student passion = teacher passion

It is already dangerously near my weeknight bedtime (which I have been trying to faithfully follow this year with much success so far!), so I am going to try and make this one quick, but still jam-packed with the good stuff. 🙂

  1. I’ve been known to beat myself up over not posting more often on my blog. I’ve also been known to state outright (on this very blog) that I would like to post more regularly and often. One day a few weeks ago, when I was feeling guilty over not posting, I realized that this bad habit needs to stop. And by “bad habit,” I mean feeling guilty, not neglecting to post on a regular timeline. I love my blog because it is a place to share my passions, and if that means only posting when the mood strikes and I have something important or interesting to share, that’s great! There is no point churning out irrelevant posts on a set schedule. So, my promise is no longer to post once every two weeks, or once a month, or once every (insert measure of time here), but rather to post once I get an idea that I am excited to share with all of you. 🙂
  2. Upon returning to my blog after a summer of hiatus (I’m trying not to feel guilty.. haha), I realized that my last post in June perfectly connects to my main topic tonight. In summary, I talked about trying to bring passion into my prep subjects I teach in the afternoon by building relationships with students and taking time to get to know them amidst the somewhat controlled chaos that is “teaching out of a cart” (although the cart, in my case, is merely metaphorical, and not literal).
  3. And now on to my main topic (thanks for sticking with me through the preamble)… It must be the gloomy, rainy weather (heads up, I’m going to be honest and vulnerable here), because I came home tonight feeling deflated. After an amazing ECE conference this summer, I am feeling more passionate and willing to try new things in the Pre-K half of my job than ever! However, my prep subjects were getting me down. I became a teacher because it is my passion, my vocation, my calling and I couldn’t shake the feeling that teaching prep subjects, jumping from classroom to classroom, and  attempting to build meaningful relationships (and expectations) with 100+ kids was an overwhelmingly insurmountable task that did not bring me that passion. I couldn’t help jump on the pity train and count off the reasons why my prep subjects were the source of all my problems. After some wallowing, though, I started to ask myself what I could do to help bring my passion into these subjects… and I came up with a plan.
  4. I love Pre-K so much because it is the optimal learning environment: each student is consumed in learning that is MEANINGFUL and FUN for them. There is no teacher at the front of the room, droning on, telling students what to learn or how they will learn it. Students are co-creating knowledge and determining the direction that the learning will take. Now, if only I could bring that kind of learning environment into my upper elementary classes… Oh wait, I can! (and wouldn’t you know it, by some stroke of fate, “developing more student-driven teaching practices” is my Professional Development Goal this year).
  5. So, I think, starting next week, I will be scrapping MY plans and have a serious discussion with students about them taking charge of learning that they are interested in. Think Genius Hour meets emergent curriculum meets inquiry project? Gulp. If it sounds scary to you, it’s even more scary (albeit exciting!) to me – as a meticulous planner and ‘thrives off of organization’ type. But, if it gets the students excited about learning, then it gets me excited about teaching them helping them discover curriculum for themselves.
  6. In closing, I want to acknowledge that my younger sister is currently going into her pre-internship year the U of R (my alma mater <3). Seeing how excited she is, and thinking back to when I was just a pre-intern, is what pushes me to continue growing and finding passion in my practice. I would hate to disappoint pre-intern Kara by griping about my job (which, really does rock).

 

What brings you passion in your teaching?

How do you make learning meaningful for students?

Have you done inquiry/emergent curriculum/Genius Hour with your students? Tell me about it!

 

Well, my teaching tribe, wish me luck!

-KKF

 

 

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hands on is, hands down, the way to go

Internship is drawing (very quickly!) to a close – only four days left 😦  I realized that I have a lot of recapping to do. Here are some pictures of my lovely little learners engaging in some of the activities I have planned over the past month… (Never again will I put off posting this long – lesson learned!)

One thing I am extremely proud of is creating this Word of the Day program during my internship. This idea was taken from a Kindergarten teacher from Kindersley (check out @PamelaSawatzky‘s Twitter handle – she is a wonderful K teacher!) during a Phonological Awareness PD event at the beginning of the school year. It involves breaking down simple CVC words into their individual sounds and then placing a dot into a box (these are called El Konin boxes and are great for students to visualize the breaking down of words into sounds) for each of the sounds heard.

In the above example (“tack”), students identify the sounds they hear:

/t/  /a/  /k/    Then, Leaders for the day get to drag a dot into a box. We then practice pulling the sounds apart and putting them back together to create the original word. We also discuss which letters make the corresponding sounds.

Nest Making

As part of our Bird Inquiry unit, I was constantly adding to and changing our authentic nest centre. It ended with this evolution, where students had the chance to create their own nests. It was so interesting to see what students came up with and what strategies they used to make their nests. On one of my observation days, some of my students were eager to teach my faculty advisor how to make a nest. Such a cool thing to see! Nest Making 2

Here are some of the finished nests:

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Another endeavour that was on my internship bucket list was Outdoor Winter Centres. These were a lot of work (and took up a lot of freezer space – haha) but SO MUCH FUN! Take a look…

I filled spray bottles with coloured water for students to ‘spray paint’ the snow with. This was definitely the biggest hit. I wished I had had more spray bottles!

Winter Centres 8

Students also used the cookie cutters to create coloured shapes in the snow.

I also made ice cubes in every colour of the rainbow for students to create snow castle creations out of. This was also very popular. The spray bottles also become a tool for decorating the castles (of course the students thought of something I didn’t).

The students above are trying to save some ‘frozen’ animals (plastic figurines I froze into clear water) using warm water. Students also tried to refreeze the animals by adding snow into the water.

Frozen Animals

 

This is a fun activity that can cover a lot of Science outcomes, but those icy animals melt a lot faster than they freeze, so have A LOT on hand.

Winter Centres 2

I thought a frozen treat was appropriate for our ice and snow themed centres. Some apple juice, ice cube trays, and popsicle sticks did the trick real quick!

Winter Centres 3.png

Lucky for us, this December has included GORGEOUS weather, so it was cold enough to keep the snow on the ground, but still nice enough outside that mitts could be taken off for periods of time without frozen fingers. The perfect medium!

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I loved doing centres in my Math Patterns unit, so tried to do some hands on work for our Number unit as well. Some of the centres pictures in the slideshow above are:

  • putting the correct number of eggs into nests (to tie in with our Bird Inquiry unit)
  • putting the correct amount of coloured tiles into a ten frame
  • counting objects and finding the corresponding numeral to match up
  • building block towers of a specific height
  • playing a board game with a partner and moving a specific number of spaces using 10 sided dice
  • counting the number of stars in a ‘parking lot space’ and parking a car with the corresponding number in that spot

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I also added some centres to our letter learning work. Students could choose if they wanted to do work in their ABC books, draw items that started with the designated letter, make that letter out of play dough, or trace that letter on sheets in page protectors. Although this made Learning Time pretty hectic, I think it really affirms that students all learn in different ways and that these different learning styles are represented and planned for. This also gives students choice to try several centres that suit their interests, or hone in on a specific one.

One other cool thing we did for our Bird Inquiry unit was research on the iPads using QR codes that I created for websites, photo galleries, and videos all about birds. We were lucky enough to have the Grade 6 class come in and buddy up with our K’s, who loved this! 21st century learning at its finest!

 

 

To learn about the colour Blue in November, we discussed Picasso’s blue period and tried our hand at creating masterpieces using only shades of blue.

Picasso Blue Period

 

And just to end on a sweet note, here is an adorable Snowman and Reindeer cupcake that we all had (messy) fun making.

 

Stay tuned for a post in the future that sums up my internship experience.

Yours truly,

KKF

lots of ideas stemming from STEM education

I just finished reading another issue of Instructor magazine and, not surprisingly, came rushing to my computer to get all of my thoughts down! My favourite article in the latest issue (Spring 2013) was about the up-and-coming topic of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) or STEAM (the A is for Arts) Education.

The article provided multiple, simple ways to integrate a STEM-based approach in the classroom without previous experience, such as building boats out of clay in order to understand how items that normally sink in water can be made to float.

The biggest reaction I had to these ideas was ‘ugh.’ I always found the ‘engineering’ type of lessons to be frustrating and a waste of time. As a ruthless memorizer, I found school much more rewarding and personally successful when I could learn a formula, keep it stored away and use it forever after. Now that I am in the Education program, however, I understand that being a memorizer only can be a huge disadvantage for a student. And that is why I am so glad that I see the future curricula reflecting a hands-on, inquiry approach to learning. I hope that the educational system puts a stop to making children believe that they cannot be successful in their academic career unless they can remember tables and formulae. Learning through personal discovery and question posing is much more beneficial because it is realistic.

So while I may have found my Grade 10 Physics project of self-designed, balloon-propelled cars the most difficult and useless thing in my high school career, I now look back as a future educator, and applaud my teacher for incorporating (and still continuing to incorporate – much to my younger sister’s chagrin, I guess her opinion on the assignment was similar to mine) this lesson in his introductory Physics unit because it allows the students to fiddle with their cars and notice what improves or impedes their cars’ success.

Personally, I found this project so angering because there was no right answer or steps to follow in order to get to the desired outcome, something that school taught me would, 99% of the time, work! It went against my learning style, which, so far, has allowed me to achieve lots of success as a student! However, I am constantly wishing that I were a tinkerer and an iron-willed problem solver who won’t stop until a solution has been discovered. Unfortunately, though, I just got frustrated with the project and eventually gave up (I know, not a good example to be putting out there, but I figure honesty is the best policy). As a future educator, though, I hope to put an end to a generation of young thinkers who can succeed by merely memorizing (which, admittedly, in some cases and subjects, is required). I want my students to learn through their own mistakes. As the article so eloquently puts it,

Introducing kids to the engineering process – having them start again and fix the mistakes – at that age is much easier because they haven’t yet developed a fear of failure.

-Monica Foss, Instructor, Spring 2013, “STEM: Everyday

Engineering,” Page 41

This really rang true for me because, as a student, I would always dread to give the wrong answer when a teacher called on me. Students are so afraid of getting the wrong answer that they are losing the opportunity to learn through their failed attempts! I hope to foster an environment where mistakes are okay, and even encouraged, in order to work towards the right answer!

In closing, I hope to use lots of these hands-on, engineering/building activities with my students in order to give them a chance to learn real-world principles on a smaller scale. I know that using the arts in my classroom will be easy to do, because I have a connection with them, but I also want my classroom to be a nurturing environment for the world’s future engineers, scientists, mathematicians and technological gurus!