Full-day kindergarten impacts Grades 1, 2

francifularts:

This is the most exciting news I’ve heard from the world of education in years! Please read the article not just the headline! Perhaps I should relocate to Ontario, Canada when my current job ends! Only hitch….I’d have to hope Canada would be interested enough in an American educator to issue me the equivalent of a green card!

Originally posted on Metro News:

While full-day kindergarten is the newest learning experience for Ontario’s youngest students, it’s been an education for the province’s primary teachers, too.

With the final phase of the full-day rollout happening this week, school boards say that over the past five years of implementation, they’ve had one big kinder surprise: teachers in Grades 1 and 2 now find their lessons no longer work for children steeped in play-based learning — kids who are more confident, ask more questions and who are used to setting the agenda in the classroom.

The Ontario government now plans to expand play- and inquiry-based learning throughout the elementary years as part of its new action plan.

“There really is a need to revisit the curriculum for Grade 1 and subsequent grades,” said Michael Barrett, president of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association. “As these super-kids move throughout the system, all the curriculum is going to…

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September and the Scent of Freshly Sharpened Pencils

I’ve been working in my classroom cleaning out cupboards and drawers. Last year when I was hired I never had enough time to  do this, with all the other things I had to do before school started. It’s amazing the things I didn’t know were in my cupboards. I wish I had known about some of the things that were lurking in there, because they would have been nice to use last school year. Of course there’s been plenty to toss too. My predecessor in the classroom always seemed so organized and tidy.  I guess she was good at clearing the decks, but she sure didn’t have any qualms about stuffing things in cupboards!

Now my classroom is ship shape and my house is a mess as I’ve been dumping boxes of stuff I don’t currently need into my car, bedroom, and garage. Maybe I’ll get things put back together this weekend.

The past few weeks I’ve taken a few online refresher courses on guiding student behavior, and I am looking forward to starting out this school year on a more positive note than last year!

I’ve also been reading some wonderful blogs about Reggio inspired kindergartens and I found that the province of Ontario has a wealth of information on emergent curriculum for kindergarten. Ontario seems very progressive in their support of playful learning. The only thing I’m wondering is what happens when kids get to first grade in Ontario or elsewhere that play based kindergartens are supported?  My experience of first and second graders is that they would thrive in a play based learning environment as well. I guess I need to contact some teachers or the education ministry in Ontario to find out!

I think the time immediately before school starts is a bit scary. I have a zillion things to do to prepare my classroom. I have meetings to attend, I have lessons to plan, and I face a class group which is enormous this year. I’ve got 14 students in the morning and 23 in the afternoon. Now that wouldn’t be so daunting but from 11:00 to 12:00 all 37 will be together! Thankfully half an hour of that is lunch, but the half an hour before lunch is what stresses me out!  I may be able to take the group out for recess or I may have a choice of centers such as drawing, Legos, and a movement activity. I found last year that movement activities were enjoyed by most of the children, but I had some that would rather be engaged in seated activities such as drawing. The kids in the morning group often wanted to rush up to the afternoon group, and chat which wasn’t so great when we were trying to have a group time at the rug to sing, or play a game.

I have been looking at pinterest for teaching ideas which is fun, but I also find it a bit like having ADD switching from one category to another as I see a math idea, and then an art idea, and then a reading game, and then a science experiment, etc….

When I wrote the first part of this I hadn’t started teaching yet, and I was really feeling overloaded with all of the things I was trying to accomplish before school started. I did rearrange my classroom furniture to make the room have more of a feeling of a variety of places to learn in smaller groups. But the big thing that was really making me nervous was having a much larger group than last year.

I met my students yesterday and they are really a sweet group of children! And though I have ten more than last year they are ten times as cooperative! Last year was the year that made me think maybe I was “past it” and needing to retire. I definitely know now that it was the unfortunate mix of challenging children I had that made last year the most difficult of my career to date.

Today as I surveyed the room and observed the children engaged in a variety of activities, I  had to pinch myself because it seemed like a dream, it was so harmonious and relatively quiet.

One child took a clip board from the writing center and created a sign in sheet for his veterinary office. Then he solicited children sitting at the writing center to bring stuffed animals over for appointments to treat the animals various “boo boos”. He started cutting strips of paper to create bandaids and wrapped them around the cats’ and dogs’ legs. I suggested the children create money from paper too, so they could pay the vet and they had fun cutting up colorful paper and writing numbers on it. Soon the vet was rolling in dough!  In another area children were making a long line of counting bears to see if they had enough to cross the room. They were counting and informed me they had counted 69 bears and they still had a long ways to cross the room. Then they found  three dice in the tub with the counting bears and started rolling them to see how many more bears to add onto their line. They really enjoyed counting three dice! Another group was playing a guessing game with my assistant identifying alphabet letters as they walked around a path on one side of the room. The kids came up with all kinds of new rules and ways to play the game, including holding the letters upside down and sideways. Another group was stringing beads on pipe cleaners to make bracelets, necklaces, and crowns. There were  nine children around the table totally absorbed in creating jewelry (as they honed their fine motor skills).

It really gave me hope that I can facilitate a play based/emergent curriculum across the curriculum and not just in the art studio! I think one of the biggest things that I noticed last year on art studio days was that infrequent sharing and the reflection at the end of studio time  (because clean up time took so long and we ran out of  class time) resulted in less creative products and student to student inspiration than I’ve seen in other years. The blogs and Ontario Ministry of Education materials that I’ve read have really emphasized the importance of student reflection after playful learning activities, and today when we reflected on our activity time before recess I heard some really interesting comments from the children. In the past I’ve taken a lot of photos to document student work, and I’m interested in reading about and trying a variety of additional ways to document student work and engage children in the documentation process too.

I was really nervous about my new class and thankfully those jitters turned out to be much ado about nothing!

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m Feeling the Luck O’ the Irish!

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One of my students helped write a list of words for our class during X week. I really like her fancy way of writing the letter S! It’s amazing how fancying up that one letter creates a font-like effect. Love her accompanying illustration too! Her dad noticed the sign and immediately recognized her personal artistic voice!

Exciting news!  I found my camera! It had been missing for two months, and last Friday I asked a coworker if he had seen it, and he had it in his office!  He told me that someone found it in the parking lot and turned it in to him. I knew I had grabbed it from my classroom, but I assumed that it had gotten misplaced in the shuffle at home. I had searched my classroom, the art studio, the main office, and my house. The memory card is missing, but I had a spare!

It’s Saint Patrick’s Day today, and I made green smoothies today with my students. We used spinach, green apples, pineapple, banana, and green grapes as well as some almond milk. The kids absolutely loved the smoothies. We went through about five quarts with 18 children! I tested it out on my own personal teenage sons at home tonight. Sadly…they aren’t as adventurous as my kindergarten students! (And I didn’t even tell them it had spinach in it!)

I also set up some precut rainbow colored paper strips, black cauldron shapes, shamrock shapes, yellow circles for gold coins, star stickers, and tempera paint. My morning students got the idea to make cauldrons they could put coins in by stapling two cauldrons together. They also decided to make leprechaun hats and beards.  This meant doing some problem solving to figure out how to create hats. We ended up deciding to make headbands and then staple hat shapes to the headbands. The bright orange paper beards were quite a sight!

The sticker stars were a big hit. I had a child that made a face on the cauldron using stars. I had another write his name and surround it with stars. I had another cover the handle of the cauldron with stars. In the afternoon one of my students painted a cloud and rainbow on her cauldron. Another student cut a different colored square for each letter of her name making a rainbow across her cauldron. Though I have to admit….that I prefer studio time when kids generate their own topics, it was nice to see how many different ways the children explored the St. Patrick’s Day theme with the available materials.

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Last week was Z week and one of the prompts I put out for the students was zigzag shaped paper strips. I was able to use up some interesting scrap papers as well as some colorful construction paper. One of my students  even created her own Zentangle style designs on her zigzags. She was justifiably proud of the way she wrote her name with zigzag letters too!

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Here are some additional pieces of Zig zag art:

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The one below is made by a little boy that’s crazy about the Seahawks and for the past two months all of his art work has been Seahawks green and blue. I like how he created some three dimensional zigzags!

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Hope you enjoy your Saint Patrick’s Day! I’m toasting mine with a Guiness as well as a green smoothie!

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My Message to the Badass Association of Teachers

francifularts:

When learning is truly meaningful to students they do not resist, complain of boredom, or count the minutes until they can leave. Students will stay past the end of the school day, students will beg for more time, and they will be proud of their accomplishments. As an educator I have experienced both sides of the equation. In positions that I have truly been able to support student learning I have left work on cloud nine. In positions in which I was under pressure to “cover” the material and prepare for tests, I have left work ground down and exhausted.
If students are to truly achieve their potential, their individual interests must be supported in the classroom, because that is what motivates them to become lifelong learners, innovators, entrepreneurs, and successful, happy people!
The bottom line is that more teachers, mentors, and caring adults are needed in children’s lives to help them achieve their potentials. Our current system of education is like most businesses. Everyone is expected to do more with less. American workers in the past few years have been touted as being even more productive than ever recorded previously. At the same time most workers are making far less proportionally when you compare the cost of living than Americans did 50 years ago.
It would be expensive to hire more teachers and assistants, but not only are our nation’s children the most important investment for the future we can make, but I feel assured the results would surpass our highest expectations.
In my humble opinion, children should be supported in learning through play not just in preschool, but all through elementary school. In middle school and high school they should have opportunities to work on special projects they are truly interested in where they can problem solve and use skills like reading and writing and quantitative analysis to effectively communicate their learning to their peers.
The factory system of education where we churn large groups of children through the schools, and force them to sit doing meaningless paper tasks for hours on end, give them a pitiful amount of outdoor recreation time, and for the most part extremely abominable school lunches is criminal in a nation which is one of the wealthiest in the world.

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

I was uneasy with the name , but I got over it.

The reality is that the Badass Association of Teachers fills a need. Teachers have been beaten up in the media, and have seen state after state strip away their academic freedom, their rights, their status in the community.

I was invited to join and to write an address to the BAT. This is it.

And here it is in full (by the way, I am uncomfortable with the name lie many others, but our struggle requires militants and BAT is the point of the spear):

Message of Support from Diane Ravitch to the Badass Teachers Association

Dear Members of the Badass Teachers Association,

I am honored to join your group.

The best hope for the future of our society, of public education, and of the education profession is that people stand up and resist.

Say “no.” Say…

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It’s Been a Long Slog, but a Rainbow’s in View!

I often think about my blog. It seems like a lifetime ago that it was something I really enjoyed working on. It’s sad that it’s been months since I’ve posted anything. It’s even been months since I checked my site visit statistics. I was actually surprised when I checked this evening that I had had anyone viewing my blog, as I haven’t had any new posts since last year.

My new job this year has really zapped my energy level.  Not only have I been learning how to take care of everything that’s required in regards to state licensing and supervising employees, but I have some really challenging student behaviors to contend with, not to mention developing a whole new curriculum. I haven’t read a Teacher Tom post  or the Teaching for Artistic Behavior list serv (my two favorite things on the web) since Christmas. I’ve just been swamped and overwhelmed.

Between working a lot,  trying to keep my ravenous teenage sons fed, and keeping my house in a nominal state of order I just have not had the time to write, or the energy to share much. Then a few weeks ago I lost my camera, so I have no photos either! It’s a bummer because it was a nice camera, and the memory card had some great photos on it! Sadly there will be no photos with this post!

In any event, today was a really great day, and this week overall has been pretty good! It’s Friday evening and I’m not so wiped out that  all I can do is order a pizza and watch a movie before I collapse into bed!

One of my most difficult students left our program for another program. Monday was his last day. Monday one of my assistants called in sick, and we had to do some scrambling to find a substitute, which also added to a bit of the craziness. Señor Difficult knew he was leaving and had even less incentive than usual to do his best. Monday was an exhausting day. It was a sad day too. Despite the challenges he presented, I really liked Señor Difficult. Today we got a new student and he is a good listener, follows directions, and is very cheerful and smiley! Hallelujah!

Fridays are our art studio days, and my personal mantra is Friday Fun Day! All of my demos since January have related to sculpture. One of the things that students in past years have really loved is creating things from boxes. This year’s class has mostly ignored my box full of cardboard tubes and  boxes. Today I read the book Not A Box by Antoinette Portis which is about a bunny that has all kinds of imaginative ideas about what the box really is. When the kids got to the art studio almost all of them headed for the 3-d construction center to grab a box. They made some wonderful homes for their stuffed animals, Lego men, and dolls. One boy made a ferry boat. One girl made a castle. It was also the first time this year I’ve gotten out the glue gun. I’ve wanted the kids to use other kinds of attachments, because the glue gun though a quick easy way to attach things, is not really very permanent, long lasting glue.

This year my afternoon class which is larger and has the most challenging students, has had to help me not only put away things like scissors and glue, but get all supplies back on shelves, wash the tables, and sweep the floor as the art studio is not our exclusive space and we have to prepare it for the next group. And remember these are five and six year olds that are having to help me do this. It’s been a really challenging part of art studio day. Instead of taking the 15 minutes it’s supposed to, it’s taken  half an hour, and we’ve rarely had time to share what the kids have created. The sad part about that is that the gallery walk and sharing is one of the main things that inspires the student artists to come up with new ideas. The sharing opens up the doors to new possibilities and ways to use materials as students inspire each other. Today the kids zipped through the clean up and we had time for a gallery walk and sharing in the morning and the afternoon. I was so happy! The main reason I think we were able to zip through the clean up was because Señor Difficult was not there. It gives me a lot of optimism for Art Studio Fridays to come!

I hope I find my camera!  I hope the rest of the year is as great as today was! I’m optimistic, and hope to have at least a monthly posting until school is out for the summer!

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Tomorrow is Friday!

This painting was created with a q tip rather than a paint brush.  I found students actually seem to have better control of the paint media with a q tip than with paint brushes.

This painting was created with a q tip rather than a paint brush. I found students actually seem to have better control of the paint media with a q tip than with paint brushes.

My life as a kindergarten enrichment teacher still is a bit of a rollercoaster. Some days are joyous and filled with wonder, hugs, and the magic of childhood. Thankfully most days are good!

This colorful bridge was quite a bone of contention as the builder did not want other children to drive their trains on his bridge. Thankfully.....there were other roads and bridges for children to use!

This colorful bridge was quite a bone of contention as the builder did not want other children to drive their trains on his bridge. Thankfully…..there were other roads and bridges for children to use!

Some days are grueling filled with five year old drama kings and queens, bandaids, administrative work, and skeptical coworkers.  (One of my assistants has a habit of grumbling about my hands on and up to your elbows in paint messy open ended activities I have on offer. She’s not quite convinced that a constructivist approach that supports student creativity is the ticket. But she suffers nobly for my cause! None of us is perfect, and though she grumbles she also does some great work with the children.)  I still haven’t found a work-life balance with this job. Too many hours working, and not enough family and relaxation time.

Sand volcanos erupting when vinegar is poured on baking soda in the crater. Lots of sand on floor, but highly worth the clean up time as kids oohs and ahhs proved!

Sand volcanos erupting when vinegar is poured on baking soda in the crater. Lots of sand on floor, but highly worth the clean up time as kids oohs and ahhs proved!

I have to admit that Thanksgiving break was absolutely necessary to my sanity. It was something to be able to sleep in four days in a row! I cooked up a feast on Thanksgiving and enjoyed leftovers with my family all weekend.  We played board games, went to see a movie, and I read a novel. Boy did I feel indulged and revved up to get back to work this week!

These plastic interlocking blocks have been a huge favorite this year with the boys. Generally they are creating spaceships, blasters, and bombs. This robot warrior is probably the most complex creation so far this year. Suddenly about an hour after it was put up in the window for safekeeping it toppled over which was a surprise the children liked. Even the maker was a good sport about it and laughed.

These plastic interlocking blocks have been a huge favorite this year with the boys. Generally they are creating spaceships, blasters, and bombs. This robot warrior is probably the most complex creation so far this year. Suddenly about an hour after it was put up in the window for safekeeping it toppled over which was a surprise the children liked. Even the maker was a good sport about it and laughed.

Pinterest has been my greatest teaching aid this year. I can search a topic like hedgehogs and get all kinds of ideas and resources to share with my students. I  make new boards each week to organize my curriculum ideas and themes. I can turn my ipad over to my assistant and say, “Use the cloud board to find the video I selected on types of clouds, and show photos of the different types of clouds.” This week was M week and one day I read the Steven Kellogg book, “How Much is a Million”.  The next day I was able to show a wonderful video I pinned from  You Tube of James Earl Jones reading one of my favorite books Millions of Cats (by Wanda G’ag).

A week ago I made this white, glittery playdough.  It was the first time this year I made unscented playdough. The kids were just really tough on me because it didn't have an exotic scent. This week we had green peppermint scented playdough which was student approved!

A week ago I made this white, glittery playdough. It was the first time this year I made unscented playdough. The kids were just really tough on me because it didn’t have an exotic scent. This week we had green peppermint scented playdough which was student approved!

I still sit on the fence about whether I should continue in this position next year or go back to my homeschool groups. Part of me reminisces so fondly about those students and the classes I taught, and part of me is really enjoying the depth of the relationships I’m developing with my students because I’m with them five days a week. I think that next year will be so much easier and hopefully less time consuming, because of all the ground work I’m laying this year. The paycheck is a major carrot, but I often wistfully think about the block collection I left behind, the small classes with almost perfectly behaved children, and the time I had to create some of my own art.

We had tried basic paper weaving.  Then I showed the students how paper weaving could be used in non-traditional shapes and ways. I was thrilled when this student created a paper woven bird!

We had tried basic paper weaving. Then I showed the students how paper weaving could be used in non-traditional shapes and ways. I was thrilled when this student created a paper woven bird!

I think the highlight of this first week of December was yesterday when one of my students that often seems inattentive to the lessons I present was playing with some yarn pom poms. I had put out the pom poms for a craft activity and she was enjoying sorting them by color and pairing them up. She said, ” Look teacher, this white one doesn’t have a buddy.” This absolutely thrilled me, because several weeks ago I introduced the concept of odd and even numbers by putting on my own drama queen moment with some plastic bear math manipulatives.  I made the bears cry when there was an odd amount and a bear was left without a buddy. ( When I asked my assistant to use the same approach in the afternoon she wasn’t thrilled. My assistant really pooh poohed my lesson saying, “Oh they can’t possibly understand that.” I had to grit my teeth, but I also realize she has her own way of presenting information which suits her style and personality.) I wasn’t happy because I could secretly gloat about my assistant’s comment (well maybe not entirely true!), but because my approach had connected with the children. A parent was dropping off his daughter and I shared with him the “odd/even” pom pom moment. He confirmed that his daughter is also making connections and discussing what she’s doing in the kindergarten enrichment program on a regular basis at home.

I wish I could show you the photos of the students digging in tubs of dirt and absolutely loving holding the earthworms they found there as part of one of our science activities. thankfully the worms aren't as picky about internet privacy so you can see them!

I wish I could show you the photos of the students digging in tubs of dirt and absolutely loving holding the earthworms they found there as part of one of our science activities. Thankfully the worms aren’t as picky about internet privacy so you can see them!

Each day I think about supplies and equipment I’d love to acquire for my class. Most of the time I’m too busy setting up hands-on activities or putting materials away to sit down at the computer and order them. When I’m not at work  I’m at home cooking playdough, searching my bookshelves for that certain book I want to read to the children, gathering materials I need from my garage which is my teaching supply warehouse, or looking at Pinterest.

I brought some tumbled glass back from the Washington Art Ed Assoc. convention and today the children really enjoyed creating mosaic trivets which they'll be giving as gifts for the holidays.

I brought some tumbled glass back from the Washington Art Ed Assoc. convention and today the children really enjoyed creating mosaic trivets which they’ll be giving as gifts for the holidays.

Tomorrow is Friday which is our art studio day and I’m glad to have made it through another week!

A collage for Grandma created two Fridays ago in the art studio.

A collage for Grandma created two Fridays ago in the art studio.

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Photography: “Time is a Dimension…”

francifularts:

I really enjoyed these photos and thought I’d share them!

Originally posted on Katerina'sGift:

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Photographer: Fong Qi Wei

source: a-pistefto.blogspot.gr

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