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!







About francifularts

I am an independent art educator. I had my first experience teaching ceramics when I was 24 and worked in the University for Youth program at the University of Denver. As an elementary school teacher I always found myself integrating the arts across the curriculum, which led to me working as an artist in the schools. In May of 2008 I began a master's program with Lesley University in their Creative Arts in Learning Program. It was a truly transformative and incredible experience which led me to decide to devote the rest of my teaching career to teaching art, and through the arts. About the same time that I completed my master's degree in January of 2011 I was hired to teach art in two different programs. I have never been happier in my work as a teacher, and I really appreciate the wonderful professors and cohort of fellow teachers I studied with at Lesley University. I also want to thank all of the wonderful arts educators that I have met online through the TAB/choice list serv for their thoughtful posts and insightful suggestions for teaching art!
This entry was posted in early childhood education, play based learning, reflections on teaching and learning, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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