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Archive for the ‘colour’ Category

September is for new beginnings. This year, I have another new classroom… and it is not as appealing as some of my previous classroom in its aesthetics. The light gets absorbed by the dull green walls, cupboard doors are missing in various units, the paint is peeling, and the chalkboards are faded and marked with residue of tape.

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Hard lines.

 

Divergent green walls.

Divergent green walls.

 

Storage without doors.

Storage cupboard without doors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first priority for my new room was making it as appealing as I could using some “found” materials. I brought in baskets, containers of shells, glass jars, hanging beads, a small carpet, two (plastic) Muskoka chairs and burlap. This is a grade 6/7 classroom. I wanted to create spaces to allow for some movement away from their regular seating. Currently we have 31 desks, however tables have been ordered and are expected to replace the desks within the month. So, I focused on a library with seating area, a carpet for gathering/discussions, and an atelier or art studio.

The room has a cloak room that runs along the back of the classroom with two entries. The storage cupboard wasn’t needed, and is adjacent to a window. It seemed a secluded yet observable area for a small table with a couple of chairs, to allow for exploration with a variety of materials. So the shelves have been filled with materials that are accessible to the students who want to use the area.

Shelves in the centre of the room along the wall under the windows were previously holding a variety of dictionaries and textbooks. I moved these to the back counter and created a fiction and non-fiction browsing library with labelled bins for organization and an area to display some larger hard cover texts. The chairs are set facing the shelves (and the windows), inviting students to this space. During our reading workshop, students are selecting these seats for reading and also for meeting to discuss work during other times in the day.

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Class library.

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View of atelier from classroom.

Atelier

Atelier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although I was temporarily tempted to hang posters and “decorate” the room to brighten it up, it has evolved quickly in the last week to include the materials that students can use to inspire and support their work that is taking front stage and hiding the peeling paint.

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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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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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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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I have returned to teaching kindergarten, but it is my first experience with full-day kindergarten. September has been a month of community building and establishing routines. I knew it would be like this, but from where I left in June with my Grade 1 & 2 class, I need to remind myself that things will be different (especially for the first few months!).

My classroom has been a challenge, as it was formerly a Special Education classroom and is a basic rectangular room with little architectural detail. Although it is October and I know in my mind’s eye how the room should look; being at a new school and with limited resources it is taking longer than I expected.

The art studio is always one of the first areas of the classroom that I like to develop. So many children feel comfortable in this area and are able to demonstrate their skills and interests. In the first two weeks, the students were creating pictures with a full assortment of markers. I wanted to observe their representations of a natural object using a controlled palette. So, I set up a small table with a vase of hydrangeas, as well as a jar of pencil crayons in an array of pink, green, and brown shades.

The results were as I imagined. The children showed more use of detail, such as the outline of the vase and the distinct stems. They also considered the appropriate colours when presented with a limited selection.

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In a Grade 1 and 2 classroom, the students are often able to write their responses. However, I find that the inquiry work that the children do over months on integrated subjects of the curriculum allow them to represent their understanding in a variety of ways. When studying the sun, the air and water in connection with community (local for Grade 1 and in another country for Grade 2), the children were able to demonstrate their knowledge using fabrics. This followed lessons on horizon lines, perspective, and texture. They also had unhurried time to experiment with fabrics and wool in the art studio. When they asked to represent their knowledge using fabric, I wasn’t surprised that they could do it, however, I was surprised at the aesthetics of their finished works.

A community in Africa, in need of rain. (Grade 2 student)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A local community using the sun’s energy. (Grade 1 student)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clothing and homes in a community in Africa. (Grade 2 student)

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Keeping an eco-approach to our learning helps direct our art activities in the classroom. I have steered away from construction paper and pipe cleaners in the last few years and moved towards a collection of found materials. The book, Beautiful Stuff: Learning with Found Materials by Cathy Weisman Topal and Lella Gandini is a great starting point if you want to learn more about integrating found materials into your program. If you are looking for something more, Lella recommended the following book to me at a conference earlier this year, Children, Art, Artists: The Expressive Languages of Children, the Artistic Language of Alberto Burri by Reggio Children.

The art projects pictured here, integrated learning in language and visual art. Instead of making picture frames, the children created stands using recycled thread spools. A controlled palette was provided with an assortment of buttons, shells, and pearls. The children created individual pieces that were then used as gifts for their families.

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