunity to take more risks with those twenty counters, such as pairing them, grouping them, or adding and subtracting. In time, I might add a number board or paper and pencils. This will create new relationships between the materials and invite even more experimentation!

The environment is an effective third teacher when adapting the philosophy and principles of the Reggio Emilia approach – “an approach that works within a network of cooperation and interactions producing a feeling of belonging in a world that is alive, welcoming, and authentic” (Fraser, Authentic Childhood).

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Our Inquiry Journey

The Third Teacher

reggio inspirations in my classroom

let the children play

reggio inspirations in my classroom

Inquiring Minds: Mrs. Myers' Kindergarten

reggio inspirations in my classroom

leaf and twig

where observation and imagination meet nature in poetry