pre-k FINALLY started!!!

Well, my friends, after the first two days of Pre-K, I can finally say that I feel the school year (and my career) has begun!

Was it messy? Yes.

Was it completely chaotic at times? YES.

Did I almost lose my voice after the first morning? Yes.

Did we have a few tears? Yes (but way fewer than I mentally prepared myself for).

Did I have to run after a wandering student several times? Yes.

Did I tie shoes, zip zippers, and pull sweaters over heads? Yes. About 100 times. And we are going to start working on independence with these tasks ASAP – haha.

Did I absolutely love it? Yes!

 

Having my mornings filled with Pre-K now makes my day go a lot faster! The time really flies when you spend your time with 15 three and four year olds. And boy, do they keep you on your toes! Never a dull moment.

I would say that the first two days were a major success! We are working on learning basic routines and procedures at school, and I think this next full week coming up will help solidify these expectations.

I even got all of my students sitting in small groups doing table work on the SECOND DAY!!! Sure, it may have only lasted a few minutes, but I call that a victory!

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I think this picture perfectly sums up Pre-K. It looks chaotic and messy. But all of the students are engaged and learning in their own way. That is what I think our entire education system should strive towards. 

As I looked back through pictures of the two morning we spent together, my heart soared. I was overwhelmed with pride and love for these amazing little people I get to call my students. It truly is amazing that I am getting paid to spend my day with these lovely, blossoming little learners and be a part of their lives. I promise I won’t take it for granted.

-Ms. F

 

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medicine wheel patterns = huge hit

Updates: I just finished my 8th week with the students. I currently teach from the beginning of the morning until recess (9-10:20), put out invitations for centre time (11:10-11:40), cover Book Look/Word of the Day and Math (12:45-1:45 ish) and do end of the day/library routines (2:45-3:30). Next week, I pick up Phys Ed (1:45-2:30) and the week after, I start my 3 week block of full time teaching.

Here are some of the highlights from my week:

Treaty Ed = loving it!

My Treaty Ed infused lessons have been my absolute favourite so far in my internship (which makes me even more excited to attend the Treaty Ed Camp in Regina on November 7th – check out the event and register here). Both of my lessons (on Promises and the Medicine Wheel) turned out to be not only my best lessons content-wise but the students also loved them! This week, we learned about the Medicine Wheel and its four quadrants. We then placed the four elements, four seasons, and four stages of life into the correct quadrant. Then we made a Medicine Wheel with our bodies (and some coloured sweaters) and stood up/sat down as our quadrant’s season, colour, stage of life, or element was said. This lesson was so cool and the students were so engaged and into it – they really soaked up the Medicine Wheel quadrants and teachings!

We learned that the four quadrants can stand for the four seasons, the four elements, and the four stages of life (among other things!).

We learned that the four quadrants can stand for the four seasons, the four elements, and the four stages of life (among other things!).

We made a Medicine Wheel with our classmates! When I called one quadrant's colour, season, element, or stage of life, they stood up! This made a pattern.

We made a Medicine Wheel with our classmates! When I called one quadrant’s colour, season, element, or stage of life, they stood up! This made a pattern.

Phys Ed = such a struggle for me

Next week, I pick up Phys Ed full time and, if I am being completely honest, this is definitely a worry for me. I find Phys Ed to be the hardest subject area to manage (and unlike the older grades, we have it slotted in every single day – which is great for this age group but difficult for me). I know lots of teachers just see Phys Ed as ‘filler’ time and they don’t really look at the curriculum, but this is a goal of mine. I will be doing the manipulative skills unit on sending and receiving, and am excited, but nervous. I think this will definitely be a growth area for my 3 week block and I hope to have my cooperating teacher in during this time to observe me and offer tips for success. The redeeming thing about Phys Ed, however, is that the kids love this time of the day no matter what we do, so at least they will be excited and engaged (sometimes they are just a little bit TOO excited).

EYE testing = time off of teaching

I have finished up the daunting task of EYE tests this week – hooray! The scores are ready to input. Doing this testing gave me some time off of teaching the whole class and to spend one-on-one time with students. However, I found that it definitely made my day feel longer. I really do love being in the classroom with the whole group dynamic of a classroom. I understand that one-on-one testing is part of a teacher’s job description, but I wouldn’t say that it is my favourite. It seems so much more drawn out and stilted than the fast pace of classroom goings-on.

Disruptive students = I want to help, but don’t know what to do

Last week, I was feeling strong and on top of the world, teaching wise. This week felt like much more of a struggle. I think it is partially because I am picking up classes and noticing how much harder it is to handle the students for an entire day, rather than one hour. Also, I hope that this is because my pedagogy has improved and I am, thus, harder on myself and more critical/expect more.

I am feeling especially frustrated at the end of the day with one group of students, as one in particular ends up sitting apart from the class during some portions of the day since he cannot participate in group instruction at the Story Corner without disrupting the learning of others. I discussed this with my coop teacher, and she reassured me that this is an acceptable action for this student (she does this herself), as he is not learning when he is disruptive, and neither are his classmates around him, so it is just better to remove him from the group. However, this really goes against my teaching philosophy and I feel that I should be doing more to help this student be successful during group instructional time. I am additionally frustrated for my students who are doing what is asked and are wanting and ready to learn but can’t because I have to spend so much energy disciplining and attempting to manage this little learner. To attempt to aid this problem, I have brainstormed a list of possible solutions and strategies to help this student be more successful in the coming weeks – fingers crossed!

Outdoor Explorations = chaotic, but meaningful, learning

Also this week, I did another Treaty Ed/Math lesson where students went outside to gather natural materials to make patterns with. I was so nervous to take my students outside (as we had a sub that day, and she encouraged me to take the students out on my own); at first, I did head counts about every 30 seconds to make sure no one would wander off. I was thoroughly impressed by my students, though. It turns out I had nothing to worry about. They were excited and eager to gather materials. We ended up collecting rocks, sticks, leaves, pinecones, and a few too many ladybugs got into the mix as well. Here are some pictures of my little nature explorers:

Rocks were a popular (and heavy) natural item.

Rocks were a popular (and heavy) natural item.

Picking some grass and green plants growing near the fence.

Picking some grass and green plants growing near the fence.

Getting dressed and undressed to go outside didn't take nearly as long as I originally thought!

Getting dressed and undressed to go outside didn’t take nearly as long as I originally thought!

Making patterns

Making patterns

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Some students liked their nature patterns so much, they asked to take them home in their Ziploc bags. I was thrilled. We also briefly touched on the HCK outcome in Treaty Ed by talking about how we use natural items to suit our needs and how First Nations people thank nature whenever they take something (ex. by leaving tobacco, a special plant, behind). I asked the class how we could possibly say “Thank You” to nature for letting us take some of its items for our use, and one student suggested we leave behind something of ours that is very special to us – how sweet! We ended up just whispering “Thank You” as we picked something up that we liked. I definitely could have gone deeper into this part of the lesson, but students were already afternoon-antsy and wanting to get outside, so we skimmed over this portion of the lesson more than I would have liked. Hopefully we can touch on this again in the future.

Faculty Advisor visits = participation rather than observation

My faculty advisor came for her second visit this week, which went well I am happy to say! I was especially tickled when she asked to participate in my lesson rather than sitting at the back of the room, disengaged and taking notes. I think that this is such a benefit for her, as so much of the learning in Kindergarten is happening through playing and exploring, not just lecture and teacher instruction. It makes me feel like I am doing a good job of making an engaging classroom when she wants to participate in the lesson alongside the students – which is what Kindergarten is really all about!

Week 8, I am both relieved and saddened that you are over. Here’s to an even better Week #9!

-KKF

Oh, P.S., we also painted lady bug rocks this week (which was a fun, yet super hectic experience for me to manage!). They turned out very cute and were part of an emergent curriculum/inquiry project we did after students found lady bugs outside and were fascinated. Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 7.31.37 PM

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so much to do, so little time

To start this post off… a few recent KinderQuotes!

One of our students (we will call her Gracie) was at home sick.

Student: “Where is Gracie?”

Me: “Gracie is not feeling well, so she didn’t come to school today.”

Student: “What, is she sea sick or something?”


Student (holding up her middle finger to show me): “Miss. Fidelack, this finger REALLY hurts!”

I have to say, I didn’t expect to get flipped the bird in Kindergarten. :p I couldn’t help but giggle at this occurrence.


We are doing patterns in math, and during a hands-on activity with manipulatives, this conversation happened…

Student: “When do we get to do math?”

Me: “This IS math!”

Student: “But, like, real math. Because I already know what 2+2 is!”


My co-op teacher quietly called me “Kara.” A student working nearby overheard this and piped up, “Ms. Haas, why did you call Miss Fidelack “Kara”? That’s not her name!” I got a kick out of this. I feel like I have a secret identity! haha


One student often comes up to me and exclaims, “Free hug!”


A student taps me on the shoulder and reminds me, “We forgot to do milk today!” I love how good these kids are at remembering things and keeping me on track. 🙂


Today, I accidentally got called “Grandma” and “Mom.” This cracked me up to no end. Happy that I am comparable to the wonderful grandmas and moms out there!


Some cool things I’ve done lately…

Introduced hand signals that correspond to a student body action. I use these as integrated brain breaks, during Calendar/Leader time especially (when students are expected to sit and focus for an extended period of time). These are great when there is a small lull, as it breaks up student sitting and also motivates students to keep their eyes on me because they never know when I am going to do a hand signal! Here are a few pictures of the class learning them:

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This hand signal. a closed fist, is “Turtle.” The students curl their bodies up like a turtle in its shell.

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This one (flat hand, palm out, thumb up) is “Shark.” The students make a fin above their heads and circle their table one time.

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This (five fingers splayed) is “Starfish.” Students stand up and spread their arms and legs to make a star.

The kids love these and even requested additional signals. I have since introduced “Jellyfish” (thumb tucked in, four fingers pointing downward and wiggling), where students stand up and wiggle all of their arms and legs.

I also did an impromptu talking circle and hope to incorporate these more often, as students are never quieter and more attentive than when their classmates have the special ‘talking stick.’ This is also culturally responsive and integrates Indigenous ways of knowing.

I have been noticing a lot of students raising their hands to tell stories during morning routines. I wanted to think of a way to get them to hold their comments until a more appropriate time, but still be able to give them each a chance to share. Thus, Story Snack Time was born! I made a deal with students that if they can hold their stories until snack time (when we don’t “have a job to do”), I will circulate all of their tables and listen to a story from each of them. This has been amazing so far! Fewer interruptions and strengthened relationships all in one! I love being able to get to know these students’ personal experience and have one-on-one time with all of them each day. I think they are enjoying this opportunity to ‘be heard’ as well.

Finally, I did a math lesson yesterday that was one of my best lessons yet. It was set up similar to our morning “Centre Time,” when students can freely choose what they would like to do. I was focusing on the skill of extending a pattern, and students had three different centres to pick from that all worked on this concept.

At this centre, students could create a pattern with the manipulatives and have their peers extend it.

At this centre, students could create a pattern with the manipulatives and have their peers extend it.

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Another centre had several different versions of these worksheets I created. I love putting these in page protectors so students can draw on them with dry erase markers and erase them later. Paper saver tip!

The third choice was a pattern book full of worksheets that my cooperating teacher usually does during this unit. I was surprised at how many pages of the books some students were able to finish! Another example of me underestimating my little geniuses.

This lesson was a hit with students! They couldn’t believe that they actually got to choose where they wanted to go. Some students jumped around a lot, and others stayed at one centre almost the entire time. I loved that students with different interests and strengths were all able to find a centre they liked. Some students are truly ready for the book work and pre-reading/writing skills, so they LOVED the workbook centre. Others are very kinaesthetic learners, so ate up the hands-on manipulatives centre. I loved this lesson because I got to interact with almost all of my students in a different, yet meaningful, way. I learned so much about what they can do and what they like to do in a small amount of time. This is why I love centres and play-based learning – if offers a world of possibilities. I am going to try and do more student-centred lessons like this in the future. Oh, and another bonus: Almost ZERO teacher talk and whole class instruction time for students to sit through! Yes!

Here are the 3 worksheets that I had in the page protectors:

Extend pattern 1

extend pattern 2

extend pattern 3

Welcome to my brain…

Here are a few random thought blurbs I have had over the past week or two.

When I was home over the Thanksgiving weekend, I was somewhat irked to hear that there was a Boil Water Advisory for the tap water, as the town is working on putting in an RO system. Later, I felt guilty for feeling so inconvenienced, as I realized that we take access to clean, safe water for granted. Not only do we get water at the flick of a tap, it is usually ready for our consumption, whereas others in the world walk significant distances to get water, or have to risk drinking unsanitary water every day. That was definitely an eye-opening moment for me.

Since being placed in Kindergarten for my internship, I have been reflecting back to my days in K. I was pretty shocked at some of the things that were required when I was in Kindergarten, specifically:

  • counting to 100 every day (students have to know numbers 0-10 in today’s curriculum)
  • tying our shoes independently (which I still remember struggling with and being very frustrated over)

I just thought it was interesting to see how much things had changed since I was in my early childhood years. I think that today’s focus on play-based learning and exploration are so much more fitting for students’ developmental needs at this wonderful age.

I finished my midterm assessment with my cooperating teacher today – what a strange feeling! I can’t believe that I am approaching 50% completion of my internship! I am happy to say that I have already grown so much since we did my pre-assessment at the Internship Seminar in September. I also targeted a few goals that I will be working on as I continue my journey! Stay tuned!

-KKF

starting patterns and centres so far

Last week, I spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in Regina for a 3 day Internship Seminar for interns and cooperating teachers. That meant only 2 days in the classroom with the students. I ended up seeing some of my students on Friday evening at the school football game and got a chorus of “I misted you!”‘s. While I enjoyed the Internship Seminar and learned a lot (as well as enjoyed time with like-minded adult company), three days without seeing my students was hard! What is especially hard (I found out this week) is coming back to your students after they have had a teacher and a change of pace in the classroom. I have definitely felt extra tired after the past two days – you have to refocus your students and reacquaint them with your routines and expectations.

Today was my first, truly formal lesson and the first in my planned Math unit on Patterns. I introduced the concept of patterns to the students and did a few examples (both by wearing a striped shirt and talking about how the colours of the stripes repeated over and over again, and by pointing to items in patterns I had drawn on chart paper). Then I had the students create patterns with themselves. We made three patterns – dark hair/light hair, hands up/hands down by sides, and boy/girl. The students really enjoyed this kinaesthetic activity! They were also eager to point out patterns on their clothing and in the classroom – I was impressed with how quickly they picked up the concept! I think this will be a very fun unit and am excited for all of the hands-on work I have planned.

My PDP target today was to quickly and effectively manage disruptive and/or off-task students. I started out by teaching the students the Quiet Coyote hand signal (see below – your hand makes a face that looks like a Coyote). This caught on very well! Some of my blurting repeat offenders responded especially well to this strategy – bonus!

Quiet Coyote has his mouth closed and his ears open. I show this to interruptive students.

Quiet Coyote has his mouth closed and his ears open. I show this to interruptive students.

For a busy class, I was very pleased with how well I kept them under control and calm. The lesson, as a whole, was a success and I thought my management was, for the most part, quick and effective. Next time, I am going to work on strategic seating of particular students who may cause disruptions. I also need to tighten up on my management of blurting when students have something relevant to add to the conversation. I have such a hard time telling students to stop when they are adding useful comments to the lesson. This means that I have to remind blurters that, in order to contribute to the discussion, they must do it the right way (by raising their hand and waiting to be called on). I am doing the same lesson and PDP target tomorrow with the other group of students, so I am interested to see how my management will differ between the two groups.

Finally, I just wanted to post a few pictures of the invitations I have done so far:

A full view of my Garden centre. I hid bugs in the soil for students to find, name, sort, count, etc.

A full view of my Garden centre. I hid bugs in the soil for students to find, name, sort, count, etc.

Garden 2 Garden 1

I made a Still Life invitation for Arts Ed. We discussed that Still Lifes are drawings of things that don't move (like flowers, fruit, bowls, etc.).

I made a Still Life invitation for Arts Ed. We discussed that Still Lifes are drawings of things that don’t move (like flowers, fruit, bowls, etc.).

Still Life 2

I included some pictures of famous Still Lifes, like Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.”

This invitation was a set of Sensory Bins focusing on the 4 seasons.

This invitation was a set of Sensory Bins focusing on the 4 seasons.

I thought this one turned out really well - I love the colours in fall!

I thought this one turned out really well – I love the colours in fall!

Students seemed to really enjoy this centre - they did a great job of sorting the items in the bin.

Students seemed to really enjoy this centre – they did a great job of sorting the items in the bin.

You can't really tell, but I put fake grass on the bottom of this bin and also added in a few bugs.

You can’t really tell, but I put fake grass on the bottom of this bin and also added in a few bugs.

This centre was great because it had natural and real sand. But it was also the messiest!

This centre was great because it the natural material of real sand from the playground. But it was also the messiest!

I also did a centre all about Self Portraits. Each of my students drew their self portrait - they ended up adorable!

I also did a centre all about Self Portraits. Each of my students drew their self portrait – they ended up adorable!

When I first found out I was placed in Kindergarten, I was a bit worried that I would miss out on planning typical lessons in all of the subject areas, as a majority of the subjects in Kindergarten is covered through invitations rather than whole class lessons. However, my faculty advisor really helped to turn my outlook around – she said that K is one of the few grades that has a more holistic and integrated approach to the curriculum. Invitations are all hands-on and experiential – which is an excellent way for students, especially young ones, to learn! I am really enjoying the invitations part of planning; I never know exactly what students will bring to the table in regards to previous knowledge and I am always surprised at the things students do with the materials that I would not have thought of. The open-ended nature of invitations offers constant surprise!

I cannot believe that I already have FOUR weeks of internship under my belt. After teaching a few times, attending my internship seminar, and getting to know my co-op/students better, I am getting very excited to take on more parts of the day as I gear up towards my three week block of full time teaching. I also know that the rest of internship will continue to fly by in the same fashion, so I am doing my best to remember to soak up all of the little moments. Luckily, Kindergarten offers lots of hugs, laughs, and smiles. I cannot help but feel so lucky to be a part of my lovely students’ lives for four months.

Until next time,

-KKF

third semester eye openers

I can’t think of a better reason to stay up than to do a blog post! Here are some of the interesting tidbits that have happened in the past few weeks…

1. My Field Experiences/Practicums This Semester

I have had two sessions at Balfour Collegiate working with ESL students and have really enjoyed it! One big realization I had was a result of talking with the cooperating teacher (that is so graciously letting 30 pre-service teachers into his classroom this semester), who was in the Elementary program, like me, when he was in university. He told my two other classmates and I that you can end up getting offered a Grade 11 Chemistry job right out of university, and you take it! I always find it interesting when teachers end up in different grades and subject areas than they were trained for. While I think it is beneficial in some situations to have the flexibility of a BEd. giving you the certification to teach any grade, I also feel that I would feel uncomfortable, unconfident, and totally out of my element in a high school. I suppose sometimes that is the best way to get your foot in the door and try something new and challenging, though!

However, volunteering in a mixed Grade 9-12 ESL class has really opened my mind to the possibility of ending up working with high school students at some point in my career. I feel that if I did, by some chance, end up in a high school, I would like to teach ESL students because, like Elementary, the teacher for the tutorial sessions works with all subjects, not one specialized area.

Another thing that I’ve been pondering lately… Why are there so many different acronyms for students who speak English as an additional language? ESL, EAL, ELL, oh my! Can’t they just pick one to use? haha

2. I am part of the Ambassador program at the U of R and I just got an e-mail from the head of the Ambassador program yesterday asking if I wanted to have a Campus For All Ambassador buddy. I was so excited and honoured to be given this opportunity! As an Education student, we are always ecstatic to get the chance to work with others and add these wonderful experiences to our resume. We keep hearing that all resumes and portfolios look the same, so it is really the additional experiences you have that will make you stand out and get you a job. There are hundreds of Ambassadors at the U of R, so I was tickled pink that the coordinator thought of me as a candidate! I’m sure I will have more to tell you about this once I get to meet my buddy and do some events with him!

If you want to learn more about the Campus For All program at the U of R, check their page out here!

3. I never posted some pictures of activities I did during my final tutoring session, so here you go:

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This is a reading board game I whipped up! It turned out really well and I’d love to use it again someday (sorry the image is so small. The spaces read: “Pick up a new word,” “Use your word in a sentence,” “Move ahead 3 spaces,” “Say a word that rhymes with yours,” “Read 2 new words,” “Spell your word,” “Move back 2 spaces,” “Act out your word,” “Make a new word using letters from yours,” “How many syllables in your word?,” and “How many vowels in your word?”). The only thing I would change is maybe making corresponding piles of word cards to pick from for certain spaces, because not all of the word cards I made could be easily used for all of the space tasks. For example, some of the words were very short, so you couldn’t arrange their letters to make other words; or some of the words were abstract terms that couldn’t be acted out.

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This is a fun little drawing activity that I linked to the online resource Bembo’s Zoo (check it out – I LOVE it!). It is a fun way to incorporate language into art.

4. Today in my ECE (Early Childhood Education) class, the instructor was teaching us the Waldorf ECE approach by actually treating the students like we were Kindergarteners, and I absolutely LOVED it! Some students were hesitant and embarrassed to sing the songs and perform the actions, but I thought it was a nice change of pace from the normal university class. This just affirmed for me how overjoyed I am to be heading towards a career that will let me sing songs and dance and fingerpaint and tell stories every single day! I truly am blessed! My work with the ESL students has opened up my eyes to the possibility of working with teenage students, and now my ECE class has me considering all the awesome aspects of working with Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten students as well. Don’t get me wrong, Grade 1 will probably always have my heart, but I am finding, more and more every day, that it isn’t about the age of the students to me, it is simply the act of teaching and fostering a love of learning that draws me to this field. It’s a nice epiphany to have and it makes it easy for me to say that I can enjoy any Grade that I may teach in the future.

This semester is shaping up to be a very busy (but wonderful!) one, so I am sure I will have more things to share soon! I hope whoever and wherever you are, you have a splendid day!