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Posts Tagged ‘integration’

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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My grade 5/6 students were introduced to a Big Idea at the beginning of the school year. It was with intention that this question would be lens for the students to consider their curriculum, particularly Language, Science, and Social Studies. The Big Idea was in a form of a question: How do we balance our needs with others? A bulletin board in the classroom was set-up dedicated for items we may collect that would contribute to our understanding as we worked to answer this question. When I taught grade 1/2s, they enjoyed adding information or images to our research board and watching the accumulation of ideas as the board filled. In the grade 5/6 class this year, the concept of collecting representations of related ideas was difficult for them to either grasp or see as worthwhile. So as we discussed new books or issues, I would add something to our Inquiry Research board. Needless to say, it was more sparse than the research boards I was used to seeing in the younger grades. One of the first additions to the board was to add their initial responses to the question. This provides a good starting point. So, when asked How do we balance our needs with others?, the students responded with: 
  • “Be kind and friendly.”
  • “Cooperate with others.”
  • “Eat healthy.”
  • “Some people in some countries don’t have food to eat, so don’t let your food go to waste.”
  • “Treat others the way you want to be treated, for example, if you’re mean to your brother he will be too.”
 
When I reviewed the responses I had to ask myself if the students understood what needs were and if they were providing answers they thought were “right.” The answers seemed like stock answers for a variety of questions, but not the question that I had asked of them. I realized we needed to backtrack and look at needs and understand them by definition. We considered what needs are (physical, emotional, and group needs).
Then, to understand the meaning of the balance between individuals or groups, we used books such as “The Encounter” and “Sees Behind Trees” to deepen through read-alouds and discussions. I was surprised that a visual of a scale was what really worked to help them grasp the concept. We then used that image to look at the curriculum to consider:
  • needs of First Nations vs. European explorers
  • needs of Space Explorers
  • needs of residents in areas of development (Fracking for gas extraction)
At the end of our inquiry, students provided responses that showed a better understanding of needs and some were able to use specific examples from their learning:
“The Europeans wanted to change First Nations’ culture but what they didn’t know was that First Nations already had a culture – Nature was their god but the Europeans didn’t know that.”
 
“Balancing your needs is how you manage things in your life. The needs of the First Nations didn’t matter (to the Europeans). Nobody cared about their religion. They felt useless.”
 
“Some people need more than others.”
 
“I don’t think that they balanced their needs with First Nations when they took their children to schools far away so they can forget their culture and their language.”
 
Inquiry Research Board

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A simple walk in our neighbourhood was all my students really needed to demonstrate their sense of wonder and play. It was also what I needed to in order to determine what was meaningful in their world. How can I make connections to their world, if I don’t really discover it with them? All I had to do was listen. I just listened to find out what was important to them and observe how they interacted in different places within their community. I was surprised to see them run for the swings in the park.

Inspired by Laurel Croza’s book, “I Know Here,” the students shared the school iPads to take photos of the structures and streets that were meaningful to them.

student: “Can we go to the park so I can take a photo of the slides?”

student: “I took a picture of the beautiful flowers.”

student: “I want to get a photo of the train as it passes here.”

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They were enthusiastic and engaged. The children were eager to capture the essence of their own place, their neighbourhood. They were also sharing stories. I listened to the students as they debated the best way to the park or described where their friends lived – they were sharing stories.

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Collaboration is one of the Reggio principles that has required some support in the classroom. However, when we returned to our classroom, the students were enthusiastic to work together in small groups making webs of their community photos using the Popplet App. They negotiated how many photos to use and whether to add text. Some groups even added photos of themselves.

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Even though I knew the importance of shared experiences, connecting to the outdoors, and slowing down the pace to make time for “walks” – I forgot the benefits until we went on our first community walk last week. Needless to say, we are going on another tomorrow. And another next week…

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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.

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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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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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To continue from the last post about our inquiry including structures, I thought I would share some images that show an example of the process of learning in the Grade 1/2 classroom. There is a walking bridge close to the school that all the children were familiar with, so I asked them how the structure was supported from one side of the ravine to the other. There were various replies, but most students agreed that there were posts holding it up. So we all walked to the ravine with our journals and to their surprise there were no posts! So I asked the children to simply observe and record their ideas about the structure. When we returned to class there was excitement over their discoveries. We took time looking at various representations that they drew and noticed many details in the construction. The children commented on the materials and also the purpose of the design. For days (even weeks), many of the students used blocks to reconstruct the bridge from one chair to another, trying to build a bridge with supports on each end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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