graduation vs celebration

Pre-K gradAlong with the end of the school year, June also marks graduation season. I have seen posts and photos of Pre-Kindergarten/preschool and Kindergarten grads all over social media the last week or so, and it prompted me to examine my beliefs and views on graduation ceremonies in ECE.

First, I felt guilty for not having a formal graduation ceremony for my Pre-K class, especially because the two preschool programs in the community had beautiful and elaborate decorations and programs for their students and family members. Many of my friends and colleagues are also involved in early learning and they, too, were busy planning songs to perform, power points to show, and speeches to share. Was I cheating my students and their loved ones out of an important milestone and experience?

My viewpoint then shifted, in order to defend my lack of a Pre-K grad. I was ready with an arsenal of justifications for opting out. I thought things like…

  • my students are already students within the school, only moving one classroom down within the same building (while the preschool programs’ students will be new to the school, so their graduation ceremony is marking the end of their time at their EY establishment)
  • the Pre-K teacher before me didn’t have a grad ceremony, and neither does the K teacher at the school
  • my cooperating teacher in internship (who taught Kindergarten) didn’t have a graduation ceremony
  • I have some students who are moving to Kindergarten next year, and some who will be returning for a 2nd year of Pre-K

From there, I began to question and reflect on what exactly a ‘graduation’ meant to me. After some thought, I came to the conclusion that, to me, a graduation is intended to mark the end of a significant portion of one’s life in education; it is a finale.

Based on that definition, here is where I have some qualms with a Pre-K or Kindergarten graduation:

  • I view Pre-K and K as the pivotal introduction to formal education in a child’s life; it is the beginning of their journey as a learner in our school system. It seems counterintuitive to have a ceremony that marks the end, when it is really only the start of their adventure in education. Donning the cap and gown in Grade 12 or the final year of university signifies the end of a student’s time in that establishment; it simply doesn’t make sense for Pre-K and K students to wear the same outfit when they are not leaving us quite yet.
  • I assume that Pre-K and K graduations originally came about because these two programs are viewed in a different light than the ‘traditional’ school set up, especially because Pre-K and K were not originally part of the school system, an entity all their own. I think it is problematic if finishing Pre-K or K is viewed as entering the ‘real’ years of schooling. Certainly, Pre-K and K are, in and of themselves, set up and run much differently than the numbered grades beyond. However, this mindset minimizes the importance of early learning and the strategically designed environments and learning that takes place there.
  • I can still remember one of my favourite university professors telling an anecdote of visiting a local elementary school in March and seeing bulletin boards covered in (you guessed it!) leprechauns. She went on to explain how disappointed she was in this, because the leprechaun creations had no meaningful tie into learning. They were created as merely a craft to fill time. That story has stuck with me ever since, and I vowed to avoid ‘crafts-for-craft’s-sake’ or ‘time-fillers’ at all costs in my practice. In the same vein, I see Pre-K/K grads to be an event for the sake of having an event to some extent. Similar to how teachers feel obligated have their students create Christmas, Valentine’s, Mother’s and Father’s Day trinkets simply because it is EXPECTED, early years teachers see posts of “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” themed decorations, toddler-sized caps and gowns, and adorable graduation songs and feel pressured to keep up with the Joneses [Exhibit A: the second paragraph in this blog post]. While I wholeheartedly believe that the early years are a time of utmost importance and growth in a child’s life, and they should be documented in order to be remembered later on down the road, I feel that the commercialized, cookie cutter Pre-K/K graduations can be merely a photo opp to put into a picture frame with no authentic connections for the child and their loved ones.

Now, if you are a proponent of early years graduations, I’m surprised you’ve made it this far, because you surely have a few choice words, points of view, or arguments to share after I singlehandedly shredded EY grads to pieces. But stick with me just a little longer, because this is all coming to a culminating point, I promise.

My biggest takeaway from my inner reflection on this topic is that we have to, ultimately, ask ourselves:

Why am I REALLY having this ceremony/event? What is the purpose?

We have to take a critical look at if the ceremony we are planning authentically celebrates students and their learning, or if it is simply an opportunity to tout the cuteness of 3-5 year olds in caps and gowns (which I cannot argue IS, indeed, cute).

And so, here is my suggestion of a substitute to a “graduation” ceremony:

Celebrations of Learning

Hosting a ‘celebration of learning’ event ensures that the most important factor of ECE – the students and their journeys as learners – is sitting centre stage.  This format also allows for so much flexibility and personal tailoring to truly fit the needs of your ‘clientele.’ In its most basic form, a celebration of learning is a time for students and their loved ones to come together to share pride in the learning that has taken place over the course of the year.

While I didn’t host a year-end “Celebration of Learning” this year (because this idea is brand-spankin’-new), we did have a final Family Day, where students and their family members hopped onto the school bus and drove 15 minutes to Ruby Lake, the local regional park. We enjoyed a day of exploring the playground and shoreline, eating fire-roasted hot dogs, and each other’s company.

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I did make an impromptu thank you speech to the families for their support and involvement in their child’s learning in Pre-K and sent home a book of “Learning Stories” I had collected for each student over the course of the year, but I am already crafting plans for what I would like my ‘Celebration of Learning’ to look like next year…

Rather than sugar plum fairies, I have visions of a Memory Walk dancing in my head. While it would certainly require a lot of paper, ink, planning, and work, I would LOVE to print pictures from each month of the school year and then hang them up in chronological order on the walls of the school hallways (along with quotes, observations, student artwork, etc.) for students and their parents to walk through. Think self-guided tour/art installation/giant documentation panel! It’s a literal walk down memory lane!

Check in with me in a year’s time when, hopefully, I will post about what kind of “Celebration of Learning” actually transpires.

  • What are your thoughts on graduation ceremonies for early years students?

Until then,

-KKF

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

patterns and promises, patterns and promises

The past two days have been a whirlwind in the Kindergarten world. Today was school pictures, which meant that, for the first time, I got to see all 30 of my students in one day! Things went surprisingly smooth, considering one class of K’s didn’t even have regular school today and had to come to the school specifically to get their pictures done.

My pattern unit in Math is progressing extremely well. I am so impressed with how quickly my students have caught on to the concepts and how easily they can spot patterns around them in their daily lives. I was tickled pink when a student came up to me at Meet the Teacher night on Monday and told me she found a pattern in her bedroom at home – it’s great when students are interested in what you are teaching them OUTSIDE of the school walls.

The latest lesson we did was all about manipulatives! I set up three different centres for students to rotate through, at which they copied a pattern using different types of objects around the classroom. The hands-on work was obviously a good fit, as the students had minimal problems staying on task or doing their assigned jobs. I was preparing myself for the students to be distracted and disruptive, but they were focused and showed effort. I really enjoyed this type of lesson – it was lively and fun for myself and the students! “Never a dull moment” is becoming a theme for my internship – and I love it!

Here are a few photos I snapped:

Making small, big, small, big patterns with buttons.

Making small, big, small, big patterns with buttons.

Cut up construction paper is a cheap, quick, and easy way to make patterns. The students made a more complicated pattern with these: orange, orange, yellow, purple.

Cut up construction paper is a cheap, quick, and easy way to make patterns. The students made a more complicated pattern with these: orange, orange, yellow, purple.

Students copied patterns with whiteboards. One thing I didn't anticipate was students having trouble with drawing triangles. Note to self: Only use very simple and easy shapes, like circles, lines, X's, crosses, smiley faces, etc.

Students copied patterns with whiteboards. One thing I didn’t anticipate was students having trouble with drawing triangles. Note to self: Only use very simple and easy shapes, like circles, lines, X’s, crosses, smiley faces, etc.

Here is a copy of my lesson plan: Lesson3Pattern

A big realization I had this week is that I need to let go of my mental image of an ideal, perfect classroom. After teaching this lesson for the first time, I felt that it was rather chaotic. When reflecting on my lesson with my cooperating teacher, she kindly pointed out that it was a successful lesson and that “this is what Kindergarten looks like.” She is absolutely right – Kindergarten is messy, and noisy, and all-over-the-place, and full of hands-on exploration. It can definitely look and feel like chaos, but as long as meaningful learning is taking place (which I have discovered is pretty much ALWAYS happening), you have to let go of the idea that all of the students will sit nicely at their desks and do exactly as you originally pictured. This is one of the best things about Kindergarten – I am always surprised at what students will bring to the table and how differently they will view a lesson than I do.

It is going to be a continued learning experience for me as I keep being introduced to what exactly a Kindergarten class looks like.

Also this week, I covered a lesson that I am extremely proud of and excited about: a Treaty Ed/Social Studies crossover all about Promises. Here is the lesson plan: PromisesLesson

I was extremely impressed with how well the K’s watched the video book (link here – “The Promise” read online) and discussed its main elements in detail. They had a much deeper conversation than I expected going in. They also sat for an extended period of time in the talking circle – maybe this was increased stamina due to a change of scenery (sitting in a circle versus all facing one way)?

The students then made their own promises that would help to keep our classroom a safe and happy place. They then illustrated them. Here are a few samples:

books promise

follow rules promise

What a cute (and smart) promise!

What a cute (and smart) promise!

play w friends promise

Notice the cowboy hats - too cute!

Notice the cowboy hats – too cute!

Today, the students went outside for Phys Ed (as the photographer was in the gymnasium). They soon noticed an abundance of lady bugs and, in true Kindergarten fashion, we quickly grabbed some handy bug houses to collect them in. Emergent curriculum makes its first appearance in my internship: we are going to have an observation centre and a KWL/mini-inquiry lesson on lady bugs tomorrow! All I have to say is: Thank goodness for teacher librarians! We let her know (at the end of the school day) that we were looking for books about lady bugs and not too long after, she magically appears in our room with several options (fiction and non-fiction to boot!). I will be sure to snap lots of pictures and post about our lady bug inquiry soon.

Until then,

-KKF

this week in kindergarten… planting seeds!

Another week in the books! I can’t believe that I am already 1/4 done my internship! It makes me sad already to think about leaving my lovely little group of students. It is scarily easy to get attached to these kids. My co-op teacher said to me this week, “You’re not going to be the same after being in Kindergarten, are you?” and she is absolutely right! The kids are so sweet, loving, eager, curious, smart, and adorable. There is something indescribably magical and precious about this age that I have not experienced in other grades.

Here are a few heart melting moments thus far:

One sweet student who has trouble keeping his hands to himself was grabbing at a classmate during whole class instruction at the story corner. I reminded him to stay in his own personal bubble, and he obliged. A few seconds later, I was frustrated to see him again with his hands all over the other student. However, I was touched to see that he was hugging his peer and apologizing of his own accord, whispering “I’m sorry. We’re still best friends, right?” Too cute!

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My co-op teacher has a common saying of “That will cost you a hug” if a student forgets to put something away or needs assistance. One day this week, I picked up a jacket on the floor and asked who it belonged to. A little boy came up to me, piped up “It’s mine. That will cost me a hug!” and proceeded to give me a squeeze around the waist. Awww!

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We were planting grass seeds this week and, each time, I would ask the students what they thought the seeds would grow into. One student, without hesitation, replied “a pickle tree!” Another student, while placing dirt and seeds into his cup, remarked “I’m a good gardener!”

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Here a some pictures of the seed planting we got up to. It was messy but fun. The students did a great job of adding the right amount of dirt, seeds, and water into their own cups. I loved using a spray bottle to prevent over-watering. Also, students just really enjoyed pushing the trigger on the spray bottle to create a mist effect. I think this will become one of the jobs of the day in the coming weeks: watering all of the plants.

Students had to put five BIG spoonfuls of dirt into their cup first.

Students had to put five BIG spoonfuls of dirt into their cup first.

Students then took a few pinches of seeds and sprinkled them on top of the dirt.

Students then took a few pinches of seeds and sprinkled them on top of the dirt.

Finally, students covered their seeds with a small layer of soil and gave them two big sprays of water. Now they have to wait and see what kind of plant sprouts up!

Finally, students covered their seeds with a small layer of soil and gave them two big sprays of water. Now they have to wait and see what kind of plant sprouts up!

To tie into our planting seeds job, I taught the students a little song/poem. I set it to the tune of “Up on the Housetop” and used actions. The kids caught on quickly and enjoyed the different levels of the song (we squatted down when ‘the rain fell’ and stood up and stretched out for our seeds ‘growing up tall.’)

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I also taught my first 2 lessons in the Mathematics Patterns unit I have been planning. They all went really well and the students enjoyed the hands-on activities I planned (we made patterns with ourselves, analyzed the pattern in a bracelet given to partner groups, and turned patterns into actions). I taught the students Quiet Coyote and it worked like a charm, especially for my repeat offender blurters (bonus!). I was impressed that the students started to use this signal with each other, as a quick reminder to have their ‘mouth closed, ears open.’

This coming week, I have a Social Studies/Treaty Ed lesson about Promises that I am quite excited for! My faculty advisor is also coming for her first visit on Friday, which is exciting. Additionally, I have arranged for all of the interns at Davidson School (there are SIX of us from U of R and U of S) to meet up and chat about our experiences as well. It is shaping up to be a great week! 🙂

Enjoy your weekend! Until next time,

-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

kindergarten: a whole new world

We had another four day week this past week, due to Labor Day being on Monday. I have to say, it was rather nice to have two four-day weeks with the students – really ease the teachers into it after summer break! All of the students in our two lovely little classes came together for our first full-sized class days this week. I have to say, I am absolutely loving this age – Kindergarten is “a whole new world, a dazzling place I never knew.” (Can I say that on here? – COPYRIGHT goes to Disney!)

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The students have so much love to give and are SO. STINKIN’. CUTE! They are energetic, inquisitive, playful, funny, adorable… The list goes on and on. I love that K allows teachers flexibility in instructional methods – especially the fact that so much learning can be done in a student-centred approach using hands-on exploratory stations at centre time.

This week was my first crack at doing “invitations” (or centres). I definitely learned a lot about managing them – on the first day, I had out 3 at once and quickly realized that I had to jump all over the place to document students’ learning in photograph form. This was NOT productive. The kids hop from centre to centre at such a fast rate, that I felt I was missing so many great learning moments. Thus, after a conversation with my co-op teacher, I decided to just have one centre the subsequent days. I would then sit at that centre and ask key questions to dig a little deeper into the subject matter with students. This also allowed me to have more focused documentation and more closely follow each students’ interaction with the centre.

This week, I decided to have out a gardening centre. I was astounded at some of the information my students were able to give regarding insects, soil, and gardens. Some of the best quotes:

Q: What do bugs do in the garden? “They eat things and squirm around.”

“‘Gardener‘ snakes live in the garden.”

“It’s a worm. Their home is in the dirt. They dig it up.”

“Worms love living in the garden. The dig up the soil and help the flowers grow.”

Student A: “What is this?” Student B: “I think it’s a butterfly.”

I definitely see theory coming into practice in terms of “students have lots of pre-acquired knowledge from their home lives” and “students are capable learners.” I was so impressed with my students’ knowledge. Here are a few pics of them digging in the dirt.

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This little guy showed some great Math skills at a Science centre. This was even before I put out bug counting mats with numbers.

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This little girl, and one other, were great soil detectives! They noticed different particles in the soil itself (round white pieces, light and dark brown pieces, etc.).

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Students already knew what a magnifying glass was, that it was made out of a breakable material, and how to use it! Wow!

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Using the bug counting mat the next day

This week, I also led our daily routines of Calendar/Weather/Leader time on Thursday and Friday. I really like this part of the day – it incorporates so many life skills and curriculum areas! The students are each given a job while we go over the day’s date, days of the week, months of the year, rhyming poems and songs, the day’s weather, classmate’s names, counting (numbers), colours, letters of the alphabet, girls and boys in the class, and leaders sharing their ‘secret item,’ which their peers have to guess. It is a action-packed morning full of routine and structure. I will post a detailed schedule of these routines at a later date.

I also taught a brief math lesson on Taller and Shorter, and a Phys Ed lesson. These both went well also. I am excited to actually start some regular lessons when I begin my Math unit in Patterns next Monday! I am busy planning that as of late and am happy to say that it has a large emphasis on manipulatives and hands-on activities.

Also this week, I attended two volleyball practices and one game. I am helping out with the Jr Girls (Gr 7-9) and Sr Boys (Gr 10-12) volleyball teams and couldn’t be more excited! It is so wonderful to go from playing a sport and loving it, to sharing that passion with others in an effort to help them develop their skills. I also had a chance to make “Raiderade,” the school’s extra-special, homemade beverage reminiscent of Booster Juice, and named after the school team name: Raiders. Members of the staff and student body meet on a regular basis, either before or after school, just to blend up frozen fruit, yogurt, and fruit juice to make amazing concoctions that are sold to the school population, community members, and visitors during sports games and tournaments. I could not believe the huge amount of dedication that this act involves – one of the teachers on staff makes regular trips into Saskatoon to purchase all of the supplies (in one day alone, a group of about 8 people make over 350 cups of Raiderade). The delicious drinks are then sold for $3 a piece, and make the school a huge amount of money. Davidson has not had to have magazine campaigns in years due to the success of Raiderade.

In only 3 weeks of internship, I could not believe just how much extra work educators and school staff take on simply to keep the school running smoothly and successfully. Aside from planning for and teaching 15-25 children at a time, teachers also run sports teams and extracurricular clubs, make schedules and arrange drivers, work in the canteen, spend time communicating with parents, organize/decorate/clean their classroom, go to school council meetings, and spend time with their own families, among countless other things! I think this conversation with one of my fellow interns sums up our thoughts on teacher dedications and commitment (I am the blue messages):

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My choice of future career is reaffirmed each day. I am so excited looking into my future and realizing that no two days will ever be the same, and that I can continually keep challenging myself and growing as an educator, even after 20+ years! I think this is why teaching attracts some of the finest people in the world: it is challenging beyond description, and often mostly thankless and unnoticed, behind-the-scenes work that is constantly changing, demanding, and never-ending. Yet teachers will continue to put their best foot forward and a smile on their face for the students that they strive to inspire, motivate, and teach each day. I think that is truly a magical feat.

-KKF

P.S. My 3 day internship orientation seminar is in Regina next week. I am excited to be back in the capital city (after all, it has been my home for 3 years) and see some of my friends who are embarking on their own internship adventures! I am also happy to be learning more about my role as an intern, and the expectations for my growth and progress through this amazing journey. This is also a chance for my co-op teacher and I to polish a contract for our professional relationship during these 4 months. More soon, I promise!

first week with students!

After 4 days in Kindergarten and meeting a new group of 6-9 students each day, I have a lot to smile about! The 2 classes were split in half again for the first week of school, to more easily manage the ‘first day of Kindergarten’ busyness! Next week, the smaller groups will come together for the first time to create our classes of 15 and 16 students.

In some ways, all four days this week were very similar, as my co-op teacher went over the same routine each day. However, each day was also brand new and exciting because I got to meet a new crew of kids (all of which I absolutely LOVED! Every single kid is your favourite when they are JUST THAT CUTE!). After meeting all of my new students, I am even more excited for the weeks ahead as I get to know all of the Kinders better – especially because this age is so fascinating, refreshing, and magical (not to mention hilarious).

My co-op teacher handled most of the teaching (although I took up the job of story time on Thursday and Friday), which left me to handle some of the general classroom tasks such as:

  • putting school supplies away (which, by the way, there is A LOT of when you have 31 students! YOU try finding a place to put 60+ Kleenex boxes)
  • taking and printing student ‘first day’ pictures to put in portfolios and stick to name cards, which will go on our Word Wall (to familiarize all students with their classmates’ names and faces)
  • taking pictures of students during centre time and posting them to the students’ digital portfolios on Seesaw (which is in full swing and I am thoroughly enjoying)
  • writing a personalized note in each student’s “Parent Communication Book”
  • stuffing the students’ Kanga bags with book orders, monthly calendars, student artwork, and other important notes

My days flew by and it makes me sad to think that this will probably be a trend during the rest of my internship – it will be over before I know it. I try to take small moments to just soak up how awesome the Kindergarten environment and this experience are! Hopefully, looking back, blogging in detail will serve as a ‘diary’ of sorts to help me remember all of the great things that happened!

On that note, a funny Kindergarten moment to share…

Today, we had several flies running rampant in the classroom. It was nearing the end of the day, and I noticed one of the girls stray away from her seat. I watched her, thinking she was going to grab something from her backpack. To my surprise, her hand sprang out and smacked onto the table, killing a fly! I couldn’t help but laugh out loud that a student had ninja-slapped a fly barehanded and succeeded! Can we count this as gross motor skill and excellent hand-eye coordination on the developmental front? haha

And, of course, a short orientation to some crucial Kindergarten terminology…

Kindergarten Slang

Kanga bag (noun) = blue, canvas pouches with a clear, plastic slot to send notes home in

Stinkies (noun) = shoes

ex. “Don’t forget to put your stinkies on!”

Santa bag (noun) = big, cloth bags that hold students’ extra clothes (so named due to looking like a big sack of toys Santa might carry)

Hantiziner (han-tize-in-er) (noun)= how one of my students pronounces “hand sanitizer” – So cute!

Stabbing (verb) – What one of the students accidentally called “Bingo dabbing” – oops!

ex. “Can we do that stabbing thing again?”

Next week, I start my invitations/centres. I have a Gardening centre planned for Science, 4 Seasons sensory bins for Social Studies, and a Self Portrait centre for Arts Ed/Health (pictures soon!). I will also be starting to plan the patterns unit for Math! Stay tuned and wish me luck!

-KKF

OT kit

I created an OT (Occupational Therapy) kit for an assignment in one of my Education classes. This kit is geared towards Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 1 and is focused on developing pre-printing skills, such as pencil grip and hand strength (as well as some hand-eye coordination activities). The materials within each activity are every day objects that can easily be found around the house. All of the activities are meant to be fun and challenging, so students will actually enjoy practicing these skills.

If I were to implement this kit in my classroom, I would have students choose an activity to work on for 5-10 minutes before a printing/writing class in order to warm up their hands. These activities could also be turned into centres in a Pre-K or Kindergarten classroom, too.

Food Olympics

Playdoh SpagPenne

This station consists of two different activities. For the first activity, students hold a piece of dry spaghetti in between their thumb and index finger and attempt to pick up a dry penne noodle off of the table. In the second activity, students stick spaghetti noodles into a lump of Play-Doh on the table and use their thumb and index fingers to pick up Froot Loops (or Cheerios, beads, etc.) and thread them onto the spaghetti.

Modifications

  • use the coloured Froot Loops to make a pattern on the spaghetti noodle (ex. pink, purple, green, pink, purple, green)

Mr./Mrs. Ball

Mr Ball

Making Mr. or Mrs. Ball is really easy – just cut a small slit into a tennis ball (the bigger the slit, the easier it is to open Mr./Mrs. Ball’s mouth, so you can have a few with differing sizes to make the activity more challenging as students progress).

Students have to use their thumb and index finger to squeeze Mr. or Mrs. Ball so their mouth will open. Then students hold the mouth open and use their other hand to ‘feed’ the ball some buttons, round chips, etc. When Mr. or Mrs. Ball is full, just hold their mouth open and shake out the buttons to start all over.

Modifications

  • count how many buttons you feed Mr. or Mrs. Ball one by one

Cotton Ball Push

Turkey Baster

Students use their turkey baster to blow the items off of the edge of the table (note: make sure you use your thumb and index finger to pinch the end of the turkey baster). This activity is a lot harder than it looks! Students may need to hold the small end of the turkey baster with their other hand to ‘aim.’ Materials of different sizes (ex. packing peanuts, cotton balls, small foam beads, etc.) can be used to increase difficulty.

Modifications

  • blow the cotton ball into a certain area of the table (marked off with tape)
  • count how many items you can blow off of the table in 1 minute

Tweezer Pick Up

Tweezers

Students use their thumb and index finger to pick up various items (pom poms, cotton balls, beads, popsicle sticks, buttons) with the tweezers.

Modifications

  • have various items all mixed together and students use their tweezers to sort them into categories (type, colour, size)
  • count the items that you can pick up in 1 minute
  • count how many of each item there are as you pick them up

Fishing

Fish

This activity uses triple the hand strength/finger grip! First, place the fish on the floor and have students stand when they use the fishing rod. Students must hold the rod in between their index finger and thumb and move the fishing rod so that the binder clip on the end touches one of the fish (this will be a test of hand-eye coordination as well). Once they touch a fish, students bend down and use their pencil-grasp fingers to open the binder clip and clip it to their fish. Finally, students use their index fingers and thumbs (on each end of the pencil) to turn the rod around and around in order to ‘reel in’ their fish (as the string gets shorter and shorter from being wrapped around the pencil).

Modifications

  • challenge students to touch the binder clip to a certain colour fish
  • see how fast you can reel in all of the fish
  • math: “We started with 6 fish and you reeled in 2. How many are left to catch?”

Firefighter

Firefighter

Students will love to be a hero and put out the fire on this burning building! Make sure to laminate the colouring page (or put it in a page protector) so that it can be used again and again. First, students colour in the flames on the picture with washable marker. Then, they dip their sponge into the small cup of water and use it to ‘put out the fire’ by washing off the marker.

This activity would go great with a Social Studies unit learning about community helpers or a Health unit on Fire Safety!

Crazy Straw Maze

Crazy Straw

This is another activity that can be surprisingly tough (especially with very bendy straws). Simply cut out some shapes from felt or foam and add holes in the middle. Students thread the shapes onto the straw and attempt to get them off of the other side of the straw by maneuvering the straw and shapes with their index fingers and thumbs. Note: Do not use crazy straws that make a complete loop (shown below), as the foam shapes will not be able to pass through this obstacle.

Modifications

  • name the shapes as you get them through the maze
  • put shapes through the maze in a pattern (square, then circle, square, then circle)
  • see how many you can get through the maze in 1 minute

CrazyStraws

DO NOT USE CRAZY STRAWS LIKE THIS —->

Hang the Laundry

LaundryStudents simply hang up baby or doll clothes onto a bungee cord or string. Ensure that students are using their thumb and index finger to pinch the clothespins open.

Modifications

  • hang up the laundry in a pattern (yellow, green, pink OR sock, sock, mitten)
  • math: how many people can you dress with the clothes that are on the line?

Hockey

HockeyA Canadian classic! Popsicle sticks as hockey sticks (use your index finger and thumb!), pom pom as a puck, and masking tape to make lines/goals.

Modifications

  • play in teams (you must pass to each partner before attempting to score a goal)
  • shoot to the goal on the other side of the table from behind the opposite side

Penny Flipping

PenniesLay all the pennies out in a line on the table (this works best if all of the pennies are the same way – all with heads showing, for example). Have the students flip the pennies over, one by one, using their index finger and thumb.

Modifications

  • use coins of different denominations and have students count the total as they flip (ex. for dime dime dime they would say 10 cents, 20 cents, 30 cents)
  • have students start at opposite ends of the line and see how fast they can flip all of the pennies over as a team

Tug of War

Rubber Bands2 students form an ‘O’ shape with their index finger and thumb (like the gesture for A-OK!) and hold the rubber band within the ‘O’ they made with their fingers. Students rest their elbows on the table, wrists bent, and slowly move their arms (from the elbow) apart. Try to make the other person’s ‘O’ break. Note: try to have thick rubber bands or bands covered in fabric so that they won’t snap and hurt the students. Emphasize that students use caution – we aren’t trying to hurt each other, just make our fingers stronger!

Beading

BeadsHand-eye coordination, hand strength, and fine motor skills are rolled into one. Students can take home whatever they make in this station, which is a bonus!

Modifications

  • use your beads to make a pattern
  • practice tying knots in your string
  • count the beads as you thread them

Mazes

MazesLaminating or putting mazes in a page protector means they can be reused many times.

Pom Pom Sort

Pom Pom SortStudents use their thumb and index fingers to pick up the pom poms and put them in the corresponding colour-coded tube. This is also a great way for students to learn their colours.

Modifications

  • primary-secondary colours: have pom poms in the primary colours and tubes in secondary colours. Students have to put the two primary colours into the corresponding secondary colour tube (ex. red and blue pom poms go into purple tube)
  • math: I had five blue pom poms at the start and I have one left in my hand. How many pom poms are hiding in the tube?
  • quick pick up: how fast can I sort all of the pom poms?

Ring Toss

Ring TossDecorate your paper plate rings any way you want. You can make a base for the paper towel tube post or have one student hold the post while the other partner throws the rings.

If students make their own paper plate rings, cutting the holes in the plates is a great hand-eye coordination and hand strengthening exercise.

Hope you enjoyed my OT kit!

What OT activities do you incorporate into your classroom?

Until next time,

-KKF